Categories
Argentinian armor

Nahuel DL. 43

Argentinian armor Argentina (1943-1950s)
Medium Tank – 12-16 Built

Argentina is known in military circles for being one of the few South American states having in its arsenal a domestically-built tank, the Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM), which has spawned a family of vehicles including Self-Propelled Guns, rocket launchers, and ambulances, all based on the same chassis. However, less well-known is a similar idea which dates back to 1943 – the Nahuel DL 43.

Context – A Tumultuous Country

Between 1916 and 1930, Argentina was governed by different brands of the ‘Radicals’ of Unión Cívica Radical, which, despite introducing some progressive measures, were also responsible for some of the most brutal repressions of worker and student movements. During this time, Argentina acquired its first military vehicle, the Model 25 Vickers Crossley armored car.

By 1930, economic stagnation and constant political violence would lead to the first of the many military coups which would hamper Argentina’s progress. The following period is remembered as ‘the infamous decade’ and was characterized by corruption and political persecution. The regime had deep fascist sympathies and the army’s appearance became very similar to that of Germany. In 1937, Argentina acquired a number of Vickers Carden-Loyd Model 1934 light tanks from Britain, intended to be used as training vehicles in preparation for acquiring bigger and more powerful tanks. The initial plan to buy a number of LT vz. 38’s from Czechoslovakia was scuppered by the Munich Agreement (1938). Argentina was unable to procure tanks from its traditional vendor, Britain, nor its ideological associate, Germany. With the eruption of the Second World War, Argentina’s pro-Nazi sympathies were not approved of by the USA, thus leading to a short period of political isolation and making the importation of foreign tanks impossible. A local solution therefore had to be found.

Alfredo Aquiles Baisi

Lieutenant Colonel Alfredo Aquiles Baisi was a second-generation Italian immigrant with a distinguished career. From a military family, he had been a military attaché to the Argentinian mission to the USA. He would go on to design the uniform for Argentinian tank crewmen and had overseen the modification of some tractors into assault vehicles named ‘Vinchuca’.

In 1942, the Argentinian regime passed Ley 12.709, a law which created the Dirección General de Fabricaciones Militares [Eng: General Directorate for Military Manufacturing]. This institution was tasked with organizing different industries across the country for the production of a domestic tank to fulfill the role of main armored vehicle in the Argentinian armored forces. In 1943, the Directorate gave the job of building a 35-tonne (38.5 tons) tank to Baisi.

Alfredo Aquiles Baisi in his military uniform. Source: www.taringa.net

Development and Prototype

Remarkably, Baisi and his team were able to deliver a 1:1 scale wooden model, designated ‘251’, within forty-five days.

The wooden model was considered satisfactory and the relevant authorities asked for a prototype. Work on this prototype, and presumably the wooden model too, took place at the Esteban de Luca Arsenal in Boulogne Sur Mer, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. The prototype, numbered ‘C 252’, short of its turret, was finished after two months work and shown to impressed military authorities at the arsenal where it was being built. Not long afterward, it was tested in front of a crowd including the President and other civilian and military leaders. The results were favorable enough for a production series to be requested.

Allegedly, according to some of the sources, Baisi’s dream was to create a family of military vehicles based on the Nahuel chassis.

Design

Regarding the design and vehicle specifications, it is worth noting that these are as stated in the secondary sources popularised by authors such as Ricardo Sigal Fagliani. These are prone to exaggerations and chauvinistically overstate the abilities of Argentinian produced vehicles and Argentina’s capabilities in general. Alternatively, the original specification may have been incorrectly recorded by some author and then the mistake has been passed on as the correct data over the years. Because of this, specifications must be taken with a pinch of salt.

External Appearance and Armor

Despite claims by Argentine military authorities that the Nahuel was an indigenous project which was not inspired by any foreign tank, in appearance, it resembled an M4 Sherman and M3 Lee/Grant hybrid. The front of the tank consisted of a flat inclined plate forming a beak at the front where it met the bottom plate. At some point, presumably between 1947 and 1948, a slit with a sliding panel was retrofitted on the frontal plate to improve the driver’s vision. There was a headlight on each side of the front of the tank just above the tracks.

Two Nahuels on parade. In the page this photo has been taken from, it is labelled as being taken on a parade in July 1944, though this cannot be the case. Other photos in 1944 show the Nahuel with the twin machine guns in the front of the hull, whereas in this photo, they have been removed. Additionally, the vision slit for the driver can be seen in both Nahuels and these were not added until about 1947 or 1948. Source: www.militariarg.com

The frontal armor was 80 mm (3.1 in) thick, which according to some sources was the same thickness on the sides and the turret, though this seems unlikely, and the bottom and rear were 25 mm (0.9 in) thick. The armor was welded and riveted and made out of homogenous nickel steel. The steel plates were of good quality, although at first several US reporters had claimed that the tank’s armor had been made using scrap metal from old warships.

However, it is worth noting that according to the sources, the vehicle had roughly the same dimensions and weight as the M4 Sherman, yet supposedly had more armor on the side of its hull and side of its turret. This is very unlikely if not impossible: either the vehicle weighted substantially more or the armor on its sides and turret was not as thick as the sources claim.

The turret turned 360º and was cast in one piece. Inside was the turret basket which housed the commander, gunner (right), and loader (left). In front of the turret, at the top of the roof of the hull, were two entry and exit hatches. At the top of the turret was a two-piece hatch for the commander.

Carried on the sides of the Nahuel were a number of tools, such as shovels and pickaxes, among others.

