Development of the Merkava Mk 4 commenced in the early 1990s and its existence was first revealed in 2002. First production Merkava Mk 4 MBTs have been delivered to the Israel Defence Force (IDF) and the first battalion was fully operational in 2004. The Merkava Mk 4 will start to replace the older US supplied upgraded General Dynamics Land Systems M60A1 series MBTs. The first battalion of Merkava Mk 4 tanks entered service with the Israel Defence Forces in 2004. The tank is capable of carrying eight infantry soldiers, a command group or three litter patients (stretcher casualties) in addition to the tank crew of commander, loader, gunner and driver. The tank is capable of firing on the move at moving targets and has demonstrated high hit probability in firing against attack helicopters using conventional anti-tank munitions.
The Merkava is equipped with a turret 12.7 mm caliber coaxial machine gun which enables the crew to lay down fairly heavy cover fire without the use of the main gun, which is relatively ineffective against individual enemy combatants. The most sensitive areas of a tank, its optics, exhaust ports and ventilators, are all protected by a newly-developed high-strength metal mesh. Rubber whip pole-markers with LED tips and a driver’s rear-facing camera have been installed to improve navigation and maneuverability in an urban environment by day or by night.
Propulsion: The Merkava 4 is powered by a V-12 diesel engine rated at 1,500hp. The engine compartment and one fuel tank are at the front of the tank and two fuel tanks are at the back. The new engine represents a 25% increase in power compared to the 1,200hp powerpack installed on the Merkava 3.
The Mk 4 Merkava has six rubber-tyred roadwheels either side with the drive sprocket at the front, idler at the rear and four track-return rollers. Each roadwheel is suspended by a separate helical spring with suspension arms for two roadwheels, each caged in a housing.
1/35 Academy Merkava IV LIC Tank
The Kit: This is Merkava IV LIC (Low Intensity Conflict) version from Academy Model Kits. This is not the regular Tamiya model kit we’re used to. This is not a side to side comparison, but worth mentioning. Tamiya bring high quality kits from WW2 to Modern Era subjects. However the way Tamiya engineers their subjects (1/35 Abrams M1-A2 and Bradley M2-A2 comes to mind) is with the maximum level of detail with out a huge amount of parts.
In this case if you are thinking about the 1/35 Academy Merkava IV LIC, be prepared to a more labor intensive build. For instance, the remote gun on top of the turret is composed of 13 parts. Another example, on step 9 and 10 in the instructions, there are 8 sub assemblies for the turret, and that doesn’t include the main cannon, access hatches, photo etched parts etc.
Although this is a high parts count model kit, I did no experienced any fit issues at all. Everything fell in place like a charm. My only complaint is that the instructions shows the assembly of parts from a diagonal left side point of view. That’s leaves some parts without a clear sense of where they really go, so check your references or the model featured on the box.
And now to the most commented issue of this kit, the tracks: Everything you’ve heard about the tracks on the Merkava IV is true. They are made from styrene instead of rubber and for the record, there is an ejector pin mark every other link.
There is an alternative though, Friul Models is currently producing a set of metal tracks for the Merkava II, III and IV. Unfortunately I have to keep my costs of publishing this site as low as possible If Friul Models is willing to send in their samples for review and be used in actual builds, we will be more than happy to highlight them here.
I used the factory tracks and didn’t take the long time of fixing the pin marks, instead I did make up them with weathering Vallejo Pigments.
The track assembly has a nice trick. If you have a smart phone, scan the QR Code on the box and it will take you to a few nice tutorial videos. In case you missed the preview, you can see the video on an earlier post here.
Got balls? This tanks has balls, and plenty of them, and seems to be an issue considered by modelers planning on making this model kit their next project. Their concern in justified, I was one of them too. Here is how I did it: I did cut the sprue containing the ball halves to work with them more easy. Using the bottom of the kit box and the top as if I was making the old box and stick trap, I scrapped the ball halves off the sprue using a new #11 blade.
You need to use the box cover or else you’ll have them flying to the mouth of the carpet monster. You only get from 15 to 20 spare halves so be careful. Gluing the balls to the photo etched parts is a repetitive work but not that hard. Set them all handy, I had a soda cap with a few drops of CA glue on the area.
I picked every ball half very gently with the tip of the #11 blade. Once on the tip, I moistened the flat area with just a dab of CA. If you pick the halves gently with the blade, they will stick by themselves on the photo etched part. At the end, this part of the build was a whole lot easier than I had anticipated.
Painting: Painting the Merkava IV was very straight forward. I did used Testors Model Master Acryl ISRAELI ARMOR SAND GRAY 4814. I don’t usually prime my models and this color from Acryl does not covers as I’m used from Acryl. It took me almost 2 jars of paint where in other subjects a little more than half would have done it. If you prime your models and planning on using Acryl, try a lighter gray primer instead.
Decals: Decals worked very nice, not too thick, not too thin. I laid a puddle of MicroSol with a brush and placed the decals on them without any future or gloss base. It works but you must be quick. No silvering whatsoever. The are markings on the rear tarps which by the way, they are made from the tissue paper that comes stuffing new shoes. The markings were placed there as usual but they got a stroke or 2 of Acryl Clear Flat Coat.
Figures: This kit comes with 2 figures, and infantry man and tank commander. They were sculpted by Douglas Lee and honestly, besides the justified injection seam line, these figures can rival those made in resin. Clean the seams with your method of choice, use styrene glue like Tenax and those seams will vanish.