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Frag Out! Magazine #31

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"four", "eight" and the letter "G" (for Germany), also meaning battering-ram. The experts locally were inclined to license and manufacture a new MBT at the same time. AMX-30 seemed interesting at first. However, the French were not eager to negotiate. This pushed the Israelis to look for a relevant solution in the UK. Chieftains were highly esteemed at the time for their firepower and armor (superior to AMX-30 and Leopard 1). The Brits were also inclined to transfer the licensed manufacturing to Israel. In the spring of 1967, two Chieftains were sent for testing in Israel. After a year they were replaced by another two vehicles. As a result of the so-called "Six-Day War" and the War of Attrition, the atmosphere surrounding Israel, politically, made it impossible to continue the licensed manufacturing of Chieftains. The 1967 arms export embargo imposed by the UN, made the Brits refrain from the joint effort. The Americans, however, turned out to be helpful. First, deliveries of the M48A1 and M48A2C were going one as of 1965. Secondly, as the US was focused on stopping the USSR and its allies, the White House administration decided to deliver another lot of tanks to Israel in 1967 - a whopping 1000+ M48A1/ A2. Apart from the aforesaid delivery, the US also sent more than 150 of its latest M60 to Israel, in the late 1970s. Despite the optimistic circumstances, Cahal still had to rely on external supplies which was considered to be too risky, considering the 1967 embargo. Hence a decision to develop an MBT domestically. The Merkava (Hebrew for chariot) program was launched on Aug. 20th, 1970. It is tied to two names: General Israel Tal, and Colonel Yisrael Tilan. Not only was Tal an officer of the armored forces. He was also a self-taught engineer and visionary, responsible for most of the Merkava's unique features. He had a major influence on all generations of the vehicles, up to the Mk. 4. Tilan was working as the Merkava chief designer until 1975. He was responsible for translating Tal's visionary concepts into metal. To design and manufacture the first MBT of its own, Israel has created a chain of more than 200 entities - known under one name - Israel Military Industries. That industrial group acted as the program coordinator. The development process involved 4,500 persons - this when the actual population numbers were taken into account, meaning that the undertaken effort was quite significant. The production was planned to be launched at Plant No. 7100 in Tel Ha Shomer, known well for the M4A1 and M48A1 upgrade programs. As the program began, the Israeli armor industry was still in its infancy. Nonetheless, both the personnel, and the IDF, all had experience gathered during three victorious conflicts, and operating numerous main battle tank types. The IDF was using M4A1, Centurion, M48A1, M48A2, M60; as well as tanks that the IDF captured: T-54, T-55, and IS-3. Furthermore, one should also remember the Chieftains test program, and the relevant assistance pro- vided by the Americans. The Yom Kippur war also became a major catalyst for the work undertaken, with the conclusions being not very positive for the operated platforms. In total, Cahal lost more than 800 MBTs. 400 were suc- cessfully recovered and reintroduced into the inventory, following overhauls. Contrary to some myths, other MBTs turned out to be the most effective tank busters. More than 90% of the destroyed Arabic vehicles have fallen victim to the Israeli armored units. On the other hand, 75% of the Israeli tanks were destroyed by Egyptian and Syrian tank crews. The analysis of the losses with regards to the MBTs that could have been accessed by the Israeli experts (with those MBTs belonging to all sides of the conflict) has shown that APDS rounds were responsible for 55% of the losses, 35% of the losses could be associated with HEAT munitions, while HESH rounds were responsible for 10% of the list vehicles. Shaped charge munitions turned out to be surpris-

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