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A much more worrisome ambush
Jerusalem Post (Israel) ^ | March 15, 2002 | Arieh O'Sullivan

Posted on 03/15/2002 4:13:34 PM PST by liberallarry

Analysis By Arieh O'Sullivan

(March 15) - When Palestinian gunmen destroyed the first Merkava Mk III tank a month ago, the IDF rushed into damage control mode. It said the design of the tank actually saved the life of the gunner, as the explosion didn't set off the ammunition nor set the fuel alight as it blew the turret off.


It said no tank in the world could have withstood 100 kilos of high explosives detonating at its underbelly.


The armor experts found it hard to believe the tank fell into a trap. They called it bad luck. A subsequent inquiry spoke of examining the operational doctrine and making technical alterations to the Merkava Mk III.


But yesterday's ambush was much more worrisome than the one on February 14.


It showed the Palestinians were not just lucky in the first strike, and had even perfected their mines.


The explosion caused even greater damage to the $3 million, 60-ton tank than the first one, ripping it apart and setting its fuel alight. It's vaunted automatic fire detection and suppression system did not work, and two of its crew burned to death.


More than that, the second successful destruction of a Merkava Mk III calls into question the ability of the IDF to implement any lessons learned from the first attack.


"The Merkava is considered to be one of the best protected tanks in the world, but even this platform has weak points and this is one of its weak points [the Palestinians] were able to find," said Brig.-Gen. (res.) Chen Yitzhaki, a former armored division commander.


"In these kinds of wars, one of the most efficient moves is to change the routine and not always drive on the same road, and move at different hours," Yitzhaki said.


He said the IDF has to examine why it was unable to detect the mine and neutralize or detonate it.


Senior IDF officers were quick not to draw parallels between the two attacks.


"This incident does not necessarily have the same characteristics and results of the previous incident," said Brig.-Gen. Zvika Fogel, chief of staff in the Southern Command. "We have something to learn from this incident on the way we operate tanks on this front.


"We are examining the lessons we have to learn and will implement what will give an answer to the threat, which is repeating itself."


He said the army is now considering changing the way it uses tanks on this front.


"We are at the initial stages of the inquiry," Fogel said. "I suggest we wait for it to be finished and not hurry and make declarations, which don't serve us well."


When the Palestinians destroyed the first tank and proved it wasn't invincible, it was obvious they were going to try to do it again.


The IDF prides itself in its ability to adapt quickly to the changing battlefield. But it made no radical changes in how it operates tanks on the Karni-Netzarim road.


It appears that the attackers used the same kind of bomb they did last month, when they stuffed nearly 80 kilograms of explosives into an empty water heater and detonated it under the tank.


"In truth, the results here are a flaw, without a doubt," Yitzhak told Israel Radio. "Just as we are learning the methods of the terror organizations, they too are learning our methods. In this kind of war, it's a sort of Ping-Pong game."


The Merkava Mk III was built, with the lessons of the 1973 Yom Kippur War in mind, to give the crew maximum protection. For this reason, it is the only modern tank with the engine mounted in the front. It also has no hydraulic system which can ignite, using electric motors to turn the turret.


Jane's Intelligence Review says the IDF has 700 Merkava Mk IIIs, and more than NIS 20 billion has been spent on the Merkava project since the mid-1970s. More than 100 factories participate in its production. The Merkava costs about $3 million each, definitely not one of the world's most expensive tanks.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: irael; merkava; tanks

1 posted on 03/15/2002 4:13:34 PM PST by liberallarry
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To: liberallarry
Sorry for all the black space. I didn't realize that spaces in the source code would be retained.
2 posted on 03/15/2002 4:14:55 PM PST by liberallarry
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To: liberallarry
That's blank space. When it goes bad, it really goes bad.
3 posted on 03/15/2002 4:19:02 PM PST by liberallarry
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To: liberallarry
Don't worry about the posting. Very good article. When the first tank was blown up, I thought it was a fluke. When I heard about the second one, I was definitely worried. I think this shows the escalation in this conflict including concerns about the role Al Qaida may be playing. More extensive weapons may need to be used by Israel providing the United States doesn't tie their hands.
4 posted on 03/15/2002 4:22:46 PM PST by johniegrad
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To: liberallarry
Last night CBS had awsome footage a Palestinian getting zapped by a Merkava.
5 posted on 03/15/2002 4:22:58 PM PST by Ajnin
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To: johniegrad
When I heard about the second one, I was definitely worried. I think this shows the escalation in this conflict including concerns about the role Al Qaida may be playing.

That's been my concern.

Al Qaeda delighted in blowing up soviet tanks.

