What will the IDF Armored Corps look like in 2020? Will the Merkava Mk 4 tank still serve as the backbone of the IDF’s ground forces or will we see a smaller, lightweight tank, possibly on wheels, plowing through the battlefield? These questions are at the core of ongoing deliberations that are being held in the IDF and Defense Ministry as they begin to consider a potential successor for the Merkava.

Development and construction of the Merkava began in the 1970s with the most advanced model, called the Merkava Mk 4, entering service in 2003 in the 401st Armored Brigade. The tank is purported to be one of the most protected in the world capable of superior speeds and maneuverability.

The review was sparked by the entry of active-protection systems like the Trophy system, which has been installed on an entire battalion of tanks and successfully intercepted a rocket- propelled grenade (RPG) along the Gaza border in March.

The thinking in the defense establishment is that tanks may no longer require thick layers of armor, which slow down the vehicle, and raise fuel and production costs and could suffice with less armor and more systems like Trophy.

The team set up to review potential successors to the Merkava is led by the Weapons Development Branch in the Ground Forces Command and includes representatives from the Armored Corps as well as from the Defense Ministry’s Merkava Program Office, known by its Hebrew acronym “Mantak.”

“We are thinking ahead and considering a wide range of possibilities,” a senior IDF officer said on Tuesday. “We might decide to continue with the Merkava Mk 4 forever or to develop something completely new.”

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In related news, the IDF is continuing to deploy the Guardium unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) – developed by G-NIUS Ground Systems – along the Gaza border.

The UGV had been deployed so far just along one section of the border but due to its success in patrolling the border and preventing infiltrations, the IDF has decided to expand the project to additional sections of the security fence.

The Guardium is equipped with sensors for unmanned navigation and can be outfitted with grenade launchers, machine guns and other operational means.

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