Based on its combat experience fighting against guerilla forces in difficult terrain (Lebanon) and in urban terrain (occupied territories) the Israeli army has upgraded its light tactical vehicles with enhanced armor protection. Among these are the up-armored Humvees and locally produced Sufa Jeep versions, used as rapid reaction vehicles. These vehicles are utilized mainly for security and patrol missions, where military forces rapidly respond to low risk contingencies, such as riot control of mass demonstrations, transportation security, anti-infiltration border patrols etc. In result of painful incidents, in which such vehicles were destroyed by relatively lethal improvised weapons, the IDF has beefed up the vehicles protection level, considerably above the US Army standard. This higher level of protection resulted in much heavier platforms, which frequently required automotive modifications, retaining adequate mobility in combat.
For operations in high-threat environment, the IDF deploys its heaviest vehicles; sofar, most of these include Merkava Mk-2/Mk-3 main battle tanks, and heavily protected Infantry Fighting Vehicles, based on turretless Centurion and T-55 tank hulls – Nagmachon and Nakpadon. These vehicles were developed during the Lebanon conflict, in which the IDF was forced to patrol and protect its supply routes against Hezbollah roadside ambushes, directing small arms fire, AT rockets and missiles, mortars and IEDs against troop transport. These specially mission designed tracked vehicles are mounting massive 360 degrees protection by special armor on the front, sides and rear, as well as the top. The hull bottom is protected by an additional armored base plate withstanding heavy mines and buried explosives.
For operations in the West Bank and especially in the Gaza Strip, further adaptations of heavy IFV concepts were introduced, to counter different threats existing in urban environment, like the densely populated refugee camps.
An elevated fighting compartment, fitted with firing ports for machine guns, small arms and snipers was installed on top of the hull, offering improved visibility for observation and urban fightability for the crew. An up-armored version of the IDF M-113 platform has been designed extending its combat use under the new threat environment. This vehicle is equipped with add-on mesh armor, which adds adequate protection against RPGs and IED. A further enhanced version of the IDF up-armored M-113 is currently under procurement plan. This version utilizes a combination of hybrid (passive and reactive) armor, which can defeat multiple attacks by known heavy weapons. Other vehicles in use are the turretless hull-based T-55 Achzarit heavy IFV which is mounting improved protection, overhead weapons stations, and rear door access/exit. A similar concept, the Russian BMP-4, uses a T-54 chassis, to deploy troops to high threat environment combat.
Military and peacekeeping forces operating in Low Intensity Conflict, such as the US and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, KFOR in Bosnia, the Israeli forces in the Occupied Territories of Gaza and the West Bank, are employing different systems to counter the threat of RPGs, roadside bombs, mines and IEDs
For example, the US 4th and 82nd Airborne divisions employ the Meerkat sensor carrying vehicle and the Buffalo mine protected vehicle, equipped with a manipulator arm, to handle, disarm or disrupt IEDs. The Israelis are using heavy armored vehicles, and heavily protected bulldozers designed to deliberately activate IEDs placed on known movement routes. Armored EOD vehicle, which can carry two robots is also employed to safely deactivate IEDs. When tasked with off-road threats, the IDF also uses tele-operated vehicles to sweep dirt tracks and other suspect locations uncovering camouflaged buried threats. IED disposal is normally handled by specialist Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) experts. The IDF operates its EOD from special EOD Vehicles and the standard combat engineers armored vehicles, the Puma. This vehicle, based on turretless Centurion hull is equipped with special array of electro-optical observation and tele-operating equipment for this task. Armored Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers are used frequently in high risk urban combat environments.
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