Undercarriage and Suspension

The track system consisted of three suspension bogies per side, with two wheels at the bottom and a return roller at the top, basically, a Vertical Volute Spring Suspension (VVSS) as seen on the M4 Sherman. Additionally, each side had two extra return rollers at the top, a drive sprocket wheel at the front and an idler wheel at the back. The tracks had seventy-six individual steel links on each side.

Edited photo focusing on the Nahuel’s undercarriage showing the VVSS suspension. Source and edit: www.militariarg.com

Armament

The main armament of the Nahuel was the Krupp 1909 Model 75 mm gun. The Dirección General del Ejército [Eng: General Army Directorate] had initially made ten available from stocks, though there were many more in depots, some of which had never been used and were still boxed. The gun itself weighed 130 kg (287 lb).

The 75 mm Krupp gun had a maximum range of 7,700 m (8,420 yds) and was able to fire ten rounds per minute. There was a plan to replace this gun with the Bofors Model 1934 75 mm gun which had a higher muzzle velocity, though it never materialized.

Initially, secondary armament consisted of four machine guns. One 12.7 mm (.50 Cal) was placed coaxially and three 7.63 mm Madsens in the front plate, one slightly to the left of the right track and two placed centrally. In 1948, the two central machine guns were removed, as they were impractical and of limited use.

Interior

The interior was divided into three sections: front, middle/combat section, and rear/engine compartment. The front section housed the driving mechanisms (transmission and steering gear) and radio. The driver was seated to the left, whilst the radio operator, who was also the machine gunner, was on the right. The radio was locally manufactured by Dirección Material de Comunicaciones del Ejército [Eng: Army’s Communications Material Directorate] but was based on a Telefunken model. All crewmembers could communicate with each other by means of phono-electric circuits.

Behind the driving compartment, in the middle section, were the commander, gunner, and loader, all having to share the space in the turret. The Nahuel’s ammunition was stored in containers in the turret ring. Discarded shells were also placed in these containers, but always at a safe distance from the live rounds, as the heat of the discarded shells could set the live ones off. With three crew members, the main gun breech, a heavy machine gun and ammunition, it is worth re-evaluating the sources’ claim that the turret was 80 mm thick all round, the same thickness as the turret on the Tiger I.

Internally, there was central heating, ventilation, gas ejectors, and hand weapons for the crew.

Engine

The engine on the Nahuel was a modified aircraft Lorraine-Dietrich 12 E.B. 12 cylinder V-shaped engine, also known as the Lorraine 12E Courlis. In normal conditions, the engine had an output of 450 hp, but back in 1931-32, the engines had been modified by Fábrica Militar de Aviones [Eng: Military Aircraft Factory] to an output of 500 hp. The engine had a carburetor fuel system, ran on petrol (gasoline), had a liquid cooling system, and was ventilated by a fan. This engine was most likely taken from the Bréguet 19 aircraft Argentina had in service. The tank had a top-speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) and range of 250 km (155 mi).

The hydraulic gearbox had four forward gears and one reverse, and was built by the small Pedro Merlino mechanical workshop just outside Buenos Aires.

Color Scheme and Markings

The Nahuel was painted entirely in olive earth brown.

On each side of the turret was a sky blue and white roundel, above which was written in white ‘Ejército Argentino’ [Eng: Argentinian Army]. Underneath, also in white, was written ‘Agrup. Patag.’, short for Agrupación Patagónica [Eng: Patagonia Group]. Originally, on a number of vehicles which had paraded Buenos Aires in 1944, the bottom writing was ‘Escl. Bl. Cdo.’, short for Escuela Blindados Comando.

On either side of the rear of the hull and on the right side of the upper rear plate were identification numbers written in white consisting of a superscript lower-case ‘c’ and a number, for example ‘c 130’. On the side of the hull, above the first road wheel, ‘D.L. 43’ was written in white and, just behind this, a picture of a tiger or a jaguar.

Rear side view of Nahuel ‘c 73’ at the exhibition held in Buenos Aires to commemorate the first anniversary of the 1943 Revolution. Note the ‘c 73’ written at the side and rear of the vehicle. Also note the jaguar painted towards the front of the hull side. The photo quality does not allow to fully appreciate the roundel on the side of the turret. Source: www.fundacionsoldados.com.ar

Production and Numbers Built

After the first prototype had been constructed, a short series was ordered. A total of eighty different state and private enterprises collaborated on producing different parts for the tank and all branches of the armed forces provided assistance. For example, the Air Force supplied the aforementioned engines, whilst the Navy contributed the communications system, which Oscar Baisi, Alfredo Baisi’s bother, had helped to develop and offered their armor laboratory for different tests.

There is some discrepancy among sources on the exact number of vehicles built. Most commonly, twelve is the accepted amount, though Ricardo Sigal Fogliani, who has written extensively about the vehicle and has had some access to official documentation, claims that as many as sixteen were built. Other sources do state, however, that only twelve were completed and that an additional four were never finished, meaning that both numbers could be correct. Sigal Fogliani asserts that a 1950 army inventory indicates the availability of thirteen Nahuel.

Name

The background of the vehicle’s name is one of myths and contentious truths. The vehicle was officially designated ‘Tanque Nahuel Modelo Baisi 1945’, after its creator, by the Argentine military authorities in the Military Bulletin No. 210 of June 26th 1944. However, it is more commonly known as Nahuel DL 43 or more simply as just Nahuel.

