TEL AVIV (Oct. 29)
Israeli tank crews enjoy better protection while manning their weapons than armored units in any other country, according to armored corps commander Brig. Gen. Amos Katz, in an address to his men marking the annual Armored Corps Day.
He described the protection afforded IDF tank crews by the Israeli-made Merkava battle tank as representing a revolution in the history of tank warfare.
The protection, now adopted from the Merkava experience to other foreign-made tanks, consists of add-on armor plates fitted to the turret and front of the vehicle which dissipate the blast when a tank is hit, with the vehicle’s main armor absorbing the rest of the blast.
If this is not sufficient, a sophisticated fire-extinguishing system developed by the IDF and consisting of special sensors reacts instantly to heat if a charge does penetrate the armor, and immediately extinguishes any fires.
The value of the new measures was demonstrated during the Lebanon war when Merkava tank crews suffered 50 percent less casualties when hit than men in other so-far unprotected tanks, and any injuries sustained were far less severe. Merkava tank crews suffered no burn injuries, it was said.
Older American-built M-60 Patton and British-built Centurions in IDF service are now being fitted with the new safety devices.
All the tanks are also being refitted with improved gunnery and night-sight systems, and tank guns are being given a far harder punch by the introduction of a newly-designed Arrow 2 armor-piercing shell which can penetrate the armor of even the new advanced Soviet-made T-72 tank now being introduced into the Syrian arsenal.