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General Characteristics
Length: 7,6 m
Width: 3,7 m
Height: 2,7 m
Weight: 69 tons
Speed:60 km/h (road)
55 km/h (off-road)
Range:500 km
Primary armament:120-mm smoothbore gun (50 rounds of ammunition)
Lahat anti-tank missile (when operational)
Secondary armament:Three 7.62-mm machine guns (two on the turret, one co-axial)
One 60-mm internal mortar
Power plant:1,500 hp diesel (Mk 4)
1,200 hp diesel (Mk 3)
900 hp diesel (Mk 1 and Mk 2)
1400 liters fuel capacity

The Merkava is a series of tanks developed and manufactured by Israel for the Israel Defence Forces.

The Merkava ("Chariot") has been designed for crew survival. For example, the power plant is placed in the front of the tank, which provides additional crew protection.

It is produced at the tank production factory at the Tel Hashomer Armoured Corps base.

Merkava Mk 1

The Israeli government decided in 1970 that it needed an indigenous tank-building capacity. General Israel Tal led a development team which took into consideration Israel's unique battlefield characteristics and lessons learned from previous wars.

The Merkava was first introduced into service in April 1979.

Merkava Mk 2

The Merkava Mk 2 was first introduced into service in 1983. It introduced serveral improvement focusing on urban warfare and crew survivability, following Israel's incursion into Lebanon in 1982 and the battles in Beirut.

Merkava Mk 3

Following information gained in Israel's incursion into Lebanon in 1982, the Merkava Mk 3 was introduced in 1990. The Mark 3 introduced a 1200-horsepower engine, a new suspension and transmission system, and a new 120-mm smooth-bore gun.

A 1995 version, the Mk 3B (also known as Merkava Baz), had an improved fire-control system and a built-in NBC protection and air-condition system.

Merkava Mk 4

The Merkava Mk 4 has improved mobility, enabling the tank to move more easily in the Golan Heights, whose terrain can limit tank movements. It also has the capacity to engage and shoot down anti-tank helicopters, such as the French SA342L Gazelle anti-tank helicopters and Russian Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters of the Syrian Air Force.

In addition, the Merkava has improved armor on the front and sides of the tank and even on the top of the turret. It also has 0.5 caliber co-axial machine gun (MAG Refael) which enables the tank crew to shoot soft targets from the turret without getting out. The internal 0.5 machinegun and the rear door are proved to be useful in urban warfare.

Yet another improvement is the development of a Battle Management System designed by Elbit Systems, which uses digital information to update planning, navigation, and briefing of crews. The Battle Management System can record data gained during the mission.

A video system gives the driver 360 degree visibility around the tank at all times.

Like any other tank, the Merkava is vulnerable to command-detonated mines. Two Merkavas have been destroyed in the Gaza Strip by Palestinians.

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See also: IDF, Israel, Tank, MBT, Armor.