The Full Wiki

Merkava: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Merkava Mark IV
Merkava MK-IV
Merkava Mark IV in Yad La-Shiryon, Latrun.
Type Main Battle Tank
Place of origin  Israel
Service history
In service 2004–
Used by Israel Defense Forces
Wars 2006 Lebanon War, Second Intifada, Gaza War
Production history
Designer Israel Military Industries
Manufacturer IDF Ordnance (assembly)
Unit cost $4.5-$5 million[2] (In 2006)
Produced 2003–
Number built 250 (another 300 are currently being delivered)[1]
Weight 65 tonnes
Length 9.04 m (29.66 ft): rear to muzzle
7.60 m (24.93 ft): without gun
Width 3.72 m (12.2 ft)—without skirts
Height 2.66 m (8.73 ft)—turret roof
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)

Armor Classified composite matrix of laminated ceramic-steel-nickel alloy. Sloped modular design.
120 mm (4.7 in) MG253 smoothbore gun, capable of firing LAHAT ATGM
1 × 12.7 mm (0.5 in) MG
2 × 7.62 mm (0.3 in) MG
1 × 60 mm (2.4 in) internal mortar
12 smoke grenades
Engine 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) turbocharged diesel engine
Power/weight 23 hp/ton
Payload capacity 48 rounds
Transmission Renk RK 325
Suspension Helical spring
Ground clearance 0.45 m (1.48 ft)
Fuel capacity 1400 litres
500 km (311 mi)
Speed 64 km/h (40 mph) on road
55 km/h (34 mph) off road

The Merkava (Hebrew: About this sound מרכבה , Chariot) is the main battle tank of the Israel Defense Forces. Since the early 1980s, four main versions have been deployed. The "Merkava" name was derived from the IDF's initial development program name.

It is optimized for crew survival and rapid repair of battle damage. Through the use of spaced-armor techniques and quick-replacement modular designs, the design team was able to incorporate composite armour, a derivative of rolled homogeneous armour (RHA) and Chobham armour. Additionally, the space between the inner and outer hulls is filled with diesel—an economical storage method and a means[citation needed] of defeating HEAT rounds.

Following the model of contemporary self-propelled howitzers, the turret assembly is located nearer the rear than in most main battle tanks. This gives the crew additional protection against a frontal attack by putting the engine between them and the attack. This arrangement also creates more space in the rear of the tank that allows increased storage capacity, as well as a rear entrance to the main crew compartment allowing easy access even under enemy fire. This allows the tank to be used as a platform for medical disembarkation, a forward command and control station, and an armoured personnel carrier. The rear entrance's clamshell-style doors provide overhead protection when off- and on-loading cargo and personnel.

It was reportedly decided shortly before the beginning of the 2006 Lebanon War that the Merkava line would be discontinued within four years.[3] However, on 7 November 2006, Haaretz reported that an Israeli General Staff assessment had ruled of the Merkava Mark IV that "if properly deployed, the tank can provide its crew with better protection than in the past," and deferred the decision on discontinuing the line.[4]



The legacy of the Merkava series of tanks dates back to the 1960s. Plans were drawn up to isolate Israel's military-industrial complex from foreign reliance. Israel's economy and national reserves, backed by U.S. military grant aid[5], allowed it to purchase nearly any land, sea, or air platform and weapon from friendly nations, but Israel's infrastructure was not capable of producing those items domestically.

In 1965, Israel's military establishment initiated research and development for a domestically-produced tank, the "Sabra"[citation needed] (Hebrew slang for a Jew born in Israel. Not to be confuse with the modern Sabra tank). Initially, Britain and Israel collaborated on a development of the United Kingdom's Chieftain tank that had entered British Army service in 1966.[citation needed] However, in 1969, Britain decided not to sell the tank to Israel for political reasons.[6].

