The IDF’s Future Tanks

מרכבה סימן 4

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Merkava IV
Merkava IV

Israel’s Armored Corps in the years to come: Hybrid engines (fuel and electricity), new types of ammunition, cyber warfare, passive protection and also: the crew will always be inside the hull rather than in the turret and hatch.

Tanks will no doubt continue to play a significant role in future battlefields, thanks to their endurance, flexibility, level of protection and firepower. Tanks can also be adapted to the new threats the Middle East has to offer.

This, according to a true authority on this issue, Colonel Nissim Levi, head of the Merkava Tank Development Authority at the Ministry of Defense (MoD). Levi spoke at the 33rd Israeli Conference on Mechanical Engineering (ICME 2015). He added that tanks face many and varied threats: other tanks’ fire, mines, explosive devices, combat helicopters and a host of numerous types of infantry firearms. The IDF is currently developing advanced means to meet all these threats head on.

According to Colonel Levi, here are some of the developments IDF’s Armored Corps will feature in the coming decade:

  • Electronic and electro-optic devices will enable target tracing, identifying and acquisition, covering all possible threats. Most of the work will be done automatically, relieving the crew for other missions.
  • New types of ammo: a new kind of shell capable of going through a building and destroying it in a timed manner; another anti-infantry shell is planned to be deployed as well.
  • Better formations: increased computer power and the ability to store data inside the tanks’ systems will enable far higher communication between crew members, between fellow tanks, between each tank and HQ as well as between the formation as a whole and HQ. Also, the future will see crews communicating over video, using images to relay data rather than coordinates.
  • Future tanks will have both improved shield (thick armor) and active protection, in the form of ’Trophy’ (Armoured Shield Protection – Active, or ASPRO-A, aka “Windbreaker”).
  • For the sake of improved protection, lower weight and automatic ammo charging and loading, the crew will no longer be station at the turret – only inside the tank.

Dr. Tuvia Ronen, senior RAFAEL VP and head of R&D and Engineering, disclosed a few details on Iron Dome:

During “Operation Protective Edge”, Iron Dome made some one thousand interceptions, with a credibility rate exceeding 90%.

ADME 2015_ 650 × 90Register to iHLS Israel Homeland Security

future forces_3Dr. Ronen said the Iron Dome ushered in a strategic change in the region, despite the initial cloud of doubt over it since its very inception. In the early days of development, it was still perceived as pursuing the impossible.

“A committee of experts came over from the US, and as we briefed them on the project, their reaction was ’it won’t work. It cannot be done’.” RAFAEL allocated some two thousand engineers and technical experts of all fields: mechanics, electronics, electro-optics, materials, communications, software and computing.

Captain Gal Salinas from the Ground Corps’ technology division spoke about the wonders of 3D printing. According to Capt. Salinas, the IDF is currently using this technology to produce various operational components and parts, to be used by special ops. This includes electronic fuses, as well as explosive devices featuring accurate trajectory. The IDF is currently experiment with 3D printing for antennae to be fitted into unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Conference Chair Dr. Amir Ziv-Av, owner of his own eponymous engineering firm, spoke about manufacturing. He argued that contrary to popular belief, that ’it’s cheaper to manufacture things in China’, “moving production lines to China does not always turn out to be cost efficient. In fact, it often creates overhauls. Entrepreneurs have come to realize it is cheaper to position manufacturing geographically close to the developers. Sometimes, Karmiel [a town in the north of Israel] is cheaper than China.” According to Dr. Ziv-Av, Israeli industry’s competitive edge can be improved through bolstering the local engineering education. Their image should also be improved. “We have far too many lawyers and too few engineers,” he concluded.
Yaskawa robot
The accompanying fair showcased the amazing abilities of a Japanese robot from leading industrial giant Yaskawa. The robot carefully moved cubes from one place to another, placed them in a meticulous way and obeyed its every command. Sales manager Assaf Shalem and Marketing manager Keren Rosner said “the robot can transfer any components and parts in a factory, move them around and so on. The robot can also transport food or pharmaceuticals, arrange parts of any lab, and in short, do whatever you tell it.” (See above pic).