TEL AVIV (Aug. 29)
The Israel Defense Force has modified and upgraded the Soviet-made T-54 and T-55 tanks it captured from the Arabs in their wars with Israel.
Israeli military correspondents were yesterday shown an example of the “Westernized” Russian-built tank. According to Ordnance Corps. Brig. Tuvia Margalit, the hull and turret of the original tank have been retained and it thus still has its original low silhouette.
The original tank treads have also been retained, as they are regarded as among the best in the world, with a low attrition rate.
The upgraded tanks have been equipped with a 100 mm. cannon instead of the original 105 mm. cannon, so that the vehicle can use locally-produced shells.
The upgraded tanks have also been equipped with a locally-produced fire control system and a laser rangefinder which ensures the gunner of a first-shot hit on his target. This reduced the chance of a return hit by an enemy aiming between earlier bracketting shots. The tank is also fitted with special weather protection so that the firing is more accurate.
The Ordnance Corps has completed manufacture of the original Merkava Mark I tank, which is now being replaced with a Mark II model, with a Mark III already in the planning stage.