For several days now, Ukrainian Telegram channels and mass media have been actively discussing the possible delivery of the Israeli main battle tanks Merkava Mark II and Merkava Mark III to Poland and Ukraine, referring to the words of an unnamed Polish military expert to the Israeli publication Walla. It seems that the USA convinced Israel and they agreed to supply weapons to Ukraine. How real is it?
First, it is not entirely clear why would Poland, which is already buying 580 (!) Korean K2 Black Panther, 116 used M1A1 Abrams, and waiting for delivery of 250 new M1A2 Abrams SEP V3, also need Merkava Mark II and Merkava Mark III? Why? A zoo of military equipment in a country that is not yet at war is just an additional burden on technical services and the budget.
Secondly, let’s recall Israel’s position regarding not only the export, but even the re-export of weapons to Ukraine. We didn’t even get the SPIKE ATGM, not to mention heavy equipment. Israel tries to maintain good relations with Russia in order not to get problems from Syria and Palestine. Friendship with Russia never leads to good, but the Israeli government thinks it is smarter than everyone else. What would have to happen for Israel to change its attitude to arms exports, if even Iran’s acquisition of Russian fighter jets did not affect Israel’s position?
Thirdly, to cite in such an important issue an anonymous expert in a publication that is densely covered with celebrities advertisements, useful advice and half-naked girls… Srsly?
Yes, I agree that it would be interesting to see Leopard 2, M1 Abrams, Challenger 2 and Merkava Mark III in one formation with the crosses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the towers, but this is unlikely.
Regarding the Merkava Mark II and Merkava Mark III tanks themselves. The Merkava Mark II is an improved version of the Merkava (“Chariot”) MBT, which has been in service with the IDF since 1979. The 1982 Lebanon War was taken into account, during which the Merkava Mark I faced much weaker Soviet T-62s and suffered minor losses. The Soviet Malyutka and RPG-7 anti-tank missiles were unable to penetrate the armor of Israeli tanks.
In essence, the Merkava Mark II is the same Merkava Mark I with a bunch of small improvements, “sharpened” for low-intensity conflicts, and not for full-scale war. However, the tank had a good fire control system for its time with meteorological sensors and a thermal imaging channel. A total of 580 tanks of this modification were produced and almost all of them are now in storage.
As for the Merkava Mark III, it was introduced in 1989, and currently these tanks form the basis of the armored forces of the IDF. This version received updates to the engine, transmission, control system and electronics. But most importantly, the Merkava Mark III received a new gun – a 120-mm smoothbore MG253 instead of the 105-mm rifled M64 L71A, which was on the Mark I and Mark II models. The turret was also modified for the new gun. A total of 780 tanks were produced. Some are still in service, some are already in storage.
An interesting feature of Merkava tanks is the ability to carry passengers (up to 6 infantrymen), a 60 mm grenade launcher built into the tank, and the ability to fire LAHAT ATGM missiles with a range of up to 8 km (120 mm gun only).
But one should not consider Merkava tanks the best in the world. This tank never engaged in full-scale combat with tanks of equal class, but suffered losses from much weaker opponents and even lightly armed terrorists due to the intensity of fire or being ambushed.
Many mass media wrote that Merkava tanks have never been exported. This is not quite so. In 2012, Israel offered 25-40 Merkava Mark IV to the Colombian army. And although this deal did not work out, it seems that in 2014, Merkava Mark IVs were still exported to a country unnamed for security reasons. In addition, the Merkava in the version of bridge-builder tanks will be exported to the Philippines from 2022.
I repeat, it would be very interesting to see the Merkava Mark III next to other tanks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but one should not mistake wishful thinking for reality. We believe in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and our tankers, who work miracles even on old Soviet vehicles!
Merkava Mark II and Merkava Mark III tanks technical specifications
Weight – 62–63.5 tons
Length – 7.60 m
Width – 3.72 m
Height – 2.66 m
Crew – 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Passengers – up to 6 infantrymen
Armor – modular composite
Armament – 105-mm rifled M64 L71A (Merkava Mark II) or 120-mm smoothbore MG253 (Merkava Mark III)
Ammunition – up to 62 rounds (Merkava Mark II) or 46 rounds (Merkava Mark III)
Secondary armament – 1 × 12.7 mm machine gun, 3 × 7.62 mm machine gun, 1 × Mk 19 grenade launcher, 1 × 60 mm Soltam mortar, 12 × smoke grenades
Engine – Teledyne Continental AVDS-1790-7A 950 hp. (708 kW) (Merkava Mark II) or Teledyne Continental AVDS-1790-9AR 1200 hp. (895 kW) (Merkava Mark III)
Fuel capacity – 900 l (Merkava Mark II) or 1100 l (Merkava Mark III)
Operational range – 500 km
Maximum speed (road) – 55 km/h (Merkava Mark II) or 60 km/h (Merkava Mark III)