|BOOKWORLD - Israel's Front Line Armour|
A look at the first in a new series by Ofer Zidon...
Israel's Front Line Armour
Publisher: Wizard Publications
Author: Ofer Zidon
Softcover; A4, 78 pages
The first book in the series covers the development of the Israeli Defence Force Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV's) during the first decade of the 21st Century. The book features Israel's land forces hardware including the tank, armoured personnel carrier (APC), self propelled gun (SPG) and combat engineer vehicles. The chapters in the book are built chronologically, with each chapter covering a period of time or a conflict which took place between 2000-2011. A special chapter is dedicated to the development of the Merkava MBT. The book contains 80 full colour pages with about 160 photographs, most of them never published before.
The publisher's blurb above more or less states what this title is all about. Billed as the first title in the series, it concentrates on illustrating the development of Israeli AFV's from the year 2000. It's seventy-eight pages of perfect-bound colour photographs, beginning with examples of the Centurion based Nagmachon APC and M60A1 Magach 6 Batash through to Merkava IV and Achzarit APC's.
It's not just photographs though. The author exhibits his intimate knowledge of IDF armour by explaining concisely at the beginning of each of the eight chapters, the changes undergone in the development of that armour during the time period examined, and the rationale that resulted in those changes.
The first chapter entitled 'On a Brink of a New Century, begins with the IDF withdrawing its forces to a security zone at the southern end of the Lebanon to protect Israeli civilian settlements from Lebanon-based Hezbollah attacks. After a period of quiescence, Hezbollah began to use more and more IED's, and this coupled with various political pressures, eventually led to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the security zone, and the leaving behind of large numbers of vehicles in the hands of the south Lebanon Army...most of which ended up in Hezbollah hands after their collapse. The author sets the scene then, for the second chapter 'Defensive Shield', the name given to the large Israeli operation on the West Bank in 2002. The section is introduced by the authore explaining exactly what 'Defensive Shield' consisted of, its aims and extent, and then goes on to display some of the vehicles used at that time, including the Magach 7 Gimel (7C) APC, Magach 6 Bet (6B), Magach 7 and Magach 7C, Merkava Mk.IIB, M113, and T-55 Achzarit. In most cases the photographs are displayed two to each page, and each photograph is comprehensively captioned, with the author pointing out exactly which version of a particular vehicle is shown as well as how it differed from earlier versions. Other points of interest are also described, where necessary, such as the personal kit worn by crews for example.
'The New Generation Merkava' centres around the development of the 4th Generation Merkava IV, and begins by describing the events in the mid 1960's and the development of the Chieftain that led to Israel deciding it had to develop its own home grown MBT. It was also around that time that the three criteria for development of all Israeli AFV's were first arranged in an order of precedence, i.e. survivability, fire power, and lastly, speed & manoeuvrability. The section is quite lengthy, and is illustrated with Merkava's of all types from the Merkava I in 1979, Mk.IIB's, Mk.II Dalet, Mk.III Dalet. Mk.III Baz, Mk.IIID, Mk.IV, and Mk.IV LIC. Agsin, each of the photographs is captioned, and no opportunity is missed by the author to explain exactly what can be seen in each of them.
In the next section, 'Gaza Operations', the author sets out to explain the background to Israel's evacuation of its forces from the Gaza Strip in September 2005 before displaying eight pages of colour photographs of vehicles used at this time. These include a Nagmachon - the Centurion based heavy APC, which was used to replace the aluminium M113, deemed to be highly vulnerable, even though they continued to be used with TOGA armour. Also included are a Puma APC, Achazarit APC with OWS system, Magach 7C with added belly armour, necessary as a result of the increased use of roadside IED's by Hezbollah forces, armed D9 Caterpillars, Nagmachom APC's and NAMER APC's. Interestingly...and somewhat confusingly, the next section is 'Gaza Disengagement', detailing the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, and illustrated with yet further examples of vehicles that were used at this time, but also during patrols of the 'Green Line'. Since attacks originating from within the Gaza Strip continued after the Israeli withdrawal, the nature of the vehicles developed by Israel could be seen to subtly change over time, as seen by examples of the Nagmachon Mifletset and Nagmapop to monitor Kassam launch sites within the Gaza Strip.
'Second Lebanon War' begins with an explanation of the events leading up to the 'Direct Change' operation in July 2006, which became better known as the Second Lebanon War. The series of photographs included in this section include the M-109 Doher SPG, PUMA APC, M-270 MLRA Vehicles, and various marks of Merkava. The penultimate section entitled 'Second Lebanon War Aftermath' describes the recriminations that took place once peace was resumed, and also the recognition by Israeli forces that heavier and larger armoured vehicles were quickly becoming impracticable for urban guerrilla warfare. This in turn led to the development of systems such as 'TROPHY', which can identify, intercept, and destroy incoming threats such as missiles for example. Perhaps understandably there are no photographs included showing vehicles fitted with this system. The last section is short one dealing with 'Operation Cast lead', the return to the Gaza Strip of Israeli forces at the beginning of 2009 in an attempt to restore long term security to the Israeli population in the area. The photographs in this short section are mainly Merkava III's and IV's.
If you've any interest whatsoever in Israeli armour, then you will definitely want this one on your book shelf. Most of the photographs you will not have seen before and the accompanying text is informative and interesting, offering insights into the rationale that drove IDF armour development over the last ten years. The author is overtly in support of Israel, which I suppose we should expect, and the text at times reads a bit like a Government leaflet....an Israeli Government leaflet....but, if you can look past that and just enjoy the photographs, and the historical information, then it's an enjoyable read. Recommended.
My thanks to Justin at Bookworld for the review sample.