6 posted on 03/15/2002 4:30:40 PM PST by Catspaw
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To: Ajnin
Last night CBS had awsome footage a Palestinian getting zapped by a Merkava

The first time I saw that I said, "Holy sh..!" There wasn't *anything* left, as far as I could tell.

7 posted on 03/15/2002 4:31:49 PM PST by Catspaw
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To: johniegrad
I don't know about that, Johnie, I mean, ...they stuffed nearly 80 kilograms of explosives into an empty water heater and detonated it under the tank.

Doesn't sound so sophisticated to me.

8 posted on 03/15/2002 4:33:24 PM PST by Alas Babylon!
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To: Alas Babylon!
Agreed, not very sophisticated but these tanks were thought to be indestructible. I am concerned that their destruction represents some level of understanding of their technology that makes them more vulnerable. "How" it is accomplished is, in my mind, less important than the fact that it was accomplished at all, even if by primitive means. This is not possible without some understanding of their design unless it is a fluke. I would not then expect replication of the results.
9 posted on 03/15/2002 4:45:34 PM PST by johniegrad
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To: Catspaw
I'm glad someone else saw that. I couldn't believe it. I'll try to find it and post it for the enjoyment of other Freepers.
10 posted on 03/15/2002 4:46:08 PM PST by Ajnin
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To: johniegrad
There's no such thing as an invulnerable tank. In warfare this century tanks have been among the most vulnerable weapons...particularly in urban areas. The Marines have a saying..."Killing Tanks is Fun and Easy." Tanks have serious visibility and maneuverability problems in built up areas.

It's only the media acting like losing one tank is some sort of shock or crisis.

Traditionally, tank losses in battle are enormous, but fortunately the loss rates among the tank crews are fairly light, typically...at least some, or often all, of the crew escape a destroyed tank.

The Israelis lost plenty of tanks in the 1973 War, for example. They haven't had enough really serious full-scale combat since, to lose plenty of Merkavas, since they were developed after that war.

11 posted on 03/15/2002 4:51:02 PM PST by John H K
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To: liberallarry
Question to any trackheads out there: What is the purpose of the chain "fringe" hanging from the bottom edge of the Merkva's turret? It looks like there's a curtain of short, heavy chains with 2" round weights on the bottom hanging down from the back of the turret.

(Of course, I only want to know if you don't have to kill me after you tell me...)

12 posted on 03/15/2002 4:53:47 PM PST by Arleigh
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To: John H K
The Marines have a saying..."Killing Tanks is Fun and Easy."

Chopper flying buddies in the 80's always referred to them as "Targets" not "Tanks."

13 posted on 03/15/2002 4:55:53 PM PST by Arleigh
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To: johniegrad
...providing the United States doesn't tie their hands.

Providing the international community - of which the United States is only a part - doesn't tie their hands. That's what's been worrying me from the beginning. After each successful local war Israel has had its hands tied.

14 posted on 03/15/2002 4:56:03 PM PST by liberallarry
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To: John H K
I'm certainly no weapons expert. My 8 years of active duty military experience was in the medical corps. However, if these tanks were so vulnerable before, why is it that no one destroyed them until two were destroyed within the past week? I'm not talking about past losses but the losses of the current Merkavas. This represents an escalation of military loss by the Israelis regardless of the mechanism of loss. That is, the Palestinians, or whoever is fighting with them are now able to accomplish something that they wer unable to accomplish before. I don't think these events are inconsequential.
15 posted on 03/15/2002 5:04:10 PM PST by johniegrad
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To: Arleigh
Chopper flying buddies in the 80's always referred to them as "Targets" not "Tanks."

The term "Plinking tanks" use by AF and Navy fliers to describe taking them out with laser guided bombs and other PGMs during the Gulf War, drove the Army Track Toads a little crazy. AF types used to say, if it moves or radiates, you can "see" it and if you can see it, you can kill it.

16 posted on 03/15/2002 5:05:52 PM PST by El Gato
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To: Arleigh
Stand-off protection for heat rounds. If the plasma is too far from the plate at detonation, it splashes off leaving only scorched paint.
17 posted on 03/15/2002 5:13:25 PM PST by patton
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To: Arleigh
From this site http://www.hcs5.navy.mil/threats/merkava_main.html
"...a skirt of chains with ball weights installed on the lower half of the turret bustle to protect against incoming HEAT projectiles... "
18 posted on 03/15/2002 5:15:02 PM PST by BeOSUser
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To: BeOSUser; patton
Thanks! That was my guess, but I'd never seen chains used that way before and wasn't sure.
19 posted on 03/15/2002 5:24:11 PM PST by Arleigh
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To: BeOSUser
comon, 100 lbs of TNT can blow up anything, no matter how well built it is. The merkava is one of the best mbts in the world if not the best, but just think, it takes about 2lbs of high explosives in the form of a anti-tank missle to kill most tanks, and in these cases their using 50 times that amount.
20 posted on 03/15/2002 5:26:55 PM PST by borghead
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To: El Gato
The term "Plinking tanks" use by AF and Navy fliers to describe taking them out with laser guided bombs and other PGMs during the Gulf War, drove the Army Track Toads a little crazy.