Israel Tal—serving as a brigade commander after the Suez Crisis—restarted plans to produce an Israeli-made tank. Tal's mission was furthered by lessons learned in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, where the Middle East's Arab nations held a significant numerical superiority. Realizing that they could not win wars of attrition, the Israelis set stringent requirements of crew survivability and safety for the new tank platform.[6]

By 1974, initial designs were completed and prototypes were built. After a brief set of trials, work began to retool the Tel HaShomer ordnance depot for full-time development and construction of the infant platform. After the new facilities were completed, the Merkava was officially released to the public in the International Defense Review periodical. The first official images of the tank were then released to other publications, specifically the American periodical Armed Forces Journal on May 14, 1977. The IDF's official adoption would not occur until December 1978, when the first full battalion of thirty tanks was delivered for initial unit training.

Merkava Mark I

Merkava Mark I at Yad La-Shiryon.

The Mark I is the original design created as a result of Israel Tal's decision, and was fabricated and designed for mass production. The Mark I weighed 63 tonnes and had a 900 horsepower (670 kW) diesel engine, with a power to weight ratio of 14 hp/ton. It was armed with the 105 millimeter M68 main gun (a licensed copy of the British Royal Ordnance L7), two 7.62 mm machine guns for anti-infantry defense[7], and a 60 mm mortar mounted externally, with its operator not completely protected by the tank's hull.

The general design borrows the tracks from the British Centurion tank, which had seen extensive use during the Yom Kippur war.

The Merkava was first used in combat during the 1982 Lebanon War where Israel deployed 180 units. After the war many adjustments and additions were noted and designed, the most important being that the 60 mm mortar needed to be installed within the hull and engineered for remote firing - a valuable feature the Israelis had initially encountered on their Centurion Mk3s with their 2" mortar MkIII[8]. A shot trap was found beneath the rear of the turret bustle where a well-placed shot could jam the turret completely. Installation of chain netting to disperse and destroy rocket propelled grenades and anti-tank rockets before impacting the primary armor increased survivability.

Merkava Mark II

Merkava Mark II at Yad La-Shiryon.

The Mark II was first introduced into general service in April 1983 and incorporated several upgrades as a result of the previous incursion into Lebanon. The new tank was optimized for urban warfare and low intensity conflicts, with a weight and engine no greater than the Mark I[9].

The Mark II used the same 105 millimeter main gun and 7.62 millimeter machine guns as the Mark I, but the 60 millimeter mortar was redesigned during construction to be located within the hull and configured for remote firing to remove the need to expose the operator to enemy small-arms fire. An Israeli-designed automatic transmission and increased fuel storage for increased range was installed on all further Mark IIs. Anti-rocket netting was fitted for increased survivability against infantry equipped with anti-tank rockets.

Many minor improvements were made to the fire-control system. Updated meteorological sensors, crosswind analyzers, and thermographic optics and image intensifiers gave greater visibility and battlefield awareness.

Incrementally improved versions of the original Mark II were designated:

  • Mark IIB, with thermal optics and unspecified updates to the fire control system.
  • Mark IIC, with more armor on the top of the turret to improve protection against attack from the air.
  • Mark IID, with next-generation modular composite armor on the chassis and turret.

Merkava Mark III

Merkava Mark III early example at Yad La-Shiryon.
Merkava Mark III Dor Dalet BAZ Kasag.

The Merkava Mark III was introduced in December 1989, and had many major upgrades to the drivetrain, powertrain, armament, and safety systems. The most prominent addition was the incorporation of the locally-developed[10] IMI 120 mm gun based on German Rheinmetall 120mm Gun. This gun and a larger 1,200 horsepower (890 kW) diesel engine increased the total weight of the tank to 65 tonnes, but the larger engine increased the maximum cruising speed to 60 km/h[11].

The turret was re-engineered for movement independent of the tank chassis, allowing it to track a target regardless of the tank's movement. Many other improvements were made, including:

  • External two-way telephone for secure communications between the tank crew and dismounted infantry,
  • Upgraded ammunition storage containers to minimize ammunition cook-off,
  • Addition of laser designators,
  • Incorporation of the Kasag modular armor system, designed for rapid replacement and repair in the battlefield and for quick upgrading as new designs and sophisticated materials become available,
  • Creation of the Mark IIIB, with unspecified armor upgrades.

