From 1944 to 1958, the Soviet military maintained a heavy presence in the nation of Romania, spoils of its war as it were, due to Romania's siding with Hitler's Germany during World War 2. As such, Soviet political and military influence was readily apparent in the oil-rich nation situated strategically on the Black Sea. In time, the Romanian Army adopted the T-54/T-55 Main Battle Tank (MBT) into its inventory, the series becoming the most-produced combat tank in history with totals estimated between 86,000 to 100,000 units and operators all over the globe. While the Soviet military eventually left Romanian soil to consolidate its commitments, the Romanian government continued relations with the communist world power and inked a deal with Soviet authorities to purchase 850 examples of their T-55. Deliveries of these vehicles spanned from 1970 to 1977. Romanian Army T-55s were known under the T-55Am designation and this encompassed three distinct subvariants. Unknown at the time, the purchase provided the groundwork for a local tank establishment in Romania proper that would go on to form the basis of its modern tank-producing capabilities culminating in the "TR-85" Main Battle Tank (MBT).
The Romanian direction had evolved into one of self-sufficiency concerning its military and this begat a custom, modernized development of the T-55 in 1974. Requirements were simple: a 40-ton tracked armored combat vehicle mounting a capable 100mm main gun and powered by a German-originated diesel engine of 800 horsepower (the same as powering the Leopard 1 MBT). The direction to modify an existing MBT as opposed to designing, developing and manufacturing an all-new design was simply meant to play to the strengths of the limited Romanian heavy industry of the time and keep procurement costs down. Development of the new tank began in 1974 and concluded in 1980, producing the "TR-77" MBT. However, there proved issue in settling the purchase of the West German powerplant (Romania lay on the other side of the "fence" between democracy and communism) and so the T-55's original V-55 diesel of 500 horsepower was substituted. Key changes to the TR-77 over that of the T-55 also included a lengthened hull and an extra pair of (smaller) road wheels to each track side to manage operating weights. Despite the arrival of the TR-77 design, Romanian engineers continued its evolution and ultimately managed to design an in-house, all-new 800 horsepower diesel based on the intended German engine. This engine then formed a new tank initiative that came complete with revised suspension and turret to become the "TR-85". The TR-85 was adopted in 1985 and entered service with the Romanian Army in 1986 continuing service to this day (2013).
The TR-85 is a 55-ton combat system of largely conventional form and function. Its T-55 roots are noticeable to the trained eye though much care has been taken to modernize the design to the fullest (the largest difference is the addition of one road wheel to a track side and the all-new turret shape). The vehicle sports a running length of 32.7 feet with a width of 11.3 feet and a height to turret top of 10 feet. As in the T-55, the TR-85 is crewed by four personnel made up of the driver in the front-left hull and the commander, gunner and loader in the turret. Armor protection is 320mm thickness at the turret facings with 200mm at the hull. An additional 20mm of armor can be addressed with add-on Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks.
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.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Onboard systems provide solutions to accomplish a variety of battlefield engineering tasks.
✓Main Battle Tank (MBT)
Primary armored ground combat unit of modern armies utilizing speed, protection, and / or firepower to spearhead armored assaults.
Frontline unit used to take direct part in forward operating actions against enemy positions / targets.
Engage armored vehicles of similar form and function.
32.7 ft 9.96 m
11.3 ft 3.44 m
10.2 ft 3.1 m
110,231 lb 50,000 kg
55.1 tons HEAVY
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base TR-85 (Tanc Romanesc Model 85) production variant. Length typically includes main gun in forward position if applicable to the design)
1 x Model 8VS-A2T2M 8-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine developing 860 horsepower driving conventional track-and-wheel arrangement.
1 x 100mm A308 main gun in turret.
1 x 12.7mm DShK anti-aircraft heavy machine gun at loader's hatch.
1 x 7.62mm PKT coaxial machine gun.
10 x Smoke grenade dischargers.
(Not all weapon types may be represented in the showcase above)
41 x 100mm projectiles.
750 x 12.7mm ammunition.
4,500 x 7.62mm ammunition.
10 x Smoke grenades
TR-85 - Initial Production model appearing in 1986.
TR-85M1 ("Bison") - Modernized TR-85; appearing in 1999.
TER-85 - Armored Recovery Vehicle built upon the chassis of the TR-85 MBT.
DMT-85M1 - Engineering Vehicle; based on the TR-85M1 MBT chassis; fitted with powered crane and dozer blade with mine plough; sans turret; appearing in 2007; five examples produced.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns / operations.
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Image released to the public domain via Wikipedia user DoloresRKT.
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