Sholef V2: Main Battle Howitzer

Would you like to see the Sholef V2 ingame?
  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

What BR do you think the Sholef V2 should be placed at? (Without APFSDS)
  • 8.0 or lower
  • 8.3
  • 8.7
  • 9.0
  • 9.3 or higher
  • I voted no

0 voters

What BR do you think the Sholef V2 should be placed at? (With APFSDS, READ FINAL WORDS FIRST!)
  • 8.7 or lower
  • 9.0
  • 9.3
  • 9.7
  • 10.0 or higher
  • I voted no

0 voters

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[note]
Hi there! Been a long while since I made a vehicle suggestion in the WT forums, and this is the first time I have made one in the new forums. This suggestion is a remaster of my first-ever suggestion, and as such I’ve updated some parts of it while keeping other parts the same. I have a bit more information on the Sholef V2 than when I made the suggestion, but still not as much as I’d like to. Regardless, I hope you guys enjoy one of the best vehicles that could be added to the Israeli ground forces and generally into War Thunder!
[/note]

Are you one of those people who dislike playing self-propelled howitzers? Do you dislike them because they feel too slow, their turret traverse is too bad, their cannons have terrible handling, they have next to no armor, they have a terrible reload rate, or maybe it’s just that their HE shells are often not powerful enough to guarantee a kill on hit? Well, today I am going to introduce you to a self-propelled howitzer that not only performs really well in all the latter categories I mentioned, but it does so in spades.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and that technicolor rainbow in between, meet the Sholef V2.
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Description:

The Sholef V2 (Hebrew for “gunslinger”) is an experimental self-propelled howitzer made in a joint venture between IMI (Israeli Military Industries) and Soltam Systems. It is based on the Merkava Mk.1B’s hull and it has many new features. 2 prototypes of the Sholef were created, the Sholef V1 in 1982 and the Sholef V2 in 1985. Both were tested and evaluated by the IDF but ultimately lost the IDF’s howitzer program in 1993 as it was decided to purchase American M270 MLRSs and upgrade the existing M109A2s into M109A5s. Both Sholefs were still upgraded by Soltam despite the IDF choosing not to acquire it, in an effort to find export customers, but the efforts were in vain and Soltam gave up around 1997. Ever since the Sholef V1 has been sitting in the Beit Ha’Totchan (translation: home of the gunners) museum in Zichron Ya’akov and the Sholef V2 is found on Soltam’s R&D department. Well, not exactly, but I will explain further in the suggestion.

Today I will focus on the second prototype, the Sholef V2.


The Sholef V1 in Beit Ha’Totchan, but, something is off about it. I will explain later why I’ve put this image here.
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General information:

armor and survivability

The Merkava Mk.1B’s hull is very spaced and offers high crew survivability if a round penetrates, even if it is not the most armored hull. The Sholef V2’s turret armor is rather interesting. Usually, self-propelled howitzers have paper-thin turret armor as they are not expected to be anywhere near direct combat. However, the Sholef V2’s turret armor is rated to be immune to heavy machine guns and 155mm artillery blast overpressure, and the roof of the turret is said to be immune to M42 submunitions which is an HEDP grenade with 30-33g of TNT/RDX. Considering the 30mm HEDP of the Apache’s chaingun has an RHAe penetration of 51mm, this means the roof of the Sholef has roughly 55-60mm of RHA, making it immune to some big caliber HE shells like the French 155mm OE 155 56 which has 54mm of radial penetration. This much armor might not matter against hightier APFSDS or HEATFS, but it is still unheard of self-propelled-howitzer-wise.

Mobility

You might think that because the Sholef V2 is based on the Merkava Mk.1B it would have the same mobility as the Mk.1B or worse, but you would be very, very, wrong. The Sholef V2’s mobility is more akin to a 21st-century main battle tank’s mobility rather than a self-propelled howitzer’s, as it uses a new Continental AVDS-9AR-1790, the same engine found on the Merkava Mk.3, boasting 1200hp while the entire vehicle weighs “only” 45 tons. If you pull out a calculator, you will find out the power-to-weight ratio of the Sholef V2 is 26.67hp/t, which is higher than the M1A2’s 24.62hp/t and even the M1A1’s 26.56hp/t! I have no information if the transmission was upgraded or not, but according to some contacts of mine, it is not possible to pair the AVDS-9AR-1790 engine and the CD850-6BX transmission of the Merkava Mk.1B, so the Sholef V2 might’ve received the Merkava Mk.3’s RK 304 transmission. Regardless if the Sholef V2 retained the original transmission or gained a new one, its sheer power-to-weight ratio makes sure you will hit high speeds on any type of terrain, and do so quickly.

