What is the Best Tank in the World?
For longest period of time, most experts nominated the American M1 Abrams tank as the best armored and most technically advanced armored fighting vehicle in the world. It simply outclassed all Russian and many other tank designs since it has been put into service.
However, despite recent updates to the current design,it is aging already, and while it is certainly in the Top 5 tanks, a new report shows that the Israeli Merkava 4 has taken over the No.1 spot. Key to any AFV's success is its ability to survive on the battlefield from ant-tank missiles, mines, roadside IED's, air and artillery attacks. How often the AFV breaks down is of major concern during a war. A tank's armor is key in thickness but also angle, which can deflect incoming danger. The size of the AFV is also key, as a bigger tank means a more visible target.
The Israeli Defense Force released a report on the findings after the 2006 war between Hezbollah and the IDF. Some 370 Merkava's were deployed, of them, 52 were hit with anti-tank missiles. A total of 21 of those tanks needed repair and of those, only five were not repairable ( and these were earlier models). During the whole war, only 23 tankers lost their life! During the war, Hezbollah fired some 500 antitank missiles.
The Merkava 4 fared even better. Only 18 were hit with only 1 loss and no losses in life from the crew. The Merkava's 3 and 4 frontal armor proved superior against all Russian and other's anti-tank missiles, no penetrations occurred. Of course, when attacked from the flank and rear, that was a different matter. The Israelis use of thicker armor and the anti-tank Trophy system to deflect incoming missiles during the 2014 conflict against Hamas made their tank invincible. Not a single AFV was lost despite hundreds of AT missiles being tossed at them.
Unlike the American M1, the Merkava was designed with a very low silhouette and making the tank survivable on the battlefield was of utmost important. Its Trophy system allows the tankers to know of incoming AT missiles and to neutralize them. During the recent battles, it proved invaluable and accurate at defending the AFV. This is something the M1 does not have yet. While the M1 is faster and has better armor, the Merkava's main threat is from AT missiles and it has proven to be a great success.
While the two tanks were designed for different types of conflict, many Middle East countries now possess lesser versions of the M1A2. If a conflict pitted both types of tanks in battle, the crew quality would probably be the deciding factor but most would agree the Merkava 4 has the definite edge!