Tank crews from the Seventh Brigade's 75th Battalion train with their new Merkava Mk. 4 tanks.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Israel’s Merkava Mark IV tank has been crowned one of the five deadliest tanks in the world by the conservative American magazine the National Interest, alongside Russia’s T40 and the American M1 Abrams.
Conceived by Maj.-Gen. Israel Tal following the Yom Kippur War, the Merkava is the IDF’s first indigenous main battle tank. The first Merkava I entered service in 1978 and saw its premiere action in the First Lebanon War in 1982.
is also one of the first armored vehicles to be equipped with the Trophy Active Protection System (APS), the only fully operational and combat-proven APS against anti-tank guided missiles in the world.
“Combined with a tiny general population in which even minor personnel losses were felt across society, the Israeli military envisioned a tank which prioritized defensive capabilities and firepower above all else,” read the report, stating that “the construction of an entirely new class of main battle tank by Israel, a tiny country, is certainly a major achievement.”
Praising the Merkava’s hybrid modular armor, the National Interest said the tank has “excellent protection” with its turret and frontal hull area “sharply faceted to present maximum armored protection at all angles, giving the turret a knife-like edge.”
The Trophy system
, developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aircraft Industries’ Elta Group, was praised by the National Interest as being one of the most important aspects of the Merkava.
Designed to detect and neutralize incoming projectiles, the Trophy system has four radar antennas and fire-control radars to track incoming threats such as anti-tank-guided-missiles (ATGMs), and rocket propelled grenades. Once a projectile is detected, the Trophy system fires a shotgun-type blast to neutralize the threat.
The Trophy has been installed on the Merkava tanks since 2009 and received its “baptism by fire” on March 1, 2011. In that incident it neutralized an RPG anti-tank rocket which had been fired from a short range toward an IDF Merkava Mark-IV tank close to the border with the Gaza Strip.
The system has since proved its efficacy in several operations, especially during Operation Protective Edge, when IDF tanks were able to operate in the Gaza Strip without suffering any losses.
The Trophy system has not only been installed on the IDF’s Namer heavy infantry fighting vehicle and the new Eitan armored personnel carrier. In June, the US Army awarded a contract worth close to $200 million for the system to shield its Abrams tanks “in support of immediate operational requirements.” A new and lightweight version of the system neutralized more than 95% of munitions fired at it in tests conducted this summer ahead of testing for the US Army’s Stryker armored vehicle.
Israel has built more than 2,000 Merkavas and is currently developing the latest generation of the tank, the Merkava IV Barak, which is expected to be ready for trial runs by the IDF in 2020.
The new Merkava 4 Barak tank is designed as a “smart tank” with dozens of sensors and a task computer, which will present all information to both the crew inside the tank as well as the other tanks and vehicles present in the field.
The new tank’s computer-controlled fire control system will also be able to acquire and lock onto moving targets, including airborne platforms, while the tank itself is moving. The sensors, along with a 360-degree camera fitted outside the tank, will also allow troops to remain in the tank at all times and a new smart helmet designed by Elbit Systems will allow the commander of the tank to see exactly what is outside the tank, such as approaching terrorists or other threats.