March 2, 2007: Three years ago, Israel
introduced a new assault rifle, to replace the 5.56mm Galil and M-16s, and the
9mm Uzi. The new weapon is a bullpup design, which places the ammo magazine
behind the pistol grip and trigger, and makes for a shorter and lighter weapon.
The new Israeli weapon, the Tavor, comes in three sizes; regular (28.4 inches
long, 8 pounds), commando (25.2 inches, 7.8 pounds) and mini (19 inches, 7.1
pounds). The Tavor has a rail on top, for mounting all manner of sights (as it
becoming popular, mainly because it makes the weapon so much more effective.)
By comparison, the standard Uzi was 25.6 inches long and
weighed 8.8 pounds with a 25 round magazine. The Uzi was designed for
reliability and low cost manufacture. It was not very accurate and would
sometimes fire by itself if dropped. Some 1.5 million Uzis were
manufactured over the last half century and the weapon's reputation increased
every time Israel won a war using it. But, like it's World War II predecessors,
it was considered a crude weapon. Tavor attempts to answer the many complaints
leveled against Uzi, the Galil and the M-16 (which Israel has used a lot
because it got so many of them cheap from the United States).
India was so impressed that it bought 3,070 of
the commando version of the Tavor for its special operations units. But when these arrived in 2005, Indian
troops immediately began having some reliability problems. Israeli troops
had similar complaints, and it took nearly a years to get it all sorted out.
Otherwise, the Tavor was well received by the troops. However, because Israel can't
afford to just junk hundreds of thousands of Galils and M-16s, the Tavor will
be issued as the older weapons wear out. So it will be nearly a decade before
everyone is using the Tavor.
Meanwhile, Israel is pushing the Tavor as an
export item, especially to India. The Indians have a lot of old assault rifles,
and are looking for replacements. The Tavor design was based on years of
feedback from troops, so if corruption (bribes for purchasing officials) doesn't
become a major factor, the Israeli weapon should show up with a lot of foreign
armies in the next decade.