Nahuel means tiger, puma, or jaguar in the Mapudugun language of the native Araucanian Mapuche people who inhabited parts of modern Argentina in pre-Columbian times. It is not exactly known why this name was chosen. There are two versions of the same story: 1. According to US intelligence reports which were somehow acquired by the Argentines, Argentina was referred to as a ‘lion without teeth’, alluding to its great capacity but poor military; and 2. In a US communiqué to Brazil outlining potential plans for an invasion of Argentina if it were to steer to closely to the Axis powers, which was allegedly intercepted by German spies and then passed on to Argentina, it said that Brazil should be confident as ‘the tiger [Argentina] does not have any teeth’. Both versions seem unlikely as either variation of the feline not having teeth are not common sayings or idioms in the English language. This story may just be a product of chauvinistic propaganda, which is not uncommon for the place and period, and the exact reasons for choice of name remain unclear.

The ‘DL’ in the name is also a product of much speculation. Allegedly, when the tank project was presented to de facto President Edelmiro Julián Farrell, he enthusiastically responded shouting “¡Déle, déle nomás!”, roughly translating to ‘go ahead without hesitation’. ‘Déle’ in Spanish sounds very much like ‘DL’. This is highly unlikely.

Lastly, the number 43 in the name most probably refers to the year the project began, 1943, but some have claimed that the 43 was chosen in honor of the year of the 1943 Revolution.

Service History

On June 4th 1944, on the first anniversary of the 1943 Revolution which had ended the ‘Infamous Decade’ and had given rise to Juan Domingo Perón, two engine-less Nahuels (numbers ‘c 73’ and ‘c 74’) were placed in a commemorative exhibition on the Buenos Aires Avenida 9 between Sarmiento and Cangullo streets. One of the highlights for visitors was when the two tanks fired their main guns to inaugurate the event.

Nahuel ‘c 74’ and Nahuel ‘c 73’ (in the background) at the exhibition held in Buenos Aires to commemorate the first anniversary of the 1943 Revolution. Source: fdra-terrestre.blogspot.com

The next public appearance of the Nahuel was on July 9th 1944, when ten Nahuels rolled down the streets of Avenida del Liberador in Buenos Aires as part of a military day event. The lead tank (‘c 121’) was driven by Baisi himself.

Nahuel ‘c 121’ being driven along Avenida del Liberador in Buenos Aires by Baisi on July 9th 1944. Source: www.militariarg.com

Whilst the idea had been to create a longer series and adapt the chassis to create a family of vehicles for different purposes, in the end, none of this came to fruition. With the end of the Second World War, and Argentina, following the 1943 revolution and the fortunes of war, having abandoned its pro-Axis sympathies, buying cheap American and British tanks became a more economically viable option. Argentina was also able to exchange their abundant agricultural products with countries lacking foodstuffs, such as Britain, for tanks. Argentina would purchase around 300 Sherman tanks, of which more than 1/3 were Sherman ‘Fireflys’. This made the Nahuel obsolete, as the later model Shermans were better overall tanks with superior firepower, thicker armor, superior design, and much cheaper.

In a cruel turn of fate, several Nahuels were used as target practice for Sherman tanks. By 1962, not one Nahuel was left on the army inventory and most were scraped. Despite the best efforts of individuals to find remnants of a Nahuel, it can be safely said that none survive to this day.

The Paraguayan Nahuel?

In the 1960’s or 70’s, writing for a Spanish military magazine, historian Georg von Rauch claimed that during Peron’s visit to Paraguay in 1953, two Nahuels and other pieces of military equipment were donated to Paraguay as a symbol of goodwill between the two nations. von Rauch has since claimed that he found this information in a US G2 report. Efforts to verify this have proved unsuccessful and it is most likely that this never actually happened. At that time, Paraguay only had fifteen M3/M5 Stuarts provided by the USA at the end of the Second World War, meaning that the Nahuel would have for some time been able to provide an increase in firepower and armor for the Paraguayan armed forces. Ultimately, Paraguay would receive nine second-hand Shermans from the USA in 1960.

Conclusion

The Nahuel was a brave and competent effort from a designer and workforce with no experience in building modern armored fighting vehicles. However, it is not as unique and remarkable as the chauvinistic Argentine press and amateur or military historians like to claim. Baisi’s dream of creating a family of indigenous military vehicles on a common chassis would have to wait.



Illustration of the Nahuel DL 43 medium tank, produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Nahuel D.L.43 specifications

Dimensions 6.22 x 2.33 (or 2.63, contested) x 2.95 m (20.7 x 7.8 x 9.8 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 35 tons (77,160 lbs)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, co-driver/machine-gunner, gunner, loader)
Propulsion FMA-Lorraine-Dietrich 12 Eb, W12, WC, 500 hp, 14.3 hp/tonne
Maximum speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Suspension Vertical Volute Springs (VVSS)
Range on road 250 km (155 mi)
Armament Main: 2.95 in (75 mm) Krupp M1909
Secondary: 1 x 7.62 mm (0.3 in) Allan machine gun
3 x Madsen 7.62 mm (0.3 in) light machine-guns
Armor Maximum glacis front 80 mm (3.3 in)
Total production 12-16

Sources

Anon., Armas Argentinas: El tanque Nahuel, FDRA – Fuerza Terrestre, (1 June 2015) [accessed 06/08/2019]
Anon., Militariarg [accessed 06/08/2019]
Javier de Mazarrasa, La Maquina y la Historia Nº11: La Familia Acorazada TAM (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1996)
Juan Carlos Heredia, Siguiendo las huellas del Nahuel para reconstruirlo en 1:35, Fundación Soldados, [accessed 06/08/2019]
‘PanzerArg’, El primer tanque argentino: Nahuel DL-43, Taringa!, (23 November 2016) [accessed 06/08/2019]
Ricardo Sigal Fagliani, Blindados Argentinos de Uruguay y Paraguay (Ayer y Hoy Ediciones, 1997)


