As the Israeli Army progressed from open-field warfare in its early years to contested urban settings in its later years, the need stood to modernize its armored fighting forces to meet the new demand. One of the most notable additions came in 1979 when the Merkava Main Battle Tank (MBT) entered service with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and became a home grown solution in which over 2,000 of the type were produced across four progressive marks. Following the arrival of the Merkava came the need to pair the MBT with a heavy-class Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) for close-range confrontations - a vehicle suitable for surviving Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and rocket/grenade attacks while ferrying combat-ready infantry under protection.
With large stocks of captured Soviet-originated/formerly Arab-owned T-54/T-55 MBTs, the IDF held the foundation in which to form an all-new tracked carrier - the Achzarit ("Cruel"). The Soviet tanks were heavily modified for the role, having their turrets completely removed and the chassis reworked to relocate the engine to the rear-left of the hull. The suspension was improved to suit IDF requirements. The driver's position was located at front-left with the vehicle commander at center-front. To his right was gunner's position under an Overhead Weapons Station (OWS) developed by Raphael of Israel. These three stood as the primary operating crew while the middle section of the hull was reserved for seven infantrymen. A passageway led to an over-under clamshell-style door system fitted to the right side of the rear hull face. Each primary crew position held a hatch overhead while two additional hatches were given to the passenger compartment. Among the equipment fittings standardized in the Achzarit design were an NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) suite and Night Vision (NV) for low-level light operations.
The resulting exterior design was one that promoted the shallowest possible profile from any angle the glacis plate was particularly flat, nearly horizontal, while only the rear right area featured an elevated section of hull roof. Crew positions were given vision blocks for increased situational awareness and survivability was further enhanced by the locally-developed Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) block armor scheme implemented on the vehicle. Armor protection reached 200mm thickness. A fire detection/suppression system was added to help control the spread of onboard fires should the vehicle suffer a direct hit.
The engine of choice became a Detroit Diesel 8V-71 TTA series V8 water-cooled, diesel-fueled system of 650 horsepower. It was specifically selected for its compact dimensions to fit in the rather limited area at the vehicle's rear-left. Running gear included five double-tired road wheels to a hull side with the drive sprocket at rear and track idler at front. Side armor skirts protected the upper portions of the track link sections while the road wheels were left largely exposed. Performance included a maximum road speed of 65 kmh with an operational road range out to 600 kilometers.
Primary armament was fitted to the OWS and constituted 1 x 7.62mm M240 Medium Machine Gun. Three pintle mounts were added to increase self-defense potential by a further 3 x 7.62mm machine gun systems - though these were operated externally.
Work on the Achzarit saw a pilot vehicle made available during 1987. Trials were then undertaken and proved the design successful enough for formal adoption into the IDF which occurred during 1988. Manufacture of the product was out of the Israel Ordnance Corps factory at Tel a Shomer. Initial production yielded the Achzarit Mk I which was then followed by the modestly improved Achzarit Mk 2 that increased the line's acceleration and power-to-weight ratio. It was powered by a Detroit Diesel 8V-92 TA diesel engine of 850 horsepower output. Later versions also added a boxy superstructure at the commander's position complete with bullet-resistant glass allowing viewing of the surrounding area without direct exposure.
Since its introduction, the Achzarit has been fielded in all major border confrontations with the IDF where its survivability has been repeatedly proven. Its only known variant is a Command Post (CP) vehicle with increased communications gear to aid allied forces on the battlefield.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
20.3 ft 6.2 m
11.8 ft 3.6 m
6.6 ft 2 m
97,003 lb 44,000 kg
48.5 tons MEDIUM
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Achzarit Mk II production variant. Length typically includes main gun in forward position if applicable to the design)
1 x Diesel engine developing 850 horsepower.
40.4 mph (65.0 kph)
372.8 mi (600.0 km)
(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the Achzarit Mk II production variant. Compare this entry against any other in our database)
1 x 7.62mm Medium Machine Gun (MMG) in remote-operated Raphael Overhead Weapon Station (OWS).
3 x 7.6mm Medium Machine Guns (MMGs)
(Not all weapon types may be represented in the showcase above)
Achzarit ("Cruel") - Base Series Designation
Achzarit Mk I - Initial model of 1988; Detroit Diesel 8V-71 TTA diesel engine of 650 horsepower.
Achzarit Mk II - Updated model with Detroit Diesel 8V-92 TA diesel engine of 850 horsepower; improved power-to-weight ratio resulting in improved performance.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns / operations.
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