Drawings by David Bocquelet
3D Model by Giganaut
Thanks for TE and the Author for allowing me to post this.
Romania (circa 1978-1985)
Tank Destroyer – Schematics only
The Romanian tank destroyer apex
Ever since the mid-1950’s, Romania was slowly distancing itself from the Communist block. All while staying loyal to the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, but steadily loosening the Soviet grip on Romania’s economy and military. After Nicolae Ceaușescu, the Communist leader of Romania (1965 – 1989), condemned the 20th of August 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, relations between the Romanians and the Warsaw Pact significantly diminished. The Romanian military was no longer under the control of the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact due to the incident, although they were still formally part of the Warsaw Pact. From the 1970’s onwards, Romania was generally free to develop and manufacture whatever equipment they were capable of, while buying some equipment from Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.
This caused the inception of the TR-77-580, TR-85-800, TR-125, MLVM, IAR-93, IAR-95, IAR-317, IAR-330 development as well as various other examples. The TAA, a recently discovered design, was another of Romania’s domestic designs. A truly unorthodox design for a nation that mostly focused on slight or relatively insignificant alterations of existing Soviet designs.
The TAA was an elusive Romanian project originating from the 1980’s that involved an “MLI” chassis and an unspecified 100 mm gun. Until now, the vehicle was known as the “Tun Antitanc Autopropulsat model 1985”, “TAA-85”, or the “TAA md. 85” with the ‘model 1985/-85/md. 85’ part of the name likely a fabrication or misunderstanding.
The TAA was designed specifically for anti-tank purposes with direct fire and from concealed positions. It also provided a unique crew and equipment layout which theoretically further protected the crew.
Prior to the discovery, the only information available for the TAA-85, as it was called, was from the Romanian Wikipedia page about the vehicle. According to the patent however, the tank was simply referred to as the ‘Tun Antitanc, Autopropulsat’ meaning ‘self-propelled anti-tank cannon’. This could just be the name for the patent of a tank destroyer design, but the Romanians created designations for their armored vehicles with acronyms that stand for simple descriptions of the purpose of the vehicle. For example, ‘TR’ in TR-77-580, TR-85-800, and TR-125 (Romanian MBT designs) stand for ‘Tanc Românesc’ which translates to “Romanian tank”. As a result, it is not far-fetched for them to call it the ‘TAA’ with varying numbers that stand for the caliber of the gun or year of service.
The history of the TAA is obscure. The earliest known mentioning of this vehicle was in 1978 when the Romanian Command of Artillery was authorized to figure out how many domestically produced artillery pieces and what type they were going to need. They decided that 1716 self-propelled 100mm anti-tank guns mounted on the “MLI” chassis (uncertain if they were referencing the MLI-84, a slightly longer BMP-1 clone) were going to be needed. This meant that the tank was developed sometime around 1978 to 1985 (or possibly earlier) until it was patented in September, 1985.
The tank was patented by Institute 111 from Bucharest, Romania for its unique crew and compartment layout. They were responsible for designs such as the TR-85-800. The designers who were credited were Buracu Mihail and Darvariu Paul. No other information is currently known about them.
The photograph above is one of the Merkava’s prototype, which shares some broad similarities between the TAA. While no direct link between the two projects has been found, it is an interesting coincidence nonetheless. Like the Merkava, the TAA would have the engine and the transmission at the front which meant that the crew would have extra protection from a frontal hit (with the exception of the driver, he was not given the same luxury). However, any frontal penetration would most probably have rendered the tank immobile. The TAA and Merkava both share the method of entering from the rear for into the fighting compartment for the crew and the rather thin turret.
The tank had a crew of four. The commander was situated at the rear of the turret in his own small cylindrical compartment with a cupola above and between the rear ammunition compartments. The gunner was located on the left side of the gun with his head inside the turret closest to the mantlet. The loader was located on the right side of the turret closest to the commander and the ammunition compartment. Additionally, the loader and the gunner were given their own hatches. The driver was furthest to the front, besides the engine, with a window for a reasonable view ahead of the tank and a periscope (which means there was probably some armored shield provided for the window), and an access hatch. As mentioned earlier, the fighting compartment could also be entered by the rear through two doors.