Categories
Argentinian armor

Sherman Repotenciado

Argentinian armor Argentina (1978) – Medium Tank – 120

After World War 2, Argentina decided that buying surplus tanks would be more economical than mass-producing their domestic Nahuel D.L.43 tank. Between 1946 and 1948, Argentina would acquire 360 American-built M4 Shermans from Belgium, of which 206 were Ex-British Sherman Fireflies and 154 were Shermans armed with the 75 mm gun (some sources state a total of 500 tanks). With the arrival of the Sherman tanks, Argentina became the most powerful force in Latin America at that time. The Argentine Shermans would see service in the various coups and uprisings which Argentina suffered throughout the mid-twentieth century.
In the 1960s, Argentina tried to replace its aging Sherman tank fleet. After failing to acquire American M41 Walker Bulldog light tanks, Argentina turned to Europe, where it acquired licenses and tanks from France, such as the AMX-13 light tank and the French CN-105-57 gun. In the 1970s, the Argentine government started the ‘Tanque Argentino Mediano‘ or ‘TAM’ program in order to have a domestically assembled main battle tank instead of light tanks.
In 1978, during the development of the TAM, tensions between Argentina and Chile started to rise because of a border dispute over the Beagle Channel. Realizing the TAM could not be produced in sufficient numbers to match the Chilean M-50s, M-51s and M-60s among others, the Argentine Government decided to rapidly modernize 120 Shermans to the Sherman Repotenciado [trans. repowered] version as a stop-gap solution. The most notable modernization is the greatly increased firepower achieved by mounting a 105 mm gun. Argentina built its own M-51.

A Sherman Repotenciado Reg. EA 01195, gate guardian of La Agrupación de Comunicaciones 601 “Tcnl Higinio Vallejos”, City bell, Province of Buenos Aires in 2016. Photo: Roberdigiorge of Deviant Art

Development

The plans to modernize the Argentinian tank fleet were already around when tensions between Chile and Argentina started rising in 1978. The idea of improving the gun on the Shermans started around the acquirement of the AMX-13 tanks. Argentina ordered a technical commission to do feasibility research on what the most advantageous upgrade in firepower would be. The commission concluded that up-gunning the current fleet of Fireflies with the same 105 mm gun that was mounted on the AMX-13 was the best option. This would limit the logistical burden by standardization of ammunition and it also meant Argentina could manufacture their own canons. All the ammunition on the Repotenciado was compatible with that of the 105 mm armed AMX-13 and the SK-105 Kurassier, which began equipping Argentinian units from 1978 onwards.

Sherman Repotenciado prototype, a Firefly armed with the 105 mm gun Reg. EA010360, location unknown, march 1975. Photo: Serie Terrestre N°2 “M4 SHERMAN”
The prototype was delivered in 1975 by Fabrica Militar. It mounted the 105 mm gun and had a Ford GAA V8 gasoline engine. The prototype would mainly function as a testbed for the 105 mm gun as the Sherman Repotenciado brought a considerable amount of additional upgrades over the prototype instead of just a more powerful gun. The Sherman Repotenciado would go into production in 1977.
Not long after the production of the Repotenciado started, it would be kicked into high gear when Chile and Argentina were on the brink of war. Chile had around 50 M-50’s, 150 M-51’s, 60 M41 Walker Bulldogs and was in the process of acquiring the AMX-30. Meanwhile, Argentina owned between 56 and 80 AMX-13/105 tanks and had probably less than 126 75 mm Shermans and 140 Sherman Fireflies. Argentina started to rapidly modernize the Fireflies in order to field a capable armored force against Chile.
The Sherman Repotenciados were modernized from 120 Sherman Fireflies. The Sherman Firefly was the preferred variant for modernization because the internal configuration allowed for easier adoption of the 105 mm ammo racks. Among the changes were an improved running gear, improved tracks, storage baskets on the turret, smoke dischargers, new radios, new engine and the mounting of the 105 mm gun and a counterweight. During 1978, the Argentinians decided to develop an additional 200 litres fuel tank which could be mounted on the back of the turret to increase its operational range. By adding an extra fuel tank, the Repotenciado could cover more ground with less refueling which was essential for the large areas of Argentina the tank had to cross.

A Sherman Repotenciado with the extra fuel tank installed on the turret, Reg. unknown, location unknown, date unknown. Photo: Serie Terrestre N°2 “M4 SHERMAN”

Design

Armament

The Sherman Repotenciado was armed with the 105 mm L44/57 FTR gun produced locally at the Fabrica Militar de Río Tercero in the province of Córdoba, which was a copy of the French CN-105-57 gun. The CN-105-57 was mounted on some of the AMX-13 tanks Argentina had bought from France in 1967. The gun had an effective range of 1,500 meters and had multiple types of ammunition at its disposal, being able to fire, on average, 5 rounds per minute. These included a high-explosive (HE) EF FMK-1 shell, the FMK-3 hollow charge shell, with a penetration of 360 mm at a muzzle velocity of 800 m/s, the SCC Mod 1 ES similair to the FMK-3 shell but used for training purposes, and the FMK-5 smoke-illumination shell. The latter could create a smokescreen covering 40 m which could last up to a minute and project a flare ‘package’ 20 m in diameter. Although it did have some issues with the recoil system, the gun was said to be accurate and efficient.

A 105 mm L44/57 FTR gun produced by Fábrica Militar de Río Tercero. Photo: Serie Terrestre N°2 “M4 SHERMAN”
The turret was reinforced to accommodate the gun and a counterweight was placed to compensate for the extra weight. Furthermore, the aiming system was upgraded along with new sights. Four smoke dischargers were installed on the turret (two on each side) and the Shermans were equipped with 7.62 MAG coaxial machine gun. A 12.7 mm Browning M-2 HB machine gun was installed on top of the turret. A new gun travel-lock was installed on the mudguards.

