The Soviet Union managed a strong foothold across nations of the Middle East and North Africa during the Cold War and this led to increased proliferation of its ubiquitous T-54/T-55 line of main battle tanks (MBTs). One such operator of the T-54 system became Egypt which made extensive use of the breed. Within time, however, the type began to show its ineffectiveness on the modern battlefield, particularly against the likes of Israeli of which many fell to enemy hands as trophies of war - only to be reconstituted and used against their former owners. As such, a modernization of the fleet was eventually on order and this went on to produce the "Ramses II" designation for the Egyptian Army.
Development of the Ramses II began when a joint endeavor was agreed upon between Egypt and the United States to help modify an existing T-54 with Western equipment - principally the 105mm M68 rifled main gun of the M60A3 Patton and its Fire Control System (FCS). The selection of the M68 was of note for the Egyptian Army also managed a fleet of M60A3 Patton Main Battle Tanks of their own which it had acquired in number to form their primary combat tank offering. As such, the modified T-54 would then be able to utilize existing stocks of ammunition and automotive equipment thusly simplifying logistics. American engineers at Teledyne Continental Motors (now General Dynamics Land Systems) took to lengthening the hull to accept a new engine installation (the TCM AVDS-1790 diesel) which held commonality of parts with the original M60A3 models. The same Fire Control System (FCS) as found on the more advanced M60A3s was also introduced into the modified T-54 design. The completed prototype was then shipped back to Egypt for formal trials which lasted until 1987 and these vehicles were known as the "T-54E", the "E" signifying their Egyptian changes. Additional testing began in 1989 to which the type was then formally adopted for service as the "Ramses II" in 1990. All told, the Ramses II provided increased mobility over that of even the M60A3 and its FCS proved it an accurate mount at range. Production/modification of the existing Egyptian Army T-54 fleet spanned from 2004 to 2005 to which some 260 examples were created with conversions handled locally by ETP Egyptian Tank Plant.
The Ramses II weighs in at 48 tons (the original T-54 was a 40-ton vehicle) and showcases a running length (gun forwards) of 9.6 meters with a width of 3.42 meters and height of 2.4 meters. She is crewed by four personnel made up of the driver, commander, gunner and loader. The driver sits in the front hull with the remaining three crew in the turret. The turret provides full 360-degree rotating coupled to a modernized Fire Control System (FCS) for improved first-hit probability. The standard armor configuration is limited in its protection scheme though this can be offset by the installation of armor blocks. Additionally, armored skirts can be utilized to protect the track and hull sides. An NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) system is standard as is an air filtration system and fire detection & suppression system. The vehicle sits atop six large road wheels to a track side utilizing two track return rollers, a rear-set drive sprocket and a forward-set track idler.
The Ramses II is armed with the 105mm M68 rifled main gun, the same as found on the M60A3 Patton of which the Egyptian Army makes heavy use of (and replacing the original, now-ineffective Soviet-era 100mm DT-10T series). Additionally, the gun is designed around a NATO standard which supplies the weapon with access to NATO-standard rounds of all types and is fully-stabilized by an HR Textron system. The vehicle is defensed by a 7.62mm SGMT general purpose machine gun in a coaxial mount next to the main gun. Additionally, anti-aircraft support is through a 12.7mm Browning M2HB heavy machine gun. A smoke screen could be self-generated thanks to the inclusion of two banks of three electrically-operated smoke grenade dischargers.
The Ramses II is powered by the TCM AVDS-1790-5A turbocharged diesel-fueled engine developing 908 horsepower. This supplies the mount with a top speed of 70 km/h with an operational range out to 530 km. The engine is mated to a Renk RK-304 series transmission system with four forward and four reverse speeds. The vehicle is suspended atop a General Dynamics Land Systems Model 2880 in-arm hydropneumatic suspension system for improved cross-country travel.
A total of 425 Ramses II vehicles will eventually fall under the program's reach. The Ramses Ii tank is named after the Egyptian Pharaoh of the same name, hence there is no "Ramses I" tank in the project's lineage.