A growing attraction to special-warfare, commando-style weaponry
was evident at the 2002 Eurosatory arms exhibition in France. Russia
and Israel, among the 39 countries represented at the show, displayed
several technologies that are aimed for that market.
Noteworthy to small-arms experts at the show was a Russian 9 x
21 mm armor-piercing cartridge made with a steel core. Even though
the cartridge is not new, it is now being sold as a “weapon
system” along with an automatic pistol and a compact submachine
gun, both of which can fire the same cartridge. The cartridges and
the guns have been sold separately for at least a decade, but now
are marketed as a set.
The ammo was developed by Russia’s Tsniitochmash engineering
bureau, often referred to as “Technomash” by foreigners
who cannot pronounce the Russian name.
The target customers for this weapon are special-operations forces.
“It’s a nasty cartridge. It will go through Kevlar
armor like a knife through butter,” said Terry Gander, editor
of Jane’s small arms encyclopedia.
Current users of the cartridge include the Russian internal-security
Another ammunition firm seeking to expand its international business
is Israel’s government-owned weapon manufacturing company,
called IMI (Israeli Military Industries). Industry observers have
been waiting for IMI’s new family of assault rifles, called
Tavor, to become operational with the Israeli Army.
The Tavor has been touted by small-arms experts as a state-of-the-art
rifle. However, observers questioned why the weapon is not yet in
About 100 rifles were delivered to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF),
for developmental testing, said IMI’s Levy Schmnel. He said
the company expects to be producing the weapon in the near future.
IMI officials are hoping that Tavor will become the modern equivalent
of the Uzi, which IMI produced in the 1950s.
That may take a long while, said Gander. “Tavor is a very
good weapon. But it’s not yet in production, mainly because
the Israeli Defense Forces got a shed-load of M-16s from the United
States for nothing.”
IMI began as an underground operation in 1933, before Israel even
existed as a nation. In 1990, it was acquired by the government,
but now is in the process of being privatized, said Menachem Misgav,
IMI’s director of communications.
Another Israeli weapons maker, Rafael, is trying to garner interest
in its line of munitions specially designed for urban warfare. At
Eurosatory, the company promoted a door-breaching rifle grenade
and a shoulder-launched, wall-breaching standoff munition. The door
breacher, called Simon, also is known as the rifled-launched entry
munition (RLEM), which the U.S. Army purchased from Rafael. The
Army bought the weapon for special-warfare infantry units. Rafael
also plans to market the Simon to the U.S. Marine Corps. The Israeli
special forces have used this weapon for at least a decade.
Rafael expects to expand its sales to U.S. customers, said Avishay
Regev, deputy general manager at Rafael.
General Dynamics Armaments Systems is the U.S. licensee and prime
contractor for all RLEM sales to the U.S. military and law enforcement
The Simon is a self-contained unit with a shaped-explosive charge
in a plastic housing, standoff rod, stabilizing tail and impact
detonator. It can be mounted on a variety of rifles. After the munition
is fired, the fuze is armed only at the designated safety distance.
When the rod hits the door, the impact detonator initiates the charge,
which blasts down the door.
Another weapon that Rafael is selling for urban warfare is the
wall-breaching standoff munition, able to crack open a man-size
hole in layered brick walls. The WBSM is fired from a tripod now,
but Rafael is modifying it to be shoulder fired, so it’s more
attractive to U.S. buyers. The fuze is armed at a predetermined
safety distance (about 40-50 meters). When the standoff rod impinges
the wall, the impact detonator activates the charge, which breaches
The WBSM is competing for the Marine Corps’ upgrade of the
shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon. The weapon already
has been tested by the U.S. Army, said Regev.