A side view of the Sherman Repotenciado Reg. EA 01195. Note the smoke canisters on the side of the turret and the added turret basket. Gate guardian of La Agrupación de Comunicaciones 601 “Tcnl Higinio Vallejos”, City bell, Province of Buenos Aires in 2016. Photo: Roberdigiorge of Deviant Art

Mobility

The Argentinians also decided they wanted to upgrade the Repotenciado with a more powerful engine. Multiple proposals were made by companies, including a FIAT 221-A V6 diesel engine which was equipped on a dozen regular Argentinian Shermans. Eventually, the decision was made to install the French Poyaud 520 V8 diesel engine which could, depending on sources, deliver 450 hp or 500 hp at 2600 RPM. The Poyaud 520 gave the Sherman Repotenciado a power to weight ratio of either 14 hp/ton or 16 hp/ton, which meant that the Repotenciado had a better power to weight ratio than the Firefly (12 hp/ton).
The tank could reach a top speed of 48-50 km/h. At a lower speed of 20 km/h, it had a fuel consumption of 2.5 liters per kilometer. The fuel tanks on the Repotenciado had a capacity of 604,8 liters and a supplementary tank could be placed at the back of the turret with a capacity of 200 liters. This meant that the tank had an operational range of 322 km (400 km according to some sources) or 240 km depending on if the supplemental fuel tank was used.
The Repotenciado also received T49 tracks as an upgrade for better ground resistance, an improved running gear and an improved suspension. According to some sources, the tracks of the Repotenciado had some parts that were interchangeable with the TAM to simplify logistics and production.

The French Poyaud 520 hp V8 diesel engine. Photo: Blindados De Argentine, Uruguay y Paraguay

Hull and Protection

The Repotenciado did not get any upgrades to its armor. Given the mix-match of Shermans used, the Repotenciado had two different hulls. Some were converted from M4A1 tanks with composite hull and others on the M4A4 hull.
However, the hull interior was extensively redesigned. The engine compartment had to be redesigned to fit the new Poyaud 520 engine. Apart from enlarging the engine compartment, a new inspection door and exhaust pipes were designed. The new gun and changes to the hull meant the electronics were changed, and additionally, new intercoms were installed along with an external phone on the back of the hull. For other communications, a Philips VCR 4622 transmitter and a Philips 3620 intercom control system were equipped on the Repotenciado. All these changes meant that the weight of the vehicle rose to 29,66 tonnes and 31,61 tonnes combat-ready.
The Sherman Repotenciado had a crew of 4: a commander, driver, gunner and loader/radio operator.

An M4A4 Sherman Repotenciado, Reg. EA 01195 gate guardian of La Agrupación de Comunicaciones 601 “Tcnl Higinio Vallejos”, City bell, Province of Buenos Aires in 2016. Photo: Roberdigiorge of Deviant Art

An M4 Hybrid Sherman Repotenciado, Reg. EA 09294, gate guardian of La Agrupación de Comunicaciones 601 “Tcnl Higinio Vallejos”, City bell, Province of Buenos Aires in 2016. Photo: Roberdigiorge of Deviant Art

Variants

Several Repotenciados have been converted as combat engineering vehicles and have been in service supporting regular Repotenciado and TAM units, among them:

Mine-clearing Repotenciado

Argentina acquired 8 RKM mine rollers (Urdan) at the beginning of 1978. The mine roller systems appear to be installed exclusively on the M4A1 hulls. The mine rollers severely affected the maximum speed from 50 km/h to 20 km/h. In order to completely clear a path of mines, two sweeps were needed. The first sweep was to detonate the mines that could immobilize the tracks and the second sweep was to clear the middle path of any mines. The mounting system of the Repotenciado is compatible with VCTP of the TAM family. The mine-clearing vehicles are still in service.

Sherman Repotenciado with Urdan mine roller, Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 1, location unknown, date unknown. Photo: Serie Terrestre N°2 “M4 SHERMAN”

Armored bulldozer Repotenciado

In 1978, Argentina decided to equip a single M4A4 Sherman Repotenciado with a bulldozer. The bulldozer variant was equipped with a dozer blade produced locally at the Talleres Metalúrgicos de Paraná. The tank was meant to serve at the 1st Tank Cavalry Regiment. Whether the bulldozer variant actually saw service and how long is unclear. It is currently on display at the Argentine Army Museum.

Sherman Repotenciado with bulldozer, Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 1, location unknown, date unknown.


A standard Sherman Repotenciado converted from an M4A4 with a turret basket and a 105 mm gun. Converted from the famous World War Two M4 Sherman, 120 Repotenciados were produced. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Sherman Repotenciado converted from an M4A4 hull with an external fuel tank.

Sherman Repotenciado EA102264 ‘’Cain’’. Note the mounting point for a mine roller on the front of the vehicle.

Tank Cavalry Regiment ”Colonel Brandsen” / II Armored Cavalry Brigade, 1989. This unit, based in Villaguay (Entre Ríos), had the only Armored bulldozer Repotenciado.
These three illustrations were produced by Pablo Javier Gomez.

Example of a Repotenciado in Paraguayan Service. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.


Service

The first 15 Sherman Repotenciados would be delivered on January 31st 1978. On July 9th of that year, the tank was revealed to the public in a parade in which 2 squadrons of the 8th Tank Cavalry Regiment participated. By 1979, the second Armored Cavalry Brigade was fully equipped with Sherman Repotenciados.

