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Namer Merkava Armored Personnel Carrier

Namer (tiger or leopard in Hebrew) heavily armored infantry fighting vehicle is based on the chassis of the Merkava 4 main battle tank of Israel. Unlike some other armies [the US and UK come to mind], the Israel Defense Force does not need to airlift forces around the world. Fighting wars on its borders, Israel has been able to develop super-heavy fighting vehicles converted from obsolete tanks, providing unprecedented armor protection to infantry. The Namer APC is used by the Israeli army as a troop carrier and is, according to some sources, among the worlds best-protected APCs, providing soldiers with protection equal to that offered by a modern main battle tank.

The Namer program includes an armored ambulance to evacuate casualties from the direct fire zone. The Nemmera (Leopardess) is an armored recovery variant. The Sholef is a 155 mm howitzer SPG variant built by Soltam in 1984-86, which remained at prototype stage (2 delivered).

Israel pioneered the use of heavy APCs in its conversion of surplus Centurion or captured T-55 main battle tanks into infantry fighting vehicles or combat engineer vehicles. Israel had never fielded IFVs, instead, cheaper APCs were preferred. However, the US M113, although constantly up-armored, was never considered capable of withstanding modern anti-armour weapons. As a result in 1983, obsolete Centurion MBTs were withdrawn from service and modified into heavy APCs.

The turrets of MBTs were removed and this saved weight was used to add a notable superstructure and up-armor the vehicle from the sides, rear, and top. The result was a series of vehicles, beginning with NagmaShot, Nagmachon, and finally Nakpadon. The main drawback of these vehicles was their lack of mobility and therefore, inability to support Markava MBTs.

The IDF trialed a Merkava based infantry carrier as early as the mid 1980s. Four machines were converted into heavy APCs and given the name Namera (Leopardess) a designation later used by the Merkava based ARV. The Namera (original name) is based on either the Merkava 1 or 2. It has bogies, much like the Centurion. Merkava 3 and 4 have torsion bar suspension.

Because of financial constraints and the need to introduce Merkava MBTs into service as soon as possible, the decision was made to drop the Namer and proceed with the T-55-based Achzarit, supposed to be cheaper option. In fact, the work done converting the T-55 hulls proved more expensive than the original Merkava carrier.

In 2004 the team dealing with the Merkava tank plan in the Defense Ministry built a prototype of a heavy APC ("Nemera") based on a Merkava Mark 1 tank, which was no longer serviceable and whose turret had been removed. The Nemera's most significant advantage was the high level of protection it provides and its weapons systems; the disadvantage was its high price. The army team believed it will cost some $750,000 to build one APC of this type.

The Namer was developed at least partly in response to long-range attacks by antitank missiles during fighting in Lebanon in 2006. After observing that heavy tanks were the only vehicles that could protect occupants from such attacks, the Israeli Ministry of Defense developed the Namer.

The first Namer was delivered to the Israeli army in 2008, and two were in combat in Gaza that year. Ultimately, the Israeli army expected to field at least 250 Namers as replacements for its older APCs. The basic cost of one Namer APC is $3 million, and along with additional protection measures, its price reaches $5 million.

In September 2007 the Israeli government announced a new defense plan, Teffen 2012. This plan included a new emphasis on building up IDF ground forces, including the creation of new infantry brigades. It also foresaw adding hundreds of Namer heavy armored personnel carriers, hundreds of new Merkava IV main battle tanks, and a number of tactical UAVs for use at the battalion level.

Early versions were modified from surplus Merkava Mk.I tanks, but new production vehicles are built by General Dynamics at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima, Ohio, and shipped to Israel for installation of weapons and composite and reactive armor. The vehicle were to be built as part of a $400 million contract with Israel. About 600 vehicles were expected to be produced over eight years. The contract was awarded in October 2010. The competitive procurement process was for the production of Merkava APC hulls, material kit sets and integration of the kits to the vehicle chassis. This and other foreign sales were key to sustaining adequate production at the facility during the period of reduced US vehicle production.

