Israeli industry has developed the latest version of the Merkava Mk 4 tank known as Barak. The main change in this type of tanks is the use of artificial intelligence and expanded reality. Merkava Mk 4 Barak undoubtedly shows the direction of the development of armored vehicles around the world.
The first mention of the modernization of Barak appeared in 2017 and the introduction of tanks for weapons is expected in 2020. The Barak version will acquire two key technologies significantly expanding the crew’s situational awareness.
The basic prerequisite for success in combat, whether we are talking about individual soldiers, combat vehicles or aircraft, is the perfect situation awareness of the battlefield. The basis is to know your own position, the location and condition of friendly units, the location and condition of the enemy, the development of the battlefield and, of course, your tasks.
Lapidarily speaking, every soldier, every crew or pilot must know the answer to the basic questions: Where am I? Where I go? Where’s my team? Where’s the enemy? What is my task?
To improve situational awareness, Merkava Mk 4 Barak has acquired artificial intelligence to provide data fusion of both own and external sensors (other tanks, drones, etc.).
Today’s sensors are flashing a huge amount of data. In order for the tank crew to be able to use it, it is necessary to analyze them, classify them and, based on their urgency and importance, use the special algorithms (using artificial intelligence) to present the crew in a graphically friendly and comprehensible form.
Smart imagery software (supported by, for example, radioelectronics or radar means) automatically recognizes and defines a target position – such as a soldier, off-road vehicle, tank or battle helicopter. This clever software can also control passive and active protection systems, or automated targeting and targeting of weapons, including the choice of the appropriate ammunition.
In addition to improving the crew’s situational awareness, artificial intelligence features will greatly reduce the combat load (combat stress) of the crew. According to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) press release, Barak crews will handle a 30% long mission.
The second key enhancement is the introduction of the Iron Vision system from Elbit Systems. Iron Vision is a Motion Sensor helmet with a visor display that is derived from the F-35 fighter pilot helmet. Iron Vision with 360 ° cameras and sensors located around the vehicle senses and transmits in real time the color image of the surroundings to the viewer’s and / or commander’s visor. The crew thus observes the surroundings “through” the vehicle, but of course the contours of the interior of the vehicle are preserved.
The crew using Iron Vision reveals targets at a distance of up to 300 m. The classic thermal imaging camera in the main rotating electro-optical observation case serves the purpose of detecting long distance targets.
In any case, the Iron Vision commander is able to perform the operation without having to monitor the area through open hatches or use visors or LCD displays. Iron Vison finds its use primarily in battles in urban areas where the tank crew has a minimal overview of the area and is at the same time heavily threatened by enemy fire. Iron Vision can also be used during training when a computer-generated battlefield image is projected into the helmet.
“I understand the controversy and the problems with this concept (Iron Vision – note red.). It’s part of our ethos to fight the heads out of the hatches. But the problem is when you fight in built-up and urban areas with your head out, you will be hit by a sniper. It’s simple, “said Boaz Cohen, vice president of Elbit Systems for Ground Systems, in 2017.
Cohen also announced in 2017 that the modernized Merkava Mk.4 Barak tank will receive an active second-generation Trophy protection system, precision-guided ammunition (missile-powered LAHAT missiles) or an enhanced Command, Communication, Control, Computer and Intelligence (C4I) . The installed C4I will allow the digital systems of armored vehicles, infantry, artillery and other ground units to be coupled to a common and digitally shared tactical battlefield image.
The new Barak will, of course, be fully capable of conducting classic front combat operations, but will also expand its ability to fight non-state terrorist groups that use the civilian population (primarily using the knowledge of crowd psychology) as a weapon. “The enemy does not have to be states and armies, but rather an enemy that uses humans (as a weapon, note red),” explains Brigadier General Guy Hasson, chief of the Israeli armored force. According to the IDF press release, only armored units in 2018 hit 30 “terrorist positions” in the Gaza Strip.
“We will be able to work on a fully integrated terrestrial network: to pass on information, receive information and be much faster and better than we are today through this improved network that makes us more effective in complicated scenarios in much wider (geographic) areas than today” explains the advantages of C4I network Brigadier General Hasson.
Israel currently has 460 Merkava Mk 4 tanks (160 in reserve) and 730 Merkava Mk 3 tanks (570 in reserve). At the same time, Israel has begun releasing the older Merkava Mk 2 tanks (about 700 pieces) from the equipment. Part of the Mk 2 discarded tanks will be rebuilt to logistics, evacuation and command vehicles.