Table of Contents
- 1 History
- 1.1 Merkava-based Models
- 1.2 First Lebanon War
- 1.3 Second Intifada
- 1.4 Second Lebanon War
- 1.5 Future after Second Lebanon War
- 1.6 Operation Tzuk Eitan
- 2 Technical Specifications
- 2.1 Brief List of Models
- 2.2 Comparison Table
- 3 Merkava Siman 1
- 4 Merkava Siman 2
- 5 Merkava Siman 3
- 5.1 Features
- 5.2 Versions
- 6 Merkava Siman 4
- 6.1 Armor
- 6.1.1 Windbreaker
- 6.2 Weapons and Armaments
- 6.3 Mobility
- 6.4 PD System
- 6.5 Siman 4 Lightning
- 6.6 Pictures
- 7 Other Versions
- 8 Primary Manufacturers
- Israeli Companies
- Foreign Companies
- 9 See Also
- 10 Further Reading
- 11 External Links
- 11.1 Official Sites
- 11.2 Reviews
- 11.3 Media Articles
- 12 Footnotes
The Merkava (Chariot) is a series of Israeli tanks that serve as the backbone of the Israeli Armored Corps. The production of the Merkava began in 1979 and over the years more advanced and sophisticated model have been developed (each model has a Siman/Mark). The most advanced model is the Siman 4 which began production in 2003.
The tanks is designed and assembled in Israel with most of its components being manufactured in Israel. The design is based on providing maximum protection for the crew and therefore the front armor was thickened and a design innovation was introduced with the engine being positioned in the front of the tank unlike other tanks in the world. This made it possible to use the read of the tank as a rear entrance that can be used to carry infantry or even easy access for the tank crew.
The Merkava Tank project was the brainchild of Israel Tal, an IDF general who contributed a lot to the Armored Corps and to the establishment of the doctrine of using armor as a punching fist, and his architect Israel Tilan. In order to implement the project, the post of Merkava Tank Project Manager was established in the Ministry of Defense, MANTA"K the coordinating body and director of the project, while the Armament Corps established the RAPA"T tank development authority as the body that would design and develop the tank.
The Merkava Siman 4 is considered to be one of the best tanks in the world in the same class as the Leopard 2A7, the Challenger 2 and the M1A2 Abrams. Its primary advantage is its heavy protection (both modular passive armor and the Windbreaker APS system), advanced technological systems (fire control system and combat management system (MANA"K) Digital Land Army) and a track, drive and suspension assembly allowing it to operate in the basalt fields of the Golan Heights and operate together with infantry. (NB: clumsy phrasing but OK)
In the 1960s the IDF collaborated with the British Army in the development of the Chieftain tank. In exchange for their cooperation, the British agreed to allow Israel to buy the tank when production began but as a result of heavy pressure from Arab countries, the British canceled the deal. In Israel the decision was made that to avoid this problem in the future Israel would instead develop its own tank.
Planning began in 1970 using the lessons learned from the Six-Day War. General operating and human engineering requirements were determined by armor officers such as Israel Tal, Nati Golan and Gad Rafan. A wooden mockup mounted on a jeep was built using the desired design criteria. In mid-December 1974 the first prototype was delivered for field trials. However, the construction of the tank's production line was delayed by the death of German engineer Hans Ghassan in the Savoy Hotel attack and not completed until September 1975. Serial production of the tanks did not begin until January 1976. On 29 October 1979 the first Merkava Siman 1 entered service and soon participated in the First Lebanon War. In 1982 an improved model was introduced, the Merkava Siman 2, was introduced followed quickly by the Merkava Siman 2B. During the course of their service, many practical and technological lessons were learned that led to a significant leap forward with the Merkava Siman 3 which entered service in the early 1990s. This version replaced the 105mm cannon with a 120mm cannon made my IMI. During the 1990s technologies were introduced that heralded the battlefield of the future and most were incorporated into the Merkava Siman 3 BAZ (named after the Bright Glare ברק יוהר - ב״י Fire Control System). Later the Siman 2 and Siman 3 received new armor modules called "Shielding Generation D" or "XG" (Purple Line - the border with Lebanon) (NB: KASAG 'purple line' = Fourth Generation Armor קס״ג - קו סגול = מיגון דור ד׳ that were designed to protect the tank against anti-tank missiles. During the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st Century, all Siman 3 tanks were upgraded to Siman 3 BAZ but there are still Merkava Siman 3 RAMAKH tanks that serve in reserve brigades. (NB: RAMACH is the name for the first Merkava Siman 3 version.)
