Defense News (subscription only) reports:
Defense and industry sources here said the MoD ceased placing orders late last year for the main battle tank and no new contracts are planned for 2007. The move is expected to save about $200 million annually and could precipitate privatization or closure of the MoD-owned and -managed program and related production facilities.
Unless the MoD and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) General Staff renew funding in their upcoming multiyear investment plan, Israel’s quarter century tradition of indigenous tank production will end in 2009, sources here said.
It appears to be a trickle-down of suppliers nearing the point where they’ll shut down production of Merkava Mk4 components due to lack of orders rather than an official decision to end manufacturing. This sort of end actually has a bit more finality to it than a government announcement, since government announcements are often altered or totally undone. The vaporization of a supply base isn’t easily undone.
I would think that last summer’s action in Lebanon and the way things have unfolded since would signal a need for more tanks in Israel, not fewer.
The article also mentions the Namer (Tiger) armored vehicle, a heavily armored personnel carrier based on the Merkava chassis. There’s actually some confusion on the name of this new vehicle, and it appears that it’s probably the Namera (Tigress) and not the Namer. The Namer is already used for a tank recovery vehicle, also based on the Merkava.
It’s possible that if the Namera enters production that it would keep the core components of the Merkava Mk4 “alive”. Maybe setting the stage for a Merkava Mk4.5?
Incidentally, where are the two Israeli soldiers who were kidnapped last summer?