Urban fights are thought of as the future of warfare in many countries, but to Israel, urban fighting is a very current reality. At the same time, conventional defense requires well-protected forces that can maneuver and survive with the country’s heavy armor, out in the tank-friendly environs of the Middle East. The Israelis had long depended on the M113 to fill these roles, but heavier options were needed, and the Israelis could care less about air-transportability. The resourceful Israelis turned to their stock of captured Soviet T-54/55 tanks for initial solutions, producing the Achzarit APC. They liked the results so much that they decided to do the same thing with their older Merkava Mk.I tank hulls, creating the 60 tonne Namer (“leopard”). That’s about twice the weight of the USA’s M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs), but Namers are mostly used as ultra-heavy but lightly-armed armored personnel carriers. Unmanned turrets with a 30mm cannon and Spike missiles would be needed to turn them into true IFVs.
Even in an APC role, experiences during the 2006 war in Lebanon against Syria and Iran confirmed the Namer’s value. The Israelis decided to build more using new Merkava Mk.IV hulls, but that creates some manufacturing issues for the Israelis, who were trying to quickly build up their Merkava fleet per the long-range “Tefen” plan. Israel would also benefit financially from having more manufacturing done in America. The solution? Find an American partner. Enter General Dynamics Land Systems.
Contracts & Key Events
August 2/17: An upgraded prototype of the Namer heavy armoured personnel carrier (APC) has been unveiled by the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Developed by the ministry’s Merkava Tank Administration in conjunction with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Ground Forces, the vehicle includes a new turret with Trophy radars fitted to either side of the gun and countermeasures dispensers on both sides. It also has two sets of electro-optics: one mounted coaxially to the left of the gun and a second that appears to be able to rotate independently of the turret. A 30mm gun, thought to be an Orbital ATK Mk44 Bushmaster has also been included, and will give “significant firepower to infantry units, allowing the soldiers to be more independent on the battlefield, and to reduce the dependency on support from other units.” The vehicle is expected to undergo trails this week.
April 14/16: A combat engineering version of Israel’s Namer troop carrier is currently undergoing operational testing. Based on the Merkava Mk4 main battle tank, the new Namer is equipped with the Trophy Active Protection System (APS), which defends against anti-tank missiles, mortars, and RPGs. The new version will allow Israeli ground forces to deal with terror tunnels, bridge obstacles and maneuver in high-threat areas.
2013 – 2014
Aug 21/14: More? Recent fighting in Gaza killed 7 members of the elite Golani Brigade, when their M113 tracked APC was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. There’s a strong sense among Israeli commanders that they need better armor, especially if they expect to fight Hezbollah again in Lebanon. The question is, what kind of armor?
Namers are certainly on the shopping list, judging by published comments. At the same time, the success of Windbreaker/ Trophy active protection systems against Hamas anti-tank RPGs and missiles means that they’re likely to find themselves in the priority pipeline as well. Modifications to existing M113s could add v-hulls to reduce vulnerability to mines, and Windbreaker to defeat incoming RPGs and missiles. Israel has many hundreds of M113s to replace, and retrofits are definitely a cheaper option. It will be interesting to see which mix they choose. Sources: Globes, “Israel’s defense cos will be Gaza conflict’s big winners” | IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “IDF wants more Namer APCs and Trophy protection systems”.
Jan 11/14: Cuts coming. The Israel Ministry of Defense next multi-year plan would slash its planned procurement of Namer heavy IFVs from 386 to 170 vehicles, and will production 2 years earlier, in 2017. The first batch of 7 Namer hulls was delivered by General Dynamics at the end of 2013, for full outfitting in Israel, with production expected to ramp up to 60 per year. If the Israeli plan is finalized, changes will be required.
The initial GDLS contract involved 110 Namers, with fixed-price options for up to 276 more, and up-front investment in tooling at the Lima, OH JSMC plant. Israeli sources say the contract is being renegotiated, and Defense News estimates that renegotiation penalties will be around $17 million. In addition, lower economies of scale are expected to raise base vehicle costs from $730,000 at full rate production to about $900,000 each at reduced production. Since each Namer needs to be outfitted with a range of advanced equipment in Israel, its final cost is significantly higher than that.
Merkava Mk4 tank production has also been slowed, so Israel could probably bring production back home, but that’s an unlikely outcome. There are real financial and industrial benefits to keeping GDLS as a supplier. With that said, lower Namer production at a facility that won’t have American vehicle orders until 2017 isn’t great news for GD. Sources: Defense Update, “Israel Plans to Slash Namer Production by 60%” | Defense News, “GD, Israel Renegotiate Troop Carrier Deal To Cut US Production”.
Aug 25/13: Industrial. The Lima News provides an update regarding the Namer contract:
“Israel is contracting with General Dynamics for a new armored personnel carrier. The JSMC has worked on five prototype vehicles and will begin shipping them by the end of the month. Once the vehicle is in full production, the JSMC will make five a month, for 60 a year. The contract calls for 386 vehicles to be built through 2019.
The JSMC, which is a government-owned facility operated by General Dynamics, currently employs about 700. Deters said it would be difficult to say what that number will look like even in the short term… much of its future in the next few years depends on the foreign work…. The Pentagon has wanted to shutter the Abrams program until 2017, saying it has enough tanks until the next generation of the battle tank is developed and in production.”
2010 – 2012
June 27/12: Passive on active protection. The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel has finished equipping its 1st brigade of Merkava 4 tanks with the Trophy active protection system, but adds:
“While the installation of the Trophy will continue, the IDF has yet to begin installing a missile defense system on its new Namer armored personnel carrier (APC). State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss issued a report last month… and criticized the Defense Ministry’s decision in 2010 to combine the Trophy with a similar system – called Iron Fist… Iron Fist launches a projectile that IMI claims makes it effective in intercepting tank shells and not just anti-tank missiles – something Trophy cannot do. The comptroller’s main criticism centers on the defense establishment’s failure to develop or order an active protection system for the Namer. While Trophy is already being installed on tanks, a decision from 2009 to install Iron Fist on the Namer has been overturned and a replacement has not been found.”
June 22/12: The USMC won’t be moving a $16 million hull manufacturing line out of Lima, OH and over to Georgia just yet. The Army’s Joint Systems Manufacturing Center is run by General Dynamics, and the Marines will delay their decision until they compile a cost/benefit analysis of the proposed $19 million move ($6 million move + $13 million to restore the JSMC capability). It’s all part of a larger process:
“Following the Defense Department’s cancellation of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle Program, the Marine Corps began reviewing the future use of all EFV-associated equipment procured as part of that program. The JSMC was set to build the fighting vehicle, but now is using the hull machining equipment on other combat vehicles…
“As a matter of fact, we’re machining the Namer nose assembly on that machine right now,” Deters said.”
Looks like General Dynamics’ bid was successful.
Oct 25/10: General Dynamics Land Systems announces that they have become the preferred bidder to negotiate a contract with the Israeli Ministry of Defense, which would transfer at least some production of Namer IFVs from Israel to the USA. The competitive procurement process was for the production of Merkava APC hulls, material kit sets, and integration work, and the Israelis are rumored to be interested in 100 vehicles or more.
General Dynamics expects to complete contract negotiations by the end of this year, for a base contract extending to March 2015, with options to November 2019. If successful, production will be performed at their Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, OH. This would allow Israel to purchase them with American military aid dollars granted by the Camp David Peace accords etc. General Dynamics.
* Israeli Weapons – Namer
* Army Technology – Namer Heavy Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle, Israel
* Defense Update – Israel Launches Namer Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle Program
* The Armor Site – Main Battle Tank: Merkava