Main Battle Tank

In the course of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, tank warfare has shown to be both effective and devastating. Due to heavy casualties (1,600 main battle tanks in 11 months), Moscow deployed some of its aging T-62 MBTS from the Soviet era to the front lines this fall.

As Forbes reports, the Ukrainian counteroffensives have led to a net gain in captured tanks. Kyiv may have more and better tanks than its invader at the moment, but they need to keep getting newer, more reliable ones to keep up their defensive operations.

And now it looks like Leopard 2 and M1 Abrams tanks are heading to Ukraine to fight Russia. So why not Israel’s Merkava tank?

Here’s a rundown of the tank’s capabilities and why Ukraine would love this weapon of armored warfare.

The Israeli Merkava is one of the best MBTs in the world.

The Israeli Merkava Mk 4 is undoubtedly a powerful tank. Developed in the 1970s, the Merkava is the work of General Israel Tal, who led the Eighty-fourth Armored Brigade to victory in Sinai during the Six-Day War.

Merkava Main Battle Tank

Tal emphasized survivability in his tank’s initial design to minimize wartime losses in a small country and to preserve experienced crews to continue the fight.

To achieve this, the Merkava incorporates thick, sharply angled armor to increase the width of armor an anti-tank shell encounters.

In addition, the designers placed the engine and transmission at the front of the tank, providing greater protection for the crew from frontal fire and increasing storage and transport space at the rear of the tank.

Lastly, General Tal drew on his experience in the Six Day War, when many tank crews suffered severe burns from the hydraulic fluid used to drive the turret; the Merkava’s turret is powered electrically, eliminating the need for dangerous hydraulic fluid.

Ukrainian forces would especially look for the Merkava, as crew preservation is paramount.

In 2004, the newest Merkava version went into service. It has several more layers of security on top of the ones already mentioned in the design.

 The V-shaped armor on the underside of the tank provides increased protection against land mines, while technologies borrowed from the FAI, such as anti-reflective paints and thermal armor, make the tank much more difficult to detect.

Merkava Trophy technology saves lives.

Due to the Trophy active protection system, tank operators can be more aggressive without risking their lives. Armored vehicles are protected from shelling and anti-tank missiles by this advanced equipment.

An officer from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tank commander school noted that “the first and foremost difference in the behavior of tank commanders (before and after Trophy) is that before, we were much more defensive, and we were in some kind of hideout on the battlefield, and we were trying to get out of range of the anti-tank systems. 

With Trophy, you feel like you can be more offensive, expose yourself a little more, and allow yourself to take a little more risk than we did before.”

Merkava Main Battle Tank

During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, one Merkava was able to neutralize the Hamas anti-tank unit that had just fired on it, thanks to its Trophy system. These and other improvements make the Merkava Mk 4 a formidable force on the battlefield.

This month, Germany, the United States, and other members of the European Union agreed to send shipments of armored and armored vehicles to help Ukraine in its defensive efforts against Russia. Although Israel’s Merkava MBT is not included in the shipments, the arrival of more advanced main battle tanks will undoubtedly change the dynamics on the front lines.

Because of the potential geopolitical fallout, it seems doubtful that Israel will transfer the Merkava to Ukraine. They are worried that Russia may retaliate in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.