In the late 1950s, Israel struck a deal with Great Britain to purchase a number of Centurion Mk.5 tanks as a response to Egypt’s own rearmement efforts at the time. Deliveries continued well into the 1960s, with Israel fielding more than 300 Centurion tanks prior to the Six-Day War in 1967.
Although the Centurion, or Sho’t as it was called by the Israelis, was the most modern tank in service with the IDF at the time, it wasn’t very liked among Israeli tank crews due to its low reliability in desert conditions. Therefore, the decision was made to modernize the vehicles in May 1967 by replacing the petrol engine with a more powerful and reliable Continental diesel engine. Further upgrades included the fitting of a new transmission, larger fuel tanks and other minor improvements.
In the following Middle Eastern conflicts of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the Sho’t had proven its effectiveness in combat. However, after the devastating tank losses of the Yom Kippur War, Israeli engineers realized the importance of crew protection and work on an indigenous tank design, that would become the Merkava, began.
In the meantime, the vehicles that were already in service had to be modernized in order to prevent a repeat of the high losses of the Yom Kippur War in potential future conflicts. This modernization effort primarily focused on the addition of the Blazer ERA package to the Sho’t Kal and Magach tanks, which would reduce the effectiveness of chemical munitions fired at the vehicles.
The upgraded Sho’t Kal Dalet, as it was known, proved the effectiveness of the upgrade during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, where it fared well against ATGMs and RPGs.
The Sho’t Kal Dalet was the last mass-produced modification of the Israeli Centurion, before it was replaced by the more modern Merkava tank models. In total, Israel had purchased and used over 1,100 Centurion tanks, with some still being in limited service today as APCs, ARVs or CEVs.