Based on captured T-54s
War in Lebanon showed to IDF that standard APCs like the M113 could hardly withstand RPGs without extra protection, and the whole range of third generation Manpads used by the Hezbollah. The Merkava itself was often used as improvised heavy APC, due to its rear access and roomy interior, but this was not optimal. On the other side, there was a wealth of captured ex-Syrian, Jordanian and Egyptian T-54s in storage, captured over several wars. Many had been converted as Tiran-4s, but by the fall of the 1980s they had shown little value for a modern battlefield and could be used at best as reserve MBTs. So the idea came to convert the whole fleet as APCs to fill the rôle awaited for them in urban combat. This was a full conversion and the first heavy APC of its kind worldwide, which inspired the Serbian VIU-55 Munja and Russian BTR-T and BMPT.
Design of the conversion
The decision was taken in 1986, and work started with the design bureau of the Israeli Defence Forces Corps of Ordnance, leading to a prototype in 1988, which was tested and accepted into service. 250 conversions followed over the years, to serve in Lebanon. The original upper part of the chassis was entirely removed, turret included, and the lower part was also modified (engine cradle, suspension bearings, electrical wiring, etc.). A new more modern and compact NIMDA 650-hp engine (1st series) was relocated in the rear-left part. The original drivetrain and torsion bars were apparently left unchanged. A troop compartment was created in the central part, with a right-rear side access door. The compartment was roomy enough for seven fully equipped infantrymen, while the rest of the crew was composed of the driver, MG-gunner and commander (which in option could have a bulletproof glass turret over his hatch) at the front. The driver’s hatch comprised as usual three periscopes covering the frontal arc.
Since protection was paramount, it took the shape of a new add-on armour glacis at the front, and thick side armour made of ERA modules inserted into bulkheads, parts of composite armour up to 200 mm thick. Roof protection was increased with a full set of ERA bricks. Armament now comprised two 7.62 mm machine guns fired from inside, and a single 7.62 mm Rafael Overhead Weapon Station (OWS) remote station. The latter could be replaced more recently by an improved 12.7 mm Samson Remote Controlled Weapon Station.
The Achzarit Mk.2
The main difference included a new 850 hp diesel engine by NIMDA, and possibly armour upgrades. Thanks to the new power pack, speed was now up to 65 kph, due to a 19 hp/tonne power to weight ratio. At the same time, specialized Urban combat appeared like the Aquarium and Doghouse.
Achzarit Ambulance The interior is tailored to maximize the number of stretchers carried.
Achzarit Aquarium Is equipped with an enclosed armoured bulletproof glass windows (like on the American TUSK) firing post, with a hatch above.
Achzarit Doghouse Sports an enclosed doghouse made of 7 bulletproof windows (and an armoured panel on the back) for urban combat.
Achzarit RCWS-30 An experimental IFV conversion, equipped with a roof 30 mm autocannon developed by Rafael.
Achzarit HATAP An ARV/EFV conversion, fitted with an extra cargo capacity, a winch and a dozer blade.
The first APCs were operational in 1988 and quickly send to South Lebanon. It was fielded to the IDF Golani Brigade operating on the borders and west bank, and the Givati Brigade. Some took parts in the Operation Rainbow in Rafah, (second Intifada war) and the Gaza War.
Achzarit APC specifications
|Dimensions (l-w-h):||6.2 x 3.60 x 2 m (19.68 x 9,84 x 6,50 in)|
|Total weight, battle ready:||44 Tons (88,000 ibs)|
|Crew :||3+7 (Driver, Gunner, Commander, 7 infantry)|
|Propulsion:||Diesel 850 hp (630 kW) 19 hp/tonne|
|Top Speed||65 kph (40 mph) 40-45 kph off-road|
|Range (road)/Fuel consumption||600 km (372 mi)|
|Armament (see notes)||3 x 7,62 mm (0.3 in) LMGs (including one Rafael remote station)|
|Armour||Maximum 200 mm RHA (7.87 in). Composites, ERA|
Achzarit Mark I (1988)
Achzarit Mark 2 (late 1990s)