Defense Ministry selects IAI to lead development of Israel’s tanks of the future

Carmel program plans to install new ‘automatic and autonomous’ technologies in current and future armored vehicles; defense contractor beats out Elbit and Rafael

The Israel Aerospace Industries company was chosen by the Defense Ministry on Sunday to lead the development of systems that it plans to install in both current and future models of the military’s armored vehicles, as part of its Carmel tank program.

The Carmel armored fighting vehicle (AFV) project began five years ago under the ministry’s Weapons Development Administration, known in Hebrew by its acronym Mafat, and was initially aimed at creating a new model of tank for the Israel Defense Forces.

However, its scope has broadened and changed in the intervening years, and it now looks instead to develop new technologies for current and future armored vehicles, based on “automatic and autonomous systems, and artificial intelligence,” the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

As part of the program, the Defense Ministry in 2019 tasked three defense contractors — Elbit, Rafael, and Israel Aerospace Industries — with testing the feasibility of a closed tank that is operated by only two soldiers, instead of the current four, and encouraged them to integrate as many “automatic and autonomous systems as possible” in order to function as a “third soldier” of sorts, a ministry spokesperson said at the time.

IAI was chosen out of the three contractors on Sunday to continue the development of the project.

The army’s current Merkava tank has been in use for some 40 years. In July 2018, the military announced the creation of its latest model, known as the Barak, which is due to enter service in the coming years using the new Carmel technologies.

A tank prototype developed by Israel Aerospace Industries as part of the Defense Ministry’s Carmel project, which was tested on August 4, 2019. (Defense Ministry)

The groundbreaking operating concept of the Carmel is the focus of interest in many industries and armies around the world. The integration of advanced technologies could address the challenges that will be encountered on future battlefields, while significantly reducing the risk to human life and incidental damage, the ministry said in a statement.

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