A security source revealed that Israel plans to sell hundreds of old tanks to a European country. A Cypriot source confirmed talks with Israel in this regard.
Sources in the two countries told Haaretz that Israel and Cyprus held talks about selling Merkava tanks.
One of the options raised during the discussions is that Cyprus will buy Merkava tanks from Israel and then send old Russian-made tanks to Ukraine. But Cypriot sources denied this.
The Merkava was introduced after the Israeli Legion suffered heavy losses against Egypt and Syria in the 1973 war, and with the aim of reducing dependence on foreign arms supplies. Merkava – a biblical word meaning “chariot” – is now in its fourth generation.
The Merkava Mark III was introduced into service in 1990, and decommissioned in 2020. The Mark III is equipped with a 120mm gun capable of destroying armored targets, including tanks. Previous versions of the tank had 105mm guns.
The Mark 3 can also fire LAHAT anti-tank missiles, with an operational range twice as high as the AT-11 Sniper missiles fired by the T-80U tanks currently in use by Cyprus. In the 30 years since the tank became operational, it has undergone several upgrades in systems, armor and fire control systems. In 1995, for example, it introduced the BAZ system, which improved fire control and target locking on the move. One important improvement that was not widely integrated into the Mark III tanks was the Trophy active protection system. The IDF preferred to install the Trophy system in its Merkava Mark IV tanks instead.
Last week, Yair Kulas, head of the Export Coordination Department at the Ministry of Defense, said in an interview with the economic daily Calcalist that Israel is in negotiations with two countries, one of them in Europe, regarding the sale of old Merkava tanks that have been decommissioned by the Israeli army.
If the deal goes through, it will be the first practical sale of an Israeli Merkava tank to a European country. The Department of Defense refused to name the country Colas was referring to.