The Merkava was well suited to the infantry conversion because even the tank version has a rear door and room inside for 2 infantry. The Namer has a remote weapon station on top. It has a 1,200 hp engine, and can carry 2 crew members and 10 infantry. It is the IDF solution for transporting soldiers within particularly lethal environments.

The primary goal of the Namers design is to protect its occupants, and it is equipped with more armor, particularly underneath. Floating seats, which have no direct contact with the floor, protect occupants against blasts that come from below the vehicle, and the advanced armor protects against attacks from the front, the sides, and overhead.

The Namers primary weapon is a 12.7 millimeter heavy machine gun that can be operated from inside the vehicle, but a manually operated 7.62 mm machine gun also can be mounted on the roof. The Namer is built on a tank chassis and, depending on its armor configuration, weighs 68 to 70 tons almost as much as an Abrams tank. Its large, 1,200 horsepower diesel engine enables it to traverse difficult terrain.

To defend against ATGMs and RPGs, the Merkava and Namer variants are equipped with advanced composite armor, reactive armor, and the Trophy Active Protection system (APS), the latter being retrofitted on to IDF M113 and Stryker variants, as well. The price of one Trophy unit is about NIS 2 million, and it is clear that due to budgetary constraints, not all of the IDF's divisions would be equipped with it. But it is reasonable to expect the IDF's five main offensive divisions will be equipped with a significant amount of Namer APCs and Trophy systems.

A key objective in the US Army's Ground Combat Vehicle assessment is to produce a vehicle that can carry nine fully equipped Infantrymen and three crew members. The M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle currently in use holds a maximum of seven Infantry Soldiers.

The Army began collecting technical and engineering analysis data for multiple NDVs (including the Israeli Namer, German Puma, and Swedish CV-90xx); a prototype design concept vehicle (the turretless Bradley, a redesigned vehicle based on the Bradley with a remote weapon station); and current Stryker and Bradley vehicles. This data collection (spanning multiple months) included foreign service data, test events, and exercises to assess capabilities and limitations.

US Soldiers who took part in the Maneuver Battle Lab's Ground Combat Vehicle assessment in May 2012 at Fort Bliss, Texas, praised the various capabilities and features on the five vehicles used in the week-long evaluation. About 75 personnel from Fort Benning had roles in Phase 2 of the nondevelopmental assessment, which was aimed at informing Army leaders about eventual requirements for a new Infantry fighting vehicle. It included about 45 Soldiers from A Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, 197th Infantry Brigade, the post's experimentation force, known as the EXFOR.

In temperatures that reached triple digits in the daytime, the EXFOR conducted platoon-level operations on five different platforms at Fort Bliss: M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Turret-less Bradley, Double V-Hull Stryker, Swedish CV9035 vehicle and the Israeli Namer. Each vehicle was evaluated for durability, capacity, modularity, lethality, interior space and operational capability.

Already fielding a world-class tank in response to their experiences in Lebanon in 2006, the IDF also developed the Namer infantry fighting vehicle. The Namer is survivable, carries 11-12 dismounts, can evacuate casualties, and has cross-country mobility. Although concerns exist about its width, firepower, and the weight, the US Army continues to incorporate insights concerning the capabilities and limitations of the Namer into ground combat vehicle development.

Although the Namer is better protected than the current Bradley IFV, it has less firepower. Army experts estimated the Namers likely performance in combat and concluded that, relative to the Bradley, the APCs extensive armor would result in 33 percent fewer losses of US personnel and vehicles in combat. But the same experts also concluded that the lightly armed Namer would destroy significantly fewer enemy personnel and vehicles during combat, yielding a reduction in lethality of 36 percent relative to the Bradley. A remote weapon station with 30 mm automatic canon may be used, effectively making this vehicle a true heavy IFV. Although the Namers mobility is 4 percent greater than that of the current Bradley IFV, its mobility would be less than the GCVs because of its slow acceleration and slower off-road speeds.

