The latest version is Merkava IV, which retains the design priorities of Merkava I and incorporates a newly redesigned turret

In the past forty years, only a few countries have demonstrated the ability to build their own main battle tanks. One such “tank power” is just a small country: Israel. The Israeli Merkava tank is one of the best MBTs ever produced. The birth of Israel in 1948 saw the formation of the Israel Defense Forces. Although initially possessing only a modest tank force, it also helped to repel attacks from neighboring Arab countries.

By the war in 1956, the situation had improved significantly. And by 1967, Israel’s Armored Corps had essentially won the “Six Days’ War,” with a tactical lightning attack across the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. The Israeli tank force at the time, mainly American M48 and British Centurion, crushed the Arabs and quickly ended the war.

Israel's Merkava tank
Israel’s Merkava tank

Israel’s pre-emptive strike on its neighbours, was not supported by some of its European allies. Britain canceled a joint tank development project, while France did not deliver more Mirage fighters and ships to Israel. The lesson for the Israelis is to reduce dependence on foreign powers; and in 1970, the IDF began to develop a tank of their own.

The main gun of the Merkava I was the 105 mm M68, which was also the gun mounted on the Centurion, Patton and M60 tanks. Merkava I could carry 62 rounds, slightly above average to ensure the tank can fight in longer condition. In terms of secondary fire, the Merkava was armed with three machine guns, including a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun, and two additional 12.7 and 7.62 mm machine guns on the top of the turret for the commander and loader.

In terms of maneuverability, the Merkava I version was only equipped with a 900 hp diesel engine, which powered the 63 ton tank. Therefore, Merkava had a relatively slow speed, a maximum of only 45 km/h. However this was also not important, since the length of the territory of Israel is only 423 km.

The latest version is Merkava IV, which retains the design priorities of Merkava I and incorporates a newly redesigned turret, modular explosive reactive armor and passive armor for faster damage repair in battle. The Merkava IV replaced the 105mm main gun with a 120mm smoothbore gun, with 58 rounds of ammunition, including LAHAT anti-tank missiles. It is also equipped with a more powerful 1,500-horsepower engine, for faster speeds. A more advanced active protection system is adopted: the Trophy, which uses a combination of turret-mounted sensors and interceptor rounds, to intercept enemy fire.

Not resting on their laurels, the Israelis began developing a successor to the Merkava IV before it became obsolete, the Merkava V. Therefore, in the distant future, the Merkava will still be a hard to beat tank.


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