Weapons: Tavor Triumphs

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January 19, 2011: After fixing some initial problems, Indian special operations troops are now receiving thousands of Israeli Tavor assault rifles. India is one of ten nations that have bought the Tavor in the last five years. Israel introduced the Tavor (or TAR-21) seven years ago, to replace the 5.56mm Galils and M-16s, and the 9mm Uzi. The TAR-21 is a bullpup design, which places the ammo magazine behind the pistol grip and trigger, and makes for a shorter and lighter weapon. The Tavor comes in several sizes. The most common ones are regular (72 cm/28.3 inches long, 3.67 kg/8.1 pounds), and commando (64 cm/25.2 inches, 2.95 kg/6.5 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.) The Tavor succeeded by being more rugged, compact and comfortable to use. It eventually proved more reliable than the competition.

By comparison, the standard Uzi was 65 cm/25.6 inches long and weighed 4 kg/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 quickly 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 over a year 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 won't be until the end of the next decade before everyone is using the Tavor.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to push Tavor as an export item. 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.

 


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