BAZ System

The 1995 Mark III BAZ (Hebrew Acronym signifying Barak Zoher) had many improved and additional systems including:

  • Upgraded fire-control system components, from Electro Optics Industries (EL-OP) and Elbit Ltd, provides the tank with the ability to engage moving targets while on the move (an automatic target tracker),
  • NBC protection systems,
  • Locally-developed central air-conditioning system,
  • Added improvements in ballistic protection,
  • The Mark IIID had modular composite armor on the chassis and turret.


The last generation of the Mark III class was the Mark IIID Dor-Dalet (Hebrew: Fourth Generation), which included several components as prototypes to be introduced in the Mark IV.

  • Upgraded and strengthened tracks (built by Caterpillar, designed in Israel),
  • Installation of the R-OWS.

Merkava Mark IV

Merkava Mark IV is first publicly introduced and seen in Yad La-Shiryon during Israeli Independence Day celebrations in 2002.
Merkava Mark IV in Yad La-Shiryon.
Merkava Mark IV of the 401st brigade during a training exercise.

The Mark IV is the latest generation of the Merkava and has been in development since 1999. Its development was first announced in an October 1999 edition of the Bamachaneh (at The Camp) military publication.

Design features

The new model has a more robust fire-control system, the Knight Mark 4, produced by El-Op. The Mark IV has improved armor on all sides, including the top and underbelly, and is optimized for urban combat. The underside of the tank is reinforced with a modular, removable V-shaped "belly armor pack."

Ammunition is stored in individual fire-proof canisters, which reduce the chance of tank rounds cooking-off in the case of a fire inside the tank. As a result, the turret is classified as "dry", meaning that no active rounds are stored above the turret line.

Some features, such as hull shaping, exterior non-reflective paints, and shielding for engine heat plumes mixing with air particles to confuse enemy thermal imagers, were carried over from the IAI Lavi program of the Israeli Air Force to reduce the battlefield signature of the Merkava series tanks.

The Mark IV includes the larger 120 mm main gun of the previous versions but is capable of firing a wider variety of ammunition, including HEAT and sabot rounds like the APFSDS kinetic energy penetrator, using an electrical semi-automatic revolving magazine for 10 rounds. It also includes the incorporation of a much larger 12.7 mm machine gun for anti-vehicle operations (most commonly used against technicals)[12].

Upgraded fire control system

The new fire-control system enables the Merkava to operate as an anti-helicopter platform and is capable of detecting and destroying armored attack helicopters such as the French Gazelle and the ubiquitous Russian Mil Mi-24, both used by Israel's neighbors.

Upgraded tracks

The Mark IV has incorporated the Israeli-designed "TSAWS (Tracks, Springs, and Wheels System)" caterpillar track system, called "Mazkom" (Hebrew: מערכת זחלים קפיצים ומרכובים‎) by troops. This system is designed to endure the harsh basalt rock conditions of Lebanon and the Golan Heights with minimal "track-shedding".

Digital battlefield management system

A new and very sophisticated Israeli Elbit Systems BMS (Battle Management System; Hebrew: צי"ד) has been designed, constructed, and tested. It is a centralised system which displays battlefield data on color screens. It collects data from tracked units and UAVs deployed in theater, and immediately distributes it in encrypted form to all other units equipped with BMS in a given theater.

