“For when you absolutely must have the biggest tank on the battlefield. With much greater armor and firepower, it easily dispatches smaller tanks while absorbing tremendous punishment. However it has a very high population cost and the slow rate of fire can cause it to be bogged down by overwhelming odds.”
The Israel Defense Forces mainly fight in hot desert and urban conditions. The specific conditions of these environments have encouraged Israel to develop its own tanks rather than import a general-purpose model from abroad. Recognizing this need after the Yom Kippur War, Israel began planning for what would become the Merkava tank in 1973. Production started five years later and the model entered service the year after that.
The Merkava is a main battle tank and so balances speed, firepower, and protection. However, the last quality has been the most emphasized, perhaps reflecting Israel's outnumbered and surrounded position. To this end, the engine is unusually placed in the front, exposing it rather than the crew to enemy fire. The compartment is capable of carrying infantry to the battlefield or casualties away from it, and a skirt of chains in the rear detonates HEAT projectiles before they land. Now on its fourth generation, the Merkava is a battle-tested bulwark of the Israeli army. For when you absolutely must have the biggest tank on the battlefield. With much greater armor and firepower, it easily dispatches smaller tanks while absorbing tremendous punishment. However it has a very high population cost, and the slow rate of fire can cause it to be bogged down by overwhelming odds.
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