Israel has revealed the first production standard models of the latest generation of Barak/Merkava main battle tank (MBT) have been delivered to units in the Israel Defense Force, providing improved battlefield awareness and crew survivability.

According to a Ministry of Defense (MoD) release on 19 September, the first of the “mass-produced” tanks were delivered to the 52nd Battalion of the 401st Armoured Bridge, following five years of development and production efforts.

Israel’s MoD stated that improvements included sensing and processing “based on artificial intelligence”, an integrated sensor and augmented reality helmet for the vehicle commander, touch screen monitors, and improved survivability, were “some of the capabilities” provided by the fifth-generation Merkava/Barak MBT.

In an MoD release, Israel Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said: “The Barak tank is very innovative – it takes our manoeuvring capabilities to another level, and it is a clear expression of our technological capabilities.”

The fifth-generation Merkava/Barak has been developed by the Tank and APC Directorate in the Israeli MoD, in cooperation with the Weapons Department of the Israeli Ground Forces and the Armored Corps. The platform incorporates systems from a range of Israel defence primes, including Elbit Systems, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries’ ELTA System, among others.

The combat helmet, produced by Elbit Systems, is described as being “similar to pilot helmets” which will display relevant combat data onto a lens, and enable a 360-degree visual scanning by the operator moving their head and located targets in real-time with the help of “artificial intelligence capabilities”.

 Rafael’s self-defence WindGuard active protection system has also been fitted to the IDF’s Barak MBT.

MBTs, IFVs, and APCs: Israel’s armoured recapitalisation

According to GlobalData’s Israel Defense Market 2023-2028 report Israel’s defence budget inclusive of US aid demonstrated robust growth during the historic period, increasing from $19.3bn in 2019 to $23.6bn in 2023, reflecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.2%.

The country’s spending in the military land vehicle market is forecast to rise from $230m in 2023 to $434m in 2033. Israel is surrounded by historical enemies, and as such has seen continued investment into its military.

Along with the Barak/Merkava 5, Israel has also been upgrading its other armoured elements. In June this year it received the first new Namer 1500 armoured personnel carriers, the vehicles being upgraded variants of the existing Namer APC which was first utilised by the IDF in 2008.

It is not known how many Namer 1500 vehicles will be produced for the IDF. However, in February 2023, Israel’s MoD signed an agreement with Oshkosh Defense to produce “hundreds” of the Namer 1500 variant, in a deal worth in excess of £100m, financed by US aid.

Israel’s acquisition of APC is a key element of its forecast land domain spending, according to GlobalData figures. Within the military land vehicle market, which makes up 10.1% of Israel’s forecast defence spending from 2023-2033, the APC segment captures a 71.8% share, with procurement of platforms such as the Namer, as well as the Eitan 8×8 armoured fighting vehicles.

In the 19 September Israeli MoD release, commanding Officer of the Israeli Ground Forces, Maj Gen Tamir Yadai said: “The reception of the Barak tanks alongside the Eitan AFV and the Namer is part of the processes of equipping ourselves with the best and most adapted tools that will allow the Israeli Ground Forces to operate at a high rate of operations and significantly reduce the attrition ratio.”