Staff Writer (Updated: 2/14/2016):
Thyssen-Henschel responded by outfitting the existing German Army Marder IFV for the roles - the combat tank to feature a full-sized traversing turret and large-caliber armament and the IFV to sport a more compact turret with autocannon and fighting compartment for passengers. The Germans - with Argentine input - developed three prototypes of each vehicle and these underwent extensive tests and trials while still in Germany. Upon successful completion of the tests, the vehicles were then shipped to Argentina to which the TAMSE (Tanque Argentino Mediano Sociedad el Estado) factory was established at Buenos Aires for serial production. Some 70% of the vehicle was Argentine with the remainder of components being German in manufacture with final assembly in Buenos Aires.
The initial Argentine Army order called for 512 vehicles (200 TAM tanks and 312 VCTP IFVs) to stock its inventory though budgetary constraints forced the order to be cut to 350 units and, even then, only 250 units were completed (150 TAM tanks and 100 VCTP IFVs). The Argentines designated the new combat tank as the "TAM" (Tanque Argentino Medium = "Tank, Argentine, Medium") while the IFV became the VCI (Vehiculo Combate Infanterie = "Infantry Combat Vehicle") with seating for 12 and armed with the Rheinmetall RH-202 20mm autocannon (the VCI designation was eventually evolved to become VCTP (Vehiculo de CombateTransporte de Personal = "Personnel Transport Combat Vehicle")).
From these developments, several major variants arose, each fulfilling desired combat roles within the Argentine Army and utilizing the chassis of the TAM tank though all seeing substantially limited production totals. This included the 155mm-armed VCA 155 (Vehiculo de Combate de Artilleria de 155mm = "155mm Artillery Combat Vehicle") mating the chassis of the TAM tank with the turret and gun of the Italian OTO-Melara Palmaria Self-Propelled Gun (SPG) platform, the VCRT Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV) (sans turret) and the VCL (Vehiculo de Combate Lanzacohetes = "Rocket Launcher Combat Vehicle") TAM-based rocket projector vehicle with Israeli-designed launcher and rockets. A command vehicle - the VCPC (Vehiculo de Combate Puesto de Mando = "Command Combat Vehicle") is also recognized and based on the VCTP.
The TAM is a very conventional combat system and its Marder IFV origins are clearly recognizable in the chassis and hull sections. The hull sports a well-sloped glacis plate leading up to the hull roof. Sides are near-vertical with slight sloping while the rear panel slopes inwards as well. The turret is set at the rear of the design with extensive overhang noted. Unlike other frontline combat tanks, the TAM features its engine in a front right compartment more akin to modern IFVs. The turret is of a low-profile design with the gun barrel protruding out of the frontal panel as normal. Turret frontal and side panels are slightly sloped for basic ballistics protection. The running gear consists of six double-tired road wheels to a track side with three track return rollers featured (these sometimes shrouded by the optional saw-tooth side skirt panels for increased protection). The drive sprocket is at the front of the hull with the track idler at the rear. Armor is of steel construction and an NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) system is standard. The vehicle is crewed by four standard operating personnel including the driver (front-left hull), commander, gunner and loader (all in the turret, mid-hull section).