The TAB-77 is a licensed Romanian copy of the Soviet Cold War-era BTR-70 8-wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) introduced during 1972. The Romanian version was brought online sometime later during 1977 and has seen manufacture under the Moreni Automecanica brand label. Still in active service today (2014), the TAB-77 is used by the armies of Romania and Libya. Several major versions have since emerged including the base armored carrier, a dedicated battlefield command vehicle with additional communications equipment, an artillery observation vehicle ("PCOMA") and a repair vehicle (TERA-77L - exported in five examples to Libya).
At 13 tons, the TABV-77 comes in slightly heavier than her Soviet counterpart. Dimensions include a running length of 7.42 meters, a width of 2.94 meters and a height of 2.34 meters. The standard operating crew is two with a driver and commander while nine combat-ready personnel can be carried in relative safety and comfort in the hull of the vehicle. Power is served through 2 x Saviem 797-05M1 series diesel-fueled engines developing 132 horsepower (each) at 3,000rpm and mated to a manual transmission system. Each engine drives a pair of the available axles while the first two axles are steerable. Tire pressure can be regulated on-the-fly. The torsion bar suspension system with its eight-wheeled arrangement allows for a maximum road speed of 80 kmh with operational ranges out to 550 km. In keeping with Soviet doctrine, the TAB-77 retains an amphibious quality (as seen in the BTR-70 before it), able to make roughly 9 kmh in water by way of two propeller jets found at the lower portion of the hull rear. Armor protection is only against small arms fire and shrapnel. A tropical kit for warm climate operation is proven optional while an NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) suite is standard. Three firing ports along the hull sides allow the passengers within to engage enemy troops from the safety of the vehicle. Infrared vision is available for both driver and commander for low-level operations. A powered winch is fitted to the front of the hull for rescuing fellow vehicles or removing road debris.
As an APC, the TAB-77 is modestly armed through its traversing turret by way of a 14.5mm KPVT heavy machine gun and 1 x 7.62mm PKT series machine gun. 600 x 14.5mm rounds are carried for the primary armament and 2,500 7.62mm rounds are carried for the accompanying machine gun.
The TAB-77 saw combat deployment during the December 1989 Romanian Revolution which led to the overthrow of the ruling communist government during the fall of the Soviet Empire. The vehicle then saw consistent activity under exercises with Romanian Army forces before being fielded as part of the Western coalition in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was in these two theaters that the vehicle's proved themselves inadequately protected from hidden Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) deployed by enemy fighters - a shortcoming encountered by many vehicles fielded in the modern-day wars.
Approximately 168 TAB-77s have been produced including a single test vehicle sent to China. Manufacture of TAB-77s spanned from 1978 into 1991. During this time, Romania represented the only nation outside of the USSR proper to manufacture armored vehicles for the Warsaw Pact.