On Wednesday, September 20, the Israel’s Ministry Of Defense presented for the first time on social media the first examples of the newest Merkava Mk5 Barak tank, which were assigned to the 52nd battalion of the 401st Ikwot HaBarzel Brigade of the Armored Corps of the Israeli Ground Forces (Zro’a ha-Jabasha). The vehicles were to undergo acceptance tests on January 13 this year, which were carried out in the Negev Desert.
After more than five years of research and development work and small-series production supervised by the Israeli Merkava And Armored Vehicles Directorate (MANTAK) underneath the Ministry of Defense of Israel, the latest development version of the Merkava tank, which received its own name Barak (Lightning) is premiering.
Some of the capabilities of the new tank that has recently been introduced into service with the Israel Defense Forces include detecting and processing information based on machine learning (artificial intelligence), the ability to detect the enemy and create a map of targets for subunits on the battlefield, ability to fight with closed hatches thanks to the peripheral observation covering full range of 360 degrees linked to the commander’s helmet-mounted targeting system, intelligent multi-touch monitors, advanced controllers, adaptation to the changing situation on the battlefield, and increased crew survivability.
Israeli Defense Minister Yo’aw Galant stated:
It is very telling that in the period in which we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War and the heroic battles fought during that war by soldiers of the Armored Corps in defense of our country – we have received another proof of the usefulness and power of the tank as an indispensable tool. The Barak tank is very innovative – it takes our maneuverability to another level and is a clear expression of our technological capabilities. I would like to express my appreciation to the engineers at MANTAK, the Israeli Land Forces and all those professionally involved in this process.
The Merkava Mk5 Barak was developed by MANTAK in cooperation with the Armaments Department of the Israel Ground Forces and Armored Corps. The tank uses elements produced by Elbit Systems, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, ELTA Systems (subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries), and other defense industry branches, from Qiryat Shemona to Mitzpe Ramon. The first mass-produced Barak tanks were delivered this month to the 52nd battalion of the 401st Armored Corps Brigade and will become the main tanks of the Armored Corps.
The tank commander was equipped with the Elbit Systems Iron Vision helmet-mounted targeting system connected to a set of omnidirectional cameras and sensors. The system operates in STA (See Through Armor) augmented reality technology, increasing the crew’s situational awareness. Iron Vision is the ground forces-dedicated equivalent of the AN/AAQ-37 DAS (Distributed Aperture System) system, which transfers the image of the tactical situation around the F-35 Lightning II aircraft to the HMDS Gen III (Helmet Mounted Display System) display. The system enables 360-degree observation by moving the head and locating targets in real time using artificial intelligence capabilities.
It is integrated with an improved fire control system with advanced observation and night operation capabilities. These enhancements will allow the tank crew to fight with closed hatches, offering better protection for the vehicle, thanks in part to the advanced Trophy HV hard-kill active protection system (APS) with WindGuard radars from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which is designed to combat anti-tank guided missiles. The tank’s offensive capabilities have also been significantly modernized.
The Barak tank will increase the capabilities needed to detect the enemy and enable asymmetric combat in all the anticipated situations on the current and future battlefields, against a variety of threats facing ground forces. The Barak received new targeting sights for commanders and gunners, as well as the ability to continuously collect, update, integrate, and share reconnaissance data. With these tanks, the armored battalions will be able to fight continuously at a fast pace, detecting the enemy while conducting fire independently, on a limited scale or in sectors, which will increase the effectiveness of the platoon and company.
The Barak tanks will have the ability to quickly obtain operational information and transmit it to other strike assets, as well to share reconnaissance information in real time between subunits. With this in mind, the Barak tank has been equipped with a wide and reliable sensor infrastructure that will allow its crew to have a better picture of the tactical situation in the field, aim at enemy targets present, and shorten the time necessary to make precise decisions.
Barak tanks will be connected to each other via the advanced capabilities of E-LynX SDR (Software-Defined Radio) programmable radios from Elbit Systems. The crews will have at their disposal touch screens resembling smartphones and unique applications with an intuitive interface that will ensure accessibility and ease of handling.
The Renovation and Support Center underneath the Technology and Logistics Directorate is entrusted with the production of Barak tanks.
Director General in the Israeli Ministry Of Defense, major general (retired) Eyal Zamir said:
For the past four decades, Merkava tanks have been the backbone of the Armored Corps and ground combat. Today we are entering a new era on the battlefield, the Baraka era. The Barak tank is the most advanced combat vehicle of its type in the world and will provide Tzahal, the Israeli Ground Forces and Armored Corps soldiers with the firepower, artificial intelligence, reconnaissance, inter-asset communications and active defense capabilities to prevail on the modern battlefield. I congratulate MANTAK engineers, experts from the Armored Corps, Israeli Ground Forces and defense industry, who have made a technological leap together. On this occasion, we should mention General ‘Talik’, Yisra’el Tal, who started the development and construction of the Israeli Merkava Project and deputy chief of the General Staff during the Yom Kippur War, thanks to his vision, today we have the honor to inaugurate the fifth generation of Merkava model tanks.