If the US Army replaced its current IFV with the Israeli Namer armored personnel carrier (APC), soldiers and vehicles would probably survive combat at slightly higher rates than would be the case for the GCV. Moreover, the Namer, like the GCV, could carry a nine-member squad, although it would be less lethal (that is, have less capability to destroy enemy forces) and less mobile than the GCV. The Namer probably would be produced, at least in part, in the United States, but its fielding would nevertheless require collaboration with foreign companies and governments.

Originally, the Israeli army planned to acquire 800 Namer APCs, but initially only received approval for the purchase of 300, most of which remained on paper by 2014. The first to use the Namer were Golani Brigade troops who went through three weeks of training by special instructors, but Operation Protective Edge was the Namer's baptism of fire.

The United States and Israel had negotiated a $281 million contract for General Dynamics to build the kits that would be assembled into 386 Namers in Israel. The contract was 110 Namers with options for another 276 vehicles, dependent on follow-on Israeli Ministry of Defense awards The United States and Israel anticipated General Dynamics could eventually win more than $800 million in orders for Israeli Namers. The contract is funded with United States military aid. But in January 2014 DefenseNews.com reported the contract will be cut short at $150 million. Israel had drastically reduced the number of Namers to be purchased, at most 170.

In September 2014 the IDF received approval to add 200 new advanced armored personnel carriers to its fleet over the following decade, two months after seven Golani troops were killed when an RPG hit their outdated APC in Gaza City during the recent conflict. The purchase of the Namer APCs for use by ground troops would bring to 531 the IDF's total number of this class of vehicle.

In response to the war in Gaza, in May 2015 Israel signed a $310 million deal - using US military assistance funds - with General Dynamics Land Systems to produce heavy armed personnel carriers. GDLS will produce kits for the Namer armored personnel carrier (APC). The six-year contract calls for GDLS to produce kits for the vehicles, with final assembly taking place at an Israeli Ministry of Defense facility south of Tel Aviv, where local industry will provide other components and subsystems. GDLS previously had another contract now concluded, and also funded through US military assistance for $250 million to produce Namer engines in the US.

"The Namer is considered to be the most heavily armored carrier in the world, and has proven its capabilities in Operation Protective Edge against myriad threats," the Israeli Ministry of Defense stated, referring to the war in Gaza, adding that the vehicles saved "many lives." Previous to that war, the Israeli MoD had planned to halve the number of Namers it ordered. But an incident in which seven infantrymen were killed when an anti-tank missile hit their 50-year-old M113 (a model first used by the US in Vietnam) and subsequent public criticism led officials to rethink the cuts.

The carriers will be equipped with the Trophy active protection system (APS), which helps defend against shoulder-held missiles and mortar attacks common to fighting in Gaza and Southern Lebanon. Though Merkava Mk4s have had APS in the past, the handful of Namers in the field since 2009 have not. Though the production kits will be US-made the MoD stressed the boon to local Israeli industry as well, noting that "200 plants all across Israel, which directly or indirectly employ some 10,000 workers," will provide component parts.

Most ground brigades don't have Namer APCs. The conscript ground brigades mostly use the heavily armored Achzarit APCs, but almost all reserve ground brigades still use the Zelda [M113 APC]. Some of the conscript brigades also use the Zelda for various missions - just as they did in the battle in Saja'iyya that claimed the lives of the seven soldiers.

Crew commander, driver, gunner and 8 troops
Length 7.45 m
Width 3.7 m
Height 1.9 m
Combat weight 68 to 70 tons
Max. Speed 50-60 km / h / 36 mph
Range Approximately 300 miles
Engine AVDS-1790-6A, twelve-
Power 1,200 hp
Max. gradient 60
Max. lateral tilt 30
Wading depth without preparation 1.38 m
Max. Trench Width 3 m
Max. Vertical obstacle 45 cm





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