The IDF’s first wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC), the Eitan, is about to enter service. The military expects it to significantly upgrade the ability of infantry units to move from base to battle zone in little time, withstand enemy fire, and take part in combat.

Together with the tracked Namer APC, the Eitan is part of the IDF’s drive to modernize its armored vehicles, make them immune to Hamas and Hezbollah armor-piercing weapons, and create new strengths on the battlefield. The IDF’s older APCs, like the M113, which dates back to the 1970s, have been found to be vulnerable and inadequate.

Equipped with a 750 horsepower engine, the Eitan will achieve speeds of up to 90 kilometers an hour on roads. It will also come with an active protection system that can intercept threats like missiles and rocket-propelled grenades – the types of weapons that proved deadly for older vehicles.

“It is a privilege for our brigade to get these new platforms, developed by engineers in Israel,” Maj. Liad Kalvo, Technology and Maintenance Officer in the Nahal infantry brigade’s 50th Battalion, told JNS. The Nahal brigade is the first to receive the Eitan.

“This is the forefront of technology. These abilities give us superiority and real operational advantages,” he added. “It provides independence, lethality, mobility, and survivability. This is a very rapid armored vehicle,” Kalvo added.

The Eitan can maneuver to distant destinations, and get soldiers there rapidly, he stated.  It can travel on and off road, through difficult terrains, and does not require slow-moving military trailers when moving on roads.

“Today, we have an early vehicle to conduct experiments,” Kalvo said.  In April, drivers from the 50th Battalion underwent intensive training with the APC. They spent a week in operational driving conditions, and brought the Eitan to a battalion-wide training exercise. “We saw its abilities,” said Kalvo.

Each Eitan vehicle carries 12 soldiers, moving them “to any arena that the state needs to reach to protect itself, and moving them quickly from their base to the border – to any border,” he added.

Cpl. Vlad Levitansky, a company commander in the 50th battalion of the Nahal brigade, said, “No one is prouder than me to receive into my ranks the most advanced IDF APC.  The Eitan brings with it a technological revolution, and will be a decisive vehicle in the next war.”

Levitansky said his soldiers are excited by the Eitan’s arrival, and “feel that their training and abilities have improved significantly.”

The Eitan’s ability to engage threats will include a range of weapons that can be attached and replaced on board, such as a powerful 30 mm automatic cannon.

An independent battalion

According to Kalvo, the arrival of this armored vehicle is part of a bigger process, which is aimed at making the modern IDF battalion as independent as possible, able to conduct its own battlefield affairs.

“The amount of times spent in combat zones is growing. We want to be less dependent on the home front, and less dependent on the need to bring logistics from outside the battle zone,” Kalvosaid.

“This is the assumption on which we are building our combat doctrine,” he added. “We understand that the next war will not be like the last war. In the next war, we want a relevant vehicle that will deliver real advantages over the enemy.”

The Eitan will also be able to act as a military ambulance, evacuating the wounded away from the frontlines, due to its speed and size.

As time goes by, Kalvo said, the Nahal brigade will seek to help deal with the few disadvantages that the APC still has.

The Eitan is being mass produced by the Defense Ministry’s Tank Administration.

It is based on “lessons learned from Operation Protective Edge” against Hamas in Gaza in 2014, the Ministry said, when it first unveiled the vehicle in 2016.