According to Yaakov Lappin, Jane’s Defence Weekly correspondent, the Israel Ministry of Defense (MoD) unveiled on 4 August a new Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) concept, dubbed Carmel, that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI), autonomous capabilities, and enhanced situational awareness to achieve new levels of battlefield effectiveness.
The goal of the programme is to reduce the number of onboard personnel in AFVs like the Merkava tank from four to two and enable them to operate under closed hatches, with the vehicle driving itself, detecting threats in real time, and providing recommendations to the crew on critical decisions.
The vehicles will also be able to control unmanned air and ground vehicles, as well as operate as part of a network that builds a shared picture of the battlefield and co-operate to efficiently engage targets.
The programme will not immediately produce new vehicles, according to the MoD, but will develop capabilities that will gradually be installed on the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF’s) Merkava Mk-4, the next-generation Barak tank, the Namer tracked Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), and the Eitan wheeled APC. The MoD will also begin developing an AFV that incorporates the new capabilities at an unspecified time in the future.
Brigadier General Yaniv Rotem, head of research and development at the MoD’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), told journalists that the programme began around three years ago after the MoD decided to revolutionise the ground forces’ manoeuvring capabilities.
Israel’s three largest defence companies – Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Elbit Systems, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems – were asked to develop their own Carmel prototypes using M113 APCs. These were unveiled on 4 August following a month of trials by a DDR&D team in northern Israel.
The challenge was proving the feasibility of two soldiers conducting closed-hatch operations and integrating technological capabilities that would enhance mission efficiency for the IDF’s manoeuvre forces.