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Merkava Mk.1

Main battle tank

Merkava Mk.1 tank

The emphasis of the Merkava Mk.1 tank was on crew protection rather than speed and mobility

Entered service 1978
Crew 4 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight 60 t
Length (gun forward) 8.63 m
Hull length 7.45 m
Width 3.7 m
Height 2.64 m
Main gun 105-mm rifled
Machine guns 3 x 7.62-mm
Elevation range - 8.5 to + 20 degrees
Traverse range 360 degrees
Ammunition load
Main gun 62 rounds
Machine guns 10 000 rounds
Engine AVDS 1790-6A diesel
Engine power 908 hp
Maximum road speed 46 km/h
Range 400 km
Gradient 60%
Side slope 40%
Vertical step 1 m
Trench 3 m
Fording 1.4 m


   Development of the Merkava main battle tank commenced in the 1970s. This tank is named after a Biblical chariot. First prototype was completed in 1974. Initial production of the first batch of 40 tanks commenced in 1977. The Merkava was officially adopted by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1978. Full-scale production commenced in 1979 and ceased in 1983 in favor to improved Merkava Mk.2. A total of 250 Merkava Mk.1 tanks were built. Now this tank is out-dated. The Mk.1 is no longer used by the IDF. Surviving tanks kept in storage. Some of them were converted to specialized armored vehicles. The Merkava Mk.1 was never exported outside Israel.

   This Merkava saw action soon after its introduction. It was widely used during the 1982 Lebanon War. The Merkava Mk.1 outperformed contemporary Syrian T-62 tanks and proved to be a tough nut for anti-tank weapons of the time, such as the AT-3 Sagger and RPG-7.

   The Merkava was a significant improvement over the previous Israel's Centurion main battle tank. The tank has unusual layout with a front-mounted engine for better crew protection. It reflects a unique requirements of Israeli MoD. Furthermore It can carry 10 fully-equipped troops  at the rear, at a cost of reduced ammunition load. This unique feature allows to carry infantry into the battlefield, or evacuate casualties under heavy armor. Dismounts enter and leave the tank via a rear hatch.

   Turret of the Merkava has an unusual shape. A front-mounted engine and transmission also provide improved frontal protection. The tank is fitted with NBC protection and automatic fire extinguishing systems as standard. At the time of its introduction the Merkava Mk.1 was one of the most protected tanks in the world.

   The tank is armed with a fully-stabilized 105-mm rifled gun. It is a license-produced version of the US M68 tank gun. This gun is loaded manually. Ammunition is stored in special protected containers. Each of them holds 4 rounds. It is loaded via a rear hatch. Up to 62 rounds can be carried, including APFSDS, HEAT, HE-FRAG, and smoke rounds. The Israeli M111 APFSDS round penetrates up to 150 mm of rolled homogenous armor at an angle of 60. Some sources report that this tank is compatible with Israeli LAHAT anti-tank guided missiles, that are launched in the same manner as ordinary rounds.

   The Merkava Mk.1 has a fire control system with a digital computer and laser rangefinder.

   Secondary armament consists of coaxial 7.62-mm machine gun and two more 7.62-mm machine guns on top of the roof. Furthermore the tank can be fitted with external 60-mm mortar, which fires smoke, illumination or anti-personnel rounds.

   The Merkava Mk.1 is operated by a crew of 4, including commander, gunner, loader and driver.

   This main battle tank is powered by a Teledyne Continental AVDS 1790-6A diesel engine, developing 908 hp. The same engine was also used on some other Israeli armored vehicles. It is mated to Allison semi-automatic transmission. The Merkava Mk.1 is slow due to its excessive weight. The main emphasis of this tank is crew protection rather than speed and mobility.




   Sholef (slammer) prototype 155-mm self-propelled howitzer. It is based on the Merkava Mk.1 chassis and incorporated the newest technological developments. Two prototypes of this vehicle were unveiled in 1984 and 1986, respectively. However this artillery system was not selected for production.

   Namera (tigress) prototype heavy armored personnel carrier. It was converted from surplus Merkava Mk.1 chassis. This heavy APC was revealed in 2005. During the same year it was fielded for trials and evaluation. It was also offered for export customers, but received no production orders. Finally conversion plans were abandoned in favor of Namer (tiger) heavy armored personnel carrier, based on newly-built Merkava Mk.4 chassis.

   Merkava Mk.2 is an improved version of the Mk.1. It has improved armor protection due to spaced armor. Also it has new transmission and some other improvements. Its production commenced in 1983 and ceased in 1989. A total of 580 of these tanks were built.

   Merkava Mk.3 is the successor to the Merkava Mk.2. It has the same layout but with improved protection, firepower and mobility. It was adopted in 1990. Production ceased in 2003 with a total of 780 tanks produced.

   Merkava Mk.4 it follows the lines of Merkava series. It has further improved protection, firepower and mobility. Currently the Mk.4 is one of the most protected tanks in the world.


Merkava Mk.1 tank

Merkava Mk.1 tank

Merkava Mk.1 tank

Merkava Mk.1 tank

Merkava Mk.1 tank

Merkava Mk.1 tank

Merkava Mk.1 tank

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