The Israeli Army has publicly displayed its first locally-made tank.
GV EXTERIOR Two Merkava tanks across rough terrain in Golan Heights
GV Tank rear view on move, and fires gun
GV Tank moves across ground and changes direction while gun remains aimed at target
GV Tank drives into gully, machine gun firing.
GV Tank moves across rocky terrain to join up with a second tank
GV PAN Three tanks advance abreast uphill as men in turrets communicate with flags
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Background: The Israeli Army has publicly displayed its first locally-made tank. The tanks, known as the Merkava (Chariot), showed their potential across the rocky plateau of the Golan Heights on Thursday (24 April).
SYNOPSIS: The Merkava tank is the result of ten years of development, designed to reduce Israel's dependence on foreign manufacturers for her armaments. The decision to produce a domestic tank was taken in August, 1970, after Britain cancelled her commitment to supply Churchill tanks to the Jewish state. Designers were given the freedom to be as innovative as necessary to create a unique vehicle fulfilling Israel's requirements.
Development alone coast 20-million pounds sterling (U.S. 43-million dollars). Main armament is a one-hundred-and-five millimetre cannon.
The long cannon's range and accuracy are formidable. During the demonstration, crews scored direct hits on targets at one-thousand metres (yards), while bouncing across rough terrain at almost 40 kilometres an hour (25 miles an hour). The secret is in the ballistic computer and laser range-finder which keeps the cannon on target even while the tank is turning.
The Merkava's secondary armament is three machine guns. All the firepower can be used at close range because of unusually heavy armour plating which allows the tank to penetrate closer to an enemy than ever before. Only a low, flat turret is needed because the four-man crew and ammunition are carried deep within the tank for maximum protection. The Merkava has a rear compartment - also heavily armoured -- which can transport eight fully equipped soldiers.
Israel's new tank has been costly. Apart from the development expense, each 56-ton (tonne) 9-hundred horsepower Merkava costs approximately GBP 400-thousand (1-million US dollars), and the Tel Aviv government has invested vast sums to produce them. But israel's army chiefs agree that for the independence it gives, the Merkava has been worth it.