Merkava Mark II tank.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
After 33 years of loyal service, the IDF’s Armored Corps is retiring the Merkava Mark II tank from service by its conscripted brigades. The tank will now be used only by reserve forces for border patrols during times of conflict, while the newer Merkava Mark III (which entered service in 1990) and the new generation Merkava Mark IV (2004) will handle all battlefield missions.
Many Merkava II tanks will be converted into an armored personnel carrier that will serve soldiers on the battlefield, or be used to transport the wounded off the battlefield.
By the end of 2016, the Seventh Armored Brigade, the last conscripted brigade to use the Merkava II, will switch to the Merkava IV, which is equipped with Rafael’s Trophy active protection system against anti-tank missiles.
“We have ended training for the Merkava II tank,” Lt.- Col. Dvir Edri, commander of the Armored Corps training school, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “From now on, draftees will be trained only on the newer tanks.”
Edri said his training center, located in the Shizafon military complex in the northern Negev, had spent many months preparing for the transition from the Mark II.
“This can only be good for us. From now on, we will train only using advanced tank technology,” he said.
The more modern platforms are better suited to digital training simulators and present “more training options,” Edri added. “The quality of training therefore increases.”
Edri’s training center focuses on preparing tank crews for asymmetrical warfare scenarios saturated with guerrilla cells armed with anti-tank missiles. “This is the kind of battlefield we are preparing them for, not scenarios involving rows of [enemy] tanks moving at them.
They’re training for closed, built-up areas,” he said.
Modern tank training also places a special emphasis on cooperation with the infantry.
The IDF’s new digital command and control systems, which allow the tanks to communicate directly with the air force and intelligence units, form part of the training.
“All of our training uses these systems. We have all the means to prepare cadets for using them,” he said. Asked if he will miss the Merkava II, Edri said, “In my case, I have been using the Merkava Mark III since my first day. So I’m probably not the right person to ask.”