Toward the end of the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st Century, a fourth generation of this tank was designed, taking into account the low threat of confrontation and the intensity and experience of Israel in the security zone and in the territories of Judea and Samaria, with emphasis on the assimilation of new technologies and advanced digital systems, including communications systems, the control and digital battle management of the Digital Land Army project, making the Merkava Siman 4 a significant improvement over the previous generation. In 2004 the Merkava Siman 4 entered service about the same time at the March mobilization cycle began and by the end of the year Merkava Siman 4 tanks were observed in actionin the Jenin area. In 2005, the 401st Brigade was converted from the Magach to the Merkava Siman 4. During training several problems were encountered with the engine valves. Due to this problem the tank was not operational but by the end of 2005, according to press reports, the problem was solved and the tank returned to operational activity in 2006. (NB: ??? This story of 'bad' engines is based on a newspaper article in an Israeli newspaper. Problems with new tanks are inevitable requiring time to isolate and then solve the problem. The newspaper article does not say the tank returned to service in 2006, the writer inferred that. I can find no good explanation of what the engine problem was or how it was solved. But the Merkava Siman 4 is still in service and still powered by the same engine.)
In the wake of the Second Lebanon War with so many equipment and manpower losses the result of missile fire the IDF and Rafael-Advanced Systems called for the development of Me'ile Ru'ach/"Windbreaker", an active defense system that fires projectiles to intercept anti-tank rockets and anti-tank missiles to prevent them from hitting a tank. The system was operational in 2009 but its installation on a tank required significant modifications to the turret so it was decided to install it only on new tanks on the production where the turret has been changed to accept the system. The Merkava model with a 'windbreaker' system installed is designated the Merkava Siman 4M. Today (2016) all regular Siman 4 tanks are Siman 4M and equipped with 'windbreaker'. The older Siman 4 tanks were transferred to reserve units.
Other Vehicles Based on the Merkava
The success of the Siman 1 tank led to the development of prototypes of an innovative self-propelled artillery vehicle called the Sholef/Gunslinger based on a Merkava Siman 1 chassis but the IDF chose not to buy it. (NB: IDF M Mass Intended to replace the M109A1/A2, the Sholef was too expensive to produce so they bought more US M-109 self-propelled howitzers instead.)
In 2003 trials were carried out on a Merkava variant called the נמרה Namera/Tigress. It was built on a Merkava Siman 3 chassis but instead of a turret it had a dedicated system. The first model in service had a crane and a winch and its purpose was to act as a maintenance and recovery vehicle for the Armored Corps.
In the wake of the Second Intifada, Merkava Siman 3 tanks were modified for urban warfare by installing enhancements and shields. Following the fierce fighting in the Gaza Strip, a number of Merkava tanks were converted into amored ambulances with the rear area equipped with stretchers and medical equipment.
Following the APC disaster of 2004, the IDF decided to build a heavy APC based on the Merkava Siman 4 chassis. A prototype based on the Siman 1 entered experimental service in the Givati Brigade as early as 2005, but an operational version based on the Siman 4 did not enter service until the end of 2008. This heavy armored personnel carrier, called the NAMER (Merkava Armored Personnel Carrier), was equipped with the Digital Land System for command and control, a Samson Remote Controlled Weapons Station (NB:ktlnit ), and other equipment.
The Merkava in the First Lebanon War
In 1982 during the First Lebanon War, the Merkava (Siman 1) fought against both Syrian armor and against terrorists armed with anti-tank missiles with success against both. Two Merkava battalions from the 7th Brigade operating in the eastern sector waged battles against a Syrian armored brigade equipped with T-62 and T-72 tanks successfully destroying the brigade. In the western sector, the 211th BN operated against Fatah members equipped with RPG-7 rocket launchers and Sagger missiles with great success. The Merkava tanks showed their superiority over the all of the other tanks in the conflict, both IDF and Syrian, in their survivability thanks to the emphasis on armor and crew protection during the design of the tank. According to statistics compiled by the IDF, the Merkava represented the smallest percentage of tanks destroyed out of all of the tanks that received hits.
The Merkava During the Second Intifada
During the Second Intifada, Merkava tank, primarily Siman 2 and Siman 3, took part in the fighting again the Palestinians. They were used mainly to patrol dangerous areas and support the infantry. For the first time the tanks were used to provide extra firepower to the infantry in built-up areas using a pressure cooker procedure of shelling houses in which guerillas had barricaded themselves. (NB: pressure cooker???) Three Merkava tanks and their crews were killed in the Gaza Strip by powerful roadside bombs (weighing hundreds of kilograms each). And after the destruction of these tanks (in 2002 and 2003) in addition to the tanks armored D-9 bulldozers were increasingly employed to open paths forward. (NB: hinges or axes, so I chose the idea of an axis as a line of travel or direction.)
The Merkava in the Second Lebanon War
In the summer of 2006 during the Second Lebanon War, the IDF deployed three armored division to Lebanon. Most of the casualties in these divisions were among tank crews. Of the 370 Merkava tanks that took part in the hostilities, Hezbollah hit 52 tanks. Two of these tanks were hit by roadside bombs killing the crews. Hezbollah, which fired some 500 anti-tank missiles during the war, first used anti-tank missiles of the Tandem type with dual warheads, most probably made in Russia. These missiles initially detonate a charge that damages the tank's protection and then a second main charge hits the exposed tank. These missiles, including the Russian-made Kornet, hit five tanks causing 10 deaths. In the battles in Lebanon, Merkava Siman 2, 3 and 4 were used. Almost all of the damaged tanks were recovered and repaired after the war and returned to service.
