Israel, a warring nation

Israel, a controversial country, depends on your position. However it is undeniable how quickly and rapidly it has progressed. Founded in only 1950, as a small country, no natural resources and hostile countries all around and few allies, it is really an amazing feat that Israel is now one of the top economies in the world. As of 2015, Israel ranks in the top 18 nations in the world on the UN’s Human Development Index, it also has one of the most well equipped militaries in the world, with over 6% of GDP going into defence research.

A significant driving force behind these innovations is no doubt its position. Since the Second World War and the founding of the country, Israel has had to learn to deal against superior enemy forces with limited resources and limited assistance from her allies. With hostile countries practically surrounding it, it is definitely most important that the country keeps ahead of its rivals, especially in the military area of technology. So in this post, i’ll be exploring one invention born out of pure necessity: The Merkava Tank.

 

Israel always had plans for a domestically produced tank, since relying on foreign support was at best unreliable. In fact, Israel had plans to acquire a new shipment of British Chieftain tanks (arguably one of the best tanks in history). However, due to political reasons, in 1969 Britain stopped all weapon sales to Israel. The USA had also stopped selling them surplus war vehicles.

Hence after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the Israeli army restarted the domestic tank project. They had learned from the mistakes of the past, having been outnumbered by Arab forces in the war. The design drew all the strengths of existing vehicles, although loosely based on the design of the British Chieftain. The tank’s most outstanding aspect is perhaps its priority on crew safety, due to a lack of manpower compared to their enemies.

“At first, the Merkava’s most striking aspect was its rearwards turret, a feature more common in SPGs than MBTs. But the positioning of the engine at the front was a deliberate attention to crew protection, as it participates in the frontal defense of the fighting compartment. Second, this compartment was exceptionally roomy, allowing several infantrymen and their equipment to embark. The rear two-hatch door was another originality, allowing fast evacuation by the crew, as well as an APC-style access which was found very useful during the Lebanon campaign. The drivetrain and suspension was largely inspired by the British Centurion and the tracks were directly derived from it. The diesel engine provided, to a 65 ton vehicle, a good power-to-weight ratio and enough mobility on soft grounds. Many other solutions were borrowed from existing systems, thus allowing it to fulfil two of the initial specifications: cost-effectiveness and easy maintenance and repair on the battlefield. The drive train was made of six road wheels, one rear idler wheel, one front drive sprocket and three return rollers per side. The turret was large but low, narrow and triangular in shape, presenting the absolute minimal surface from the front.”

B, David. “Merkava.” Tank Encyclopedia. N.p., 01 Dec. 2014. Web. 12 Feb. 2017. <http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/modern/israel/Merkava.php>.

The Merkava has seen action in many battles, being the Main Battle tank of the Israeli army, spearheading assaults and holding defensive lines.  First used during the 1986 Lebanon war, it has faithfully served in all conflicts since then. Most recently during Operation Protective Edge. The Merkava Mk. IV tanks were newly fitted with the Trophy Active Protection system, a system also made by the Israelis that intercepts projectiles with a shotgun like blast. During the operation, the system intercepted primarily Kornet anti-tank weapons, as well as Metis-M and RPG rockets, proving effective against light anti-tank weapons. This further proves just how amazingly advance the military of Israel is compared to other countries in the area.

 

B, David. “Merkava.” Tank Encyclopedia. N.p., 01 Dec. 2014. Web. 12 Feb. 2017. <http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/modern/israel/Merkava.php>.

 

  Merkava MK I – IV tank models side view.

B, David. “Merkava.” Tank Encyclopedia. N.p., 01 Dec. 2014. Web. 12 Feb. 2017. <http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/modern/israel/Merkava.php>.
This tank may not be anything groundbreaking in terms of technical innovation, aside from a few novel features. However it is the prime example of a weapon made out of pure necessity. The wars and hostilities surrounding the nation drove it to create yet another weapon of destruction on today’s world.

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