Combat history

Controversy surrounds the Merkava Mark IV's performance during the 2006 Lebanon War, as a significant proportion of Israeli casualties was among tank crews.[13] Hezbollah fired antitank missiles during the course of the conflict, penetrating armor in five Merkava Mark IV tanks and killing 10. The penetrations were caused by Hezbollah tandem warhead missiles, possibly including Russian-made RPG-29 'Vampir', AT-5 'Konkurs', AT-13 'Metis-M', and AT-14 'Kornet' missiles. Another tank crewman was killed when a Merkava Mark IV ran over an improvised explosive device (IED). This tank was equipped with additional V-shaped underside armor, limiting casualties to just one of the seven personnel (four crewmen and three infantrymen) onboard. Overall, 18 of the 52 damaged tanks were Merkava Mark IVs, eight of which remained serviceable on the battlefield. Two Merkava Mark IVs were completely destroyed, one by powerful IEDs, and another supposedly by a Russian AT-14 'Kornet' missile. All but two Merkava Mark IV tanks damaged during the war were repaired and returned to the IDF. The Israeli military said that it was satisfied with the Merkava Mark IV's performance, and attributed problems to insufficient training before the war.[14][15]

After the 2006 war in Lebanon, and as the IDF becomes increasingly involved in unconventional and guerrilla warfare, the Merkava's role in the Israeli military has been questioned by some analysts who argue that the Merkava is too vulnerable to missiles.[16][17] Other post-war analysts, including David Eshel, disagree, arguing that reports of losses to Merkavas were overstated and that "summing up the performance of Merkava tanks, especially the latest version Merkava Mark IV, most tank crews agree that, in spite of the losses sustained and some major flaws in tactical conduct, the tank proved its mettle in its first high-saturation combat."[18] On a comparison done by the armor corps newsletter it was shown that the average number of crewmen killed per tank penetrated was reduced from 2 during the Yom Kippur War to 1.5 during the 1982 Lebanon War to 1 during the 2006 Lebanon War proving how, even in the face of the improvement in anti-tank weaponry, the Merkava Mark IV provides better protection to its crew. The IDF wants to increase orders of new Merkava Mark IV tanks, and has plans to add the Trophy active protection system to Merkava Mark IV tanks, and to increase joint training between crews and Israeli antitank soldiers.[19][20]

The Merkava IV was used more extensively during the Gaza War, as it had been received by the IDF in increasing numbers since 2006, replacing more of the Merkava II and III versions of the tank which were in service. One brigade of Merkava IVs crossed the Gaza strip in five hours without casualties. The commander of the brigade stated that battlefied tactics had been greatly revised since 2006, with the IDF increasing its focus on aggressiveness, concentrated firepower, combining air and ground attacks, and had since trained for nonstop movement and the use of blitzkrieg maneuvers. Tactics had also been modified to focus on the asymmetric or guerilla war threats, in addition to the conventional war scenarios that the Merkava had primarily been designed to combat.[21]

