The competitive procurement process was for the production of Merkava APC hulls, material kit sets and integration of the kits to the vehicle chassis. General Dynamics expects to complete contract negotiations by the end of this year. Production will be performed at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio. The base contract will be completed by March 2015 or extend to November 2019 if all options are exercised.
The Merkava series of tanks dates to the 1960s, when Israel drew up plans to remove its military-industrial complex from reliance on foreign factories. Israel's economy and national reserves, backed by U.S. military grant aid, allowed it to purchase nearly any land, sea, or air platform and weapon from friendly nations, but Israel's infrastructure was not capable of producing those items domestically.
In 1965, Israel's military establishment began research and development on a domestically-produced tank, the "Sabra" (Hebrew slang for a Jew born in Israel (not to be confused with the modern Sabra tank). Initially, Britain and Israel collaborated to develop the United Kingdom's Chieftain tank that had entered British Army service in 1966. However, in 1969, Britain decided not to sell the tank to Israel for political reasons.
Israel Tal, who was serving as brigade commander after the Suez Crisis, restarted plans to produce an Israeli-made tank, drawing on lessons from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which Israeli forces were outnumbered by those of the Middle East's Arab nations. Realizing that they could not win wars of attrition, the Israelis set stringent requirements of crew survivability and safety for the new tank platform.
By 1974, initial designs were completed and prototypes were built. After a brief set of trials, work began to retool the American periodical Armed Forces Journal on May 14, 1977. The IDF did not officially adopt the tank until December 1978, when the first full battalion of 30 tanks was delivered for initial unit training. General Dynamics, headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, employs approximately 91,000 people worldwide. The company is a market leader in business aviation; land and expeditionary combat systems, armaments and munitions; shipbuilding and marine systems; and information systems and technologies. More information about General Dynamics is available online at www.generaldynamics.com
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