Merkava Mk 4 tank during Operation Protective Edge

Merkava Mk 4 tank during Operation Protective Edge

The Merkava Mk 4 tank is the fourth production model of the Israeli Merkava Main Battle Tank series.

The Mk 4 offered improvements in Firepower, Protection and Mobility over the Merkava Mk 3 (and its models), but retaining the same unique  troop section in the hull rear and the engine compartment in the front.

The Merkava Mk 4 entered production in 2001. As of 2015 it was still in production with The IIsraeli Ordnance Corps and its believed 600+ have been built. It entered service with the Israeli Defence Force in 2004, who remain the sole operator of the tank.

Merkava Mk 4 Tank Firepower

Merkava MG251 120mm Smoothbore Main Gun

Merkava MG251 120mm Smoothbore Main Gun

The Principal upgrade has been the introduction of a 120mm, calibre Length 44 smoothbore main gun developed and manufactured by IMI’s SLAVIN Land Systems Division called the MG253. The MG253 complies with NATO STANAG 4385 ( the ammunition is described in this standard as 120 × 570mm length) and is therefore capable of firing all NATO standard ammunition.

The MG253 has a maximum recoil distance of 530mm, which guarantees a 40% reduction in recoil force.

IMI manufacturer M329 APAM-MP-T, M322 APFSDS-T, M324 TPCSDS-T, M325 HEAT-MP-T, M326 TP-T, M337 STUN, M338 APFSDS-T and M339 HE-MP-T rounds for the MG253.

The MG253 is capable of firing the LAHAT (Laser Homing Attack or Laser Homing Anti-Tank) which is a third generation semi-active laser homing low-weight anti-tank guided missile manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries. The main gun is fully stabilized as are the gunners sight with both day and thermal channels.

Merkava Mk 4 Fire Control

The Knight Mark 4 Fire Control System is supplied by the Israeli Company Elbit Systems. The Knight Mark 4 uses a multi-channel (thermal) stabilized gunners sight and a multi-channel (thermal) stabilized Commanders Independent Sight giving the vehicle a hunter killer capability, making the Merkava Mk 4 a third-generation Main Battle Tank. So sophisticated is the Knight Mark 4 that it is able to track moving targets including low flying helicopters.

Other Merkava Mk 4 Systems

Merkava Mk 4 Main Battle Tank

The Israeli Merkava Mk 4 Main Batle Tank

The Mk 4 is fitted with the latest digitalized equipment, which includes the Vectop Tank Sight System. The system has a number of cameras mounted on the vehicle, which provide a live feed to the crews colour displays ensuring maximum Situational Awareness for the vehicle Commander.

Other than the Knight Mark 4 Fire Control System, Elbit Systems also provide the Mk 4 with their latest digital Battlefield Management System. Via an encrypted signal the system provides the commander with the real-time location of allied vehicles in relation to his, enables him to relay locations of the enemy for other vehicle commanders to see and to view live feed from over-head flying drones.

The system further enables the commander to share real-time information with field commanders and input course directions to the Driver via his display.

Merkava Mk 4 Tank Protection

Merkava Mk 4 Tank Modular Turret Armor

Merkava Mk 4 Tank Modular Turret Armor

The turrets of the previous Merkava Mk 2 and Mk 3 entered production as a singular construction, but later on in their service life received added on (referred to as Appliqué armor) additional modules containing composite to their roof and sides. The Mk 4 turret is the same and has modular armor with the latest Israeli composite but has been added during the vehicles construction.

The modules provide additional spaced armor against Anti-Tank Guided Missiles and allow quick replacement of damaged armor as well easy upgradeability of the composite.

The Mk 4 is also the first Main Battle Tank to do away with a Loaders hatch. This is due to hatches being less protected and being vulnerable to well-placed ATM fire from elevated positions. The Mk 4 has a pressurised NBC protection system, which also provides Air-Conditioning for the crew and a fire detection/suppression system is also installed.

The hull of the Mk 4 retains the use of the engine compartment at the front to act as a form of spaced armor. The sides are protected with armored side skirts.

Merkava Mk 4 Tank Mobility

The Mk 4 uses a new 1500hp engine from German company MTU known as the MTU883. However it is manufactured and supplied to Israel by the American company General Dynamics as the GD883. It is a V12 water-cooled diesel. Its transmission was originally provided by Germany’s Renk, but production has been transferred to Ashot Ashkelon Industries in Israel. It is a hydromechanical automatic type with 5 gears.

The Mk 4 has the Israeli-designed “TSAWS” (Tracks, Springs, and Wheels System) track system manufactured by caterpillar. The new tracks are designed to reduce track damage whilst operated on rocky terrain.

Operational History

The Merkava Mk 4 is only in service with the Israeli Defence Force. It has participated for a number of years in the border patrols. The first major operation the Mk 4 was deployed on was the 2006 Lebanon War. One Mk 4 was destroyed in the conflict. The Mk 4 was also deployed during Operation Cast Lead, more commonly known as the 2008–09 Gaza War and the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict.

Merkava Mk 4m Windbreaker

Merkave Mk 4m Windbreaker

Merkave Mk 4m Windbreaker

Based on losses and damage the Mk 4 sustained in the 2006 Lebanon War from ATGM, such as the Russian 9M133 Kornet, the Mk 4 has been out-fitted with the Israeli Trophy Active Protection System. The system works by detecting incoming ATGM and then intercepts the missile by firing a shotgun-like blast within a few meters of the vehicle, destroying the missile before it has a chance to hit the Mk 4.

Mk 4 fitted with Trophy are called the Merkava Mk 4m Windbreaker. The vehicle came in to IDF service from 2007 onwards and has successfully defeated ATGM attacks during the 2014 Gaza conflict and possibly earlier in border patrols.

Merkava Mk 4 Specifications


Main Gun MG253 120mm, calibre Length 44 smoothbore
Secondary Weapons x2 7.62mm, x1 .50 Machine Guns and 60mm internal mortar
Ammunition Storage 48 rounds, 10 ready in an electrical drum
Engine General Dynamics GD883 1,500hp V12 water-cooled diesel
Transmission Ashot Ashkelon hydromechanical automatic
Top Road Speed 64 km/h
Suspension Type Helical spring
Road Range 500 km
Fuel Capacity 1,400 litres
Vertical Obstacle 0.95m *Mk 1
Water Capability 1.38m (2m with preparation) *Mk 1
Trench Crossing 3m *Mk 1
Gradient 70% *Mk 1
Side Slope 38% *Mk 1
Length Gun Forward 9.04m
Length Hull 7.6m
Width 3.72m (with out side skirts)
Height 2.66m
Ground Clearance 0.45
Weight 65 tonne (combat loaded)
NBC Protected Yes
Armor Type Modular, composite
Active Protection Systems Yes – Trophy Active Protection System
Commander Yes
Gunner Yes
Loader Yes
Driver Yes
Additional Crew
Troops Carried 6 Max