Israel’s Defense Ministry says it will fight for the Merkava Tank development project in an effort to stave off the potential loss of 8,000 jobs if the project is shut down.
Director-General Udi Shani of the Defense Ministry spoke out Monday at a special session of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee against the impact of cuts in the ministry budget on the Merkava Tank development project.
“The Ministry of Defense will fight for the Merkava as it fought for a blue and white (Israeli) satellite and other systems. We aspire that our armored force strength will be among the best there are in the world with an active defense.”
He noted that exports from the Merkava Tank industry total about $ 700 million annually, with much of the money returning to the economy.
According to Maariv, Deputy Defense Minister MK Danny Danon told the hearing that “these are vital industries. We can not recreate the technology of a closed factory. There is no intention, and I know of no intention to stop using tanks in the Israeli army.”
The IDF Blog provides details on the Merkava: “The initial planning for the Merkava began in the 1960s at a time when Israel wanted to become less reliant on foreign factories. The IDF began research and development together with the British army, but due to political reasons the project was soon abandoned. Years later, drawing on lessons from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel Tal led a development team to begin work on the Merkava project. By 1974 the first designs and prototypes were ready and by the end of 1978 the IDF began to train its forces in the new tank.”
Last February the Israel Defense Ministry announced that it was considering cancelling the project on the grounds that “the budgetary situation requires making painful decisions.”