TEL AVIV — Israel's Defense Ministry announced Tuesday that it signed a US $310 million contract with General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) to produce kits for its Namer (Leopard), a heavy troop carrier based on the indigenous Merkava Mk4 main battle tank.

Funded through annual US military assistance, the six-year contract calls for US-based production kits, with final assembly and installation of subsystems to be performed at MoD's Masha facility in Tel Hashomer, south of Tel Aviv.

In the its May 5 announcement, MoD noted that the contract with GDLS joins a $250 million previously concluded contract, also funded through US military aid, for US-built Namer engines.

"The Namer is considered to be the most heavily armored carrier in the world, and has proven its capabilities in Operation Protective Edge against myriad threats," MoD stated in reference to last summer's war in Gaza.

During the course of that conflict, MoD credited Namers deployed with infantry operating in built-up areas for saving "many lives."

GDLS was selected in October 2010 over Textron Marine and Land Systems and BAE Systems for US-based production of Namer chassis and main components.

The contract announced Tuesday follows a 2011 deal between MoD and GDLS for production tooling and an initial 111 kits, with options for another 276 vehicles based on a full production rate of some 60 per year.

Prior to last summer's war, due to budget cuts, MoD had planned to slash Namer production orders by more than half. But lessons from that war and outrage sparked when seven infantrymen were killed in an RPG attack on their 50-year-old M113 restored top procurement priority for the heavy APC.

Since its initial fielding in 2009, less than a handful of infantry brigades have been equipped with Namer. And unlike the Merkava Mk4 tanks, the heavy APCs have not yet been equipped with active protection against RPGs and anti-tank missiles.

According to today's statement by MoD, all new Namers will be equipped with the Trophy, an active protection system (APS) built by state-owned Rafael. Ltd.

Similarly, it noted that dozens of other Namer components and subsystems would be provided by local industry.

"The Merkava and Namer products include 200 plants all across Israel, which directly or indirectly employ some 10,000 workers," MoD noted.

According to MoD, Merkava-related exports account for some $700 million annually, with principalle markets in Europe, the United States and East Asia. "Every shekel invested in the project yields almost four shekels for the Israeli economy," it added.

Robin Porter, communications manager at GDLS, was unable to provide a spokesperson to comment on the MoD announcement by presstime.