The Merkava Mark 4 is the latest main battle tank to enter service with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). Tracing its roots way back to the 1960s, the Merkava ( Hebrew for chariot ) was named after the IDF development program launched to design and manufacture a main battle tank domestically. The Merkava Mark 4 is probably the best protected tank in the world.
The Merkava 4 is slightly bigger than its predecessor, the Merkava 3. Full production of the Merkava 4 was started in 2001 and in 2004 the first batallion of Merkava Mark 4s entered service. The Merkava 4 retains the main characteristic of its predecessors: the turret is mounted in the rear of the tank and the engine is mounted in front of the crew, thus allowing for more protection. This configuration allows for an increased storage capacity by using the tank’s unused space in the back.
The Merkava Mark 4 was designed to ensure maximum crew survivability and rapid battle damage repair. The four crew members ( commander, driver, loader and gunner ) are protected by rolled homogeneous armor and Chobham. The inner and outer hulls are filled with diesel fuel, an efficient method of defeating HEAT rounds. The underside of the tank is protected by a removable belly armor pack. Also, the tank has no active rounds above the turret line. The commander’s station is fitted with a threat warning display linked to the Amcoram LWS-2 laser warning system. The system is connected to the decoy launchers, one on each side of the tank, that can launch smoke grenades and decoys. Another countermeasures system for the Merkava 4 is the Rafael Trophy Protection System, providing an all-round coverage against high speed incoming projectiles. The system tracks all threats and deploys countermeasures at the optimal intercept point.
Merkava 4 has only one hatch installed in the turret: the commander’s hatch. The new turret was developed by Elbit and is an all-electric design. The main gun remains the 120 mm smoothbore that was develped for the Merkava 3, but was upgraded to fire a wider range of ammunition. The range of ammunition includes APFSDS-T M711 (CL 3254), the HEAT-MP-T M325 (CL 3105) and the TPCSDS-T M324 (CL 3139) supplied by the Ammunition Group of Israel Military Industries. The gun is also capable of firing French, German or US 120mm rounds. A new fire control system was developed for the Merkava 4: he Knight Mark 4, produced by El-Op. This new fire control system enables the tank’s commander to acquire and lock onto moving targets including helicopters, while the tank itself is on the move. A 1,500 hp V-12 Diesel engine powers the Merkava 4 to speeds greater than 60 km/h.
Following the battle of Wadi Saluki, where 11 Merkava 4 tanks were damaged, the role of the Merkava 4 in the IDF was questioned by some analysts who argued that the Merkava is too vulnerable to missiles. The IDF hopes to increase orders for the Merkava MArk 4 main battle tank, with numbers estimated at around 400.
Merkava MArk 4 main battle tank specifications
Crew 4 ( commander, driver, gunner, loader )
Length with gun forward 9.04m
Width without skirts 3.72m
Height to turret roof 2.66m
Main Gun 120mm
Ammunition on Board 48 rounds
Ready-to-Fire Rounds 10
Machine Gun 7.62mm
Mortar Range 2,700m
V-12 Diesel Engine 1,500hp
Maximum speed Over 60km/h
Cross-Country speed Up to 55km/h
You can find out ore about the Merkava main battle tank in this 5 part documentary entitled ” God’s chariot”