Israel operates a number of freaky vehicles, many of which re-use the hulls older of older vehicles. One good example of this is the Nagmachon, a monstrous, extremely protected armored personnel carrier based on the British Centurion.
Despite lacking a turret, its massive amount of armor means it still weighs around 50 tons. But the Nagmachon comes from a family of weird Centurion-based creations used by Israel, so we thought we’d take a look at them.
Today, Israel operates one of the most heavily armored tracked vehicles in the world, the Namer. Based on the Merkava, it likely has more armor than any main battle tank, and is highly advanced, with mine protection, active protection, and an NBC system.
However, Israel had to walk a long road to get to this point, with a number of APCs built by cutting up and modifying old tanks.
The Israel Defence Force (IDF) has always placed a great importance on APCs, as quickly moving troops across the battlefield has been a strong part of its doctrine for decades.
Their first experience with the type started all the way back in the 1940s with the American-built M3 half-track. In the 1970s Israel obtained its first true, modern APC, the M113.
The M113 was a highly mobile APC and it also had room for a large compliment of troops, but it was very lightly armored. Even heavy machine guns could punch holes in their aluminium armor. This deficiency came to light during actions in Lebanon in the early 1980s.
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The guerrilla warfare they fought exposed these light APCs to large IEDs (improved explosive devices) and anti-tank rockets that they simply weren’t designed to deal with.
In response, Israel did what it does best: modifying existing hulls to meet the new threat.
To begin with they simply bundled troops inside Sho’t main battle tanks (Israel’s upgraded Centurion, Sho’t meaning “Whip”), but the lack of room inside and poor practicality forced them to get the gas torch out.
As they famously did with Shermans in the 1950s and ’60s, Israel began cutting up and modifying the Centurions into heavy APCs.
The first was the Nagmashot.
The Centurion turret was removed, and in its place came an angled superstructure with a steel plated roof. On the roof was two hatches at the front, and two doors at the rear for the entry and exit of its passengers.
The casemate was of unknown thickness, although it appears to be constructed from steel armor only.
The Nagmashot received additional belly armor for resistance against mines. The rest of the armor remained the same as the Centurion it was built on. Also the same was the driver’s position, located at the front right of the hull. Aside from the driver, the only other crew member was the commander.
Explosive reactive armor (ERA) side skirts were trialled, but the Nagmashot is mostly seen with either no side skirts, or the standard Centurion skirts.
Despite being built on the Centurion, the Nagmashot was not powered by a V12 Meteor, instead, power came from a 750 hp air cooled Continental AVDS-1790 V12 diesel engine. This was simply a consequence of using Sho’t hulls, as they had received these engine upgrades in Israeli service.
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Under the casemate eight passengers could be carried. They could supply provide some fire from the Nagmashot with up to four pintle-mounted weapons, one next to each roof hatch.
As these modifications were relatively simple, the Nagmashot was able to enter service in 1984, just a few years after the idea was conceived. While it did provide much greater protection than the M113s, the hatch locations meant its passengers were very exposed as they left the vehicle.
By the end of the 1980s these issues resulted in the IDF handing its Nagmashots over to the Corps of Engineers, where they were used as engineering vehicles.
Israel began using the Achzarit as its replacement; a very heavily armored APC based on the T-55. The Achzarit, which entered service in 1988, had a rear door for its passengers, greatly improving its practicality.
After receiving Nagmashots, Israel’s Corps of Engineers began the development of the Nagmachon. It was a significant upgrade over the former, being designed to work in intense insurgency environments.
The vehicle’s general layout was essentially the same as the Nagmashot, but it had much, much more armor.
The Nagmachon made extensive use of ERA blocks. These were found on thick side skirts, and all over the frontal portion of the vehicle. The driver’s position was bolstered with a small armored dome fitted with ERA and vision blocks.
At the very front, attachment points for engineering equipment was added. As an engineering vehicle this meant the Nagmachon could be fitted with mine rollers, bulldozers and other pieces of equipment if needed.
Its passengers still had to exit out the rear of the superstructure, like with the Nagmashot, but on the Nagmachon the rear side skirts could be raised for additional protection. Total passenger capacity was increased to ten.
