JERUSALEM — Israel’s Nahal Infantry Brigade became the first Israeli unit to receive the new eight-wheeled Eitan armored personnel carrier, according to Israel’s Ministry of Defense, in what the military views as a “groundbreaking leap forward in the field of wheeled combat.”
“After several years of hard work in developing, testing, and manufacturing, the first serial production Eitan APCs have been delivered to the esteemed Nahal Infantry Brigade,” Brig. General Oren Giber, the head of the Israel Ministry of Defense’s Tank and APC Directorate, said May 28.
The new vehicles also participated in their first “simulated combat scenarios” in an exercise in northern Israel, Giber said.
The Eitan, first announced in 2016, was field tested back in 2018, and in 2022 Israel selected US-based Oshkosh Defense to produce hundreds of hulls for the vehicle. The first serially produced Eitan was built in 2022 at the Merkava factory at Tel Hashomer in central Israel.
The Eitan can carry 12 people and will be equipped with the Iron Fist active defense system. Israel’s Ministry of Defense has stressed what it called the vehicle’s superior mobility and survivability. It is replacing the older M113s that Israel has used in the past and which date from the last century.
Israel also uses the Namer infantry fighting vehicle as an APC. The Namer is based on the Merkava 4 main battle tank chassis, weighs 65 tons and is essentially a tank chassis without the main gun that can carry troops. The Eitan, by contrast, is a purpose-built APC designed for the modern battlefield Israel envisions itself fighting in.
The drive to produce the Eitan came in the wake of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, in which the vulnerabilities of the aging M113s became acute. The new APC’s acquisition delayed as Israel put off budget decisions to get new systems, such as the long wait to replace refuelers and transport helicopters.
The Eitan has 750 horsepower and can reach speeds of 90 kilometers an hour (56 miles per hour), according to a statement from the Israel Prime Minister’s Office last year. It has significantly more horsepower than most other similar APCs. It weighs between 30 and 35 tons — half as heavy as the Namer. It carries peripheral cameras with day and night vision and is equipped with “front calculation and processing capabilities using computerized technology, and touch monitors and processors,” according to the PM’s statement. This type of technology is part of the larger digitization process that is being pushed to the IDF as part of the Momentum five-year plan, which was announced in 2019.
A video distributed by the Defense Ministry last week showed several of the vehicles leaving a warehouse at the Technological and Logistics Directorate in central Israel. A second video showed the vehicles during the Nahal brigades first exercise with the APCs in northern Israel. A half dozen vehicles drove around fields and then troops assaulted a mock village.
“The Nahal Brigade is proud to be the first in the IDF to receive the Eitan APC – a tool that will transform the brigade and allow us to become more operational, independent and protected,” said outgoing Nahal Brigade commander Col. Oren Simcha. The vehicles will initially equip a company within the brigade. They are arriving as the brigade receiving a new commander, Col. Yehonatan Steinberg, and as Israel is conducting a large, two-week drill with infantry, air and naval units.
The Iron Fist system to be deployed on the Eitan, which protects against anti-tank threats such as ATGMs, “will substantially improve the protection of the Eitan APC and enhance the vehicle’s maneuverability in combat while protecting combat soldiers,” Giber said.
The partnership with Oshkosh follows other Israeli partnerships and integrations of systems with the company. Elbit Systems has equipped Oshkosh JLTVs for Montenegro, and Rafael also integrated Spike onto the Slovenian Oshkosh JLTV for a demonstration in 2021. When the US took delivery of Israel’s Iron Dome in 2020 Oshkosh trucks were used.