In 1994, Romania began a modernization of its TR-85 line, mostly due acceptance of the country into NATO (March 29th, 2004), joining Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia (the Soviet Empire collapse of 1991 allowed dozens of nations to regain their individuality). This produced the TR-85M1 "Bison" designation which today (2013) remains the standard Main Battle Tank of the modern Romanian Army - though available in limited numbers compared to the original TR-85 offering. The Bison relies on the 100mm A308 rifled main gun (based on the M1977 anti-tank artillery system) with 41 NATO-standard projectiles carried. A fume extractor is fitted near the muzzle. The main gun can engage targets out to 1 kilometer with its Armor-Piercing, Fin-Stabilized, Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) projectile and penetrate armor 450mm in thickness. Secondary armament remains a coaxial 7.62mm PKT tank machine gun with a turret roof-mounted 12.7mm DShK series anti-aircraft heavy machine gun. Smoke and flare dischargers are found along the turret sides and figure prominently into the defense of vehicle and crew. The turret is well-sloped and the tank maintains the low-profile approach of the T-55 in keeping with Soviet tank design doctrine of the Cold War. The modernized TR-85 features a indigenous fire control system (FCS) as well as infrared night vision, a laser rangefinder for accuracy and a laser warning receiver.
Power for the TR-85 is served through a Model 8VS-A2T2M 8-cylinder, turbocharged diesel-fueled engine developing 860 horsepower at 2,300rpm - the powerpack being fitted to the rear of the hull in a conventional fashion (the TR-85 lacks the left hull side exhaust outlet common to Soviet/Russian tanks of the period). This provides the vehicle with a top road speed of 37 miles per hour and operational range out to 250 miles. The vehicle is suspended across a torsion bar system with eight telescopic hydro-gas shock absorbers providing the chassis the needed support for cross country mobility. The track-and-wheel system consists of six paired road wheels to a hull side with the drive sprocket at rear and track idler at front. Two track return rollers are used. The modernized TR-85 models feature side armor skirts that shroud much of the track detail.
TR-85 series tanks were produced from the period spanning 1986 to 1990. The TR-85M1 was produced from 1999 into 2009. The TER-85 is an Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV) variant of the original TR-85 chassis. The DMT-85M1 is a Combat Engineering Vehicle (CEV) based on the TR-85M1 chassis sans the main armament. The TR-85M2 was a prototype MBT fitted with an Italian IVECO diesel of 1,200 horsepower that fell to naught, testing in 2002.
TR-85 tanks were used operationally in security roles during the 1989 Romanian Revolution as part of the demonstrations taking place across several Warsaw Pact entities prior to the official fall of the Soviet Empire in 1991. The revolution spanned from December 16th to December 27th and saw the end of communist Romania, its leader Nicolae (and wife, Elena) Ceausescu being executed for their roles. The turmoil left 1,104 people dead and 3,352 wounded.
As of this writing (2013), the TR-85 and her variants were solely in use with the Romanian Army. Nearly 250 TR-85 first-batch production MBTs are in service supplemented by approximately 54 of the newer TR-85M1 series.