Today (Monday), the IDF and Ministry of Defense unveiled the development of a new wheeled armored personnel carrier, which will replace the outmoded M-113 armored personnel carrier, thousands of which are still being used by IDF infantry forces. The new personnel carrier, named Eitan, is being developed by the Ministry of Defense Tank Administration in cooperation with the IDF Ground Forces.
The decision to develop the new personnel carrier was based on one of the lessons learned following Operation Protective Edge, two years ago. Inter alia, it was due to the tragic incident in the Gaza City Shijaiyah neighborhood, in which six Golani 13 th Battalion troops were killed and one, Oron Shaul, was defined as "a soldier killed in action whose burial site is unknown". An M-113 aging personnel carrier in which the force moved during battle, was stuck following a technical malfunction and later hit by an anti-tank missile.
Today, the Ministry of Defense presented the first photographs of the Eitan, which is the first IDF personnel carrier to be wheeled rather than tracked, enabling rapid mobility between operations theaters due to its ability to travel along roads. It has a speed of 90 km per hour, is equipped with an eight by eight wheel configuration , weighs about 34 tons and can carry a crew of up to 12 (driver, commander, machine gunner and nine other soldiers), similarly to the Namer armored personnel carrier, also developed by the Ministry of Defense.
The Eitan will be equipped with the Trophy active protection system, developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.. This system is also installed on the Merkava Point Mark IV tanks and Namer personnel carriers. The defense establishment says that Eitan's wheels are also hardened, enabling it to continue operating even after they are hit. The personnel carrier is also protected against roadside and underbelly explosive devices. The Eitan will be equipped with a 30/40mm gun and a missile firing position. In addition to the Trophy, it will be protected by reactive armor systems which will bolster survivability on the modern battlefield. The Ministry of Defense said today that after completion of its development, the Eitan would be the world's most advanced and protected wheeled combat vehicle. They added that the Eitan was designed as a multipurpose system, to be used by combatants in a wide range of missions with a focus on making production costs significantly lower than other personnel carriers: half the cost of the Namer armored personnel carrier or any other wheeled personnel carrier offered by a defense industry worldwide.
Tank Administration Commander Brig.Gen. Baruch Matzliah explained that the Eitan's relatively low price is due to its reliance on commercial systems which are significantly cheaper than other systems used in a personnel carrier in Israel or abroad. Mazliah says that due to its low price, the IDF could begin acquisition as early as the current multi-year Gideon plan. He estimated that in about two years the serial production of the new personnel carrier could be launched, with an annual production rate of several dozen systems. It still remains unclear whether some of the manufacturing will be carried out in the US, similar to the Namer parts of which are produced in the US, procured by the defense establishment using US aid funds and assembled in Israel.
Eitan prototype tests will commence in the next few days, together with two additional prototypes, currently being built.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 1, 2016
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