In light of the results of the Lebanon War, questions arose about the effectiveness of the tanks and the economic viability of its use and production were raised again. One of the arguments in favor of the Merkava was that inspite of the casualties, the rate of penetration by the anti-tank missiles used in the Lebanon War were the lowest in the history of Israel's wars. In addition, there was a drop of more than 50% in the number of fatalities relative to the First Lebanon War and the Yom Kippur war. Another argument was that if there was a failure then it was really at the operational level of the troops who were trained primarily for missions in the field and not for this kind of war. A similar claim made by Maj Gen (R) Yitzhak Ben-Israel, is that the Armored Corps itself was split, dismantled and coopted by the infantry and used contrary to its own combat doctrine, not as an active force in an integrated battle but as supplement in a static situation. He further maintained that the failure to use smoke grenades because of budgetary considerations caused unnecessary harm.
The Future of the Merkava After the Second Lebanon War
Prior to the 2004 budget year, discussions were held to discuss the continued need for the Siman 4 and the NAMER for budgetary reasons. In the end the decision was made to continue the Merkava project but to slow production. At the end of 2004 it was decided to examine a project to develop a heavy armored personnel carrier using the Merkava chassis. In 2005 after the APC Disaster, the APC (NAMER) also developed an infantry version and a prototype entered service with the Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip.
Due to the performance of the Armored Corps during the Second Lebanon War, the general disappointment with the outcome of the war and also due to cuts in the defense budget, some doubted the future of the Merkava. For example, on 28 September 2006 the Globes newspaper reported that the IDF had decided to halt the Merkava assembly line withing four years. However, the IDF denied the report and announced the five-year "Tefen 2007" plan to continue production of the Merkava Siman 4M with the Trophy Active Defence system and equip hundreds of armored vehicles with it.
In 2009 the Windbreaker system was first installed on a group of tanks and in 2012 all of the tanks in the 401st Brigade had Windbreaker. In addition, the NAMER was incorporated into the Golani Brigade but parts of it were being produced in the USA in order to reduce costs and take advantage of American aid money.
The Windbreaker system went operational in 2010. In 2011 a battalion of Merkava Siman 4 tanks were sent to the Gaza Strip equipped with the system for patrols on the border. On 1 March 2011 for the first time a Windbreaker intercepted an anti-tank rocket fired at a Merkava Siman 4 tank near Nir Oz. It was the first operational interception of an anti-tank weapon by an active defense system. A few weeks later the system intercepted a Kornet E anti-tank missile, which is considered one of the most dealy anti-tank missiles in the world.
In 2012 following a budget crisis in the IDF, the possibility of freezing the acquisition of any new tanks, armored personnel carriers and spare parts was considered. The press also speculated on the closing of the Merkava assembly line. The head of the Manufacturer's Association said that the Merkava project provides work for thousands of workers, most of them outside of major urban centers with the possible closure leading to major economic damage.
On 13 August 2013 Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon announced the continuation of the production of the Merkava tank and the purchase of new Merkava Siman 4M for the IDF. In addition, the IDF also decided to replace the Merkava Siman 2 tanks of the 7th Brigade with the new Merkava Siman 4M tanks. In 2014 the 7th Brigade began its conversion from Merkava Siman 2D to Merkava Siman 4M equpiied with the Windbreaker active defense system.
In June 2014 the Ministry of Defense decided to sell for the first time Merkava Siman 4 tanks to other countries at a price of $4.5 million per tank.
Over the years the IDF concentrated on new models at the expense of the older tank models. Since 2005, the Armored Corps regular alignment has been based solely on Merkava tanks. As of 2016, the 188th Brigade operates Merkava Siman 3D BAZ, 401st Brigade operates the Merkava Siman 4M, completing the upgrade to the Merkava 4M in July 2016. As of 2014, the reserve forces also included Merkava tanks (Siman 2, 3, and 4).
