The Israeli ground force is operating more than 200 Achzarit APCs. This is actually an APC version converted from the T-54/55 tank.

The attack on October 7 was launched by Hamas, a number of Achzarit armored vehicles fell into the hands of this force. Clips posted by Hamas forces show that they have successfully seized a number of Israeli military bases. Several military vehicles were seized, including about a dozen Achzarit APCs. All vehicles appearing in the clip show that these armored personnel carriers are in intact condition. It was one of the worst single-day losses for a particular Israeli vehicle type in decades.

The Israeli ground force is operating more than 200 Achzarit APCs. This is actually an APC version converted from the T-54/55 tank. It is a very heavy armored personnel carrier tipping the scales at a whopping 45 tons. An Achzarit actually is heavier than a T-55 is. The vehicle pays for its heavy protection with a low power-to-weight ratio of just 18 horsepower per ton, and a commensurate reduction in mobility compared to a T-55.

During the war with the Arab states in 1967, Israel seized a very large number of T-54/55 tanks that the Soviet Union supplied to its allies. Immediately Tel Aviv converted and commissioned them with the name Tiran. Realizing that the original 100 mm D-10T2S cannon on the T-54/55 tank was not powerful enough and caused logistical difficulties, Israel replaced it with the Western standard 105 mm M68 gun at that time.

By the early 1990s, the Tiran tanks had become obsolete, but instead of getting rid of them, Israel took the surprising step of removing the turret, redesigning the interior to turn the T-54/55 tanks into armored personnel carriers called the Achzarit. About 100 Achzarit heavy armored personnel carriers have been in service with the Israeli Army after converting and removing spare parts from surplus Tiran tanks.

The Achzarit received additional armor protection, changed the chassis design with the rear door. It carries 7 fully equipped soldiers with a crew of 3, including driver, gunner and commander in charge of combat communications. The weapon system on the Achzarit is quite simple, consisting of only 1 or 2 7.62 mm machine guns, but when necessary, the vehicle can also be fitted with a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun or an automatic grenade launcher.

With the removal of the turret, the chassis weighs only 30 tons, but when put on the multi-purpose armor, it increases significantly. With a total weight of 44 tons, Achzarit is classified as a super-heavy armored personnel carrier, while rivals only weigh 15-25 tons. Despite its heavy weight, the protection of this APC is among the best in the world, even a 100 mm shell can hardly destroy Achzarit, while most armored personnel carriers can only against 25 – 30 mm ammunition.

For maneuverability, the vehicle is equipped with an 8V-92TA engine with a capacity of 710 horsepower and an Allison XTG-411-5A automatic transmission, for a top speed of 65 km/h and a range of 550 km. This heavy APC is not amphibious but with a short preparation can ford water obstacles up to 4 m deep.

It can be said that Achzarit is one of the very few armored personnel carriers with the best armor in the world today. Israel is currently working on a plan to install a 30mm cannon and anti-tank missiles to turn them into heavy infantry fighting vehicles. However, with the advent of a new generation of armored personnel carriers named Namer, much heavier and more modern, the Achzarits are gradually becoming redundant for the Israeli Army.

The Israelis produced around 300 Achzarits and steadily upgraded them through several major conflicts, including Israeli incursions into Gaza in 2004 and 2008. The latest Achzarit Mark II has a new Detroit Diesel turbocharged diesel engine and a Rafael remotely-controlled turret for its machine gun.

Realizing that Tel Aviv intends to eliminate the aforementioned heavy APC, Ukraine has proposed to receive all of it to strengthen its armored force. But with the current conflict situation in the Middle East, these combat vehicles will certainly be mobilized by Israel to the front lines. The hundred or so Achzarits that remained in service in 2023 probably all were Mark IIs. At least a dozen of them were at the Israeli army base in Nakhal Oz, in southern Israel, when Hamas terrorists breached the border fence between Gaza and Israel on Oct. 7. The terrorists captured the base and the Achzarits, representing as much as 12 percent of the overall fleet of converted T-55s.

In another development, Israel is facing another potential conflict on its northern border, bordering Lebanon, with a much more formidable enemy, the Hezbollah movement. On October 8, one day after Hamas attacked Israel, Hezbollah fired rockets and artillery shells into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights to show solidarity. According to Foreign Policy, Hezbollah is Israel’s most formidable enemy. In 2000, this group succeeded in forcing Israeli forces to withdraw from southern Lebanon.

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