Based on lessons learned from fighting Hamas in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the Eitan, which is intended to give troops better security as well as greater speed and mobility, is part of the IDF’s drive to modernize its armored vehicles.
“After a long process of experimentation and implementation of lessons, we are revealing the world’s most advanced armored personnel carrier,” said Brig.-Gen. (res.) Guy Faglin, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Merkava and AFV (armored fighting vehicle) administration, in a statement released on Sunday.
First revealed in 2016, the Eitan has undergone a comprehensive series of tests by the Merkava and AFV administration in collaboration with the GOC (Ground Arm Command) Army Headquarters and the Nahal Brigade, which will be the first to use the vehicle.
In March, the Ministerial Committee on Security Affairs approved the plan by the IDF to purchase hundreds of Eitan armored fighting vehicles, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, Israel Military Industries and Rafael.
At 8 meters long and 3 meters wide, the Eitan weighs in at 30-35 tons and is operated by three crew members – the commander, gunner and driver – and can carry nine fighters in an air-conditioned environment.
As the first wheeled APC in the IDF, the Eitan will not need to be moved on heavy transporters like the Namer and other APCs in use by the military, and will be more maneuverable in urban areas such as the Gaza Strip.
Equipped with a 750-horsepower engine, the Eitan will be able to reach speeds of up to 90 kilometers per hour on roads in urban areas while still able to maneuver off-road with independent suspension and an off-the-shelf drivetrain. According to a statement released by the Defense Ministry, a different engine will be placed on the final model of the Eitan to test as an alternative for operational and maintenance needs.
The body of the APC has also been improved to maximize crew protection and survivability as well as the suspension system. In addition, improvements were made to the steering, as well as to the electric and control systems.
The vehicle also comes equipped with a peripheral observation system, a high-resolution touch-screen system offering a 360-degree view of the battlefield and a variety of advanced weapons systems, which can intercept threats like missiles and rocket- propelled grenades – weapons that have proved deadly for older vehicles.
During Operation Protective Edge, seven IDF soldiers – including Oron Shaul, whose remains are believed to be held by Hamas – were killed after Hamas terrorists fired a missile at an M-113 APC. Following the incident, 30 reservists notified their commanders that they would refuse to enter Gaza in the M-113, which was designed by the US Army in the 1960s and first used during the Vietnam War.
Equipped with advanced defense systems such as the Trophy active protection system and high-tech armor designed to protect against RPGs and anti-tank missiles, the Eitan also comes equipped with an FN MAG .50-caliber heavy machine gun, a 30 mm. cannon with a range of 2,500 meters and a missile launcher that can be operated without the crew leaving the vehicle and exposing itself to the enemy.