by: Mario Matijasic [ ]
During the 1967 War, Western countries refused to sell modern tanks to Israel. Alarmed by the fact its Arab neighbors had a constant supply of the latest generations of Soviet tanks, the Israeli government established a native defense industry so that state security would not be compromised by the political whims of outsiders. Highest priority was given to the development of a Main Battle Tank, with General Israel Tal assumed command of the tank development project in 1970 and brought a soldier's experience to the design process. The result was the Merkava (Chariot in Hebrew) which combined the best features of American, British, French, and (captured) Soviet tanks, all of which have been used extensively by Israel in the past. Merkava production began in 1978, and the new tank reached service units the following year.
The latest title from Wings & Wheels Publications (WWP) covers Merkava Mk. IB, one of the first variants of this vehicle.
The book arrived safely packed in a hard cardboard box, additionally secured inside a bubble-wrap. At first glance the book looks amazing, printed on a high-quality paper, well structured, professionally presented and packed out with large color photos. Here are the basics:
Title: Merkava Mk. IB in Detail
Publisher: Wings & Wheels Publications (WWP)
Authors: Jan Willem de Boer, Mike Collins, František Kořán, Martin Velek
Format: softcover (22x24 cm)
Color: full color
Retail Price: $36 (€25)
The book is organized in 4 chapters:
• History and Development (002-005)
• Hull Walkaround (006-039)
• Turret Walkaround (040-077)
• Merkava Mk.II (078-083)
The first chapter, history and development, briefly explains the origins of Merkava and its design peculiarities which make this tank such a formidable weapon system. The chapter also gives some technical data on the vehicle, and lists the particular vehicles featured in the book as the ones in Military Museum Lešany (Czech Republic), Munster Tank Museum (Germany) and Saumur Tank Museum (France). After a short introduction, the book transforms into a true photographic reference gem... The hull walkaround is 34 pages long and covers hull exterior in detail: side skirt and exhaust, hull side, rear hull with the back door, canvas baskets and fender boxes, engine hood, barrel transport lock, front lights, driver's hatch and a complete hull roof. The chapter also shows detailed views of road wheels, return roller system, idler and boggies, as well as track links. Next up is the turret walkaround section, 38 pages long, showing just about every aspect of Merkava turret: the L7A1 barrel with its fume extractor and the mantlet, front turret featuring main gun-sight, co-axial machine gun slit, smoke discharger boxes, turret left side and turret right side. Turret roof details are shown next, with the loader's and commander's hatch, periscopes and rear hatches. Ammunition boxes integrated in the turret are displayed as well, inside and out. Machine gun mounts, antenna mounts and turret basket details with ball & chain skirt are shown in detail, too. Finally, the short chapter on Merkava Mk.II from Latrun Tank Museum (Israel) points to the main differences between the Mk.II and Mk. IB model shown in the previous chapters. This is definitely a very useful addition to the book for all those interested in different variants of the Merkava.
Aimed at military modelers and vehicle enthusiasts, this photographic reference book is packed with 374 high-resolution, large color images showing just about every aspect of Merkava Mk.IB in detail. The authors were determined to make the most comprehensive book on this particular vehicle, displaying most of the details from several different angles. The book also contains an additional chapter on Merkava Mk.II, showing the differences between a Mk.IB and the newer Mk.II version of the vehicle. I would have loved if a part of the book was also dedicated to Merkava interior, but these are not possible to be published due to the IDF restrictions. The information supplied on the Merkava is short and concise; the intro gives interesting details on the development of the vehicle, while the brief captions provide a very informative read, explaining various details presented in the photos.
I always had a soft spot for Merkava and my reference library holds several books covering the vehicle, including the Tankograd and Desert Eagle offerings which are often described as the "cream of the crop" when it comes to Merkava. However, the Merkava Mk.IB is not covered in any of those titles and WWP book fills up that void perfectly. WWP book looks absolutely amazing: jam-packed with large, high- quality photographs showing the vehicle in detail, it is definitely one of the best photographic reference books dealing with Israel's Chariot of Fire.