Armaments, FCS, and ammunition

  • Main armament - The Sholef V2 is armed with a monstrous 155mm L/52 caliber cannon! In real life, it’s equipped with a travel lock, but it also has a two-plane stabilization system, it will always be two-plane stabilized in war thunder.

  • Ammo racks - The Sholef V2 can store up to 75 shells in the turret and hull, of which 60 are stored in the autoloader itself.

  • Loading mechanism - The Sholef V2’s cannon has a fully automatic autoloader with a reload rate of 9 rounds per minute (6.67 seconds reload rate), but it can be loaded manually should the need arise. Until gaijin models autoloader damage models in War Thunder, the Sholef V2 should have a static and uninterruptable reload speed of 6.67 seconds. IRL the Sholef V2’s autoloader also has a flick rammer, allowing it to quickly load a shell that is not in the autoloader.

  • Turret traverse - Unlike other self-propelled howitzers which use a hand-cranked turret traverse mechanism, the Sholef V2 retains the same turret traverse mechanism and turret ring of the Merkava Mk.1B. Considering that the hull relatively stayed the same weight-wise, the turret is lighter than the Merkava Mk.1B’s turret (Mk.1B weighs 61 tons, Sholef V2 weighs 45 tons), and the engine got upgraded from the old 908hp to the new 1200hp, the turret traverse rate of the Sholef is guaranteed to be higher than the 40°/s of the Merkava Mk.1B. I have no concrete number, but if we only use the percentage of improvement of the weight loss and engine upgrade (thankfully no circle formulas involving pi needed because turret ring is the same), the turret traverse rate of the Sholef V2 should be around 62.7°/s! This fast traverse rate is more akin to SPAAs of the Cold War, which is freakin’ fantastic for aiming at enemy aircraft or just generally aiming at anything. Combined with the cannon’s two-plane stabilization, the Sholef V2 proves to have best-in-class cannon handling by a landslide.

  • Fire control system - The Sholef V2 was designed to have the capability to directly engage enemy units, which would not be possible without a gunner optic of course. There should be a commander optic as well (perhaps the commander periscope of the Mk.1B? Most images show the Sholef either stripped of the optics or are too blurry to figure). I have conflicting sources on whether the Sholef V2 uses the original Mk.1B’s gunner optic or if it received at some point the gunner optic of the BAZ FCS (FCS of the Merkava Mk.3B BAZ, incorrectly named Mk.3C ingame), but one thing is sure: the gunner optic has thermals. The gun also has a laser rangefinder, and in some rare images I found I also noticed that it got temporarily replaced by what looks like a radar rangefinder. I doubt Gaijin would model the latter one tho. I am unaware if the Sholef V2 retained the LWS of the Merkava Mk.1B, but I doubt that it did considering you can’t see any of the receivers on it.

  • Ammunition - The Sholef V2 is compatible with all NATO 155mm shells. here’s a list of the shells I believe the Sholef V2 should have in War Thunder:

    • M107A3 - extended range version of the good ol’ American M107 HE shell. perfect for a stock round.

    • M481 - This HE-ER-BT (High Explosive Extended Range Boat Tail) shell has 10.5kg of TNT and has a low drag aerodynamic shape which gives it increased range while being just as accurate, and has a muzzle velocity of 945m/s. great as an unlockable shell. A boat tail means that the shell’s base has sides that taper inward toward the base. Ingame, this would result in this shell having higher muzzle velocity than most 155mm shells fired from L/52 cannons.


      two small arms bullets, the left one has a boat tail while the right one is regular

    • M401 - 12kg of TNT, base-bleed technology, VT fuze, this HE-ER-BB (High Explosive Extended Range Base Bleed) shell has it all, and with an even further range/muzzle velocity than M481 too. This is the best unlockable shell of the Sholef V2. M401 can be used pretty well against helicopters and low-flying aircraft as well, thanks to its proximity fuze. Base-bleed means that the shell expels gas into the low-pressure area behind the shell to reduce base drag. Ingame, this would be one of, if not the best 155mm shell.
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      Simplified diagram of a base-bleed artillery shell reducing turbulent vortices. Ingame it would look like the French 142mm MUC shell, producing a smoke trail across the shell’s trajectory. However, base bleed barely produces thrust so it is not an actual rocket-assisted shell like the MUC. The shell above is regular, and the shell below is a base-bleed shell.

