In first, Israel in talks to sell vaunted Merkava tanks to two countries

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An IDF Merkava tank drives near the border with Syria on the Golan Heights on November 28, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
An IDF Merkava tank drives near the border with Syria on the Golan Heights on November 28, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Israel is in talks to sell used Merkava tanks to two countries, including one in Europe, in what would be the first such export of the armored vehicle, a Defense Ministry official says.

Speaking to the Calcalist financial paper, Yair Kulas, the head of the ministry’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate — known as SIBAT — says his unit is advancing more sales of surplus equipment from the Israel Defense Forces.

“There is a potential of several hundred million shekels there. The world is chasing systems, and production processes require time, and not everyone has the time to wait,” Kulas says.

He notes that many European countries are seeking to quickly replenish supplies after donating billions of dollars’ worth of arms to Ukraine that have helped it push back Russia’s invasion.

“There are two potential countries with which we are holding advanced negotiations [on a sale of the Mervaka tanks],” he says. ” I am barred from naming them, but one is on the European continent.”

The Merkava has been the IDF’s main battle tank since the 1980s. In recent years, the Armored Corps replaced most of its Merkava Mark 3 models with the more modern Mark 4.

The potential sales would likely include the older Merkava Mark 2, and some of the Merkava Mark 3 tanks, introduced in the 1990s.

He says other surplus systems, including military boats and armored personnel carriers, will be sold as the IDF has procured more advanced systems. In 2021, Israel sold 29 old F-16 fighter jets to the US and Canada to be used for training.

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