An M4A4 Repotenciado during a parade, a soldier greets a child, location unknown, date according to the page 1977 but according to other sources this shouldn’t be possible so it would most likely be 1978. Photo: IG: @ejercito_de_argentina
Diplomatic alternatives for the resolution of the Beagle conflict with Chile failed. Throughout 1978, the Argentinian military junta began mobilizing its military forces, and by the end of the year, was ready to launch ‘Operación Soberanía’, the invasion of Chile. In early October 1978, the 1st Tank Cavalry Regiment was ordered to move from Santa Fe to Punta Quilla and from there a squadron of Shermans was deployed at El Calafete, around 60 kilometers from the Chilean border. Two other squadrons in Esquel were ordered to move to Villa La Angostora, around 20 kilometers from the Chilean border in late October and await further orders. Fortunately, before any blood was spilled, Pope John Paul II intervened and offered to mediate between the two countries. As a result, the invasion was called off and, in 1984, a friendship treaty was signed between the two countries, settling the territorial dispute.

A Sherman Repotenciado of the B squadron, Esquel, July 1978. Photo: Serie Terrestre N°2 “M4 SHERMAN”
Because of this, the Sherman Repotenciado never saw service as it was intended. Nonetheless, the vehicle was in service in the Argentinian Army until 1994, by which point the last units were being phased out and its formal retirement would take place in May 1998, when the Sherman Repotenciado with the registration EA0060 fired its cannon for the last time on the Magdalena Shooting range. The Shermans would go into storage, with 12 Shermans as reserve per armored cavalry unit, of which one was a mine roller Repotenciado. The Shermans were kept in open air storage. As an attempt to at least preserve the canon, the Argentinians covered up or sometimes screwed off the muzzle brakes of the barrels.
Four years after the official retirement, the Argentinians started to notice premature wear on their TAM vehicles which used the mine rollers. In order to better preserve the VCTP vehicles used for mine clearing, the Argentinians decided to reactivate the Sherman Repotenciado mine roller variant in 2002, the mine-roller variants were well maintained as they never really retired as an engineering vehicle. As of 2002, 70 Sherman Repotenciados remain in storage. Some Shermans are still used as parade and ceremonial vehicles.

An M4A1 Repotenciado used for a ceremony of the 8th Tank Cavalry Regiment. Magdalena Beunos Aires, date unknown. Photo: Guillermo E. Sentis

Continued Service in Paraguay

Paraguay received 3 M4A4 Shermans in 1971 from Argentina, which they would return in 1988 in exchange for three Repotenciados. The Shermans Paraguay received were two M4A4s and one M4A1 Sherman. Their registration numbers were 030-01,02,03 with the M4A1 being 030-02. A Paraguayan general wanted to use the Repotenciados as passive onlookers during his coup in February 1989, but when the government was overthrown on 3rd February 1989, the tanks did not leave their barracks because all the crews were on vacation. The Paraguayan Sherman Repotenciados were retired from service in 2018.

Paraguayan Repotenciado of the Presidential Escort Regiment, Reg. 030-02, location Helio Higuchi in Asunción, date May 2016. Photo: Serie Terrestre N°2 “M4 SHERMAN”

Conclusion

Although the Sherman Repotenciado would be woefully inadequate against Western and Russian MBTs of the 1980s, it was adequate in South America. At the time, the most advanced tanks in South America were the M-51’s and 20 AMX-30s from Chile and the SK-105 light tank owned by both Bolivia and Brazil. The Repotenciados gun was powerful enough to fight against all these tanks. The Argentinians managed to further extend the Repotenciados service life by turning some of them in engineering vehicles which is a testament to the longevity and adaptability of the M4 Sherman.

The factory workers could not screw on the muzzle brake far enough to fix it in a horizontal position. Displayed at the Argentine Army Museum in 2006. Reg. 44742, built by Chrysler in October 1943. Photo: Link

An M4A1 Repotenciado during the ‘Monte Caseros’ mutiny of 1988, Monte Caseros, 15th of January 1988. Photo: Serie Terrestre N°2 “M4 SHERMAN”

Specifications

Dimensions 6 x 2.6 x 2.7 meters
Total weight, battle-ready 31.61 tons
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Poyaud 520 8-cyl diesel
Maximum speed 48 km/h (30 mph)
Suspension Vertical Volute Springs (VVSS)
Range on road 200km or 280km (124 or 174 miles)
Armament 105 mm (4.13 in) L44/57 FTR
1x 7.62 MAG coacial
1x 12.7 Browning M2HB
Armor Hull: Front 51 mm (2 in)
Side 38.25 mm (1.5 in)
Rear 38.25 mm (1.5 in)
Turret: Front 76.5 mm (3 in)
Side 51 mm (1 in)
Rear 51 mm (1 in)
Total production 120

Sources

Sherman Repotenciado links & resources
Blindados De Argentine, Uruguay y Paraguay
Serie Terrestre N°2 “M4 SHERMAN”
M4 Sherman: Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives
www.thevintagenews.com
nationalinterest.org
the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_Shermans_Repotenciado.pdf
www.taringa.net
patriciodelfosse.ar.tripod.com

Categories
Argentinian armor

TAM 2C Main Battle Tank

Argentina (2013)
MBT – 1 Built

The Tank with the Sun of May

As the name suggests, the Tanque Argentino Mediano, or TAM, is the main battle tank of Argentina in South America. Originally designed by a German company in the 1970’s, the TAM entered service in 1980, almost 30 years ago. The vehicles were built in Argentina, but with a substantial percentage of imported parts, including the engine and transmission.
However, after several decades without any upgrade, the original TAM is obsolete by modern standards. In this light, a program was started along with a number of Israeli companies, creating the TAM 2C, with the first vehicle being ready in 2013. As of the end of 2017 production had not yet started.
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The TAM 2C upgraded prototype. Photo: SOURCE

New Tank or Upgrade?

