Builds First Prototype of Future Fighting Vehicle
TEL AVIV, Israel - Israel's Tank Production Authority is
producing its first prototype of Eitan, an eight-wheel-drive armored fighting
vehicle designed to weigh nearly half as much as the new Namer heavy carriers.
The locally developed Eitan - Hebrew for steadfast - will be
deployed alongside new Namers and will replace old M113s that still support the
bulk of Israeli infantry.
Sources here said it will weigh no more than 35 tons and will
incorporate a new generation of active protection, an advanced turret and a full
complement of munitions and sensors.
Field demonstrations are slated by the end of next year, with
initial serial production expected to begin by 2020.
"It will be a lot lighter [than Namer] and will be
designed to cost," said Maj. Gen. Guy Zur, commander of the Israel Defense
Forces (IDF) Ground Forces Command. "It may be less good [than the Namer],
but it will be affordable and allow us to equip a large part of our force."
Defense and industry sources said the MoD-owned Tank
Production Authority south of Tel Aviv has one prototype in production and
another in its advanced planning phase.
In parallel, MoD's MAFAT Research and Development Bureau is
working on a demonstrator program called Carmel aimed at driving the design of
Israel's future tank, a follow-on to the 65-ton Merkava Mk4.
Sources say Carmel - a Hebrew acronym for Advanced Ground
Combat Vehicle - will not be a Merkava Mk5, nor will it replace the Mk4, which
is expected to remain in production through 2020.
Rather, it is a research-and-development program aimed at a
state-of-the-art, medium-weight combat vehicle. It will most likely be treaded,
rather than wheeled, and designed to weigh around 32 tons.
"It won't be Merkava Mk5. The operational requirement
will be something entirely different," one source said of the envisioned
Defense and industry sources anticipate development and
demonstration testing will extend over the coming decade or more, depending on
the maturation of lightweight materials, advanced technologies and a spectrum of
"Carmel is much longer-range. It will not compete with
the ongoing production program [of Eitan] or with the Merkava Mk4," a
defense source told Defense News.
Sources noted that just as Eitan will be deployed alongside
the heavier Namer in future ground maneuvering scenarios, the fruits of the
Carmel demonstrator program will eventually be deployed alongside Merkava Mk4s.
Both new vehicles are intended to be integrated with existing
heavy armor into the same digitized command-and-control network, providing war
planners with more scenario-tailored options for maneuvering war, they added.
Zur said both vehicles are part of his Ground Horizon plan, a
strategic blueprint for designing Israel's future ground force up to 20 years
In a recent interview, he said Plan Horizon anticipates
initial fielding of the wheeled Eitan "in much less than 10 years, perhaps
even five." In contrast, the Carmel future tank demonstrator is not
expected to enter service until 2025 or 2027, Zur said.