The Defense Ministry this week signed an multi-million dollar agreement with US company GD (General Dynamics) to acquire the mechanical parts needed to assemble state-of-the-art armored personnel carriers.
The move was based on conclusions by the security establishment following last summer’s war between Israel and Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas, the ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
The parts for the Namer, an APC built on the frame of the Merkava tank, will be delivered over the next six years and are valued at a total of $310 million. GD has already begun supplying the Defense Ministry with Namer engine parts as part of an earlier $250 million contract.
According to the ministry, all new Namer APCs will be equipped with the Israeli-developed Armored Shield Protection system, known as the “Windbreaker,” which is considered one of the most advanced countermeasure technological systems in military use. The “Windbreaker” is the product of a ten-year collaborative development project between Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the Israel Aircraft Industries’ Elta Group, and is specifically designed to intercept and destroy incoming missiles and rockets in real time.
While army officials said Namer APCs were highly successful during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, resisting bomb blasts and saving many soldiers’ lives, too few of the vehicles were available to infantry units. “The only issue is funding,” Brig. Gen. Baruch Mazliach, head of the Defense Ministry’s Namer and Merkava department, told Channel 2 News last year. “We can construct dozens of vehicles a year.”
The ministry estimated that renewed construction of Namer APCs would benefit up to 10,000 Israeli workers employed in various fields connected with the project. According to the ministry, Israel exports approximately $700 million worth of tank and APC parts annually, adding that for every one dollar spent on the Namer APC, local companies are expected receive four dollars in return.
During the summer’s war last year, a group of 30 IDF reserve soldiers notified their commanders that they would refuse to enter the Gaza Strip in M-113 armored personnel carriers, military vehicles designed by the US Army in the 1960s and first used during the Vietnam War. The reservists’ plea came several days after a deadly battle in the Gaza neighborhood of Shejaiya during which Hamas fighters fired a missile at an M-113 carrier, resulting in the deaths of seven IDF soldiers on board.
Following the battle in Shejaiya, Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, the commander of the IDF Southern Command, said that the army was aware of the M-113’s faults but did not have the means to provide full protection to every soldier entering the Strip.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.