Thirty-five years ago, after several years of development and months of training, the “Merkava I” tank, the first completely armored Israeli vehicle, began its active service in the IDF. Today, the “Merkava” is a key factor in the IDF’s forces.
Since its first operational activity during the First Lebanon War in 1982, the “Merkava” has proven itself as the best tank on the battlefield, outshining the T-72 tanks supplied to the Syrian army by the Soviet Union. Ever since, the Merkava has fought on every front, always fulfilling its mission.
Today, the “Merkava MK-IV”, which came into use in 2004, is the most modern of the “Merkava” tanks. It includes a fire control system that allows it to shoot down helicopters, a Battle Management System which allows different vehicles to communicate in the battlefield, and a caterpillar track system that allow it to move over all types of terrain.
Sgt. Menachem, the tank commander of one of the “Merkava IV” tanks in the 401 Armored Brigade, explains the capabilities of this advanced vehicle. “The ‘Merkava IV’ tank is the most modern in the world,” he said. “It is stronger, more powerful and more resourceful than every other tank in its category. As a tank commander, I can say with certainty that the ‘Merkava IV’ is the king of the battlefield in urban combat.”
2nd Lieutenant Jeff Ben Ari, a platoon commander in the 401 Armored Brigade, explained that, “The ‘Merkava IV’ is different than other tanks in a sense that the engineers did not build it thinking how the crew would maneuver it. They designed it thinking how the tank would protect the crew.”
“The engine is placed in the front of the tank in order to serve as additional protection and the shielding materials are cutting edge technology. Most importantly, we have an active protection system, the Trophy, which intercepts anti-tank missiles before they can reach us,” said 2nd Lt. Ben Ari.
“The capabilities of the ‘Trophy’ were reflected during Operation Protective Edge,” said 2nd Lt. Ben Ari. “A group of armed Hamas terrorists fired a RPG-27 anti-tank missile at one of our company’s tanks, but the ‘Trophy’ system intercepted it before it reached the tank.”
“In the tank, we are four soldiers. You have the driver, the loader, the gunner and the tank commander,” said 2nd Lt. Ben Ari. “But there is a fifth crew member: the Battle Management System. It shows us where the other tanks are and where the forces on the ground are located. It helps us navigate without looking left and right all the time. We can operate without it, but it is clearly a huge advantage.”
“There is an air conditioner in the tank, which may seem trivial, but given the climate in the Middle East, it makes a difference,” explains 2nd Lt. Ben Ari. “Additionally, the ‘Merkava IV’ can accommodate an infantry squad or wounded soldiers, so that they can safely reach their destination.”
Thanks the advanced technology of the “Merkava IV”, the soldiers of the Armored Corps can proudly and safely continue to serve and defend the State of Israel on the battlefield.