On Sunday, Israel released the first footage of operational use of the “Iron Sting” precision 120mm mortar round. This munition is designed specifically to strike point targets (rocket launchers, stationary vehicles, defensive strong points) with minimal collateral damage.
The Iron Sting, described as “an innovative and accurate mortar bomb,” is one of a variety of weapons being used to thwart dozens of terrorists, the Israeli Air Force posted on X, along with video it said showed the 120mm mortar decimating an enemy rocket launcher. The Israeli army used the weapons system in conjunction with the Israeli Air Force.
The weapons system uses a “precise, laser and GPS guided mortar munition” to engage targets in dense, urban environments while “reducing the possibility of collateral damage and preventing injury to non-combatants,” Elbit Systems, which developed the system, said in a 2021 news release.
“Its operational use will revolutionize ground warfare and equip battalions with organic, accurate, and effective firepower,” the release said.
In the U.S. Army, the 120mm mortar is a battalion-level weapon system; presumably, this holds true in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as well. This would allow the system to be called for by company-level troops at the Forward Edge of the Battle Area (FEBA), making responses quick in the moment-to-moment shifting environment of close contact.
It’s unclear, however, as to whether these 120mm rounds, clearly described as mortar rounds, are being deployed using traditional tube mortars, as the Israeli Air Force released the actual footage;
(Translated from Hebrew by Google):
The IDF attacked a short time ago two terrorist squads that were identified in Lebanon, in the area of Matat and Mount Dov. According to the suspicion, the squad in Matat intended to launch anti-aircraft missiles towards Israeli territory and the squad in Mount Dov intended to launch rockets. Both squads were thwarted before they fired.
The Israeli Defense Forces field two 120mm mortar systems, the self-propelled Cardom (Hatchet) 120mm Recoil Mortar System, which is also used by the U.S., and the Soltam K6 tube mortar, again also used by the U.S. Army as the M120 Mortar System. It is unclear how a mortar round could be fired from an aircraft, but it is probably unwise to underestimate Israeli ingenuity in such matters.
The use of the “Iron Sting” can provide the IDF with a couple of advantages. First, precision weapons are a significant force multiplier, allowing the neutralization of point targets with one or two weapons instead of an area-covering spread typically associated with tube mortars. Second, the IDF has a history of trying to reduce collateral damage and civilian injury or death, and precision munitions increase their chances of realizing that goal.
Timing is everything, as they say, and the revelation of this new precision weapon comes when an imminent invasion of Gaza is looking more likely by the day and with Hamas facing political pressure from unexpected directions.