Merkava variants reference

Merkava variants and how to recognize them.

Disclaimer: I have no knowledge of how early Merkava I and II variants were named e.g. Alef, Bet, Gimel etc so I will not refer to them with these designations.

Merkava I

105mm gun, no smoke launchers, the 60mm mortar is placed on the right side of the turret externally.

Early Merkava I that was used at the beginning of the 1982 Lebanon war had no antislid texture and no ball and chain at the bottom of the bustle rack. There was also a hatch that opened behind the loader’s hatch for storage of the searchlight.



Later in 1982 the vehicles started receiving the ball and chain and the antiskid.

Mekava I Hybrid . Upgraded version with smoke launchers and other details.

Merkava Mk II 105mm gun, the mortar has been moved inside the turret and it can be seen in front of the loader’s hatch. An easy way to distinguish the Mk2 from the Mk I is the different armor plate shape/pattern at the front of the turret.

Early Merkava 2 did not have smoke launchers and turret roof armor, they were added later.


There are photos of vehicles without the roof armor but with smoke launchers

With roof armor



The final version of the Merkava II is the IID with the added on armor modules on the turret and the engine deck and hull sides.



Merkava 3. 120mm gun, vertical turret sides.

Merkava 3 Ramak is the first variant. Early Merkava 3 tanks also did not feature roof armor.


block i

The vehicles later received roof armor and other upgrades

Merkava 3 Baz. The major upgrade was the Baz FCS. The main differences are the taller gunner’s sight, the loader has a round hatch and there is a covered sight in front of the commander’s hatch that looks like a fez. Other minor differences can be seen of the shape of the engine deck, the details of the grilles, the position of the crosswind sensor and the turret roof hatches.

The final version of the Merkava 3 is the Dor Dalet. It has additional armor on the turret. There are two “types” of armor

the earlier one which has a distinct step on the armor modules of the turret lengthwise

and the later one:


Merkava 4.

Early Merkava 4 tanks did not have the loader’s hatch. Another detail is the last side skirt part on each side is not a single piece but features bars. Later this changed and one can see “heavier” side skirts.

Later Merkava 4 tanks had the loader’s hatch installed

The next major upgrade was the addition of the Trophy APS, thus we have Merkava 4M

There is a newer version of the Merkava 4 being fielded but there is not much info around yet. So this post is to be continued…

In the meantime:



Now this is good. I don’t want to sound selfish but this here thread is gold mine for guy like myself as I don’t have much reference/knowledge when it comes to IDF armor. I need to start buying those wonderful Desert _ _ _ _ _ books by Michael.

Mod, please pin it so it doesn’t get lost after few days/weeeks. :pray:

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