Israel converts Merkava II tanks into APCs

According to ynet news the Israeli Defense Forces have developed an APC based on the chassis of the Merkava II main battle tank.  As the IDF has transitioned to the Merkava IV, older Merkava II tanks have been pulled out of service, making them available for other purposes.  Israel has a long tradition of converting old main battle tanks into heavy armored personnel carriers rather than scraping or retiring them (see Nagmachon, Achzarit.)  The Merkava series is well suited for conversion since its front mounted engine and transmission allows for soldiers to enter and exit the vehicle from the rear in typical APC fashion.  The article notes that this Merkava II conversion includes removing the turret and ammunition storage racks as well as adding a rear ramp and a new air conditioning system.  Currently, the IDF operates the Namer, a heavy APC based on the hull of the newest Merkava IV MBT.  While the Namer will equip front line infantry units, the article states that the converted Merkava II APC vehicles will be issued to specific support forces, including medical, logistical and rescue units.  A prototype of the Merkava II APC was fielded by the 7th Brigade’s command staff in an exercise this past spring in the Jordan River valley.  It is reported that the IDF was pleased with the vehicles performance.