    • M150 - an advanced smoke shell, with 3 minutes of smoke duration, 5 smoke canisters compared to 3 on most smoke shells, 13.5kg of HC, and a muzzle velocity of 890m/s. it’s an amazing smoke shell that can be used very effectively. obvious addition as an unlockable shell.

    • If there’s an APHE or a HESH shell that is 155mm NATO standard I’ll be happy to add that too, but I have not found any.

  • Smoke grenades - The Sholef V2 has a pair of 6pc smoke grenade launchers, the same ones found on the Merkava Mk.1B and other variants of the Merkava.

  • Machine guns - the Sholef V2 is armed with a pair of 7.62mm FN-MAG 60-40 machine guns mounted on the top of the turret.


How would it perform in War Thunder?

The Sholef V2 can play like any other SPH in-game, but not only does the Sholef V2 do everything better than all of them, but it can also try different playstyles that most of the other SPHs ingame can’t. you can use the Sholef V2’s relatively high power-to-weight ratio to zip zap around the map and get to key positions to catch the enemy with their pants down, very similar to light tanks, but watch out for your massive profile as you are no small vehicle. The very quick reload rate (especially for this caliber) combined with the huge 60-shell ready rack means you can shoot nonstop without worrying about running out of ammo, so you can engage multiple tanks at once if you choose to flank with the Sholef V2. The good armor of the hull and the turret can and will often save you from whiffed-up shots from other self-propelled howitzers and IFVs and sometimes even MBTs and light tanks.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • An excellent power-to-weight ratio of 26.67hp/t, slightly over the power-to-weight ratio famous M1A1 abrams.
  • Two-plane stabilization and 62.7°/s turret traverse rate give a massive advantage in reaction times and when engaging enemies on the move, especially compared to other self-propelled howitzers.
  • Autoloader loads in 6.67 seconds which is very fast, especially for shells of this caliber.
  • A huge ready rack of 60 shells allows you to shoot without needing to keep a constant watch on the ready rack.
  • Survivable Merkava Mk.1B hull and relatively well-armored turret will surprise many opponents who are used to self-propelled howitzers being made out of cardboard and paper mache.
  • Even when the M401 shell is objectively the better shell out of all of them, both the M107A3 and M481 are still highly potent shells that can kill most enemies you face rather easily.
  • A pair of smoke grenade launchers (two 6pc smoke grenade launchers) and the M150 advanced smoke shell can let you cover the area with smoke easily, making for an easy escape.
  • laser rangefinder can make long-range shots incredibly easy, and thermal optics can help you find targets faster.
  • Charges are stored in a blowout panel

Cons:

  • You’re gigantic. From the size of the Merkava Mk.1B hull, through the height of the whole vehicle and to the sheer length of the 155mm L/52 cannon, you cannot hide in plain sight no matter how many bushes you throw at the Sholef V2. you must stay close to big covers to avoid being detected. Expect to be a target for revenge CAS often.
  • Even with the good armor of the Sholef V2, you are most likely going to die if you do get hit by an MBT or any tank with APFSDS/HEATFS. Sure your turret can absorb most big HE shells and most weaker autocannon fire, but most of your ammunition is stored in the turret. One thing is sure, in case of ammo detonation your crew will have a quick death.
  • Your engine is still in the front, and enemies can constantly shoot you in the hull front, preventing you from moving or reacting

Okay, so what was the “wrong” thing were you speaking about at the beginning of the suggestion?
You see, after a while of researching the Sholef project, one day I noticed something. Let’s take a look at the Sholef presented in Beit Ha’Totchan:

I want you to pay attention to the cannon itself.
Now let’s take a look at both Sholef V1 and Sholef V2 side by side:
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Sholef V1 on the left, Sholef V2 on the right

Let’s see another image:
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Sholef V1 on the right, Sholef V2 on the left

Do you see it?
In case you did not figure this out by yourself, the Sholef V1 presented in Beit Ha’Totchan is using the 155mm L/52 cannon of the Sholef V2, instead of its original 155mm L/45 cannon. The reason is unknown, after all, why not just put the whole Sholef V2 for exhibition, rather than swap the guns? I guess we will not know until the Sholef project is fully declassified.