Commander of Israeli Ground Forces, major general Tamir Yadai:
The Merkava Barak tank is a source of pride and an expression of the strength of Tzahal, the Ministry of Defense, MANTAK and the defense industry in Israel. The Barak tank utilizes groundbreaking technologies that provide Armored Corps soldiers with unique protection and attack capabilities that greatly improve maneuverability. The introduction of the Barak tanks, along with the Eitan and Namer armored vehicles, is part of the process of equipping itself with the best and most adaptable tools that will allow Israeli ground forces to operate at high speed and significantly reduce the casualty rate.
MANTAK commanding general, Oren Giber:
In developing the Barak, Israel set a very high standard of technological excellence. This tank is a unique weapon platform based on a high-quality system of sensors, artificial intelligence engines, and a customized and intuitive operational interface. The Barak tank was designed around the concept of flexibility, with the goal of providing Tzahal soldiers with a weapons system that would allow them to prevail in any combat situation. I am proud of the genius of development and the strength of the commitment of the staff of MANTAK, the Department of Armament of the Ground Forces and the Israeli defense industry, which has no equal in the world, and I wish to bless the soldiers of the Armored Corps to succeed, because for us, the developers of armored fighting vehicles, it is clear that today, as in the past, the man in the tank will win.
Commander of Armored Corpse, brigadier general Hisham Ibrahim:
A few days before the new year, on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, the Armored Corps is equipping itself with the Barak tank, which is the pride of Israeli industry, a tank that is an Israeli design. In my opinion, what is much more exciting is that in a year in which we celebrate the heroism of the generation of soldiers of the 1973 Armored Corps, who stopped the attacks of Arab armies with their bodies, demonstrated courage and a fighting spirit worthy of praise, this is a historical event. The Barak tank is based on groundbreaking technologies. Combining these technologies with the quality of our people, the soldiers of the Armored Corps, will result in a huge advantage on land and in defeating our enemy. I am proud of the privilege of leading the Corps at such a historic moment.
Colonel Beni Aharon, commander of the 401st Brigade of the Armored Corps:
Last year, the 401st Armored Brigade was involved in the implementation and assimilation of the Barak tank into the brigade. The brigade focused on understanding the tank’s combat capabilities and its use in combat, in training crew members and commanders, and in the tank’s cooperation with other advanced anti-tank weapons, such as the Namer. It is a huge opportunity to improve operational efficiency in preparation for the next campaign and significantly increase forces for Tzahal, Israeli ground forces and the Armored Corps. The 401st Armored Brigade sees the Barak tank as a historic event and the nation’s mission to win the war of the next generation. We had the honor of being the first Armored Corps Brigade to receive the Barak tank and therefore a great responsibility rests on our shoulders – our mission is to fulfill it with distinction.
The 401st Brigade, The Iron Tracks, as it is nicknamed, is part of the 162nd Armored Division, which in turn reports to the Tzahal Southern Command. Since 2004, the brigade has been armed with Merkava Mk4 tanks, grouped in three battalions: 9th, 46th and 52nd. Vehicles from this brigade took part in past military operations and, based on their combat experience, the Merkava Mk5 Barak tank was created. It is a direct modernization of the Merkava Mk4M Meil Ru’ach model (and the Meil Ru’ach 400 derivative).
The exact parameters of the newest Israeli tank are not known, but it is estimated that its combat weight is approximately 70 tons, which is due to, among others, the use of APS Trophy HV. A 120-mm smoothbore gun was to be retained as a main armament (in the Merkava Mk4 it is the IMI MG251-LR cannon), despite reports of work on a 140-mm tank gun.
It was also planned to use a hybrid combustion-electric drive system, a voice crew interface that was undergoing tests, and finally a new on-board computer with artificial intelligence support. Currently, the Merkava Mk4 tanks are powered by the MTU MT883 Ka-500/501 V12 diesel engine with a power of 1,500 HP coupled to the Renk HSWL 295TM hydromechanical automatic transmission with 5 forward and 5 reverse gears (EuroPowerPack system), which provides a maximum speed of up to 64 km/h in the field with a maximum driving range of up to 500 km.
Zro’a ha-Jabasha has 330 Merkava Mk4 tanks (220 in storage), 160 Merkava Mk3 (570 in storage) and 370 Merkava Mk2 tanks in storage. According to recent press reports, Cyprus would be interested in purchasing used Merkava Mk3 tanks – allegedly one battalion of 52 tanks, while Morocco would be interested in purchasing older Merkava Mk2 tanks.
Proud of our contribution to the Merkava Barak – Israel's 5th generation battle tank. After five years of dedicated development, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has unveiled the 'Barak' tank that will serve the IDF Armored Corps.
— Elbit Systems (@ElbitSystemsLtd) September 19, 2023
for 360° situational awareness and advanced operational capabilities.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Defense Ministry and Israel Defense Forces
— Elbit Systems (@ElbitSystemsLtd) September 19, 2023
— Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (@RAFAELdefense) September 19, 2023