Merkava II retired from IDF Armored Corps

tank_colorThe Jerusalem post is reporting that the IDF Armored Corps has officially started retiring the Merkava II tank from service in the conscripted brigades.  All battlefield missions will be handled by Merkava III and IV tanks from here forward with the Merkava II only being used by reserve units for border patrol during times of war.  As has been reported elsewhere, many of the Merkava II hulls will be converted into armored personal carriers and armored ambulances and transports.  The article notes that by the end of 2016, the Seventh Armored Brigade, the last conscripted brigade to use the Merkava II, will switch to the Merkava IV.

“We have ended training for the Merkava II tank,” Lt.- Col. Dvir Edri, commander of the Armored Corps training school, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “From now on, draftees will be trained only on the newer tanks.”

Edri said his training center, located in the Shizafon military complex in the northern Negev, had spent many months preparing for the transition from the Mark II.

“This can only be good for us. From now on, we will train only using advanced tank technology,” he said.

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.