The way I can tell the cannons apart is mostly due to the tiny bulge on the barrel of the L/52 cannon, right before the muzzle brake. The L/45 cannon lacks that bulge.


The identifying culprit


History:

The Sholef V2 was a 155mm L/52 caliber self-propelled howitzer, equipped with a fully automatic autoloader, and only required 4 crew members to operate. It was based on the hull of the Merkava Mk.1B tank (not the Merkava Mk.2 or Mk.3 as claimed by some sources and articles). The Merkava hull has a unique feature among a few other main battle tanks - the engine is at the front of the hull and the crew compartment is located to the rear. This structure of the Merkava is commonly used by self-propelled artillery/howitzer tanks, and due to that, it is ideal for a modification like this. The front compartment houses a driver, and his workplace is the same as on the Merkava Mk.1B tank. The gunner, loader, and commander are located in the turret compartment. To access the turret, the crew used two hatches on the roof for the loader and commander and one hatch on the hull for the gunner. The turret had all the necessary equipment to monitor the weapons and other systems.

The Sholef was developed in the 1980s. It competed for the IDF’s contract for a new self-propelled howitzer. As the Merkava Mk.1B tanks were planned to be completely replaced by the newer Merkava Mk.2B, a significant number of Mk.1B hulls could be obtained. The use of the old Mk.1B hulls allowed to significantly reduce the cost of the program and of mass production of the Sholef as there was no need to create a new hull from scratch.

Two prototypes were made, the Sholef V1 which was built in 1982 and revealed in 1984, and the Sholef V2 which was built in 1985 and revealed in early 1987. The Sholef V1 had a 155mm L/45 cannon, climb ladders on the turret cheeks, and no smoke grenade launchers, while the Sholef V2 had a 155mm L/52 cannon, climb ladders only on the left turret cheek, and a pair of 6pc smoke grenade launchers on the turret cheeks. Other than those small details, both prototypes are completely identical.

The Sholef V2 uses standard NATO 155mm ammunition and domestic Israeli ammunition. While the Sholef V2 can store 75 shells in total, only 60 shells are ready to be used immediately by the autoloader. Both versions of the 155mm cannon were made by Soltam Systems and IMI (today Elbit), which are Israeli military industry companies. The autoloader can load new shells every 6.67 seconds, or 9 rounds per minute. The Sholef’s cannon can be fired automatically and manually. This high rate of fire is achieved by using the ammunition supply on board or stackable ammunition on the ground, close to the Sholef’s area of operation. The loading cycle is operated by only two crew members in the turret, with the commander serving as the computer operative and the loader in the cargo bay.

The Sholef project had a very big emphasis on fire control tools and gun maintenance automation and due to this, it was possible to obtain very high combat characteristics. It also uses GPS and inertial navigation systems, and it’s capable of firing ERFB-BB (Extended Range Full Bore Base Bleed) shells up to 40km. One of Its unique features, especially for that type of vehicle, is that it can fire on the move with a two-plane stabilizer and engage targets in close range.

The two prototypes have taken part in regular IDF exercises and routine security operations. The Sholef V1 even participated in an operation in Sejoud, Lebanon.
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House before a hit
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House after a hit
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Despite its impressive performance and ease of maintenance, the Sholef was never acquired by the IDF. In 1993 the IDF had issued a contract to upgrade the artillery corps, as the aging M109A2 was just no longer cutting it. The IDF had 3 choices: Purchase the M270 MLRS, upgrade existing M109A2s into the M109A5 standard, and purchase a set amount of Sholef units. Due to budgetary cuts around the time for the whole of IDF, and due to how inherently expensive the Sholef itself was, the IDF decided to pursue the former two options, while abandoning the Sholef completely.

