Tank crews from the Seventh Brigade's 75th Battalion train with their new Merkava Mk. 4 tanks.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
The IDF’s Seventh Armored Brigade is in the midst of a modernization process that will see all tank battalions equipped with the Merkava Mark IV tank by 2016, a senior army source said Tuesday.
The brigade’s 75th Battalion will complete the switch from the Merkava Mark II tank to the Mark IV on Thursday, and an additional two tank battalions will complete the process within two years, he added.
The tanks will come equipped with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ Trophy active protection against anti-tank missile attacks, making them suitable for combat in areas infested with guerrilla cells armed with anti-tank missiles, such as in Lebanon against Hezbollah, according to the source.
The seventh brigade’s Fourth Battalion is an engineering corps unit, and the brigade is also supplemented by a specialized infantry company that travels in armored vehicles.
“The last time we got a new tank was in the 1980s,” the officer said. “This will enhance our ability to fight in closed spaces and hilly areas against an enemy that disappears,” he stated.
He paid tribute to the Merkava Mark II as a platform that has “proven its reliability” through the years and over the course of past conflicts, adding, “But we have to modernize and ensure we have the operational and technological advantages. The Merkava Mark IV can destroy anti-tank firing cells. It brings with it a new level of ammunition. It is more deadly. We will gradually say good-bye to the Mark II over the next two years.”
Elements of the Seventh Armored Brigade, which took part in Operation Protective Edge against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza this summer, have returned to northern Israel, where they are training and applying some of the lessons learned in this summer’s conflict.
Lebanon is the prime arena being simulated in drills, the officer confirmed, adding that the brigade is training for the event of a sudden eruption of conflict with Hezbollah.
“We are not resting on our laurels after Operation Protective Edge. Not all of the lessons we learned in Gaza are suitable for Lebanon, but some are,” he added.
These include close cooperation with other forces in the military, and combat in complex areas. The new platform will enhance “our ability to both fight in closed areas and effectively hold and defend areas against the type of organizations we deal with, Hamas and Hezbollah,” said the officer.
The new tank will also provide a better defense of military units gathering in staging areas prior to an assault.
Next year, the seventh brigade’s 77th Battalion will receive the Merkava Mark IV, and after it, the 88th Battalion is next.
The new platform is already influencing training, particularly in drills involving the simulation of maneuvers deep in enemy territory, the source said.