JERUSALEM, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Israel has signed a landmark contract with a foreign government for the sale of its locally- produced flagship Merkava IV main battle tank, local media reported on Sunday.
A publication ban was imposed on who the buyer is, as well as most other details. The Israeli defense ministry also declined to comment on the contract.
The deal, reportedly worth hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars, marks the first time that the Merkava is being exported in whole since the tanks were first manufactured in 1980.
Over the years, countries like Turkey and Colombia have shown interests in buying the fourth-generation Merkava. However, the Israeli defense ministry had always rejected the idea so as protect the tank's secret technologies, primarily the advanced armor, all-terrain mobility and other unique systems.
These qualities have branded Merkava among the best of its kind around the world, and provided the Israeli military with the qualitative edge on the battlefield.
Despite previous rejections, ongoing budget crisis has propelled the Israelis to give a green light to the sales of the tank, reportedly with an official price of 4.5 million dollars for each.
Israel's cash-strapped defense ministry have been busy scrambling to collect nearly 290 million dollars, an annual funding necessary to keep the tanks serving in the Israeli military forces combat ready, said the report, adding that the deal can also help to prevent thousands of employees at assembly lines away from unemployment.
The report also said that tank was approved for export to countries with which Israel maintains long-standing security ties, "which ensures that its secrets won't be leaked to hostile elements."