The Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF) Battalion 82 recently decided to drop its decades-old Merkava MK 2 tanks and launched into a new world of military technology by adopting the cutting edge Merkava MK 4 tanks in their place, reported The Jerusalem Post.
A part of the 7 Armored Brigade, Battalion 82 was formed prior to Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 and has since taken part in each of Israel’s wars, according to Major Itamar Michaeli, the battalion’s deputy commander.
Upon completing its mission to secure the unstable Syrian border in mid-July, Battalion 82 entered a lengthy conversion training program to enable IDF crews to become familiar with the Merkava 4. Over the coming weeks, members of the battalion will learn how to fully operate the Rafael-made Trophy active protections system, which intercepts anti-tank missiles, and how to utilize the tank’s radars, which can detect the location of enemy combatants by scanning 360 degrees around the tank’s perimeter.
Additionally, the tanks can provide a level of intense firepower that infantry is not equipped to carry out.
Further, the soldiers will gain an understanding of the advanced computers and communications systems inside the tanks. The computers on board the Merkava 4 can send and receive precise information on enemy coordinates, sharing the data with other tanks, artillery units, and even the air force.
“The tank is a game changer,” Maj. Michaeli affirmed.
During the IDF’s war against Hamas in 2014, Operation Protective Edge, Maj. Michaeli fought in a combined paratroopers-armored corps team in Gaza, and explained how he saw first hand how the tanks’ arrival amid engagement with the enemy truly changed the outcome on the battlefield.
Emphasizing his belief in the importance of employing tanks in warfare, said Maj. Michaeli, “In every battle I’ve known, tanks had prevented many casualties, and destroyed the enemy. They enabled medics to move in and rapidly evacuate the wounded soldiers, saving critical time.”
Expressing his own support for Battalion 82’s decision to acquire Merkava 4 tanks, Michaeli said “Here [with the Merkava MK 4] we have the opportunity of fighting over a wider area, with a more credible, more powerful platform, that can do greater damage,” explaining that the new tanks will easily enable the battalion to spread out wider on the battlefield rather than moving in a single column, as the Merkava 2 formations do.
Simply put, tanks remain absolutely essential for Israel’s success on the front line, argued Maj. Michaeli, especially in light of the current age of asymmetrical warfare. “In infantry against infantry situations, if there is no numerical advantage to either side, both sides incur many casualties. When you create a local advantage by sending in tanks, you break the balance,” he shared with The Jerusalem Post.
All Merkava 2 tanks have since left the service of all conscripted IDF units, but will remain available for some reserve tank crews.