From Academic Kids


Merkava is a series of tanks developed and manufactured by Israel for the Israel Defense Forces.

The Merkava (Chariot in Hebrew) has been designed for crew survival; the power plant is placed at the front of the tank, increasing frontal mass, while the crew are able to escape from a disabled Merkava via doors in the rear of the hull. Being heavily armoured and highly mobile, it is one of most protected tanks in the world.

It is produced at the tank factory at Tel Hashomer Armoured Corps base, as most of the components are manufactured by Israeli security industries such as the IMI, Elbit, Soltam etc.



Following the Six-Day War and the French embargo on Israel, the UK signed a deal with Israel for joint development of a new battle tank—the Chieftain tank. In 1969, following Arab pressure, the British cancelled the deal with Israel and expelled them from the Chieftain tank project. Israel realized that it could not rely on other countries to supply it with weapon systems and seriously began to consider self-manufacturing a main battle tank—one of the most crucial elements of ground armoured forces. Although the near-disaster of the 1973 Yom Kippur War had been resolved, in part, with an American delivery of reserve armour, the war brought home the fact that the small nation of Israel could not afford excessive casualties; the Merkava was thus to be designed for crew survival.

The Israeli government decided in 1970 that it needed an indigenous tank-building capacity. General Israel Tal led a development team which took into consideration Israel's unique battlefield characteristics and lessons learned from previous wars.

Merkava Mk 1

The Merkava was first introduced into service in April 1979. It was developed for the rough terrain of the northern region of Israel and the Golan Heights. It was equipped with a 105 mm gun and featured a power plant in the front and a rear door. It took part in Operation Peace for Galilee in 1982.

Merkava Mk-III early generation
Merkava Mk-III early generation

Merkava Mk 2

The Merkava Mk 2 was first introduced into service in 1983. It introduced several improvements focusing on urban warfare and crew survivability, following Israel's incursion into Lebanon in 1982 and the battles in Beirut.

Merkava Mk 3

Following information gained in Israel's incursion into Lebanon in 1982, the Merkava Mk 3 was introduced in 1990. The Mark 3 introduced a 1200 horsepower (895 kW) engine, a new suspension and transmission system, and a new 120 mm smooth-bore gun.

Mk 3B

A 1995 version, the Mk 3B (also known as Merkava Baz), had an improved fire-control system and a built-in NBC protection and air conditioning system. Also, a modular armor package was added (called "Kasag"), making the Merkava 3 Baz Kasag one of the most protected tanks in the world.

Mk 3 4th generation

The current generation of Mk-3 tanks is Dor-Daled (4th generation) which includes modular add-on armor, improved tracks, improved machinegun and integral air conditioning and NBC protection systems.

Merkava Mk 4

The Merkava Mk 4 is the latest generation in Israel's Merkava main battle tanks series, in service from 2004. It offers extra protection to the crew with more powerful and accurate fire systems.

Missing image
Merkava Mk 4 fires its 120 mm smoothbore gun while charging foward in the Negev

The Merkava has improved armor on the front and sides of the tank, and even the top of the turret, making it one of the best protected tanks in the world. The armor is modular so when the tank is hit, only the damaged armor plates need replacement. The Mk 4 also has additional crew survivability features: Each tank component is designed to act as back-up armor if the main armor is penetrated. The Mk 4 has an integrated air conditioning and NBC protection system. Ammunition is stored in fire-proof canisters.

The Merkava has an advanced fire system with a new 120 mm smoothbore cannon and an advanced targeting system, giving the tank the capacity to engage and shoot down anti-tank helicopters, such as the French SA342L Gazelle anti-tank helicopters and Russian Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters of the Syrian Air Force.

It also has 0.5 in (12.7 mm) coaxial machine gun (MAG Rafael) which enables the tank crew to shoot soft targets from the turret without getting out. A new generation of internal 60 mm mortar is installed. The internal machine gun and the rear door (which exists in all generation of the Merkava) have proven to be useful in urban warfare.

The Merkava has improved mobility, enabling the tank to move more easily in the Golan Heights, where terrain can limit tank movements. The new Caterpillar tracks system (abbreviated as "Mazkom" (מזקו"ם) in Hebrew: מערכת זחלים קפיצים ומרכובים - "Tracks, springs and wheels system") was improved to endure harsh ground conditions and minimize track-spreading incidents. A video system gives the driver 360 degree visibility around the tank at all times. A new 1500 horsepower diesel engine increases the speed and power of the Merkava, enabling it to develop sprints of 60 km/h.

Yet another improvement is the development of a Battle Management System (צי"ד) designed by Elbit Systems (, which uses digital information (gathered by other forces such as other tanks, UAVs and the centeral command) to update planning, navigation, and briefing of crews. The Battle Management System can record data gained during the mission and transmit it live to other forces.

Special Merkava variants

Following the al-Aqsa Intifada, the Israeli Defence Forces modified some of their Merkava tanks to satisfy the needs of urban warfare. This adaptation can be done by field engineers and should not harm the tank's combat performance.

Merkava 3 LIC

This is a Merkava 3 Baz tank fitted for urban warfare. The LIC designation stands for low intensity conflicts. The LIC model is equipped with internal co-axial M2 Browning 0.5 machinegun, enabling the tank crew to use heavier firepower than a medium caliber machinegine but lighter than cannon shells, without being exposed to enemy's fire. The tank also has extra protection against grenades and netting that protects optics and ventilators. Marking poles and a rear camera were installed to allow better navigation in narrow streets.

Merkava Ambulance

Some of the Merkava tanks were fitted with ambulance capablities. The rear area of the tank was converted for carrying injured soldiers and was had stretchers and life support systems added.

The main advantage of the "tankbulance" is heavy protection and a rear door, enabling the evacuation of wounded soldiers under heavy fire, with the ability of the tank crew to return fire with machineguns or the cannon.

Merkava-based armored fighting vehicles

Armored fighting vehicles built on the basis of a Merkava tank chassis.

Merkava Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV)

The Merkava ARV, called Nammer is an armored recovery vehicle based on a Merkava chassis. It is capable of rescuing stuck tanks and carries a back-up power plant for the tank.

Merkava based APC/IFV

Israel developed a heavy APC/IFV based on Merkava tank chassis called Nemmera ("tigress" in Hebrew, but also an acronym based on "nagmash" ("carrier") and "Merkava"), but only produced a platoon's worth, due to cost and the need for Merkava hulls for the tank versions. 1 Following Operation Rainbow and the vulnerablity of M-113 and Stryker APCs, the IDF decided to push foward the Nemmera program.

On February 15, Maariv reported that a running prototype was fielded by the Givati Brigade and is equipped with heavy machinegun, controlled and loaded from within the vehicle. It was also decided to rename the vehicle from Nemmera to Nammer ("Tiger").

General remarks

Like any other tank, the Merkava is vulnerable to command-detonated landmines. Two Merkavas were damaged and immobilized in the Gaza Strip by Palestinians. The tanks were later repaired and returned to service.

Overall, the Merkava project is considered a great success, both in its military aspects and economical aspects.

See also


  1. Page 7, Modern Israeli Tanks and Infantry Carriers 1985–2004. Marsh Gelbart and Tony Bryan (illustrator). Oxford, United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1841765791.

External links

he:מרכבה (טנק) nl:Merkava pl:Merkava zh:以色列梅瓦卡主战坦克


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