The Merkava in Operation Tzuk Eitan
In 2014 Merkava tanks took part in Operation Tzuk Eitan, the tanks, mainly Siman 4M, played a significant role in ground operations thanks to the Windbreaker active defense system, intercepting 10 anti-tank missiles fired at the tanks including RPG-7 rockets and advanced Kornet missiles. The system allowed the tanks to move rapidly and deep allowing the destruction of the anti-tank units that fired at the tanks. Another major factor in their success was the Digital Land Army system which was installed in all of the tanks enabling command and control, synchronization and coordination at unprecedented levels between the war room (brigade HQ), the tanks and auxiliary forces such as the Air force and the Artillery corps as well as full coordination and sharing of information between all of the tanks. In addition the Digital Land Army enabled tanks to receive real-time intelligence information provided by the Intelligence Directorate and the Combat Intelligence Corps digitally with the tank's computer to significantly improve their fighting ability. The tanks destroyed hundreds of targets (among other things, the tanks fired shells into booby-trapped houses detonating the hidden explosives), hit hundreds of terrorists (401st Brigade alone killed 120-130 terrorists) and supported the infantry and Combat Engineering Corps
Brief List of Models
- * Merkava Siman 1 (1978)
- Merkava Siman 1B (upgrade to Merkava Siman 2 level but without fire control system, night vision equipment and engine)
- * Merkava Siman 2 (1982)
- Merkava Siman 2B
- Merkava Siman 2D (Siman 2B with Fourth Generation Armor)
- * Merkava Siman 3 (1990)
- Merkava Siman 3 RAMACH (improved firing system RAMACH = electric mirror head)
- Merkava Siman 3B BAZ (1996 improved fire control system BAZ = Barak Zohar)
- Merkava Siman 3D BAZ (Siman 3B BAZ with Fourth Generation Armor)
- Merkava Siman 3 LIC (Siman 3D BAZ with KASAG armor and LASHAV additions)
- * Merkava Siman 4 (2003)
- Merkava Siman 4M
- Merkava Siman 4 Barak
- * NAGMASH Merkava (NAMER)
- NAMER A rescue tank (NAMERA) - experimental model
- NAMER armored infantry personnel carrier
- NAMER-bulance (NAGMASH ambulance)
- NAMER Engineering
- * Additional Models
- Sholef/Gunslinger (155mm self-propelled artillery based on a Merkava chassis, experimental)
- Tankbulance (Merkava with a rear area used to evacuate the wounded, an ambulance
- NAGMAK (heavy APC) Merkava Siman 2 without a turret (prototype)
Below is a comparison table of all Merkava models:
|Siman 1/Siman 2||Siman 3||Siman 4|
|Purpose||A heavy battle tank made in Israel for the IDF|
|Weight||between 60 and 70 tons, each generations weighs slightly more than its predecessor (the exact weight is classified)|
|Dimensions||about 9 meters long, about 4 meters wide and about 2.5 meters high|
|Tank Crew||4 - commander, driver, gunner, loader|
|Mobility and Propulsion|
|Power||900 kW||1200 kW||1500 kW|
Merkava Siman 1
The Merkava Siman 1 was the first generation of the Merkava tank. Already you can see how the design principles were implemented in the Merkava tank series: the engine is located in the front and serves as part of the protection for the crew. A great deal of thought was invested in the design of the interior in terms of human engineering and ergonomics for tanks of this generation. The most prominent feature of the tank is the 'skirt' or 'ears' - the rounded bulge on the sides of the turret connecting the hull to the turret. Because the Merkava Siman 2 has a similar 'skirt', it is difficult to distinguish between the two but it is possible by looking at how track links and towing cables are attached to the 'skirt'. Another external that distinguishes the tank is the lack of storage baskets (סלי חי״ר infantry baskets, ) and the existence of a mortar mounted on the outside of the turret next to the commander (on all of the other Merkava versions the mortar is inside the turret). The Siman 1 experienced many changes before the introduction of the Siman 2. Initially the fire control system did not have a learning system (NB: computerized??) and night vision was only installed at the commaner's station. There were two exhausts for the engine on either side of the hull and the turret was almost without armor. Over the years some of the Merkava Siman 1 tanks were converted into Merkava Siman 2. Today there are serveral reserve battalions that still use the Siman 1 vehicle which has undergone several upgrades: passive night vision has been installed for the gunner and some of the tanks had a thermal-imaging device installed. (NB: google was lost and this is the best I could come up with as opposed to 'installing the Israeli Air force'. ???) The FCS was upgraded and several other system in the turret were also upgraded. Originally the tank could carry 62 shells but this number was reduced when the mortar was added; the xenon light used for night fighting was also removed. The "hair of Shulamit" (NB: the chain and ball assembly hanging from the bottom of the rear of the turret to provide protection again HEAT missiles) was added and today the only external differences between the Siman 1 and the Siman 2 is the 'infantry baskets' (NB: crew equipment storage bins attached to the rear of the hull on either side of the rear entrance) which do not exist on the Siman 1, towing cables and a mortar. Some crew members who served on the Merkava Siman 2 have been assigned to reserve service with the Siman 1.
The Merkava Siman 1 participated in Operation Peace for Galilee which included combat against an army, fightin against guerillas in open areas as well as in built-up areas. The result was considerable feedback on the tank's performance allowing improvements and corrections to be made. A large part of these improvements were added to the Siman 2 with more made on the version that came out in the nineties: the Merkava Siman 3.
