The IDF has decided that the Merkava tank production line will be shut down within four years. "Globes" reports that the decision to stop production of the tank, one of the most expensive projects in the history of Israel's military industries and the pride of the army, was made shortly before the outbreak of the war in Lebanon. Leaders of the project decided that the benefits do not justify the cost of the product.
During the fighting in Lebanon, the Merkava tanks sustained serious damage from antitank rockets fired by Hizbullah militants. The tank, which has been boasted as having the best protection in the world, and which was designed for classic tank on tank battles, was not impervious to the rockets. 500 rockets were fired at Israeli tanks, 47 Merkava tanks were hit (two more were hit by roadside bombs) and 33 IDF soldiers were killed.
Senior officials both inside and out of the military are critical of the tank's function in the war and of its economic necessity over the years. They question whether Israel should continue to invest in tanks as the central ground forces player. Several defense establishment figures believe that the tank is no longer appropriate for the modern battlefield.
The prestigious project, which began in 1969 as an idea by Major General Israel Tal and has continued ever since, has cost about $7.5 billion dollars according to an IDF assessment while Ministry of Finance officials estimate its cost closer to $10 billion. Thousands of workers across the country are employed in production of the tank and its systems, and are liable to be hurt by the cessation of the project.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on September 28, 2006
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