JERUSALEM — Israel will purchase hundreds of combat vehicles from Israel Aerospace Industries for the country’s special forces in a deal worth more than 100 million new shekel (U.S. $28 million), the Defense Ministry said in a recent statement.

The Directorate of Production and Procurement is purchasing IAI’s Negeva vehicles, referred to by the company as Z-MAG and ZD. The vehicles will range in size, from 1.5 tons to 2.5 tons.

The manufacturing is being done in cooperation with Ido Cohen and The Armored Group, the ministry said in its announcement.

Yoav Tourgeman, IAI vice president and the CEO of its subsidiary Elta Systems, said the division producing these vehicles and other ground applications was established three years ago. He said the Negeva’s development follows the company’s successful work on Israel’s future armored fighting vehicle program, Carmel. IAI was selected by the Defense Ministry as the prime contractor for the program last year.

The head of IAI, Boaz Levy, said Carmel will “equip the IDF with the most advanced tactical ground vehicles in the world, which are highly reliable and have exceptional capabilities.” He added that “IAI’s wide range of capabilities in the fields of intelligence, AI [artificial intelligence], remote sensing and communications are integrated in these land vehicles and will provide significant added value to the operational capabilities in the field of combat mobility.”

“Soldiers are looking for the ability to drive in hard terrain with [a] reliable and simple-to-operate vehicle,” Tourgeman said in an interview. The IDF, he said, put the Negeva through “hard tests,” and the new vehicle didn’t lose its abilities.

“They remained operational [in the] conditions for [which they were] tested, the ability to cross land and water in a way that no other vehicle can do. And the ability to take a payload equal to the weight of the vehicle itself,” he said.

That means the 1.5-ton vehicle can take up to 1.5 tons of payload, and the 2.5- and 3.5-ton variations of the vehicle can take 2.5 and 3.5 tons in payload, respectively.

The IDF uses other vehicles, such as Humvees, and Israel’s Defense Ministry anticipates the IDF’s Nahal Brigade will soon receive its first eight-wheel drive Eitan armored fighting vehicles. Israel is also acquiring new unmanned ground vehicles. The Negeva, which will go to IDF special forces, is not a replacement for the Humvee.

The Negeva can take on new technology, including autonomous capabilities, to serve different operational needs, Tourgeman said. The ministry noted in its statement that the vehicle can be used to deliver supplies and evacuate wounded people.

The deputy director general and head of the Directorate of Production and Procurement, Avi Dadon, called the Negeva purchase a “significant procurement deal for strengthening the IDF Special Units’ force build-up.”

“This agreement will enhance the export potential for these unique tools and technologies,” Dadon added.

Seth Frantzman is the Israel correspondent for Defense News. He has been covering conflict in the Middle East since 2010. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.

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