The first tanks are expected to be deployed in 2003, with a full battalion taking the field in 2004. These 65-ton tanks have 1,500-horsepower diesel engines, improved laser range finders and thermal night-vision capabilities, as well as thicker belly and top armor. They also have a newly designed transmission and a number of electronic improvements, such as a camera mounted in the back to help the crew drive backward. The 120 mm main gun also touts "increased muzzle velocity to maximize impact" and can probably fire the LAHAT laser-guided antitank/antihelicopter missile.
One significant change was that there is only one hatch on the turret, to be used by the commander while the rest of the crew uses a rear door. Designers said it was built specifically with the rocky Golan Heights in mind.
Israeli Defense Ministry Director-General Amos Yaron declined to divulge the cost, claiming the figures had not yet been worked out but noting that the Merkava III costs about $3 million each and describing the Merkava IV as "economically competitive."
About 200 companies participate in producing the Merkava IV. Israeli tanks are not cheap to maintain, either. Higher-priced parts and manpower made up the lion's share of the $1,075 cost for one hour of training in a Merkava 2 tank. For the price of one modern Merkava tank in 1999, a country could purchase 20 Russian-built T-72s. - Adam Geibel
For photos, see he IDFs official Merkava 4 data page: http://www.idf.il/merkava4/english/index.stm
The IDF revealed it's Merkava IV MBT on 24 June, rolling out three of them at the IDF's logistics and technology base at Tel Hashomer. After nine years of development, the Israelis are calling it the "safest tank in the world" and the first tank in the world with full protection against both vertical and horizontal attack.