While several maintenance and upgrade programs had been proposed before, it was only in 2009 that the Argentinian Ministry of Defense prepared a Pre Feasibility Study.
The study included the possibility of buying foreign tanks and considered the German Leopard 2A4, French Leclerc, Israeli Merkava and the Russian T-90. However, it was decided that an upgrade of the TAM would be more suitable, due to the Argentinian terrain and infrastructure and serious financial constraints. Also, a modernization of the TAM would keep the existing supply and maintenance circuits, while also minimizing the amount of crew retraining needed.
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The upgraded TAM 2C features added sideskirts, thermal camera in front of the driver’s station, thermal sleeve on the gun, rear turret stowage basked and commander’s camera. This is also one of the few photos where the commander’s cupola MG is fitted. Photo: SOURCE
The Carl Zeiss (through its Forger SA subsidiary), Rheinmetall and Elbit companies were asked for bids for the modernization of the TAM tanks. The Israeli Elbit company was chosen in August 2010 by the Ministry, citing monetary reasons, among others.
A memorandum was signed between the Israeli and Argentinian Ministries of Defence for this modernization program. The first prototype was ready in March 2013, entirely done by the Israelis.

Design

Equipment

The TAM 2C upgrades mostly revolve around improved electronics and equipment. One of the most important additions is that of an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) mounted on the back of the tank externally. The APU is basically a small turbine engine which provides the vehicle with electrical power while the main engine is turned off. This allows for lower fuel consumption and quieter operation when static.
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The APU added to the rear of the vehicle. Photo: SOURCE
The turret traverse mechanism was also changed from a hydraulic system to an all-electric system, which offers a higher rotation speed. The crew compartment also received an automatic fire suppression system, while another one is in the engine compartment.
The driver received a short-range thermal camera, allowing the TAM 2C to be driven at night or in low-visibility conditions. Both the gunner and the commander received a TV and a thermal camera with built-in laser rangefinders. Both of them also received new digital displays. The onboard computer system has also been significantly upgraded. A new meteorological station was added, giving information to the onboard computer and improving long range accuracy.
Also, a new external stowage basket has been added to the rear of the turret, allowing the crew to transport their belongings and essentially without occupying vital interior space.
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The driver’s new thermal camera that complements his usual viewing ports. On the right is the new commander’s camera system, which can rotate 360 degrees. Photo: SOURCE
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An excellent view of the gunner’s and commander’s stations in the TAM 2C. Photo: SOURCE

Armament

While the old FMK.4 Mod.1L 105 mm gun (based on the legendary British L7) was not changed, it received significant improvements on the 2C standard. The main gun is better balanced through the addition of counterweights, which should improve vertical sighting. Also, a thermal sleeve was added to protect against uneven thermal variations along the barrel, which can lead to small distortions and affect long-range accuracy.
The 2-axis stabilization of the gun has been replaced. The new system allows the temporary locking of the gun into position in order to allow the loader to insert a new shell, while the aiming system still keeps track of the target. Once loading is completed, the main gun is put back on target by the targeting system. If not, the main gun would be nearly impossible to load the gun on the move while tracking an enemy, because the gun would continuously move inside the tank in order to remain on target.
The gun has received a new APFSDS (Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot) shell, a modern high-penetration round also used by other top-of-the-range MBTs around the world. Other additions include a new I-HEAT-T shell and a new training shell which will be produced in Argentina by Fabricaciones Militares. These complement the already existing supplies of APFSDS, APDS (Armor-Piercing Discarding Sabot, HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank), HESH (High-Explosive Squash Head) and a smoke shell.
It is also claimed that the TAM 2C can now fire the LAHAT (Laser Homing Attack/Laser Homing Anti-Tank) ATGM (ANti-Tank Guided Missile) also used by the Merkava tanks. This missile has a range of up to 8 km and can penetrate up to 800 mm of RHA (Rolled Homogenous Armor). However, it is unclear if the Argentinian army will buy any such ammunition.
When traveling in quiet zones, the gun rests on a travel lock placed at the front of the vehicle.
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Three new types of 105 mm shells for the 105 mm gun of the TAM. These are, from left to right, a training shell, an APFSDS shell and a HEAT shell. Photo:SOURCE
The secondary armament consists of two MAG 7.62 mm machine guns. One is mounted coaxially with the main gun, while the other is mounted next to the commander’s hatch and can be used for close defense or low-level AA (Anti-Aircraft) protection.
The TAM 2C also retained the two banks of four grenade launchers on the sides of the turret. The grenades can be either anti-personnel or smoke, meant to cover the retreat or the attack of the vehicle.

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The TAM 2C prototype showing off its gun wrapped in a thermal sleeve. Photo: SOURCE

Protection

The armor of the original TAM was retained. It consists of welded plates made from a special alloy of steel, nickel, and molybdenum. The upper glacis is 50 mm thick, angled at 75 degrees from the vertical, with 35 mm at 32 degrees on the sides. The turret is also quite thin, with a maximum of 35 mm of all-around offers all-around protection against small arms fire and shrapnel, with the frontal part probably being able to stand up to 20 mm autocannon fire. However, any tank-caliber gun or AT missile would have no problem passing through this protection.
The only change is the addition of side skirts with the TAM 2C. These are not meant to provide additional armor, but to lower the amount of dust kicked up during traveling.