When I was at BAOC at Ft. Knox there was a Captain who was a cartoonist who was a whiz at drawing military hardware and then captioning the comics.

He had one that was the image of a smoking battlefield from the back seat of a Cobra(Sorry, long time ago!) The Front seat gunner had a silouette view of tanks in each hand; one an M-60A1 and two a Soviet T-62. The battlefield below is filled with smoking vehicles and the caption simply reads:

"Oops!"

Regards,

TS

21 posted on 03/15/2002 5:39:32 PM PST by The Shrew
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To: borghead
The merkava is one of the best mbts in the world if not the best,

IMHO, that's a little bit of an exageration! I would pit a Company of M-1's against any tanks in the world. IMHO, the Merkava is a great vehicle and no tanker shrugs at the design influences that protect crewmen. The innovative additions of Mortars, M-2 Telfare devices for boresighting in extended combat situations and 3 - 7.62mm Machine guns and 10,000 rounds of 7.62 ammo show extensive combat experience in designing the vehicle.

But, for out and out tank vs. tank I'll take an M-1 and all that speed any day.

Regards,

TS

22 posted on 03/15/2002 5:46:58 PM PST by The Shrew
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To: Arleigh
Germans in WWII started putting a second skin on their light armor to pre detinate various devices. They also smeard mortar mix upon them so that magnetic mines would not stick. Today, various countries use HE packs on the outside of their vehicles to counteract weapon effects. Lastly, the thinest place on a armored vehicle is it's underneath.
23 posted on 03/15/2002 5:48:34 PM PST by Leisler
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To: borghead
Actually 80 kilograms of TNT would be over 175 lbs of explosives. Considering that the armor on the bottom of any tank is non existent, yea 175+ lbds of TNT would ruin any tanks day.

Regards

alfa6 ;>}

24 posted on 03/15/2002 6:32:35 PM PST by alfa6
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To: alfa6
Plus, I'm betting that they put the explosives inside that water heater in a way that made it into a shaped charge. (No, I'm not saying how.) 175 lbs of shaped charge would produce these results.
25 posted on 03/15/2002 10:35:26 PM PST by 11B3
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To: liberallarry
You would not need to try to shape charge the explosive, the only way the explosive can vent is up. It is a directed charge, if not shaped. That much explosive make one heck of a mine. This will force the tanks to drive on the streets, the IDF has been risking this to keep from damaging the Palestinian streets. They drive down both sides of the road in the dirt to try to keep the collateral damage to a minimum. I saw a clip on TV yesterday showing the damage a lightweight APC does to the pavement. A 50 ton MBT with steel treads is a real road ripper.

The newspaper version of this article mentioned that the explosion was so large it blew the front off of the Palestinian buildings around the tank. I wonder why the armchair terrorists are not on this thread complaining about the destruction of Palestinian houses...

26 posted on 03/15/2002 11:50:01 PM PST by American in Israel
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To: American in Israel
A 50 ton MBT with steel treads is a real road ripper.

Every unit in Germany had a damage assessment officer. We used to go through towns handing out checks for curbs, cars, houses etc. Remember, its not a road march if you don't take some of the road with you. :-)

27 posted on 03/16/2002 4:50:52 AM PST by glorgau
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To: Leisler; Arleigh; patton
Patton's explanation of them being stand-off protection for heat rounds makes sense. Are you saying they are explosive as well, or part of what triggers the reactive armor?

I always thought of reactive armor just being the panels and plates on the outside, but I never really gave much thought as to what actually TELLS it to blow.

28 posted on 03/16/2002 5:12:52 AM PST by Bill Rice
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To: Bill Rice
Don't overcomplicate the design - HEAT rounds are typically triggered by a piezo-electric crystal in the nose of the missile. When the missile hits the chain, the cystal sparks, and the incoming round detonates, about a foot shy of the target, causing the plasma jet to splash off of the tank, instead of putting a nasty hole in it.

This has nothing to do with reactive armor, it is just stand-off armor. Notice how the Israelis carry all of their duffel bags on the outside of their tanks - same effect.

29 posted on 03/16/2002 5:37:57 AM PST by patton
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To: Bill Rice
The incoming round itself sets off the reactive armor. I don't know if a high kenitic penetrating rod would. Lot of energy, heat and pressure. Ya, maybe.
30 posted on 03/16/2002 6:50:08 AM PST by Leisler
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