TR-85M1

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Welcome to the suggestion for the TR-85M1! This is a Romanian main battle tank, currently in service with the Romanian Land Forces. While the TR-85M1 does look similar to Soviet T-55s, it has some differences I’ll go over.

History

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A Romanian TR-77 tank on parade, 1984.

Following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, Romania had been one of the few outspoken nations in the Warsaw Pact to condemn the Soviet invasion. Due to this, it began developing a new policy for its defense sector that included being more self-sufficient. This required local factories to produce equipment for the Army, and part of this would be tanks. On October 13th, 1972, a report regarding Romanian tank production was ratified, and development began on a locally built Romanian tank in May of 1974. Writing the specifications for the vehicle, the Romanian Defense Council required it to have similar statistics to the Soviet T-55 that had been ordered a few years prior. However, there was a change in armor on the front plate, 200 mm instead of 100 mm. This last change proved to be controversial, as it increased the weight to 40 tons. The name was to be the TR-77, or Tanc românesc model 1977.

For firepower, the gun was to be an adaptation of the Romanian M1977 anti-tank gun. With this gun, the TR-77 and its succeeding vehicles could achieve a rate of fire of about 4-7 rounds per minute. The first batch of TR-77s were intended to use the Leopard 1’s MTU engine, and because of this, the hull was extended to 6 road wheels, lengthening the rear to accommodate for the larger engine. This was not to be though, as Krauss-Maffei flat out refused to sell or deliver their engine to a Warsaw Pact member. There were also still issues setting up proper production to enable Romania to produce enough tanks, and as a result, designers fell back on the 580 hp V-55 engine. As such, production vehicles were to be named TR-77-580, 580 denoting the engine horsepower. Production would begin in 1979, and the vehicle would be produced until 1985.

TR-85 tank in Bucharest during the Romanian Revolution of 1989.

Still seeking the MTU engine, Romanian engineers attempted to make a reverse engineered Leopard 1 engine even in 1974, eventually managing to get a hold of one. However, it proved too complex to produce, until two years later when Institutul Național de Motoare Termice stated that it could make a derivative engine using local factories. A new hydro mechanical transmission was designed by the ICSITEM research institute from Bucharest based on an available model, and produced by the Hidromecanica Brașov factory, thus completing the T-block powerpack. The engine and transmission were designed between 1974 and 1982, using foreign technology. While it is not known how this technology was acquired, Ion Mihai Pacepa, a two-star Romanian Securitate and later the highest-ranking intelligence official to defect, attested in his book that this was done via spy rings and confidential assistance from West Germany. Now with the engine they wanted, Romania redesigned the suspension and design work continued until 1986 when production began at Fabrica De Mașini Grele Speciale of the 23 August plant in Bucharest. A number of the specialists here had been trained at the Mizil Mechanical Plant, where the first TR-77-580s had been built.

The tank, now named TR-85-800, was tested and proved to be mechanically unreliable, including issues such as engine and transmission problems, oil leaking, and the tank itself being very fuel hungry. The locally produced Ciclop Fire Control System was also unreliable due to quality issues with the electronics. Normally one solution would be to turn to foreign imports, but General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party Nicolae Ceaușescu cancelled all foreign imports of special equipment to the arms industry. He also threatened to scrap the tank’s production altogether due to the poor quality of the vehicle’s manufacturing. These issues wouldn’t be corrected until after the Romanian Revolution, when Romania could import foreign technology once more.

A TR-85M1 from the 284th Tank Battalion “Cuza Vodă”, 282nd Armored Brigade “Unirea Principatelor” during a live-fire exercise at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, June 26th, 2014

With Romania able to purchase equipment from the West, the Supreme Council of National Defense approved Order no.1429 on April 14th, 1994. This was an order to modernize Romania’s tank fleet, and as development began, the project was designated “Bizonul”, or Bison, in 1996, when two prototypes were built. The primary goal of this upgrade was to bring the TR-85 up to modern NATO standards. This included improving the tank’s firepower, protection, mobility, electronics, as well as further ironing out reliability issues. This project played host to a number of companies, both foreign and Romanian. The vehicle officially entered service in 1997, and a major improvement was done by the French SAGEM company, who installed the SAGEM Matis thermal imager on the tank. This is a static camera on top of the gun barrel that can be used by the gunner, as well as the commander. However, due to its positioning, it can not be rotated.

Protection was improved via composite armor on the turret and hull, similar to T-55AMs, however like the T-55AM, the TR-85M1 has limited composite armor coverage. Also included in the upgrade are NBC systems, laser warning receivers, automatic fire suppression systems, as well as smoke dischargers. Firepower was increased with the introduction of the BM-421 Sg APFSDS-T round, which is the Romanian designation for the M309 round developed by Israel for Romania. Another common round is the BK-412R HEAT-FS round, similar in design to the Soviet 3BK-5M. One of the main features of the TR-85M1 is the ammunition being moved to the turret bustle, an extension at the rear of the turret, from which the loader manually loads the gun. As for mobility, the tank has an 860 hp 8VS-A2T2M engine, but due to the increase in weight to 50 tons, a more powerful engine was practically a necessity.

The SAGEM Metis thermal camera, seen above the gun barrel.

Today, the TR-85M1 remains as Romania’s best main battle tank, although has fewer numbers than the TR-85-800. It is known and acknowledged to not be on par with other tanks of larger nations, owing to outdated systems, firepower, mobility, and general design, since it was based off of the T-55. However, Romania is pursuing a replacement, with Jane’s stating the requirements for a replacement are “a day/night all-weather hunter-killer capability, a 120 mm smoothbore main gun, and modern command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence mission systems. Other requirements include three or four crew members, a secondary armament with an elevation up to 70°, high survivability, and good sustainability.” However, for the foreseeable future, the Romanian Army will stick with its TR-85M1 tanks, with their roots still buried in the TR-77 from all those years ago.

A TR-85M1 crewman of the 634nd Tank Battalion of the 15th Mechanized Brigade passes a BK-412R HEAT round to another crewmember in the turret.

Specifications

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  • Mass: 50 tonnes (55.12 tons)
  • Length: 9.96 m (32.7 ft) (with gun forward)
  • Width: 3.435 m (11.27 ft)
  • Height: 3.10 m (10.2 ft)
  • Crew: 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
  • Main armament: 100 mm gun A-308 (41 rounds)
  • Secondary armament: 7.62 mm coaxial PKT (4500-5000 rounds) & 12.7 mm DShK (750 rounds)
  • Engine: Model 8VS-A2T2M, 8-cyl., turbo charged direct injection diesel 860 hp (640 kW) at 2300 rpm
  • Power/weight: 17.2 hp/tonne
  • Transmission: THM-5800 hydro mechanical (4 forward, 2 reverse gears)
  • Suspension: Torsion bar with eight telescopic hydro-gas shock absorbers
  • Operational range: 400 km (250 mi)
  • Maximum speed: 60 km/h (37 mph)

Sources

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Gallery

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3 Likes

+1 For Italy or Balkans!

1 Like

Absolutely yes! +1 for Romanian subtree in Italy.

2 Likes

How on earth did they manage to add that much weight to a T-55? It’s almost as much as the T-90M.

That’s why it’s longer than a T-55 with an extra road wheel. It’s based on the T-55, but uses a new chassis.

+1
Characteristics from the exhibition:
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And more armor, I think I saw photo with armor values somewhere, unless I’m mistaking it with TR-125.

Yes, roughly double the frontal armor of the T-55. (Exactly double for the upper glacis.)

Turret rotation: