Kiev forces have begun using Israeli cluster mortar rounds against the Russian military, according to a photo that surfaced online on April 4.
The photo shows two Ukrainian soldiers loading an Israeli-made M971 fin-stabilized, cargo carrier mortar round into a Soviet-made 2B11 towed 120 mm mortar cannon. It’s still unknown when or where the photo was taken.
The M971 mortar round was jointly developed by Israel Military Industries (IMI) and the Swiss aerospace engineering and defense company RUAG.
The round can carry as many as 32 M87 dual purpose [anti-personnel/anti-armor] submunitions. Each bomblet can penetrate up to 105 mm of steel and releases 1200 preformatted fragments. The bomblets are equipped with dual-action self-destruct fuses to minimize hazardous duds.
According to IMI, a single M971 mortar round can create a lethality area of 100×100 meters. Cluster shells are considered dangerous particularly to civilian populations, as undetonated elements effectively become landmines. Self-destruct fuses do not always work.
Kiev forces received loads of weapons, including landmines and cluster munitions, from NATO states and other allies after the start of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine last year.
Despite being a close ally of NATO, Israel has so far refrained from directly supplying weapons to Ukraine or publicly allowing any of its defense customers to transfer Israeli-made weapons to the country. However, it did annonce providing non-lethal military equipment to Kiev forces on multiple occasions.
The M971 is not the first Israeli weapon to be spotted with Kiev forces. Israeli-made armored vehicles and anti-drone systems made their way to Ukraine in the past via third countries. The cluster mortar rounds were likely supplied in a similar way.