TechMk III Merkavas were slated for sale, now they're hunting Hamas

Mk III Merkavas were slated for sale, now they're hunting Hamas

Merkawa Mk III firing at Hamas fighters' defensive positions in the Gaza Strip.
Merkawa Mk III firing at Hamas fighters' defensive positions in the Gaza Strip.
Images source: © Reddit | CombatFootage

6:05 PM EST, November 12, 2023

Rather than just deploying its latest Merkava Mk IV tanks to the Gaza Strip, Israel has remarketed the recently decommissioned and reinstated Mk III Merkava tanks for the purpose. Let's find out what these tanks can do and how they are performing.

A captivating video has surfaced online, which showcases the operation of these Merkava Mk III tanks. These tanks, belonging to the 551st Reserve Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), show the tank firing at various targets in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. As evident in the initial seconds of the footage, either a fuel tank or Hamas's weapons and ammunition depot have been hit (a missile can be seen flying haphazardly post explosion).

It's noteworthy that these deployed tanks are the older models of Merkavas, originally marked for sale. However, in light of the happenings on October 7 and the subsequent operation in the Gaza Strip, Israel brought these tanks back into service. The rationale behind this decision was simple - there's no such thing as 'too many tanks'.

Merkava Mk III — the iconic standard of the 80s and 90s

The Merkava Mk III tanks were designed in the late 80s and were produced up until 2002, at which point they were replaced by the more modern Merkava Mk IV. Like its predecessors, this model continued to feature an unusual tank layout, with the engine mounted at the front.

This design approach was initially adopted to bolster crew safety, even in the absence of a special armor. Later on, even after gaining access to the multi-layered armor used in tanks like Abrams, Challenger, or Leopard 2, this design principle remained unchanged.

Compared to its predecessors, the Merkava Mk III also boasts modern armor and is equipped with a powerful, smooth-bore IMI MG251 cannon, featuring a 120 mm, 44-caliber length, compatible with the tank ammunition of NATO countries. This new gun is also capable of launching LAHAT guided anti-tank missiles that have a range of up to about 5 miles, and can target armoured units from above.

Weighing over 132,277 pounds, the Merkava Mk III is a tank with substantial side armor, as evidenced by various hits from Hamas fighters on the Merkava Mk III tanks, which did not result in their destruction (owing to the lack of images or recordings of wreckage). However, it is important to note that the Merkava Mk III models, unlike the newer Merkava Mk IV, do not come equipped with active Trophy defense systems. This leaves them more vulnerable to damage during ambushes with anti-tank weapons.

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