24 Hours with a Tank Crew at the Gaza Border

Okay, every day we present you with breathtaking pictures of tanks in action. But did you ever wonder how’s the view from inside? Join us today for a first-ever peek into the lives of soldiers operating the best tanks the IDF has to offer–the Merkava IV!

Merkava IV tank "swims" to dry land

Merkava IV tank "swims" to dry land

There isn’t much that this tank, being one of the most developed in modern warfare, can’t do. From driving through deep waters to intercepting anti-tank missiles in mid-air, the main characteristic of this tank is that it’s very nearly indestructible.

The dedicated soldiers of the 401st Brigade have been guarding the Israeli-Gaza border for the last four months. During this time, they’ve faced countless terrorist threats as well as extreme weather conditions, such as sand storms and knee-deep mud. A platoon commander, Capt. Zoar Har Lev, speaks about the hard life at the border:

“It’s funny, but the weather conditions make us even more connected to the area we’re defending–because of the mud, we take special care of our tanks, knowing how essential we are to Israel’s safety.

The rockets emanating from Gaza are a huge threat to Israel, and demand us to be on top of things 24/7. Losing your focus for a minute can mean an explosive smuggled into Israel, or any other potential terror attack on Israeli civilians.”

IDF tank commander shows you the inside of the Merkava IV

IDF tank commander shows you the inside of the Merkava IV

Just climbing into a Merkava IV tank makes you realize how intense it is. Two of the tank’s biggest advantages stand out immediately: highly advanced technology and an incredibly cramped space. The first makes a very powerful machine, and the other results in friendships for life.

The Merkava IV tank commander's eyepiece

The tank commander's eyepiece

A tank is typically operated by four soldiers, each specializing in a different thing. The first is a tank commander, in charge of overseeing the tank’s operation. He’s responsible for the tank’s computer systems, the turret, and navigation, as well as synchronizing between his team and making sure they’re all working together. It’s also his job to be familiar with every detail about the region and its surroundings.

Reloading of the turret gun in action

Reloading of the turret gun

Staff Sgt. Aviad, a tank commander, explains about the other three positions:

“The driver’s job is one of the most stressful ones, putting a huge amount of mental pressure on the person doing it. Every mistake is crucial, and can lead to a complete break-down of the whole tank.

The gunner is the one most involved in the high-tech systems that control the tank. Because of his knowledge of the tank, he can replace the tank’s commander in emergency situations.

The weapon’s loader, our ballistics special, should have enormous physical power, as he is in charge of most of the ‘mule’s work’ in the tank.”

Merkava Infographic

Fine example of excellence - The Merkava Battle Tank

Inside the tanks are computers, monitoring and controlling each one of the tank’s weapons systems. The weapons, together with the Trophy System, are all in the hands of our designated team. Staff Sgt. Aviad elaborates:

“Unlike any other combat forces when they’re guarding a certain region, an Armored Corps battalion is functions like an entire brigade. I can be called to action 40km away from my current position.”

Since the Six-Day War in 1967 to the present day, modern tanks have played an important role in ground confrontations. IDF tanks are considered some of the world’s most technologically advanced. Find out more about IDF technologies here.