The merkava is a main battle tank used by the Israel Defense Forces. The tank began development in 1973 and entered official service in 1978. Four main variants of the tank have been deployed. It was first used extensively in the 1982 Lebanon War. The name "Merkava" was derived from the IDF's initial development program name.
In 1965, Israel's military establishment began research and development on a domestically produced tank, the "Sabra". Initially, Britain and Israel collaborated to adapt the United Kingdom's Chieftain tank that had entered British Army service in 1966.However, in 1969, Britain decided not to sell the tank to Israel for political reasons.
By 1974, initial designs were completed and prototypes were built. After a brief set of trials, work began to retool the Tel HaShomerordnance depot for full-time development and construction. After the new facilities were completed, the Merkava was announced to the public in the International Defense Reviewperiodical. The first official images of the tank were then released to the American periodical Armed Forces Journal on May 4, 1977. The IDF officially adopted the tank in December 1978. The first Merkava Mk. 1 tanks were supplied to the IDF in April 1979, nearly nine years after the decision to produce the Merkava Mk. 1 tank was taken.
The Mark I, operational since 1978, is the original design created as a result of Israel Tal's decision, and was fabricated and designed for mass production. The Mark I weighed 63 tonnes and had a 900 horsepower (670 kW) diesel engine, with a power-to-weight ratio of 14 hp/ton. It was armed with the 105 millimeter M68 main gun (a licensed copy of the British Royal Ordnance L7), two 7.62 mm machine guns for anti-infantry defense,and a 60 mm mortarmounted externally, with the mortar operator not completely protected by the tank's hull.
The Merkava was first used in combat during the 1982 Lebanon War, where Israel deployed 180 units. Although they were a success, the M113 APCs that accompanied them were found to have several defects and were withdrawn. (Continued in comment section)