Tank crews from the Seventh Brigade's 75th Battalion train with their new Merkava Mk. 4 tanks.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
The Defense Ministry has doubled the number of orders for parts for Merkava tanks and Namer armored personnel carriers.
The move comes ahead of an expected rise in orders for complete Merkava Mk IV tanks and Namer APCs, as well as the need to replace parts following their heavy use during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last summer.
Every Merkava Mk IV tank requires around a million parts, and defense sources told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that they expect an increase in the production of the tanks as well as APCs.
Factories producing parts for the Namer and Merkava in Kiryat Shmona, Mitzpe Ramon and Migdal Ha’emek have received new orders worth tens of millions of dollars. The orders have been placed by the Defense Ministry’s Acquisitions Administration and the Merkava Tank Administration.
Urdan Metal and Castings Industries Ltd, which equips tanks and APCs, has in recent months received orders worth NIS 16 million for Merkava parts. Simat Industries, which produces chairs for crews and floors for tanks, as well as support for fortifications, and Bluvshtein Metal Works, which equips the Namer APC, also saw large increases in orders. Tamor SMR Ltd., which produces fuel systems and maintenance for the Merkava, saw a 20 percent increase in orders.
Some 200 factories produce parts for the Merkava and Namer across the country, most of them located in the periphery and with around 10,000 employees. According to Defense Ministry figures, 92 percent of Merkava parts are produced by Israeli defense industries. The industries produce $700m. a year in tank parts for international markets.
“Every shekel produced in the [Israeli] project results in almost a four-shekel return to the Israeli market in the form of defense exports,” the ministry said.
Last year, senior sources from the army said the IDF will need to equip greater numbers of Merkava MK IV tanks and Namers, and install Rafael Trophy active protection systems on them to deal with future battlefields, particularly against Hezbollah in Lebanon.
They spoke soon after seven soldiers from the Golani Brigade were killed in action during combat in Gaza following a Palestinian rocket-propelled grenade attack on their Vietnam War-era M113 APC.
Not only do Namers have superior armor to the M1113, the sources said, but the addition of active defense against shoulder-fired missiles will significantly increase battlefield survivability, resulting in fewer future casualties.