Israeli Merkava Tank Is the Most Survivable Tank of the 21st Century

The Merkava tank has an impressive record at war... and it's probably the tank that has defeated the most Soviet-made tanks in history.
Israel Defense Forces

The Merkava tank is truly a fearsome Israeli main tank – and it has proven time and time again to be essential in protecting Israel from its enemies.

Thanks to its advanced armor and weaponry, the Merkava can withstand heavy fire and inflict devastating damage in return.

Is it really that good? Does the Merkava have superior performance to all other tanks?


The Merkava tank history

The Merkava IV Tank
The Merkava IV Tank by Spokesperson’s. Public Domain.

The Merkava tank was first conceptualized in the 1970s. At the time, Israel was facing increasing threats from Arab nations that were armed with the latest generation of Soviet tanks, such as the T-72 or T-80. 

Israel realized that its Defense Forces needed a new type of tank that could withstand the powerful Soviet-made weapons of its neighboring countries.

So, the Merkava was designed to be a highly mobile and heavily armored vehicle with top-notch technology that could provide superior firepower against those Soviet-built enemy tanks.


The Israeli Merkava at war

The Merkava has been used in several wars by the Israeli Defense Forces – and it has proven to be an invaluable asset. In the 1982 Lebanon War, the Merkava tank was essential in destroying enemy armor vehicles.

NGP 6692
Merkava Mark 4 tank by Nehemia Gershuni-Aylho. Lisend under CC BY-SA 3.0

This tank was also used extensively in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, where it once again showed its superiority against enemy tanks. During the 2014 Gaza conflict, once again, the tank played a significant role in protecting Israeli soldiers from Hamas attacks.

This tank has a huge record of destroying Soviet tanks. In the Lebanon War, the Merkava destroyed several T-72 Soviet tanks.


And thanks to the Merkava, Israel has been able to deter many enemy threats and protect Israeli citizens from harm.

Merkava tank features and specifications

Merkava tank
Merkava tank by Licensed under CC by 3.0

  • Place of origin: Israel
  • Status: In service since 1979–present
  • Unit cost: $3.5 million (Merkava IV); $4.5 million (Merkava IV) 
  • Mass: 65 tons (143,000 pounds)
  • Length: 9.04 meters / 29.7 feet 
  • Width: 3.72 meters / 12.2 feet 
  • Height: 2.66 meters / 8.7 feet 
  • Crew: 4 
  • Operational range: 500 kilometers (310 miles)
  • Maximum speed: 64 km/h (40 mph)
  • Payload capacity: 48 rounds

Additionally, the Merkava is equipped with a 120-mm smoothbore cannon that can fire armor-piercing and high-explosive rounds. It also has a 60-mm mortar that can be used to fire smoke bombs and flares. Even the Israeli Army is testing drones in the Merkava tank.

The Merkava tank is also equipped with four machine guns, two of which are mounted on the turret, and the other two are mounted on the hull.


Merkava’s windows are made of bulletproof glass, and the tank is also equipped with an NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) protection system.

It also features the Trophy Active Protection System

The Merkava is equipped with the groundbreaking Trophy Active Protection System, which is a computer-controlled system that uses sensors to detect incoming missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

When a missile or RPG is detected, the Trophy system fires a small explosive charge that detonates the missile or RPG in mid-air before it has a chance to hit the tank.


This system has been incredibly effective, and it has saved the lives of many Israeli soldiers… But it’s not infallible though.

The Merkava is one of the most cost-effective main battle tanks today

With over 30 years of service, the Merkava tank combines the best of attack and defense in one tank.

It has become one of the most iconic symbols of the Israeli Defense Forces. It will continue to play a vital role in protecting Israel for many years to come with its massive firepower and outstanding active protection system.


Featured image credit: Merkava Mk 4M by Zachi Evenor. Licensed under CC by 4.0