Specifications of models

Merkava Mark I Merkava Mark II Merkava Mark III Merkava Mark IV
Type Main Battle Tank
Place of origin Israel
Service history
In active service 1979–? (reserve forces only) 1983– 1990– 2004–
Used by Israel Defense Forces
Wars 1982 Lebanon War, First Intifada South Lebanon conflict (1982–2000), First Intifada, Second Intifada, 2006 Lebanon War, Gaza War South Lebanon conflict (1982–2000), Second Intifada, 2006 Lebanon War, Gaza War 2006 Lebanon War, Second Intifada, Gaza War
Production history
Designer Israel Military Industries
Manufacturer Israeli Ordnance Corps
Produced 1978—1983 1982—1989 1990—2002 2003—
Number built 250 580 780 250, another 300 are being delivered[1]
Weight ~63 tonnes ~65 tonnes
Length 8.30 m (27.23 ft) - rear to muzzle
7.45 m (24.44 ft) - without gun
9.04 m (29.66 ft) - rear to muzzle
7.60 m (24.93 ft) - without gun
Width 3.70 m (12.14 ft) - without skirts 3.72 m (12.2 ft) - without skirts
Height 2.65 m (8.69 ft) - turret roof 2.66 m (8.73 ft) - turret roof
Crew 4 (tank commander, driver, gunner, loader-signaller). May also carry some infantrymen.
Armor Rolled homogeneous armor Spaced rolled homogeneous armor Composite armor, modular design. Composite matrix of laminated ceramic-steel-nickel alloy. Sloped modular design.
Primary armament 105 mm (4.1 in) M68 rifled tank gun with LAHAT ATGM capability. 120 mm (4.7 in) MG251 smoothbore tank gun with LAHAT ATGM capability. 120 mm (4.7 in) MG253 smoothbore tank gun with LAHAT ATGM capability.
Secondary armament 2-3 × 7.62 mm (0.3 in) MG
1 × 60 mm (2.4 in) external mortar
12 smoke grenades
2-3 × 7.62 mm (0.3 in) MG
1 × 60 mm (2.4 in) internal mortar
12 smoke grenades
3 × 7.62 mm (0.3 in) MG
1 × 60 mm (2.4 in) internal mortar
12 smoke grenades
1 × 12.7 mm (0.5 in) MG
2 × 7.62 mm (0.3 in) MG
1 × 60 mm (2.4 in) internal mortar
12 smoke grenades
Engine Teledyne Continental AVDS-1790-6A 908 hp (677 kW) V12 air-cooled diesel engine Teledyne Continental AVDS-1790-9AR 1,200 hp (895 kW) V12 air-cooled diesel General Dynamics GD883 (MTU883) 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) V12 water-cooled diesel
Power / weight ~14.5 hp/ton ~18.5 hp/ton ~23 hp/ton
Payload capacity 53 up to 62 rounds, 6 per container 46 rounds, 5 ready in a mechanical drum 48 rounds, 10 ready in an electrical drum
Transmission Allison Transmission CD850-6BX hydromechanical semiautomatic Ashot Ashkelon hydromechanical automatic, 4 gears. Renk RK325 hydromechanical automatic, 5 gears.
Suspension Helical spring
Ground clearance 0.53 m (1.74 ft) 0.45 m (1.48 ft)
Fuel capacity 1100 - 1400 litres 1400 litres
Operational range 400 km (249 mi) - 500 km (311 mi) 500 km (311 mi)
Speed on road 50 km/h (31 mph) 60 km/h (37 mph) 64 km/h (40 mph)

Merkava variants

Following the Second Intifada the Israel Defense Forces modified some of their Merkava's to satisfy the needs of urban warfare. This adaptation can be done by field engineers and does not interfere with the tank's combat handling.

Merkava LIC

These are Merkava Mark III BAZ or Mark IV tanks, converted for urban warfare. The LIC designation stands for "Low intensity conflict", underlining its emphasis on counter-insurgency, street-to-street inner-city asymmetrical type warfare of the 21st century[22].

The Merkava is equipped with a turret 12.7 mm caliber coaxial machine gun which enables the crew to lay down fairly heavy cover fire without the use of the main gun, which is relatively ineffective against individual enemy combatants. Like the new remote-operated weapon station, the coaxial machine-gun is fired from inside the tank without exposing the crew to small-arms fire and snipers.

The most sensitive areas of a tank, its optics, exhaust ports and ventilators, are all protected by a newly-developed high-strength metal mesh, to prevent the possibility of explosives charges being planted there [22].

Rubber whip pole-markers with LED tips and a driver's rear-facing camera have been installed to improve navigation and maneuverability in an urban environment by day or by night.

Merkava Tankbulance

Some Merkava tanks have been fitted with full medical and ambulance capabilities while retaining their armament (but carrying less ammunition than the standard tank). The cabin area has been converted for carrying injured personnel and has had two stretchers and life support medical station systems added with a full medical team complement to operate under combat conditions with a Merkava battalion. The vehicle has a rear door to facilitate evacuation under fire, and can provide covering fire.

The "tankbulance" is not an unarmed ambulance and as such is not protected by the Geneva Conventions provisions regarding ambulances, but it is far less vulnerable to accidental or deliberate fire than an ambulance or armored personnel carrier.

Merkava IFV Namer

Namer at an exhibition, Rishon LeZion, Israel.