The tank's protection was significantly improved during the period of its service: armor side skirts (NB: bazooka plates) were added (used to protect the track mechanism) - initially thin steel plates and then thick plates composed of a secret composite armor. (NB: armor side skirts are understood to be another form of spaced armor that protects the sides of the tank hull from HEAT rounds.) Additional armor was added to the turret, se'arot Shulamit - the hair of Shulamit, the iron chains that dangle from the bottom of the turret rear, a difficult area to protect against HEAT weapons.
Merkava Siman 2
The Merkava Siman 2 is the second generation of the Merkava tank. It is the result of the lessons learned by the Merkava Siman 1 during Operation Peace for Galilee (NB: the First Lebanon War).
Just like the Siman 1, the Siman 2 also had a 105mm rifled cannon and the 'skirt' or 'ears', the two rounded bumbps on either side of the turret connected to the hull. The Siman 2 is different from the Siman 1 in that it only has one engine exhaust on the right side of the tank while the Siman 1 had a large exhaust on the right side and a smaller one on the left. Another difference was the addition of the Hair of Shulamit, the metal chain with metal balls attached to the bottom rear of the turret as well as the infantry baskets.
The major difference between the Siman 1 and the Siman 2 was in the fire control system. The computer significantly improved the cannon fire: the computer used additional data (temperature, humidity, altitude) when determining the ballistic track of the shell (shell type and range). Ballistic information for various shell types is already in the computer and added to the learning system which corrects the trajectory calculated by adding the deviation from a sequence of the series that hit the target. (NB: with the mentions of "a learning system" as part of the computerized fire control system, it would appear that there is an attempt here to somehow make it appear to be a kind of AI. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is fantasy. Next they will be claiming that the Siman 2 had quantum computers.)
There was another significant improvement in the motive power area. The engine was slightly improved but there was substantial improvement in the transmission which transfers the power from the engine to the tracks. The transmission added a 'pivot' option that allowed the tank to rotate in place as one track rotated in one direction and the other track rotated in the opposite direction. (NB: The Siman 2 had the same engine as the Siman 1. The new transmission was from an Israeli firm and promised reduced costs, a more reliable supply and better performance in that it featured 4 forward gears instead of 2, per Michael Mass. I have real problems with this piece on the Merkava. On difference between the Siman 1 and Siman 2 that is not mentioned here is the addition of two smoke grenade launchers on the turret, one on each side of the main gun).
The Siman 2 also had additional armor added to the turret sides and top - KASAG armor (named after the Purple Line where the need for new armor was recognized).
Like the Merkava Siman 1, the Merkava Siman 2 was first assigned to the 7th Brigade's Ga'ash Battalion.
Merkava Siman 3
The Merkava Siman 3 is the third generation of the Merkava tank. It entered service in 1990.
The Merkava Siman 3 is heavier than the previous versions. It is armed with 120mm caliber cannon and equipped with a powerpack that produces 1,200 hp.
It mounts the MG251 cannon developed and manufactured by IMI and similar to the German Rheinmetal 120mm L/44 cannon. The cannon is designed to fire 120mm shells developed in Israel but can also fire the 120mm shells used by NATO. (NB: It is also a smoothbore and not rifled like the 105mm gun on the Siman 1 and Siman 2.)
The turret design is also different as the round "ears" on the Siman 1 and Siman 2 were removed. (NB: Two long armor modules were added to the turret sides which covered the area where the 'ears' were.) Later, in addition the turret received modular sloping armor that was called KASAG, the Purple Line.
The Merkava Siman 3 has very strong offensive capabilities and was designed to operate in the harsh conditions of the Golan Heights. Compared to other advanced tanks of the 21st Century, the relative advantages of the Siman 3 are:
- A focus on the protection of the crew. Placing the engine in the front of the hull protects the crew from hits coming from the front.
- Modular armor allows damaged tanks to be quickly repaired.
- The treads and drive system have been designed to deal with rocky terrain.
- There is access to the rear area of the tank thanks to the placement of the engine in the front. This allows a tactical adavantge when fighting with infantry support.
- An internal mortar capable of firing a veriety of ammunition types including small explosives.
- The power/weight ratio is not as high as that of tanks such as the American M1A2 Abrams, so it is slower and has less acceleration. This disadvantage is especially evident compared to the Siman 4 because its weight is not much smaller but its engine is not as powerful. The Merkava was designed to fight in rocky terrain (the Golan) while European and american tanks were designed to fight in open and desert areas.
- Another disadvantage is the lack of advanced technical support systems such as GPS Global Positioning and the like.
After the Second Intifada, a number of Merkava Siman 3 tanks were modified for urban warfare. The primary improvements were the addition of a heavy M2 Browning 50 cal machine gun that is controlled from inside the turret, video cameras for better navigation, a sniper position in the rear entrance and nets to protect against grenades. The model is known as the Merkava Siman 3 LIC. In addition, during Operation Rainbow in Rafah and the Second Lebanon War, a number of Merkava tanks were converted into ambulances and used to evacuate wounded soldiers under fire.
