Main Battle Tank (MBT)
The British Centurion Main Battle Tank formed the foundation of the Israeli Sho't series MBTs which saw service in the wars of the 1970s and early 1980s.
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Since its inception, the Israeli Army has always relied on a strong and powerful armored corps. This led the service to adoption of many foreign tank types which were, eventually, upgraded by local means to become more effective battlefield performers better ready to fulfill Israeli Army requirements. Such was the case with the Sho't ("Whip") Main Battle Tank (MBT) modernized in 1963 and formally introduced in 1970. The product was nothing more than the classic British Centurion MBT (Mk.5 series models) armed with the rifled 105mm L7 main gun and powered by the Rolls-Royce "Meteor" gasoline-fueled engine. The tanks were originally purchased back in 1959 and succeeded the aging line of World War 2-era M4 Sherman Medium Tanks and French-made AMX-13 MBTs.
In the span of a few short years, the line was upgraded, again locally, to the Sho't Kal standard which incorporated the American Continental AVDS-1790-2A diesel-fueled engine mated to an Allison CD850-6 transmission system (this led to original Sho't tanks being named as Sho't "Meteor"). The work ended in 1974 to which all Sho't tanks were modernized to the new standard. Other changes included implementation of Mk.13 armored package and introduction of a pintle-mounted 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) for local air-defense. Subvariants of the line became the Kal "Alef" of 1974 (new engine and transmission fit, revised cupola design), the Kal "Bet" of 1976 (improved armor protection), the Kal "Gimel" of 1982 (all-new turret rotating function, updated Fire Control System (FCS), support for "Blazer" Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks, and a new gun stabilizer system for improved firing "on-the-move") and the Kal "Dalet" of 1985 (laser range-finder, thermal sleeve on main gun unit).
It was projects like this that made the Centurion tank one of the most classic tanks of all time - flexibility, battlefield capability, reliability, all staples of a quality design. Other nations followed suit and instituted their own programs which gave the Centurion line a long and healthy service life across the globe.
The Sho't MBT's baptism of fire came with the 1967 Six Day War which pitted the Israeli armored formations against an Arab allied force led by Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The war resulted in a decisive Israeli victory and capture of the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula ,West Bank and the Golan Heights. In one recorded action, two damaged Sho't tanks managed to destroy or disable some 60 enemy tanks (mainly Soviet T-55 and T-62 MBTs) - such was the competence of the Israeli crews and superiority of their battlefield machines. Its next wartime commitment arrived with the 1973 Yom Kippur War which became yet another Israeli victory against its Arab neighbors. However, this conflict proved the value of man-portable anti-armor weapons like Soviet RPGs for the enemy and the susceptibility of Israeli tanks against such forces - particularly in the early days of the war.
The Sho't series, though modernized, has since been supplanted by the more capable Merkava MBT series which, itself, has gone on to see progressive variants fielded. It also contains a troop-carrying function allowing the vehicles to serve as pseudo Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) in support of infantry formations. Additionally, crew protection has been enhanced and greater penetration is had from the 120mm smoothbore main gun fit.
Final actions involving Sho't tanks occurred in the 1982 Lebanon War to which the Sho't Gimel was made available with their support for the Blazer ERA package. Many frontline Sho't and related forms went on to be reconstituted into still-useful Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) or Combat Engineer Vehicles (CEVs). The final MBT form was the Dalet which was introduced in the middle part of the 1980s.
At least 390 Israeli Centurions are known to have been modified to the Sho't standard.