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The Merkava Mk3 Baz main battle tank.
The Merkava is the main battle tank in service with the Israeli armed forces. The first Merkava mk1 tanks were supplied to the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in 1979.
Production of the mk1 continued up to 1983, when the IDF began to receive the Merkava mk2. The mk2 featured improved mobility, fire control system and armour, as well as the inclusion of an internal 60mm mortar. Production of mk2 continued until 1990 when it was superseded by the mk3.
Merkava Mk3 Baz main battle tank development
The Merkava mk3 Baz entered service with the IDF at the beginning of 1990. The main features of the Merkava mk3 are a new suspension system, a 1,200hp engine and new transmission, a higher power main gun, and particularly new armour protection. Ballistic protection is provided by special armour modules, which are attached to the tank by bolts. These are easily replaced whenever better ballistic technology is introduced. About 1,200 Merkava mk2 and mk3 tanks are in service with the IDF.
The first battalion of Merkava mk4 tanks entered service with the Israel Defence Forces in 2004. Improvements include; new 120mm gun, new modular ballistic armour and new fire control system developed by El-Op.
The main gun is a 120mm smoothbore gun developed by Israeli Military Industries. The gun has a Vidco Industries thermal sleeve, which increases accuracy by preventing distortion through the effects of weather, heat and shock. The tank carries an ammunition store of 50 rounds of 120mm ammunition.
The tank is also equipped with three 7.62mm machine guns, two roof mounted and one co-axial with the main gun. The tank carries a store of 10,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition.
The 60mm mortar system, which is a large-calibre gun with a low muzzle velocity, is capable of firing high-explosive rounds and illumination bombs. The crew can load, aim and fire the mortar system from within the turret. The mortar system is developed by Soltam Limited of Haifa.
Hydraulic systems can be susceptible to impact damage and cause a fire hazard so the electro-hydraulic turret control system installed on the mk1 and mk2 has been replaced by a totally electrical and electronic system in the Merkava mk3 for increased survivability and safety. Either the gunner or the commander operates the turret control system.
The crew is protected against nuclear, chemical and biological warfare by a high positive pressure system with air conditioning and filtration.
The tank is fitted with the Amcoram LWS-2 laser warning system, with threat warning display installed at the commander’s station.
The turret and the hull are fitted with a modular armour system which can be changed in the field. The forward section of the turret is fitted with additional blocks of armour which provide extra protection against the latest generation of top attack anti-tank missiles.
A skirt of chains with ball weights is installed on the lower half of the turret bustle. Incoming HEAT projectiles detonate on impact with the chains instead of penetrating the turret ring. Sprung armour side skirts protect the wheels and tracks.
The welding and machining technology for the large armour body sections of the Merkava was developed by the Israeli Army Tank Depot, and the casting of ballistic steel materials was developed by Urdan Industries Ltd at Natanya.
Fire control and observation
The Knight mkIII advanced fire control system, from Electro Optics Industries (EL-OP) and Elbit Ltd, integrates with the turret control and gun control units and provides the tank with the ability to engage moving targets while on the move.
The gunner’s station is equipped with a thermal sight and day television channel, which are stabilised in two axes.
A laser rangefinder and target tracker are integrated into the gunner’s sight. The Elbit automatic target tracker is able to automatically aim at the target using the image data presented on the day or night sights.
The commander’s station is fitted with a sight which can be optically relayed to the gunner’s sight. The Merkava 3 is being fitted with a new day/night stabilised panoramic sight, giving hunter/killer capacity.
The Merkava mk3 is equipped with an AVDS-1790-9AR diesel supplied by Teledyne Continental Motors. The air-cooled diesel provides 1,200hp, compared to the 900hp engine installed in the mk1 and mk2. The tank’s transmission system was developed by the Ashot Ashkelon Industries Limited subsidiary of Israel Military Industries. The Merkava m3 carries 1,400l of fuel.
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