- The basic first version called the MPS which used a FCS similar to that of the Merkava Siman 2. The name used by the tank crews for this tank is the Merkava Siman 2 RAMACH (an acronym for 'electric mirror head', named after the technology). This version came into use in 1990.
- Barak Zohar (BAZ) the name of the FCS used. This version came into use in 1995 and was characterized by an improved ability to shoot while moving and locking on to a moving target. In 1997 another version of the tank was introduced that had an air conditioner to improve conditions for the crew during the hot days of the year.
- Merkava 3 Purple Line (KASAG) - a version with improved armor intended to be used in the northern Israel sector. The armor is modular and can also be installed on earlier Siman 3 versions.
- Merkava Siman 3D BAZ - the most advanced Siman 3 model. This version has control systems and knowledge, improved armor (KASAG), modular armor, air conditioning systems and protection from NBC warfare and others. All of the operational tanks in regular IDF units and the vast majority of the tanks used for training are of this type.
- Merkava Siman 3 LIC - This is a Merkava 3D BAZ that has been modified for warfare in built-up areas where conflict is limited. It includes shields against hand grenades and pipe charges, marking rods for easier maneuverability for the driver (NB: four flexible metal vertical rods mounted in each corner of the tank to help the driver judge clearances while driving in confined spaces), a M2 Browning heavy 50 cal machine gun controlled from inside the turret using electric controls (NB: Remote Weapons System - RWS), and a sniper positon in the rear access corridor.
- Merkava Siman 3M - a Merkava Siman 3D BAZ with the Windbreaker active defense system (under development).
Merkava Siman 4
Merkava Siman 4, the fourth and most advanced model of the Merkava tank. The technical specifications and capabilities of the Siman 4 significantly exceed those of its predecessors. In 2003, it entered military service. In 2004, the Merkava Siman 4 began operations in Jenin. There are already several improvements that have been made to the Siman 4, the 4B (2006) and the 4M (2010).
The Merkava Siman 4 is one of the most protected tanks in the world. It has improved armor on the front of the tank, on its sides and even on the roof, a place traditionally considered lightly armored. The armor itself is modular, making it possible to quickly and easily repair damaged tanks because when the tank is damaged only the damaged part must be replaced. The turret armor is also sloped armor. The tank was also designed in such a way that the components of the tank (etc. engine and fuel tanks) constitute an additional layer of protection if the main armor is pierced, absorbing the damage and protecting the crew. 70% of the tank, in terms of weight, protect the crew, compared to the world average of 50%. The Merkava Siman 4 had an integrated air conditioning system that is part of the poison gas protection system. The ammunition is stored in flame resistant containers.
Windbreaker (Trophy) is an active defense system for tanks (APS) against anti-tank threats. The system was developed by Rafael and General Dynamics. The system radar scans the space around the tank and once it detects a threat it analyzes it (determines type, speed and direction of arrival) and then fires a charge that destroys the threat while it is still in the air and before it reaches the tank. The system has the ability to deal with a wide range of threats and a number of simultaneous attacks and the ability to work in traffic and in any weather conditions.
In 2009 the system began to be integrated into the Merkava tanks in the 401st Brigade, and today all Merkava Siman 4 tanks in regular service are Merkava Siman 4M tanks that have 'Windbreaker'. Each Merkava Siman 4M that comes off of the production line includes the system. In 2011, the system recorded it first operational success when it intercepted an anti-tank rocket fired at a Merkava Siman 4M in the Gaza Strip, proving itself in Operation Tzuk Eitan. In 2014, the 7th Brigade began receiving Merkava Siman 4M tanks and the process was completed in 2016.
In the beginning of the acquisitoion of the me'ile ruach there were reports that in order to install it a new turret was required and that only new tanks leaving the assembly line would receive the system. The tanks with the system were known as Siman 4M. In recent years, it turned out that this was a disinformation operation to mislead foreign intelligence and that the system could be install on older tanks such as the Siman 3D and Siman 4 by installing it in the modular armor and then replacing the appropriate modules. However, the Siman 4 tanks that have 'windbreaker' are still caled Siman 4M by both the IDF and the media (including those dealing with the army and security).
Arms and Armaments
The Merkava Siman 4 is armed with a 120mm smooth bore cannon manufactured by IMI-Soltam, the MG253, a second generation and improved version of the complex cannon in the Merkava Siman 3. The cannon is designed to fire 120mm shells developed in Israel but can also fire the 120mm shells used by the NATO countries. The Merkava Siman 4 can fire, among other things, the Arrow-HESH (anti-tank armor piercing), the Anemone (multi-purpose shell) and the Turtle כלנית - Kalanit חצב - Hatzav (used against fortified structures and infantry) with the greatest accuracy.