Soltam, on the other hand, did not give up and further upgraded the Sholefs with unknown upgrades (perhaps the new engine was installed at this point? maybe the BAZ FCS?) with the intention to export the Sholef, until 1997 when Soltam gave up completely. The Sholef’s legacy, however, will not be completely forgotten. The US and Germany created the XM2001 Crusader and PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers respectively as less-capable and thus cheaper self-propelled howitzers inspired by the Sholef’s design, features, and ideas. While the American XM2001 Crusader never went anywhere, the German PzH 2000 will go and become one of the best successes in the self-propelled howitzer export market. One must wonder what would’ve happened if the IDF accepted the Sholef into service…

The two Sholef prototypes still exist today, V1 is presented in Beit Ha’Totchan and V2 is located in the R&D department of Soltam. For some reason, the two prototypes swapped cannons, then swapped them back in 2021 for a photo, then swapped the cannons again.

And now, after more than 20 years since the Sholef lost the contract and the IDF artillery corps had been suffering with obsolete and constantly-breaking M109A5s, the IDF had finally issued their replacement with the domestic Ro’em self-propelled artillery truck. At long last the M109A5 can burn in hell where it belongs.


TL;DR stats of the Sholef V2:

  • Country of origin: Israel
  • Crew: 4 men
  • Weight: 45 t
  • Length (gun forward): 13.5 m
  • Hull length: 9 m
  • Width: 3.72 m
  • Height: 3.49 m
  • Main gun: 155 mm
  • Barrel length:52 calibers
  • Machine guns: 2 x 7.62mm FN-MAG 60-40
  • Maximum rate of fire: 9 rpm
  • Elevation range: -5°/+70°
  • Traverse range: 360 degrees
  • Turret traverse rate: 62.7°/s (estimated)
  • Max ammunition load: 75 rounds
  • First order ammunition: 60 rounds
  • Machine gun ammunition load: 3600 rounds, 1800 for each
  • Engine: Continental AVDS-9AR-1790 diesel
  • Transmission: RK 304
  • Engine power: 1200hp
  • Maximum forward speed: >60 km/h
  • Maximum reverse speed: >26 km/h
  • Driving range: 500 km
  • Gradient: 60%
  • Side slope: 40%
  • Vertical step: 0.8 m
  • Trench: 2.8 m
  • Fording: 1.38 m
  • Fording (with preparation): 2.4 m

Gallery:
Not many images of the Sholef V2 are available, so due to the similarity between V1 and V2 I will throw in a couple of images of V1.

Spoiler

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Sholef V1 with what looks like a radar rangefinder. Will search for clearer images.


Rough illustration of the Sholef’s interior. Not to be used as a source for the interior as it has some mistakes, but gives a rough idea of where’s everything.

Sources:

Spoiler

Final words
As of finishing this suggestion, it is 1:40 AM at my place. I have one last thing to say. In a conversation I had with a contact of mine on Discord about the Sholef, he said that he had a contact on MANTAK (Israeli Tank and APC Administration) who said the Sholef could fire APFSDS rounds. I am taking this claim with a generous amount of salt as he said he has an image but can’t find it. But, just in case the matter gets proven, I’ve included in the polls a suggested BR for a Sholef V2 with and without APFSDS.

Either way, I hope you guys have a great day. See you around!

12 Likes

Great work, very detailed suggestion. +1

7 Likes

Absolutely, +1

7 Likes

would be an amazing addition to the tech tree and also a lovely vehicle to play with it in the game, +1

3 Likes

i really hope to see this soon 1+

2 Likes

Update:

Recently I’ve found additional information about the Sholef: turns out it uses a specially-made turret bearing (turret ring). And, in addition to the turret traverse mechanism being a hydraulic mechanism powered directly by the engine (as I said in the suggestion already), the gun elevation is also powered by the same mechanism. This means that the gun elevation traverse should be fairly quick as well, unlike literally all other SPHs who use a manual hand-cranked gun traverse mechanism.

Source: Jane’s Museum Ordnance 1996-03 (Vol.6 No.2)
I’d take this info from the book with a tiny sprinkle of salt, considering it is Jane’s and that it has a few inaccuracies (example: gun elevation range mentioned in the book is wrong).

5 Likes