The TR-85M1 from Romania: Good, But Not Enough for Modern Warfare

Romania is considering several options to replace its fleet of TR-85M1.

The war in Ukraine has shown a truth: the importance of artillery, tanks, air defense, logistics, as well as the possibility of projecting the force at long distances and for long periods. Compared to European countries, the Romanian Army lags behind with its outdated main battle tanks. The backbone of Romania’s armored forces is still the old T-85M1 Bizonul tanks, an upgrade from the TR-85. The TR-85 itself is another upgrade of the Soviet T-55 with some minor changes. According to Romanian media, a tank procurement program is underway to modernize its fleet.

Romania is considering several options to replace its fleet of TR-85M1. The M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams and an unspecified variant of the Leopard 2, presumably the Leopard 2A7, appear to be in favor but the rise of the Korean K2 Black Panther could also be an option.

Romania’s TR-85 has been modernized to the TR-85M1 standard since 1994, to meet NATO standards. Although a further development of the T-55, the TR-85M1 uses a T-block powerpack based on a V8 German 830 hp diesel engine, an improved turret, a locally-designed “Ciclop” fire control system, new 100 mm BM-412 Sg armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS-T) projectiles and a fully redesigned suspension with 6 road wheels on each side, protected by metal side skirts. Combat weight is 50 tons, a significant increase from the 42 tons of the TR-85.

Currently, the Romanian army operates more than 300 upgraded TR-85M1 main battle tanks. It has improved armor protection compared to its predecessor. There is a bigger turret with additional passive armor over the frontal arc. The tank is equipped with laser warning receivers, NBC protection system and automatic fire suppression system.

The turret is fitted with two six-barreled 81mm smoke grenade launchers and two four-barreled flare launchers. The system can create a thick smoke that blocks both vision and thermal imaging. The tank is also equipped with a smoke screen generator that is triggered by the driver. When activated, diesel fuel is injected into the hot exhaust, creating the thick smoke. The TR-85M1 is equipped with laser illumination warning sensors that can automatically trigger the GFM-76 smoke grenades and flares, thus disrupting the guidance systems of thermal and infrared guided missiles.

The TR-85M1 has the same armament as its predecessor, armed with a 100 mm rifled gun, which is loaded manually. Ammunition is stored in the turret bustle, fitted with blow-out panels. Despite that this gun fires newly-designed APFSDS round, it is inferior to modern 120 mm and 125 mm tank guns. 100mm round is hard to take down the latest MBTs. Secondary armament consists of a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun and a roof-mounted 12.7 mm heavy machine gun.

TR-85M1 is equipped with a new German diesel engine, with a capacity of 860 horsepower. It also has new hydropneumatic suspension. Its power-to-weight ration of 17hp/t in comparison with modern main battle tanks is weak. It can reach a top speed of 60 km/h, and has a range of 310 km.

The crew of four, including commander, gunner, loader and driver. The TR-85 has a cramped crew compartment, a trait of the T-54/55 series. Although it has an extended chassis, the extra space is used by the larger engine. The TR-85M1 also has a turret bustle, but this does not help crew comfort because of the added equipment in the modernized version.

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