The Merkava Fire Control System 4 is an advanced fire control system, the second generation of Barak Zoher (BAZ). The system is extremely accurate both when the tank is stationary in a firing position and when the tank is in motion. The system can also lock onto the track targets while moving and achieve a very high rate of damage by firing the fire round. The system can also track and hit helicopters as well. In addition, the system can set the mode of operation and type of blast effect of the Anemone and Turtle (NB: M329 Kalanit and M339 Hatzav .) with a click from the gunner.
In addition to the main gun, the tank is also armed with two machine guns and sometimes with an M2 Browning 50 cal heavy machine gun or a 40mm machine gun that is fully activated from the within the turrent, allowing the crew to fire the weapon without being exposed to enemy fire. One of the two 7.62 mm mcahine guns is a coaxial gun operated by the gunner, and the other is installed on the on top of the turret and operated by the tank commander. In addition, the tank is equipped with a new 60 mm mortar manufactured by IMI-Soltam.
In the tank turret, there is a drum that contains ten shells (hence the name: 10 p). The loader can select the type of shell and then push it in. The rest of the shells are stored in fire-resistant casing to increase the tank's survivability.
The back door (which exists on all Merkava models) and the multi-purpose Kalanit shells combine to make the Merkava Siman 4 a tank the especially well suited for cooperation with infantry, hence fighting in built-up areas and in low intensity conflict.
The improved mobility of the Merkava Siman 4 allows it to move with relative ease in the basalt fields of the Golan Heights that make it so hard to maneuver. The MATZKOM (NB: tracks, wheels, suspension and drive sprockets) were improved to withstand the hazards of travel in difficult terrain and reduce the problem of broken tracks.
The engine of the Merkava Siman 4 is a GD 883 diesel with 12 cylinders in a computer-controlled V configuration that is water cooled and produces 1500 hp. The engine is one of the few components of the tank that is not manufactured in Israel: it is produced by MTU of Germany in partnership with General Dynamics (now called L-3 Technologies) of the United States.
Another innovation that was installed is the video camera installed in the rear of the tank, designed to allow the driver to travel backswards unaided.
Digital Land Army (TSAD)
One major improvemnt is the installation of the Digital Battle Management system that is part of the Digital Land Army Initiative, which aims to computerize systems of communications, command and control allowing the fighting forces to be in contact with each other, share targets and intelligence information and get a comprehensive, real-time view of the battlefield. The project is being carried out by Elbit Systems. The Digital Battle Management system enables the Merkava to locate targets based on unmanned aerial images, observation and GPS and can even mark targets for aircraft, precision missile strikes and artillery. In addition, the system creates a record of the course of battle for later operational debriefing and to analyze errors. The system had its first successful employment during Operation Tzuk Eitan.
Siman 4 Barak/Lightning
The staff of the Tank Administration for the Merkava in the Ministry of Defense are currently working on a significant upgrade to the current generation of the tank that is to be called the Merkava Siman 4 Barak. One of the significant innovations will be a new generation of active tank defense systems that will further improve tank survivability as well as its lethality - the radar will be linked to other tank systems, identifying targets for destruction. In addition, the tank will receive additional sensors and increase connectivity with other entities and with the Digital Land Army System. The tanks will be more accurate and more independent in order to better cope with urban warfare where an enemy can surprise and then quickly disappear.
- NAGMASH Merkava (NAMER) - armored personnel carriers built from Merkava tanks (with the turret removed), which are equipped with special systems as needed. Currenlty there are several types in active service:
- NAMERA Maintenance/Recovery (EA 1 and S 3) - Maintenance Recovery Experimental: This is a prototype of a recovery tank and armored personnel carrier to replace the existing old M-88 Recovery Tank, and the 'Technical' and 'Peter' armored vehicles based on the M113. These NAMERA vehicles did not enter operational service. '
- NAMER Infantry - armed with an M2 Browning and several 7.62mm machine guns. The NAMER in its current incarnation was developed after the APC disaster in 2004 and the infantry forces' need for a heavy armored personnel carrier to fight in urban areas and to stand up agains tht anti-tank threats that have become common in recent decades from terrorist organzizations and guerlilla organizations. The NAMER began operational service at the end of 2008 and the infantry brigades of the IDF gradually slowly acquired them.
- NAMER-bulance - A NAMER APC that functions as an armored ambulance, intended to evacuate the wounded, including stretchers, medical equipment and first aid equipment.
- NAMER Engineering - An improved model of the NAMER with 'Windbreaker' and engineering equipment, entered service in the Combat Engineering Corps.
- Sholef - A self-propelled 155mm gun using a Merkava chassis, experimental. The cannon was developed in the 1980s but did not go into operational use.
- Ambulance - A Merkava with the rear area equipped to evacuate and care for the wounded, an ambulance. A number of Merkava tanks have been converted into tank-bulances.
- Ofek - Merkava Siman 2 vehicles converted into a heavy APC designed to serve as support to the Ordnance Corps and medical teams to recover and repair vehicles and to evacuate the wounded.
