Ukraine will not get Merkava tanks, but Cyprus and Morocco will

Just a few days ago, announced that Israel is preparing its first re-export of its Merkava main battle tanks. Then there were speculations that the eventual recipients would be Ukraine, Turkey, or Croatia.

Turkey, Croatia, or Ukraine - who is the hidden Merkava tank buyer?
Photo credit: IDF

Dana Levi, a Twitter account claims that there is already a deal to supply the Merkava tanks. They went to Cyprus and Morocco. The Israeli Merkavas will replace the 41 T-80U / UK tanks donated to Ukraine by Cyprus, as well as the re-exported Moroccan T-72B tanks. Morocco denies donating tanks to Ukraine, but it is publicly alleged that Ukraine received them through a third party.

According to Dana Levi, Israel’s condition to Cyprus and Morocco is that their tanks not be provided, donated, re-exported, or sold to Ukraine. Since the tanks are Israeli, the change of ownership after their donation to Morocco and Cyprus cannot take place without Israeli permission. This ensures that the tanks will not go to the front in Ukraine.

“The agreement of the export of Israeli Merkava-2/3 tanks has been announced: part of the deliveries will be made to Cyprus to replace the 41 T-80U / UK tanks transferred to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and part to Morocco to compensate for the supply of T-72B. None will be transferred to Ukraine. That is one of #Israel conditions,” says Dana Levi in his Tweet.

About Merkava

The Merkava, which means ‘chariot’ in Hebrew, was created after the Six-Day War in 1967 and showed a need for a better main battle tank. The development of this unique Israeli tank began in the early 1970s, with lessons from the Yom Kippur War in 1973 playing a key role.

The Merkava stands out from other main battle tanks due to its unique design. Its front-positioned engine and rear-positioned turret boost its defense. The Merkava is versatile, with a back compartment that can hold up to 10 soldiers in addition to its four-person crew. It can also be converted into an armored ambulance if needed.

Consider the Mk 1 variant, a 60-ton vehicle introduced in 1979. It could reach a top speed of 29 mph (46 kph) on roads, boasting a 105mm main gun and three 7.62x51mm machine guns, which could fire regular and LAHAT laser-guided anti-tank missiles.

At least five Israeli Merkava tanks were abandoned on the Golan Heights
Photo credit: National Interest

Besides its power, the tank also often contained a 60mm mortar in its rear section. The mortar could fire high-explosive rounds, providing indirect firing capabilities. It could also launch smoke rounds to protect the tank from enemies, and illumination rounds to light up the battlefield at night. The addition of the mortar is an interesting story, originating from the Israeli forces’ use of British-made Centurion tanks. These tanks had a 2-inch mortar inside the turret for launching smoke rounds.

Mk 2 version

By 1983, the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] began receiving the upgraded Mk 2 variants. This new model featured upgrades like enhanced armor and powertrain parts. The highlight? The 60mm mortar was smartly relocated inside the turret, allowing the crew to fire from inside the hull. Truly a significant advancement in tank technology!

The Mk 2 Merkava tank evolved to include advanced thermal optics and more armor, enhancing its night warfare and durability. The Mk 2D version introduced a composite armor package with modular sections for easy replacement after damage. In 1989, the Mk 3 variant brought a 120mm main gun, a stronger engine, an improved drive train, and upgraded fire control and optics. This model is five tons heavier, but faster, reaching speeds of up to 37 miles per hour [60 kilometers per hour].

Mk 3 and Mk 4 versions

Continuing evolution led to several Mk 3 subvariants. These featured sensor upgrades and other improvements, reflecting the ongoing quest for perfection in armored warfare. The new Mk 4 boasts a powerful 120mm gun and a remodeled hull that accommodates a stronger engine. It also possesses advanced sensors, superior battle management, and data-sharing capabilities.

Since 2009, the IDF has been equipping Mk 4 variants with the Trophy Active Protection System [APS] that shields the tanks from anti-tank guided missiles and other infantry anti-armour weapons. Furthermore, the Merkava lineage has led to field-ready derivatives like the Namer, a turretless heavy armored personnel carrier, and the Ofek command vehicle.


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