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Observations from Ukraine give Israeli tank designers ‘interesting ideas’

2nd June 2022 - 09:00 GMT | by Arie Egozi

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Trophy APS installed on a Merkava Mk 4 MBT. (Photo: IDF)

The evident vulnerabilities of Russian armour in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine have drawn the eye of Israeli MBT designers.

The IDF General Staff has set up a team to explore if there are operational lessons to be learned for Israel from the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War, while work continues to develop the new Merkava Mk 5 MBT.

One conclusion is already supported by hard evidence: Russian tanks lag far behind the Israeli Merkava in almost all relevant aspects.

The fighting in Ukraine highlighted fundamental weaknesses of Russian armour in its inability to protect against or defeat ATGMs of various types, combined with poor communications and a failure to operate in a combined arms mission.

In addition, Russian armoured formations have proved themselves to be incapable of functioning effectively when C2 systems are jammed or inoperable.

While the IDF insists that none of these issues arise with the in-service Merkava Mk 4, it has still decided to proceed with a new upgrade with extra capabilities.

While the new upgraded tank is still officially called Merkava Mk 4, the soldiers and engineers in charge of the upgrades call the new version Merkava Mk 5 or ‘Barak’ (lightning).

Shephard understands that the first upgraded MBT will go into service in mid-2023 and one source close to the programme said that the war in Ukraine has given the design team ‘some interesting ideas’.

The IDF wants Barak to be capable of performing multiple missions with a short sensor-to-shooter cycle in fast-evolving combat scenarios where armoured vehicles would be priority targets for the enemy.

According to sources in the IDF, the Merkava Mk 5 will feature EW devices, advanced multi-domain data processing and computing, and new and advanced sensors that will allow independent acquisition and engagement of targets such as enemy ATGM teams.

It has also emerged that the MBT will be equipped with an improved Trophy APS from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The tank commander will wear a new type of helmet from Elbit Systems (called Iron Vision) that prioritises data gathered by the tank’s sensors and other sensors in the battlefield.

Some of the new systems resemble elements of the combat suite being developed by Israel Aerospace Industries for the Carmel armoured fighting vehicle, while others will be created specifically for the Merkava Mk 5.

Arie Egozi

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Arie Egozi


Born in Israel, Arie Egozi served in the IDF and holds a political science and …

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