Israel unveiled an actively protected armored personnel carrier (APC) on Monday, which it hopes to purchase in large numbers over the next ten years. The wheeled demonstrator, named Eitan, Hebrew for “steadfast”, is an 8×8, 35-ton vehicle that is half the cost and weight of the Merkava Mk4-based Namer carriers currently in production.
Both vehicles were built to replace thousands of M113s that support most of Israel’s infantry and can carry up to 12 infantrymen. According to Brig. Gen. Baruch Matzliah, head of the Ministry of Defense’s Tank Production Office (which designed both vehicles), the Eitan “will be the most advanced, protected wheeled fighting tool in the world.” He said that Eitan was developed to be a multi-mission, low-cost platform that will allow Israel to have more vehicles quicker than they could with heavier vehicles like the Namer.
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It is believed that Eitan will assimilate a new wave of active protection based on the Trophy Active Protection System (TAPS) developed by the state-owned defense company Rafael. The vehicle will also have a full compliment of sensors and munitions, along with an unmanned 30- or 40-millimeter turret.
Maj. Gen. Guy Zur, commander of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Ground Forces Command, said, “It will be a lot lighter [than Namer] and will be designed to cost. It may be less good [as the Namer], but it will be affordable and allow us to equip a large part of our force.”
Matzliah said the initiative originates with operational issues Israel had in the 2014 Gaza War. The Eitan, which is capable of unmanned road travel at more than 90 kilometers per hour, is the first wheeled carrier in Israeli military history and will “enable fast, strategic mobility” and are “tailored to the existing threats in the arena,” according to the officer.
The MOD announced on August 1 that the Israeli military’s Ground Forces Command and the Tank Production office have initiated a series of field tests to monitor how the vehicle performs in “varied and complex” environments. Zur said that Eitans are part of a tactical plan to design future generations of Israel’s ground force over the next 20 years.
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This strategy will include developing another demonstrator program named Carmel, a Hebrew acronym for Advanced Ground Combat Vehicle, which is meant to drive the design of a tank that will be used as a compliment to the 65-ton Merkava Mk4.
Zur commented that the MK4 is to remain in production until 2020 and Carmel isn’t meant to take its place, but will serve as a demonstrator program to assess a modern, medium-weight combat vehicle, that will. The vehicle will be wheeled instead of treaded.
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Eitan is expected to be set for field tests in about five years under the Army’s Ground Horizon plan. Carmel is not expected to enter rotation until 2025 or 2027.