Namer (Hebrew: leopard, which is also an abbreviating of "Nagmash (APC) Merkava") is a heavy infantry fighting vehicle based on Merkava Mark IV chassis. In service since 2008. The vehicle was initially called Nemmera (Hebrew: leopardess), but later renamed to Namer.

Namer is armed with either M2 Browning machine gun or Mk 19 grenade launcher that mounted on a Samson Remote Controlled Weapon Station, another 7.62 mm MAG machine gun, 60 mm mortar and smoke grenades. Like Merkava Mark IV it is optimized for high level of crew survival on the battlefield. Namer may carry up to 12 crewmen and infantrymen and a stretcher, or two stretchers and medical equipment.

On July 20, 2007, StrategyPage reported that the first fifteen Namers will be delivered in 2008, and over a hundred more will finally equip two combat brigades. Golani Brigade used two Namer IFVs during Cast Lead operation.

Merkava ARV Nemmera

The Merkava Armored Recovery Vehicle initially called Namer (Hebrew: leopard), but subsequently renamed to Nemmera (Hebrew: leopardess). It is an armored recovery vehicle based on a Merkava Mark III or IV chassis. It can tow disabled tanks and carries a complete Merkava back-up power pack that can be changed in the field in under 90 minutes.

There are two versions of Nemmera. The heavier equipped with a 42 ton-meter crane and a 35 ton-meter winch, and the smaller equipped with a smaller crane.

Sholef in Beit ha-Totchan, Zikhron Ya'aqov, Israel.

Merkava Howitzer Sholef

Two prototypes of Sholef ("Gunslinger" or "Slammer") 155 mm self-propelled howitzer with automatic loading system were built by Soltam in 1984–1986. The 45-ton vehicle had a long 155 mm calibre gun barrel giving a range of 45+ km. Using GPS, inertial navigation, and an internal fire control computer, it was also capable of direct fire while on the move. It never entered production[23].


  1. ^ a b "The Institute for National Security Studies", chapter Israel, 2009, [1] June 17 2009.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Israeli Merkava tank production to stop within four years", Amnon Barzilai, Globes Online Retrieved September 26, 2007.
  4. ^ Oren, Amir (2006-11-07). "IDF preparing for another conflict by next summer". Ha'aretz. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  5. ^ "Israel: U.S. Foreign Assistance" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  6. ^ a b "Merkava series". War Online. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  7. ^ "Merkava Mk 1". Israeli-Weapons. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  8. ^ Simon Dunstan, Peter Sarson, Centurion Universal Tank 1943-2003 (2003), p.13, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 9781841763873
  9. ^ "Merkava Mk 2". Israeli-Weapons. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Merkava Mk 3". Israeli-Weapons. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  12. ^ "Merkava Mk4 Detailed". Defense Update. 
  13. ^ "Apparent vulnerability of Israeli armour to Hezbollah anti-tank rockets.". BBC. 
  14. ^ "Why did Armored Corps fail in Lebanon?". Ynet.,7340,L-3297431,00.html. 
  15. ^ Barzilai, Amnon (30 August 2006). "Defense establishment favors Rafael tank protection system". Globes Online.,+Amnon+Barzilai,+Globes+Online&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  16. ^ "God’s chariot". Aljazeera. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  17. ^ "Tough lessons for Israeli armour". BBC. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  18. ^ "Assessing the performance of Merkava Tanks". Defense Update. 
  19. ^ "IDF mulls spending plan". Ynetnews.,7340,L-3439667,00.html. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  20. ^ Yaakov Katz (August 31, 2007). "New training aims to help tanks cope in hostile territory". The Jerusalem Post. 
  21. ^ Jerusalem Post, 2008-9. Aug 13, 2009 21:20, Security and Defense: 'The tank is one of the most technologically advanced platforms around', By YAAKOV KATZ
  22. ^ a b "LIC Modeled Merkava Mk-3 Baz". Defense Update. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  23. ^ "Slammer". Israeli-Weapons. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address