Exports of Israel's advanced Merkava tank systems are expected to reach some $400 million in 2008, following 13 percent growth to $350m. this year. Nevertheless, the Association of Metal and Electronics Industries claims that delays over future orders of the tanks by the Israel Defense Forces are threatening the survival of hundreds of factories as the indecision by the IDF and government may damage Merkava exports. Foreign buyers, the group said, tend to hold back on purchases of military systems such as the Merkava when the local military fails to make purchases itself, assuming this means the products "aren't good enough." Production lines at a number of factories already have been interrupted as result of the lack of orders by the IDF, the Association said. Some 220 factories are involved in the manufacture of the Israeli-made tank, employing some 10,000 workers, of which 40% are located in the periphery. The IDF's intention, the Association noted, is to buy the Merkava as part of its plan to replace about 2%-3% of its tank fleet per year with the new Merkava 4, in order to provide superior protection to crews, but official orders have been pending for 18 months. According to reports, foreign sales of Merkavas are generally made to the US, Turkey and eastern Europe.