Merkava IDF Main Battle Tank


The Merkava IDF Main Battle Tank I, II, III, IV


The Merkava (מרכבה Chariot) MBT is the main battle tank of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The "Merkava" name was derived from the IDF's initial development program name.

Design:  The Merkava MBT is optimized for crew survival and rapid repair of battle damage. The Merkava MBT uses spaced-armor techniques and quick-replacement modular designs in which the design team was able to incorporate composite armor, a derivative of rolled homogeneous armor (RHA) and Chobham armor. The space between the inner and outer hulls of the Merkava MBT is filled with diesel which is an economical storage method and a means of defeating HEAT rounds.

Layout:  Following the model of contemporary self-propelled howitzers, the turret assembly is located nearer the rear than in most main battle tanks. This gives the crew additional protection against a frontal attack by putting the engine between them and the attack. This arrangement also creates more space in the rear of the tank that allows increased storage capacity, as well as a rear entrance to the main crew compartment allowing easy access even under enemy fire. This allows the tank to be used as a platform for medical disembarkation, a forward command and control station, and an armored personnel carrier. The clamshell-style doors on the rear entrance provide overhead protection when loading  and unloading cargo and personnel.

The IDF officially adopt the Merkava MBT in December 1978, when the first complete battalion of 30 tanks was delivered for initial unit training.

Merkava IDF Main Battle Tank



Weight     65 tons
Length     9.04 m (29.66 ft): rear to muzzle
7.60 m (24.93 ft): without cannon
Width     3.72 m (12.2 ft)—without skirts
Height     2.66 m (8.73 ft)—turret roof
Crew     4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Armor design    Classified composite matrix of laminated ceramic-steel-nickel alloy. Sloped modular 
Primary armament     120 mm (4.7 in) MG253 smoothbore gun, capable of firing LAHAT ATGM
Secondary armament     1 × 12.7 mm (0.5 in) MG
2 × 7.62 mm (0.3 in) MG
1 × 60 mm (2.4 in) internal mortar
12 smoke grenades
Engine     1,500 hp (1,119 kW) turbocharged diesel engine
Power/weight     23 hp/ton
Payload capacity     48 rounds
Transmission     Renk RK 325
Suspension     Helical spring
Ground clearance     0.45 m (1.48 ft)
Fuel capacity     1400 litres
Operational Range     500 km (311 mi)
Speed     64 km/h (40 mph) on road  55 km/h (34 mph) off road


The Merkava has a long and storied history as a proficient battle tank for the Israel Defense Forces for the past thirty years.  While many of its features remain classified for secret military purposes it was specifically designed for desert and urban warfare conditions that are predominant throughout Israel and the Middle East.  There are four main versions of the Merkava that have been engineered for deployment over the years.




The Merkava I was the first model and come onto the scene originally in the early 1980s.  Primarily designed for anti infantry defense and mortar shelling capacity, it was introduced during the 1982 Lebanon War.  While the Merkava I was considered a success, observations made during combat revealed some design improvements that would be implemented into the next model.


The Merkava II came into production right after the war as a result of modifications deemed necessary based on the performance of the previous model.  The upgrades were primarily designed to make the tank more battle effective and to increase crew safety.


The Merkava III was introduced in the late 1980s as the latest improvement on the Israel Defense Forces primary battle tank.  It’s more notable upgrades included laser technology, enhanced communication ability and security.  In addition, the ammunition storage capabilities were improved to reduce the chances of overheating and dangers to the crew.


The Merkava IV is the current Israeli battle tank model and has been in circulation for about ten years.  Its multiple upgrade features include anti helicopter capabilities, and an improved caterpillar track system that is specifically designed to cope with the harsh, rugged desert topography of Israel and the surrounding areas.  During the 2006 Lebanon War, the Merkava IV came under intense scrutiny and controversy as many crew members were among the casualties of that conflict.


Merkava IV IDF Main Battle Tank


 Merkava IV IDF Main Battle Tank


Merkava IV IDF Main Battle Tank 


Merkava 4 IDF Main Battle Tank