TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel launched operational tests this week of actively protected combat engineering versions of its locally- developed Namer, a heavy troop carrier based on the Merkava Mk4 main battle tank.

Video and still photos released Wednesday by Israel's Ministry of Defense shows three combat engineering derivatives: a bulldozer version to be operated by company commanders; a breaching and obstacle bridging version to be operated by platoon commanders; and a towing version to be operated by platoon sergeants.

Equipped with the Trophy Active Protection System (APS) against anti-tank missiles, mortars and RPGs, the combat engineering Namers will allow Israeli ground forces to deal with terror tunnels, bridge obstacles and maneuver in high-threat areas.

Tests are being conducted at the Israeli military's combat engineering school in the south of the country, in coordination with the Israeli MoD and the Mantak Tank Production Authority, developers and producers of Namer and Merkava armored platforms.

"The combat engineering Namers endow brigade-level teams with capabilities they never had before," said Brig. Gen. Baruch Matzliah, director of the Mantak development and production authority. "They will overcome any engineering obstacle in the modern battlefield and will allow efficient and effective, force protecting maneuvers while preserving maximum operational readiness."

In January, MoD announced that it had completed integration of the Trophy APS on initial Namer vehicles and was ready to enter into serial production. Developed by state-owned Rafael Advanced Systems, Trophy is operational with multiple brigades of Merkava Mk4 tanks and was credited with saving lives during Israel’s summer 2014 war in Gaza.

Trophy is designed to neutralize all types of chemical energy threats in flight, from RPGs to high-explosive rounds and tandem warhead anti-tank guided missiles. According to Rafael marketing data, it provides 360-degree protection against multiple launchings "while maintaining a pre-defined safety zone for friendly dismounted troops."

Two versions of the Namer heavy troop carrier based on the Merkava Mk4 main battle tank is seen during testing by Israel's Ministry of Defense.

Photo Credit: Israel Ministry of Defense

It was first activated during a March 2011 operation at the Gaza border, when a Trophy-equipped Mk4 tank destroyed an RPG-29 with no damage to the protected tank or its four-man crew. It scored another operational intercept in August 2012 against an anti-tank missile fired at a Mk4 near a crossing point in central Gaza.

In a December 2015 interview at an Israeli base bordering Gaza, Capt. Tzuri Dill, a Merkava Mk4 tank commander with the 46th Battalion, part of the 401 Brigade, recounted an incident during the summer 2014 Gaza war when a company commander's tank was targeted by a Kornet anti-tank missile from a distance of 3.5 kilometers. "We understood the tank was targeted, but the system worked like a charm. Because of [Trophy], the threat was neutralized. Everything was automatic," he recounted.

In another recent interview at the Gaza border, a company commander from the Golani infantry brigade said his men were excited at the prospect of receiving APS-equpped Namer troop carriers. "We have the best protected tanks in the world and soon, with this new APS capability, we'll be even better equipped for every kind of scenario," Capt. Ran Tinkiguey told Defense News.