In the 1970s, the Argentine government commissioned the German concern of Thyssen-Henschel (Rheinmetall since 1999) to produce a modern medium-class combat tank and tracked infantry combat vehicle to replace obsolete World War 2-era stocks of M4 Shermans and M3/M9 half tracks. The result was the TAM (Tanque Argentino Mediano = "Argentine Medium Tank") and the VCTP (Vehiculo de Combate Transporte de Personal = "Personnel Transport Combat Vehicle") Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) which entered service in the early part of the 1980s. Both were based on the German Army's Marder IFV chassis of 1971 which promised controlled costs and a proven pedigree. An original contract for 500 total Marder-based vehicles of both classes (tank and IFV) was ordered before budget restrictions brought procurement down to the eventual 200 TAM tanks and 216 VCTP IFVs (as of 2013). The VCTP remains an active player in the Argentine Army inventory as of this writing. Design work on the VCTP variant began in 1977 with construction primarily handled by TAMSE of Buenos Aires.
Based on the Marder, the 31-ton VCTP showcases the same body lines and running gear of its predecessor. The hull sports a large-area, well-sloped glacis plate at the front with sides sloping inwards to provide basic ballistics protection. The rear of the hull is squared off while the roof is flat to provide unobstructed firing arcs for the powered turret housing the primary cannon armament. Additional hatches are set over the fighting compartment and firing ports for the passengers are found to either hull side. The engine retains its front right-hull placement which forces the driver's position to the left hull side. The engine aspirates through a grille along the front right side of the vehicle and maintenance/replacement access is through a large hinged door panel which opens to the right. The running gear consists of six double-tired road wheels to a track side with the drive sprocket at front and track idler at rear. Three track return rollers are used along the upper track span. There is no side skirt armor for point defense against anti-armor weapons. Internally, the vehicle is capable of transporting six combat-ready infantry in the rear-set cabin. The standard operating crew is three to include the driver positioned in the front-left hull with the commander and gunner in the turret. A powered door is situated along the rear hull face for quick infantry dismounting/mounting.
Primary armament for the VCTP series is a 20mm Rheinmetall Rh-202 fitted to a 360-degree powered traversing turret. Along the roof is an optional 7.62mm FN MAG 60-20 series general purpose machine gun for anti-infantry and anti-aircraft actions. The VCTP carries up to 880 x 20mm projectiles for its main gun and over 1,500 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition (as required). The vehicle can also provide its own smoke screen through 8 x electronically discharged smoke grenades fitted in two banks of four launchers to each hull side.
Power for the VCTP is through the same MTU MB 833 Ka-500 6-cylidner diesel engine of 720 horsepower as the TAM tank. This provides the VCTP with a top road speed of 47 miles per hour and operational road range of 370 miles - on par with the TAM tank it would be fielded with.
VCTPs were deployed operationally in the 1990s upheaval in Yugoslavia under the banner of the United Nations in a peacekeeping guise. As such, these vehicles were painted in the traditional UN white with UN lettering.