Israel's Ministry of Defense is procuring Z-MAG, a unique all-terrain vehicle for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The IDF traditionally has used several types of light armored vehicles and jeeps, including thousands of Humvees.
Now Z-MAG will be one of the IDF's future vehicles as the army continues to modernize and use new technology. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), one of Israel's largest defense companies, acquired the manufacturing of Zibar, Z-MAG, and ZD vehicles from off-road vehicle manufacturer Ido Cohen, the company said last year.
At the time IAI said that the all-terrain vehicles would be upgraded for military and homeland defense applications with a range of intelligence, radar, and communication systems manufactured by IAI's ELTA Systems. These included "the Drone Guard system for drone detection and foiling, air defense, and intelligence collection systems. Under the deal, IAI will receive rights to the design of the vehicles and will market them to defense entities in Israel and abroad following their upgrade. Ido Cohen will continue to manufacture and sell the vehicles for civilian applications."
Then on April 22 of 2021 IAI announced that it had signed the agreement to manufacture Z-MAG for the IDF. "IAI has recently acquired the rights to the Israeli Z off-road vehicle family. Israel's MOD Sub Department for Land Production and Procurement and IAI's ELTA Group signed an agreement to manufacture and supply nine Z-MAG all-terrain vehicles to the IDF, with an option to order 21 additional units," a statement said.
"IAI is proud to supply the world's most advanced all-terrain vehicles, developed in Israel, to Israel's defense community. ELTA develops and produces a broad range of products for land purposes, including: surveillance, autonomous robotics, remote sensing, and communication," said Yoav Turgeman, IAI's VP and the CEO of Elta. Elta is a subsidiary of IAI. "By integrating these capabilities in the Z vehicle family our products provide added value to the forces' operational possibilities, be it in defense, assault or homeland security intelligence gathering," he said.
In an interview, the company noted that the IDF tested several vehicles from all over the world and selected Z-MAG after an extensive more than year-long series of tests. The vehicles were stress-tested with full loads in "hard conditions." IAI says it is proud the vehicle has been selected. "It has tremendous off-road capabilities, it has unique capabilities to crawl on rock. It has the ability to meet obstacles. It is very quiet."
In fact, the Z-MAG also has a good payload weight to the overall weight of the vehicle. It can climb up steep ascents and can be flown easily on military aircraft and could have autonomous controls added. The designers tried to keep complexity low as well, so that it has reliable electronics and easy-to-use features.
The first nine vehicles are on order and IAI hopes an additional twenty will be acquired. It is also offered globally for sale and the company thinks new contracts will emerge. "It's unstoppable," says IAI, pointing out it can drive everywhere and navigate rocks and environments. It is ideally suited for border patrols, special forces or being used as a light vehicle for infantry and ground forces to be inserted for a variety of missions and applications.
The vehicle can be armored but its basic version weighs 2.7 tons and IAI says it can carry up to an addition 2.5 tons. This means it can be up armored on it. Moreover, the Z-MAG is being upgraded and configured by Elta, a subsidiary of IAI, in Beersheba.
The IDF only uses several types of vehicles today, including the Humvee. The IDF also has jeeps and more heavily armored vehicles. But the Z-MAG vehicle could become a standard in the future. It comes in other versions, such as the Zibar which is a closed vehicle. Israel is currently fielding the Eitan, a new armored vehicle that is replacing its aging M114 armored personnel carriers. It is one of several new platforms the IDF is using, including considering smaller unmanned vehicles. Overall, the IDF has gone through several years of a five year plan called Momentum. It is supposed to provide the best technology to grown forces and enable them to fight on a combined network using better drones and intelligence together. This also exploits Israel's advanced fifth-generation F-35I stealth jet fighters and other capabilities such as air defense.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.