Sources in Tel Aviv reported that the Israeli Ministry of Defense is about to sell its Merkava tanks for the first time ever.
The Merkava tanks, which considered one of the Israeli symbols, will be exported to Europe for the first time.
The Merkava tanks entered the service about 40 years ago.
An old versions of the Merkava tanks manufactured in Israel are expected to be sold to two foreign armies, reach Europe, and continue to serve despite their advanced age.
According the sources, the contract is worth tens of millions of dollars includes seeling over 200 Merkava tanks of Mk2 and Mk3 modifications.
According to the source, the tanks are being bought by two European countries, however the Israeli Ministry of Defense didn’t specify the names of the two countries that agreed on the purchase of more than 200 used Israeli tanks in light of the sensitivity of the process, but the deal is on the verge of a final stages and is expected to be completed relatively immediately, within about three months.
According to officials at the Israeli Ministry of Defense, since the Merkava tanks certain mechanical parts, which are an American-made, especially the engine (For example, AVDS-1790-5A engine and CD-850-6B transmission), which Israel only has to get US approval from the pentagon to carry out the transaction.
The US Department of Defense should soon approve to Israel the sale of hundreds of Merkava Mk2 and Mk3 tanks that manufactured in Israel in the 1980s and 1990s.
As of 2022, Israel has about 700 Merkava Mk3 tanks and about 600 Merkava Mk2, which are the older Merkava modification that decommissioned in 2016.
Along with the background of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the refinement to which classic armored war vehicles are being re-acquired, a strong speculation believes that these tanks might end up in the Ukrainian possession, through continuous European support for Kiev with all kinds of weapons in the face of the Russian forces.
According to estimates, the scope of the deal will reach several tens of millions of dollars for all the tanks, an amount that will enter the state coffers and will probably be transferred directly to the Israeli defense establishment.
This is an amount that is considered negligible in relation to the purchase of new western tanks for the sake of proportion, as about a decade ago, the Israeli Ministry of Defense offered a foreign army to purchase a new Merkava tank Mk4, from the production line, for approximately 4 million dollars per tank.
Additional details indicate that the two transactions will be split, as one will include the older Merkava Mk2 tanks and the other the Merkava Mk3 that entered service in the 90s and served mainly the 188th Israeli armored Brigade.
In recent years these tanks have fallen out of use and today all 3 Israeli regular armored brigades – 401, 188 and 7th Brigade – equipped with advanced Merkava Mk4 tanks with the active defense system against anti-tank missiles, of the wind jacket type and computerized command and control systems.
The Merkava is an Israeli main battle tank that started produced in the 1970s, and took part of Israel military confrontations since the first Lebanon War 1982.
Since then, the Merkava has received four modifications: Mk1, Mk2, Mk3 and Mk4, which is the latest version who entered the service in 2004.
The first Merkava tanks, the product of the development of Major General Israel Tal and the engineer Israel Tilan were produced in Israel in the late 1970s, and their first version, the Mk1, was integrated into operational activity already in the First Lebanon War, during Operation “Peace of the Galilee” 1982.
Immediately after that, the Israeli Ministry of Defense developed the follow-up version, Mk2, with improvements that allowed warfare even in built-up areas, and with additions for passive protection.
Regular and reserve armored personnel carriers recorded thousands of successful battles in Merkava tanks in all recent Israeli systems, in the security zone in Lebanon, in Operation “Protective Wall”, in the Second Lebanon War 2006, in operations in the Gaza Strip before and after disengagement 2005, as well as in ongoing security in the various sectors.
Some of the regular tanks, especially those with less experience, were transferred to reserve brigades, including the 10th (Harel) Brigade instead of the tanks.
However, more than 200 orphaned tanks remain in the Israeli armed forces’ maintenance depots.
At first, the defense establishment was pessimistic about the possibility of a foreign army purchasing them, and the possibility of selling them to iron recycling contractors was considered, but not before they were scrapped.
However, the counter-armaments will strengthen them well and at the same time the war between Russia and Ukraine broke out last year, which changed the security needs of European countries.
Initial interest in used tanks began already in the middle of last year and the Israeli Ministry of Defense rushed to check the condition of the old tanks, and found that they were serviceable enough to be put for sale.
According to Israeli Ministry of Defense officials, “Producing a tank as an off-the-shelf product is a complex and long process that can take two years and cost a fortune, in our time there are tanks that are qualified, with receipts, for operation tomorrow morning, in open and built-up areas”.
The sources also said, “Europe is in an arms race that hasn’t been the same since World War II, for example, the German Ministry of Defense tripled its defense budget because of the tensions with Russia, while Sweden and Finland join NATO, and only yesterday the Israeli Ministry of Defense reported an all-time record in the sale of Israeli weapons to the world – approximately 12.5 billion dollars in the past year”.
On the meantime, the Israeli army warehouses reserve hundreds of M-113 APCs that are also going out of use, in light of the introduction of the NMR and Eitan APCs in recent years, mainly to the regular brigades.
For these APCs, which aren’t considered protected from anti-tank fire, there is still no foreign demand.
At the same time, in recent years, Israel has succeeded in promoting the sale of decommissioned Air Force F16 aircraft to the Croatian army.
The security officials stated that it’s difficult to sell military surpluses, and we are trying to be attractive and extend their lives as much as possible.