In early June, it was reported that Israel was prepared to sell the earlier versions of their main Merkava battle tanks. Two countries, one of which is European, will receive a large quantity of the tanks.

According to a recent Haaretz report, Cyprus is the European country that will receive over a hundred Merkava main battle tanks. The proposed sale of the main battle tanks from Tel Aviv to Nicosia is very opportunistic as Cyprus and Israel look to enhance their military capabilities.

What is Merkava?

The Merkava is the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) ‘s main battle tank. Developed domestically, most of the tank’s components rely on the Israeli defense industry, which mitigates bureaucratic practices of requesting permission for vital technological imports for the tank.

Current plans of the Israeli army are to phase out and sell the Merkava II and III variants while focusing on the existing IV and V newest generation models. The Merkava III has the highest number of tanks in the Israeli fleet.

Merkava Tank via Military Machine

Performance of the Merkava

A primary performance factor of the Merkava tanks is that they are incredibly durable in combat, and if they take a hit, the crew has a high survivability rate. Learning lessons from tank losses in the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli defense industry wanted a doctrine of preserving the lives of their relatively small army while maximizing the damage to their foes.

In combat, the Merkavas performed well during the two-decade intervention and occupation of Lebanon, destroying much of the Soviet-made T-62s under the Syrian fleet. During the 2006 Lebanon War, 50 tanks suffered damage from Hezbollah anti-tank missiles, but most crews survived the hits.

Hezbollah’s advantage in the war over the Merkava’s came from advanced Russian rockets sold through the black market, third-party transfers, and Southern Lebanon’s rigid terrain. The Merkava IV was the most successful in locating and liquidating the militants while suffering minimal losses compared to the variant II and III types.