Combat vehicles / Main battle tanks / Merkava

Merkava

General Facts

  • TYPE
    Main battle tank

  • ORIGIN
    Israel

  • NICKNAMES
    Chariot of fire (nickname)

  • DESIGNED
    1974 - 1977

  • DESIGNER
    MANTAK (part of IMI)

  • PRODUCTION
    1978 - 1983 (Merkava I)
    1982 - 1989 (Merkava II)

  • PRODUCERS
    Israel - MANTAK / IDF Ordnance

  • QUANTITY
    250 Merkava I
    580 Merkava II

  • UNIT COST
    Unknown

  • CHARACTERISTICS
    Well armored
    Large ammunition capacity
    Good crew survivability
    Multipurpose rear compartment
    Good ride quality in all terrain
    Limited silhouette
    High production costs
    Very large and heavy
    Limited speed and high fuel consumption

Introduction

The Merkava is a late Cold War era main battle tank of Israeli origin. It was developed in order to be independent from export sales of other nations. The design is unique since it has been designed to meet the specific requirements posed by the Israeli military. Among the unique features are the forward mounted engine, high quality suspension, 60mm mortar and rear crew hatch.

Layout

The Merkava has a unique layout with the engine and drivetrain in the front right and driver front left. The long and low profile turret is located towards the rear. The turret houses remaining three crew members and the 105mm cannon. A rear hatch is provided and instead of ammunition infantry can be carried.

Firepower

The main armament is a 105mm M68 cannon with digital fire control systems and stabilization in both axis. Up to 62 rounds can be carried and manually loaded. All NATO standard ammunition can be fired including the LAHAT anti-tank missile in later upgrades. A 7.62mm MAG coaxial machine gun is fitted, as well as a 60mm mortar. On the roof one or two 7.62mm MAG machine guns are pintle mounted. Some vehicles feature a 12.7mm M2HB heavy machine gun mounted onto the main gun as an addition coaxial machine gun.

Protection

The unique layout of the Merkava increases protection over the frontal arc. When introduced the Merkava was one of the best armored tanks in the world. The Merkava Mark I only used rolled armor The Mark II adds spaced armor, applique turret armor, improved skirts and rear turret slat armor with chains. The frontal armor will withstand older anti-tank missiles and 100mm rounds. Over time smoke grenade dischargers were added and some Mark I's received upgraded armor as used in Mk II.

Mobility

The tracked chassis with helical spring suspension provides good all terrain mobility. The 900 hp diesel engine combined with the high weight result in a low power to weight ratio. The maximum speed is 50 km/h on roads and fuel consumption is high.

Users

The Merkava is only used by the Israeli army. There have been no export sales. Over time Merkava Mark I's have been upgraded close to Mark 2 standard. The original Merkava series remains in reserve use since the improved Merkava 3 and 4 are in service. In recent years the Mark I and II returned to active service in the role of heavy APC instead of main battle tank.

Variants

Merkava Mk 1

Merkava 1: The Mark I is the very first production model of the Merkava. It has a semi-automatic transmission and the 60mm mortar is mounted externally. Over time smoke grenade dischargers and applique armor similar to the Mark 2C have been added.

TypeMain battle tank
Crew4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader), plus optional passengers
Length7.45 m (hull), 8.30 m (gun forward)
Width3.70 m (without skirts)
Height2.65 m (turret roof)
Ground clearance0.53 m
Weight60 t combat load
Ground pressure?
WheelbaseTracked chassis, 6 roadwheels, drive sprocket front, idler rear
Turn radius?
EngineTeledyne Continental AVDS-1790-6A air-cooled V12 diesel engine, 908 hp
Power ratio15.1 hp/t
TransmissionAllison CD850-6BX hydromechanical semi-automatic
Speed46 km/h on road
Fuel1.100 to 1.400 L
Range400 km on road
Wall1 m
Trench3 m
Gradient60% gradient, 40% slope
Fording1.4 m
Armor?
NBC equipmentYes
Night vision?
SmokeYes
RemarksAutomatic fire extinguishing system
Armament105mm M68 cannon
7.62mm MAG coaxial machine gun
60mm mortar
7.62mm MAG machine gun on roof (1 or 2x)
12.7mm M2HB coaxial heavy machine gun (optional)
Weapon1105mm M68 cannon in turret
62 round in total
-5 to +20° elevation, powered
360° traverse, powered
stabilized in both axis
Weapon27.62mm MAG coaxial machine gun
10.000 rounds in total
traverse and elevation as main armament
Weapon360mm mortar mounted externally on turret roof
Weapon47.62mm MAG machine gun on pintle mount on turret roof (1 or 2x)
10.000 rounds in total, 100 rounds ready to fire
manual traverse and elevation
non-stabilized
Weapon512.7mm M2HB heavy machine gun externally mounted on main gun (optional)
500 to 2.500 rounds, 100 ready to fire
traverse and elevation as main armament
Weapon6-

Merkava Mk 2

The Merkava 2, or Mark 2, is an improved version of the Merkava 1. It adds spaced armor to the turret, an automatic transmission, an improved fire conctrol system and internal mounting for the 60mm mortar.

Mark 2A: Original production version of the Merkava 2.
Mark 2B: Mark 2A with improved fire control system and thermal sight.
Mark 2C: Mark 2B with applique armor on turret top against top attack weapons.
Mark 2D: Mark 2C with much improved downward sloping applique armor on turret sides.

TypeMain battle tank
Crew4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader), plus optional passengers
Length7.45 m (hull), 8.30 m (gun forward)
Width3.70 m (without skirts)
Height2.65 m (turret roof)
Ground clearance0.53 m
Weight63 t combat load
Ground pressure?
WheelbaseTracked chassis, 6 roadwheels, drive sprocket front, idler rear
Turn radius?
EngineTeledyne Continental AVDS-1790-6A air-cooled V12 diesel engine, 908 hp
Power ratio14.4 hp/t
TransmissionAshot Ashkelon hydromechanical automatic, 4 gears
Speed50 km/h on road
Fuel1.100 to 1.400 L
Range500 km on road
Wall1 m
Trench3 m
Gradient60% gradient, 40% slope
Fording1.4 m
Armor?
NBC equipmentYes
Night vision?
SmokeYes
RemarksAutomatic fire extinguishing system
Armament105mm M68 cannon
7.62mm MAG coaxial machine gun
60mm mortar
7.62mm MAG machine gun on roof (1 or 2x)
12.7mm M2HB coaxial heavy machine gun (optional)
Weapon1105mm M68 cannon in turret
62 round in total
-5 to +20° elevation, powered
360° traverse, powered
stabilized in both axis
Weapon27.62mm MAG coaxial machine gun
10.000 rounds in total
traverse and elevation as main armament
Weapon360mm mortar operated and reloaded from inside turret
Weapon47.62mm MAG machine gun on pintle mount on turret roof (1 or 2x)
10.000 rounds in total, 100 rounds ready to fire
manual traverse and elevation
non-stabilized
Weapon512.7mm M2HB heavy machine gun externally mounted on main gun (optional)
500 to 2.500 rounds, 100 ready to fire
traverse and elevation as main armament
Weapon6-

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