The 155mm field artillery piece became standardized in many armies during the middle-part of the 20th Century. After the re-establishment of Israel as a nation, Soltam Systems was formed in 1950 and, in 1968, the company delivered to the Israeli Army the "M-68", a 155mm L33 towed field howitzer system which went on to have a healthily long service carrer. It was also adopted by the nations of Singapore and Thailand.
The Soltam design was influenced by several original Finnish weapons and began its own development in 1968. After passing the requisite state trials, the weapon was adopted as the M-68 and serial production, along with formal service, began in 1970. It went on to have its "baptism of fire" during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
As built, the M-68 featured many tried-and-true qualities seen in other 155mm systems of the period. A four-wheeled, heavy-duty "split-trail" carriage (making up the tow arms) was used for supporting and transporting the 20,900lb weapon whose barrel measured 16.8 feet in length. Projectiles were fed by way of a horizontal breech block. The mounting hardware allowed the gun tube to be traversed between +/- 20 degrees from centerline and -5 to +75 degrees in elevation, giving the weapon a reach out to 13 miles using conventional projectiles (non-rocket-assisted). A typical operational crew numbered eight personnel.
The M-68 howtizer was also featured in the Ro'em Self-Propelled Gun (SPG) when mated to the chassis of the classic American M4 Sherman Medium Tank and set within a new fixed, boxy hull superstructure. This line of vehicle has since been retired from Israeli Army service.
The Soltam M-71 (detailed elsewhere on this site) is a variant of the M-68 design and features an air-driven loading hammer as well as a slightly longer gun tube.
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