The Israeli Defense Forces’ Special Forces units are getting a huge upgrade. It was recently announced that Israel would be purchasing new “Negeva” combat vehicles worth 100 million new shekels ($28 million) for their Special Forces.

Israeli Deputy Director-General and the Directorate Head of Production and Procurement (DOPP) Avi Dadon signed the order for “hundreds of vehicles,” revealing that the new combat vehicles for the IDF SOF will be the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) ‘s Negeva vehicles. The contract for the purchase was signed during a ceremony at the IAI Land Division production line in Be’er Sheva. Commonly referred to as the Z-MAG and the ZD, manufacturing will be done in cooperation with Ido Cohen and The Armored Group.

In 2020, the Israel Aerospace Industries (AIA) acquired the rights to the design of Ido Cohen’s Zibar, Z-MAG, and ZD vehicles from Ido Cohen so that they could be upgraded for military and homeland defense applications. Under this specific deal, IAI gained the design rights to the off-road vehicles and will be able to market and sell them to defense entities in Israel and abroad following their upgrades from IAI’s ELTA Systems. On the other hand, Ido Cohen will remain as a manufacturer and can sell its vehicles for civilian applications.

The Armored Group (TAG), a well-known armored vehicle manufacturer based in the United States, will also be joining the manufacturing team, providing some of the components for the vehicles.

“As part of the more than 100 million shekel agreement, IAI will manufacture Z-MAG and ZD vehicles for IDF special forces missions in cooperation with Ido Cohen and The Armored Group (TAG),” the Israeli Ministry of Defense said, adding that ELTA Systems (also known as IAI’s “Elta” Division) will be providing communication and radar systems.

According to Dadon, the new commando combat vehicle project was “the best possible reflection” of the work they have done in the recent years, that it would not just significantly enhance the operations and capabilities of their special forces units but also improve its “export potential” in the near future.

“The Negeva Project will equip the IDF with the most advanced tactical ground vehicles in the world, which are highly reliable and have exceptional capabilities,” IAI President and CEO Boaz Levy said. Levy also attributed ELTA as one of the key and vital players in the development and production of these vehicles and other advanced “land solutions.”

“IAI’s wide range of capabilities in the fields of intelligence, AI, remote sensing, and communications are integrated into these land vehicles and will provide significant added value to the operational capabilities in the field of combat mobility.”

The development of the vehicle and the advanced land solutions Levy had mentioned actually started three years ago. It follows through on Israel’s future armored fighting vehicle program called Carmel, a research-and-development program aimed at developing Advanced Ground Combat Vehicles. It was expected that the results of the R&D programs for Carmel would be completed somewhere in the time range of 2023 to 2027, but it seems like it is already bearing fruit as the Negeva vehicles follow their successful work in Carmel.

Levy would go on to say that the vehicles would feature state-of-the-art capabilities in terms of intelligence, specifically artificial intelligence, remote sensing, and communication systems which add to the unique operational capabilities these vehicles can bring to combat.

Negeva Combat Vehicles as produced by the IAI (IAI). Source:
Negeva Combat Vehicles as produced by the IAI (IAI)

Perhaps the noteworthy aspect of the vehicle is its survivability when hit by an anti-armor round. According to the IAI Vice President and CEO of ELTA Systems Yoav Tourgeman, these new Negeva vehicles will be able to take “a payload equal to the weight of the vehicle itself,” which means that these 1.5-ton vehicles can take 1.5 tons worth of payload and so on. The Israeli Defense Ministry also indicated that these commando vehicles would have different types for various missions, which indicates that the weight of these vehicles may vary.

According to Tourgeman, the vehicles are the solution for the soldiers’ needs to drive in difficult and hard terrain, something that is simple and reliable in combat. He also revealed that these vehicles had already been put through hard tests (he did not specify what these tests were) and claimed that the Negeva did not lose any significant aspects in terms of operability. The Israeli Defense Ministry also adds that the vehicle can be used to evacuate wounded troops and deliver supplies to troops. Many indicate that the Israelis will be using artificial intelligence to make the most out of the vehicle.

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“They remained operational (in the) conditions for (which they were) tested, the ability to cross land and water in a way that no other vehicle can do. And the ability to take a payload equal to the weight of the vehicle itself,” he explained.

Furthermore, as stated before, the Negeva features new technology integrating artificial intelligence with its systems. The vehicle is also reported to have autonomous capabilities for different missions the IDF SOF may use them on. Furthermore, these all-terrain vehicles also reportedly feature a Drone Guard system to increase survivability against drones as drone combat surges in popularity. Some of its unique capabilities also include being able to crawl on rocks, climb steep ascents, and that it was “very quiet” for a combat vehicle.

The IDF, however, also stated that these vehicles would not be a replacement for the Humvee, which their forces have been using extensively, some of which were upgraded by Plasan with more armor. With the Israeli Special Forces having the new Negeva all-terrain combat vehicles in the near future, they are sure to be a great boost for their off-road missions, making them able to navigate the difficult and varied terrain.