The Philippine Army has begun entering into service Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge (AVLB) based on the Israeli Merkava Mark 4 tank chassis. An army statement last week said two tanks arriving at the port of Batangas had been transferred for military technical inspections before being delivered to units. This seems to be the first time that any version of the Merkava tank has been exported to a country outside Israel.
According to the Philippine website Maxdefense.com, the budget allocated for two lots of these bridging tanks (out of three) is about $36 million and the supply of the bridging tanks is part of a G2G deal between the Israeli and Philippine governments.
The website tells that there were changes made from the previous proposal to use Leopard 2 platform, as the Merkava IV platform is more beneficial considering the product is being delivered by Elbit Systems Land & C4I.
The use of Merkava IV chassis actually opens a door to what could be the potential main battle tank for consideration by the Philippine Army, although this is a surprise considering the tank's heavy weight, a boon to Philippine Army planners.
The bridge remains the same as previously proposed, based on Israel Military Industries (now part of Elbit Systems) & Leonardo's design, said to be a long version of the Joint Assault Bridge being delivered to the US military.