But the most notable feature of the Nagmachon was on top of the superstructure. Initially, primitive shields were added to provide a little extra protection to those operating the guns or exiting the vehicle, but eventually the Nagmachon received a large tower on top of the superstructure.
The sides of the superstructure have bulletproof glass windows, and those inside can operate FN MAG 7.62 mm machine guns firing through slots.
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Later cage armor was fitted, which, combined with the Centurion’s basic armor, additional belly plates, large quantities of ERA, and spaced armor, turned the Nagmachon into a seriously well-armored vehicle. This did have a negative impact on its mobility, but this was a worthy sacrifice for the protection it offered.
Many Nagmachons were built by upgrading Nagmashots, while others were “new” builds straight Sho’t hulls. Due to the rather ad-hoc nature of these APCs, each vehicle will be slightly different from the rest, which can sometimes make it difficult identifying them from afar. For example, some have been upgraded with Merkava suspension and running gear, while others have not.
In the early 1990s Israel’s Corps of Engineers began receiving deliveries of the Puma, a dedicated engineering vehicle. The development of the Puma had began in the early 1980s, and its arrival meant the Nagmachon was no longer needed.
They were handed back to the infantry and used as armored personal carriers.
Like the Nagmashot and Nagmachon, the Puma was based on the trusty Centurion, and followed a similar layout to those vehicles. Although it is a dedicated engineering vehicle, it is capable of carrying five passengers – usually combat engineers – so it is often called an APC.
The Puma received a superstructure above the hull, although it is much lower than the Nagmashot and Nagmachon. Inside is a crew of three, with the driver located in the front right. Behind him is a passenger compartment with space for five people, which are typically engineers.
It is protected by numerous armor types, such as bar armor, ERA, regular steel, and even composite armor. The composite armor is modular, so panels can be replaced when damaged. The belly is reinforced to protect against mines, and it also has an NBC system.
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Naturally, the Puma can carry a range of engineering equipment, particularly relating to mine clearing operations. These include dozers, a crane, mine rakes, rollers, and even an electronic warfare suite that can jam or detonate nearby explosives. It can also carry line charges to quickly clear pathways through minefields.
The Puma can also serve as an armored recovery vehicle.
The Nakpadon is the ultimate in the line of Israel’s Centurion-based heavy APCs. It is the newest, most advanced, and best protected.
Development of this vehicle began in 1993 and entered service in the late 1990s, becoming the third generation of Nagmashot APC. Also built on the Centurion chassis, the Nakpadon features a slab-sided casemate in the center of the hull in place of the turret.
Like its earlier siblings, the Nakpadon is extremely well protected. It has a newer generation of composite armor, and brings along more ERA blocks and spaced amor. The roof received extra armor, likely to protect against top-down fire in urban environments, and the belly was up-armored too, as is standard with the Nagmashot family of vehicles.
Its sheer quantity of armor is evidenced by its weight of 55 tons, despite lacking a turret and a large caliber weapon.
With all this armor, the Nakpadon was able to operate with relative impunity inside intense zones of fire in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in Palestine. Reportedly, they shrugged off many hits from anti-tank weapons and even direct mine blasts.
They carry electronic warfare systems, which allow them to block detonator signals for IEDs.
The Nakpadon is armed with up to four weapons, including three positions for 7.62 mm machine guns and one position for heavier weapons like a .50 caliber machine gun or a 40 mm grenade launcher.
Due to the heavier weight of this vehicle, it received a more powerful version the AVDS-1790, which produced 900 hp, instead of the 750 hp unit used in the Nagmashot and Nagmachon.
Israel made small numbers of a Nakpadon variant that has a door at the front of the hull, which greatly improved the movement of passengers in and out.
The Nakpadon ranks as one of the most heavily armored APCs in the world today.
The Nagmapop is the final version were are looking at, but it is a little different to the rest. It is based on the Nakpadon, but it is an observation vehicle.
Located on top of the Nagmapop is a large telescopic mast that can be raised and extended vertically to a height of 30 meters.
On top, various cameras, sensors and optics can be installed depending on the mission.
The platform then serves as a portable observation post. The Nagmapop was developed for use in border areas, where views into enemy territory is needed. Its armor allows it to sit relatively safely across the border as it makes its observations.