The tank was designed with an isolated ammunition compartment with blowout panels, similar to what is seen on the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams, one of the main reasons for the patent’s existence. It was designed to contain the explosion of the propellant from the crew and the tank itself. However, from what can be interpreted from the drawings, if the turret was to rotate around thirty degrees to the right or left, it could possibly put the commander in a position of injury or possibly death by the impact of blowout panels or the extreme temperatures from the combustion of the ammunition. The TAA was equipped with a unique auto-loader. The loader would be given two trays that could hold an unspecified amount of rounds, sort of like a magazine. The trays would then have to be filled with the designated ammunition type and the separate propellant cartridge. After the loader completed his task of filling the tray, the elevator would then raise the tray to a position where the round can be inserted into the breach. The gun must be at a pre-determined position, presumably approximately level with the tank, for it to be loaded. After the loader is done loading his initial tray, he is then tasked to fill his second tray with the propellant cartridge and the designated ammunition. The cycle then continues. In this way, the commander and/or gunner can designate different ammunition types to the loader and/or gunner which are prearranged and set which increases loading speed.
The TAA was armed with an unspecified 100 mm gun with a laser range finder on top of the mantlet. One might be mistaken by thinking it was a 125 mm gun, but it’s likely an upgraded variant of the 100mm M1977 Resita, or a whole new gun entirely. The weight and the horsepower of the engine aren’t given, but it is likely a more potent engine compared to the MLI-84’s 355 hp engine due to the extra space available compared to the MLI-84. It could either be the T-55 and TR-77-580’s 580 hp V-55 engine or the 830 hp engine allegedly based off of the Leopard I’s powerpack that would be eventually be used on the TR-85-800.
Using the 100mm sized bore of the gun as a reference, the size of the TAA is approximately 2.5 meters (8.2 feet tall), 3.4 meters (11.15 feet wide), 7.35 meters (24.11 feet long) (hull only), and 8.4 meters (27.56 feet long) including the gun. This makes the TAA a slightly taller, slightly wider, and significantly longer than the T-55 when it comes to the size. This gives the tank a somewhat low profile and the chance of it getting hit further decreases due to the thin turret. The weight and speed of the vehicle is also not given. The fuel, lubricants, spare parts, and tools are located on each side of the TAA exposed to any threat. The suspension is of the torsion bar variety, a fairly simple and effective suspension that was and still is widely used on many armored vehicles.
The TAA never came into fruition likely due to it being unnecessary, costly, impractical, or Romania wasn’t ready to make a vehicle that complicated. If it did enter service the way it is presented in the patent, the tank would have been a very unusual tank to have fielded in Europe in the 1980’s but would have suffered many problems from retraining crews from a “normal” tank layout to the cost of the machine when Soviet tanks were easily available. The TAA until now had been a forgotten design, a remarkable piece of design from a country not well known for tank design and a testament to the skills of the designers and engineers involved.
Wikipedia has a reputation of providing dubious information on armored vehicles, particularly the type with little information available on them. This article uses a TAA-85 article from wikipedia.ro as a source. However, it should be noted that it only uses a specific portion of the article that uses a patent site called breveteonline.ro that is no longer seemingly accessible as a source on the internet. The specific portion of the wikipedia.ro article mentioned earlier and the recently rediscovered patent do closely correlate, so this, in turn, proves the legitimacy of at least the specific portion of the wikipedia.ro TAA-85 article that was mentioned.
“165 ani de existență a artileriei române moderne” by Col. dr. Adrian STROEA (coordinator). Col. Constantin AFRIM, Col. Dobrică BUTUC, Col. (rz.) Ion CANĂ, Col. (rz.) Marin GHINOIU, Col. Nicolae MITU, Lt.col. Gheorghe BĂJENARU, Mr. Florin BARBU, and Mr. (rz.) prof. DUMITRU CONSTANTIN
Link to the TAA patent
Link to the wikpedia.ro page about the TAA-85