Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
Also Known As: Merkava ARV Nemmera, Merkava LIC, Merkava Mk1, Merkava Mk2, Merkava Mk3 and Merkava Mk4
IMI Israel Military Industries
Parent System: Merkava
Initial Operational Capability (IOC): 1979
Total Production: 2,230
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Description: The Merkava is a Main Battle Tank (MBT) designed in the 1970s to meet the requirements of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for a MBT with improved crew survivability. The engine has been placed in the front of the hull to provide protection for the crew. Ammunition and fuel are protected inside special compartments. There is a rear entrance and exit to abandon the vehicle in the case of a catastrophic event and to carry infantry inside the tank like an infantry fighting vehicle does. The first batch of Merkavas entered service with the IDF in December 1978. Since then 2,230 Merkavas have been produced or will be produced by MANTAK and IDF Ordnance.
The Merkava MBT features a 120mm M253 smoothbore gun (Mk3 and Mk4) capable of firing LAHAT anti-tank missiles or a 105mm gun (MK1 and Mk2), two 7.62 machine guns (one of them coaxial), a commander's 12.7mm gun, and an internal 60mm mortar (except Mk1). A commander's thermal sight and the gunner's sight provides hunter-killer capability. The Merkava Mk1 entered service in 1979 with 250 tanks produced for the IDF seeing combat in 1982 during the Lebanon War. Deliveries of the Mk2 variant started in 1983 with 580 units produced. Both, the Mk1 and Mk2, were powered by 900-hp diesel engines and armed with a 105mm gun. The Mk3 variant was introduced in 1990 with 780 units produced until the Mk4 was adopted in 2002. The Mk3 variant was powered by a 1,200-hp turbocharged diesel engine and armed with a 120mm smoothbore gun.
The Merkava Mk4 variant deliveries to the IDF started in 2002 with over 620 tanks to be produced beyond 2010. The Mk4 is powered by a 1,500-hp turbocharged diesel engine. These variants feature armor, sensors, engine, and weapons improvements over previous models. The Mk4 variant features compatibility with kinetic energy ammunition through main gun improvements. The Mk4 variant saw combat in 2006 Lebanon War and 2008 in Gaza strip. The Merkava 4 is replacing the Mk2 and Mk3 variants within the IDF. The latest Merkava showed some vulnerability to advanced anti-tank missiles and rockets during the Lebanon War in 2006. The IDF took the decision to integrate the Trophy active protection system on the Mk4 tanks.
The Merkava LIC or Low Intensity Conflict is a Mark 4 variant optimized for military operations in urban terrain (MOUT). The Tankbulance is an armed ambulance version. The Merkava ARV Nemmera is an armored recovery vehicle based upon the Mk4 or Mk3 chassis. Sholef was a 155mm self-propelled howitzer developed in the mid-1980s based on the Mk2 chassis that never entered service. As of late 2010, the Mk1 tanks have been withdrawn form service and so are being the Mk2 models. Some plans considered by the IDF called for the conversion of the surplus Merkavas into armored personnel carriers like Namer or other special purpose vehicles but they have not been implemented so far.
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