In order to implement the project, the Ministry of Defense created the "Tank Program Manager" - MANTAK, (מנת״ק - מנהלת תוכנית הטנק) to coordinate and manage the project, while the Ordnance Corps established the "Tank Developement Authority" - RAPAT (רפ״ט - רשות לפיתום טנקים) to handle the planning and the construction of the tank. Following an IDF reorganization in 2006, RAPAT is now also a unit of the Ministry of Defense. The tank components are manufactured in a large variety of Israeli factories and industrial companies and also by several foreign component manufacturers (such as the engine). The tank itself is assembled at MASHA 7000 (מש״א - מפעל שיקום ואחזקה) (a repair and maintenance depot) at the Tel Hashomer Camp.
Israeli Companies Involved in Tank Production
- Israeli Defense Forces - MANTAK/Ordnance Corps/MASH"A 7000 (TAHA"SH) - planning and assembling the tank.
- Military Industry (IMI) - produces the 105mm cannon (licensed copy) and the 120mm cannon (original development), part of the armor and most of the ammunition (including combat shells, training ammunition and light weapons). It also produces launchers and smoke grenades, and turret bearings.
- Elbit Systems - manufactures the fire control system and the ballistic computer, manufactures and installs the Digital Land Army system, the turret and cannon stabilization system, the laser warning system, the commander's panoramic sight and the simulator for crew training.
- Elbit Kinetics (a subsidiary of Elbit Systems) - the NBC protection system and air conditioning, the auxiliary power unit (APU), the fuel system and engine sensors.
- Ashot Ashkelon - suspension, RENK RK 325 transmission (built under license), drive components and kinetic armor-piercing shells.
- Urdan Industries - provides castings for hull and turret.
- Elta - produces the electronic sensors and the infrared optics.
- Tadiran - provides air conditioning to the crew section, intercom communications and radio equipment.
- El-Op, Elisra and Astronautics - responsible for optics and laser detectors.
- Rafael Advanced Combat Systems - responsible fo the installation of the parallel machine gun (ROWS) controlled from inside the tank and the installation of the 'Windbreaker' active protection system.
- Israel Aerospace Industries
- Ramata Factory - armor parts.
- Tamam Factory - the inertial navigation system.
- Soltam - the 60mm mortar, mortar ammunition, commander's shelf. (??)
- Vishay Israel (Vishay)/Vidco - thermal sleeve for the 120mm IMI cannon.
- Beit El Industries Zikhron Ya'akov - engine air filter, explosion protection valves, fuel pump, valves for the air conditioning system, and NBC protection.
- Bental Industries - radial motors for the cannon and the turret, motors for the commander's and gunner's sights, motors for the commander's shelf,. (NB:?? I have been unable to find an adequate explanation of what the commander's shelf refers to and so cannot come up with an English equivalent.) engines for the air conditioning system and more.
- Industries Development Corp (1996) Ltd. - the drum 10p in the Merkava, the emergency braking system.
- Orlight - heat resistant ammunition containers.
- Tech-Mer - internal intercom in Merkava Siman 4.
- Rada Electronics Industries - rear camera in Merkava Siman 4.
- Tagal-SP Industries Ltd. Yokne'am - development and manufacture of the boogies wheels that are part of the MATZKO"M.
Foreign Companies that Provide Components for Tank Production
- L-3 Communications Combat Propulsion Systems - provides certified copies of the 1,500 HP MTU MT 883 diesel engine and the RENK RK 325 transmission.
- Motorola - provides encryption systems to Tadiran.
- DuPont - provides the Nomex and other fire resistant materials.
- Russian Military Industry - helped design the Nochri KMT-4 and KMT-5, and the ABK-3 bulldozer now manufactured by Urdan.
- FN Company - delivers the MAG guns used on the tank.
- Caterpillar - assists in the production and planning of Israeli machines.
- Israeli Armored Corps
- Development of Weapons in Israel
- Carmel (ACV)
* Moshe Givati, in their hands steel forged - History of the Rehabilitation and Maintenance Center 7100, Ministry of Defense, Tel Aviv, 1997, pp. 181-210.
* Michael Mas and Rafi Levy, Merkava Siman 4 - Merkava Mk. 4 in IDF Service, Desert Eagle Pubilishing, 2010
* Michael Mass and Adam Adam O'Brien, Merkava Siman 4 LIC and 4M, Desert Eagle Pubilishing, 2015
* Michael Mas and Adam O'Brien, Merkava Siman 3D in IDF Service, Desert Eagle Pubilishing
* Michael Mass and Adam Adam O'Brien, Merkava Siman 3 Baz and Ramaqh in IDF Service, Desert Eagle Pubilishing
* Michael Mass and Adam Adam O'Brien, Merkava Siman 2 in IDF Service, Desert Eagle Pubilishing