Wars are fought with tanks and guns, but those weapons need ammunition. Without a large stockpile of bullets and other munitions, troops on the frontline will have nothing to fight with. In response to the Hamas terror attacks on October 7, 2023, the Israeli Air Force began a campaign of airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza. With the goal of rooting out the terrorist organization, the IDF launched a large-scale ground incursion of Gaza on October 27, 2023. To support IDF ground operations, the Israeli government requested to buy 13,981 tank cartridges from the United States; the estimated total cost of the sale is $106.5 million.
Foreign military sales fall under the purview of Congress through the Arms Export Control Act. However, Congress is divided on supplying arms to Israel in light of its military response to the October 7 terror attacks. In order to sell the tank cartridges to Israel in a timely manner, Secretary of State Antony Blinken approved the sale as an emergency on December 9, 2023. Waiving Congressional review requirements, Blinken "determined and provided detailed justification to Congress that an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale to the Government of Israel of the above defense articles and services in the national security interests of the United States," as noted in a press release by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
Israel specifically requested to purchase the M830A1 High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer tank cartridge. Designed for the 120mm M256 main gun of the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, the M830A1 HEAT-MP-T can also be fired from the IMI 120mm main gun of the Merkava Mark III and Mark IV main battle tanks. Similar to the Rheinmetall Rh-120, which is produced under license as the M256, the Merkava's gun was designed by Israeli Military Industries and is more compact; IDF requirements dictated that the gun not be larger than the 105mm gun on the previous Merkava variants.
Unlike rifled guns which use spiraled grooves to spin a round as it's fired and stabilize it, the IMI 120mm and M256 are both smoothbore guns. The M830A1 is a fin-stabilized round with a discarding sabot and tactical service round with tracer. As its name implies, the M830A1 is a multi-purpose round. Depending on how it is set, the round can detonate upon impact to engage buildings and destroy obstacles or detonate based on proximity to engage helicopters. First fielded in 1994, the U.S. Army plans to replace the M830A1 with the XM-1147 Advanced Multi-Purpose round.
In addition to the 13,981 rounds requested by Israel, the sale includes publications and technical documentation; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; studies and surveys; and other related elements of logistics and program support. The DSCA press release notes that the rounds sold to Israel will come from U.S. Army inventory, but that U.S. defense readiness will not be adversely impacted.