The Merkava ("war chariot", in Hebrew) has been the first domestically-produced Israeli tank. Its first version, the Mk. I, began production in 1979 and saw combat in Lebanon in 1982; currently the last version is Mk. IV, it dates back to 2004 and has been used in combat since 2006.
This tank has been designed to provide high protection to the crew from all directions (including from above) and it has a last-generation modular composite armor. Moreover, for additional protection, the engine is positioned in the front, thus allowing also more room for ammunition or to carry some infantrymen or wounded. A series of metal spheres, hung by chains to the rear of the turret, provides protection against hollow charge shells or missiles for the turret ring, a weak spot of the armor.
The main 120 mm (4.7 in) smoothbore gun allows the use of conventional shells (both grenades and kinetic energy penetrators) as well as the launch of guided missiles (useful against both distant targets and low-flying helicopters), whereas a 60 mm (2.36 in) mortar, usable from inside the turret compartment, allows to engage enemy emplacements at short range with indirect fire. The rest of the armament includes 12 smoke dischargers and 3 machine guns.