A special government committee, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak has approved a NIS 10 billion procurement of several hundred new Leopard armored personnel carriers (APCs) by the IDF over the next ten years. The Ministry of Defense will use its budget and US military aid to finance the procurements.
The Leopard APC is built on a Merkava tank chassis. Both the Merkava and the Leopard were developed by the Ministry of Defense's Tank Development Administration. Development of the Leopard began in response to the lessons of the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Two battalions of the Golani infantry brigade are already equipped with it.
The Leopard is considered one of the most advanced APCs in the world. The defense establishment claims that it provides maximum protection to the troops maneuvering in the field, thanks to its active armor components originally developed for the Merkava, including the Trophy system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., which can protect against the latest antitank missiles.
Israel has handed mass production of the Leopard to General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE: GD) in the US. The defense establishment says that this should not affect Israeli defense contractors, because while the Leopard and its spare parts will be built in the US, the APCs will be assembled in Israel. US military aid will finance most of the procurements, which will enable the Tank Development Administration to focus on the production of Merkava Mark IV tanks for the IDF. The Merkava Mark IV will also be exported to select friendly countries.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 15, 2011
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