Mobility

The 2C upgrade had little to do with the powertrain or drivetrain of the original TAM. The engine is a German MTU MB 833 Ka-500 developing 720 hp, coupled to a Renk HSWL-204 forward-mounted transmission. The engine itself is mounted at the front right of the vehicle, in an arrangement identical to the original Marder vehicle on which the TAM is based.
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The engine of the TAM, which was kept for the TAM 2C. Photo: SOURCE
The suspension consists of seven pairs of rubberized roadwheels connected to torsion bars on each side. The first three pairs and the last one also have hydraulic shock absorbers. The idler is at the rear, the drive sprocket at the front and 3 return rollers support the track.
Given the lack of changes, with the exception of a small increase in weight, the TAM 2C probably retained the 70 km/h maximum speed and 500 km range on road. The extra fuel tanks, which could increase the range to 900 km, are probably not an option anymore due to the addition of the external auxiliary power unit. The power to weight ratio remains in the area of 20 hp/ton.
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TAM with extra fuel tanks at the rear, which extended the range to 900 km. On the TAM 2C, their place was taken by an external auxiliary power unit. Photo: SOURCE

The State of Production

The initial TAM 2C prototype was unveiled in April 2013, the upgrade having been completed one month prior by Elbit Systems. After a technical evaluation, a contract was signed in June 2015 for the upgrade of 74 tanks to the TAM 2C standard. The whole investment was announced as being worth US$111 million.
However, since that point, little work seems to have been done on the actual upgrade. A change of government has led to an internal audit of the program and this caused delays. This is related to a series of austerity measures put in place in order to tackle the country’s inflation and public deficit. The engineers at Elbit are working with their Argentinian counterparts at the 602nd Battalion Arsenal.
According to the latest news from July 2017, a 3rd vehicle entered the shop for upgrade and all the other 71 vehicles will follow suit as funds become available. Also, some minor changes are also on the table. Production is slated to begin in the first quarter of 2018.
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The TAM 2C prototype being studied in an Argentinian workshop. Behind it is the TAM 2IP prototype with improved protection. In the background is a row of VCA Palmaria SPGs. Photo: SOURCE

Potential Rivals

While the 2C standard does not make the TAM one of the top MBTs in the world, it is sufficiently adequate for its role and possible adversaries. Of Argentina’s neighbors, Chile possesses 200 upgraded Leopard 2A4CHLs, which are well superior to the TAM in all aspects except mobility. These have been upgraded with modern equipment as well. The Leopard 2A4CHL, with its new 120 mm L/55 gun, can easily dispatch the TAM 2C, while the Argentinian tank might struggle with the frontal armor of its adversary. However, the Chilean-Argentinian border, while one of the longest in the world, also goes along the Andes mountain chain, where the TAM’s higher mobility is of utmost importance.
Brazil also has a large fleet of M60 Pattons, Leopards and wheeled tank destroyers, all of which have armament that can deal with the TAM. However, the TAM 2C’s armament is also sufficient to deal with these vehicles and the Argentinian vehicle should have a small edge due to its more modern upgraded equipment.
The Falkland/Malvinas islands remain a point of potential conflict for Argentina. Despite losing the 1982 war, the South American country did not renounce its claim and has actually restated it on numerous occasions, including during a presidential visit to the United Kingdom. Should such a conflict rekindle, both nations would have to bring in any armored vehicles by sea, which is especially problematic for the UK due to the large distances involved. This would probably also forbid the deployment of any Challenger 2 tanks, but not of the Warrior or Ajax IFVs.

Conclusion

This upgrade is a welcome addition to Argentina’s aging fleet of tanks. However, it does not significantly improve the armament, armor or mobility of the vehicle, which are the main characteristics of any MBT. The 2C upgrade will help keep the TAM in service for at least another decade, but it will only postpone the inevitable need for a new modern MBT. The AMX-13s and SK-105s in Argentinian service will also need some attention or replacement in the near future.
Also, it is important to note that, due to the financial problems Argentina is currently going through, the TAM 2C program might still be canceled, despite a large amount of work and progress done on it.

TAM specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 8.23 (6.77 without gun) x 3.12 x 2.42 m
27′ (22’2″) x 10’2″ x 7’9″
Total weight, battle ready 30.5 tons (61,000 lbs)
Crew 4 (commander, driver, loader, gunner)
Propulsion MTU-MB 833 Ka-500 6-cyl diesel, 720 hp (540 kW)
Maximum speed 75 km/h (47 mph) on road
Suspensions Torsion bar
Range (Fuel) 370 miles/590 km or 500 miles/800 km with external FT
Armament 105 mm (4.13 in) FM K.4 Modelo 1L
2 x 7.62 mm NATO FN MAG GMPG (0.3 in) coax/AA
Armor Nose glacis, turret mantlet 50 mm (2 in)
Production 280

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Army Recognition Group, 2017. Accessed 31 November 2017
SEE HERE
Defense.com team, 2013. Accessed 31 November 2017
SEE HERE
Charly Borda Bettolli for Zona Militar, 2017. Accessed 31 November 2017
SEE HERE
Federico Luna for Zona Militar, 2016. Accessed 31 November 2017
SEE HERE
Maquina de Combate team, 2017. Accessed 31 November 2017
SEE HERE
Parabrisas magazine, 2001. Accessed 31 November 2017
SEE HERE
User Twisted 19 on Taringa.net, 2015. Accessed 31 November 2017
SEE HERE
User Twisted 19 on Taringa.net, 2016. Accessed 31 November 2017
SEE HERE
User Panzer_Arg on Taringa.net, 2015. Accessed 31 November 2017
SEE HERE
User badchopper on Taringa.net, 2016. Accessed 31 November 2017
SEE HERE
User juancho_98 on Taringa.net, 2012. Accessed 31 November 2017
SEE HERE
Wikipedia team, 2017. Accessed 31 November 2017
SEE HERE

The TAM 2C
The original TAM Main Battle Tank. 

The TAM 2C
The TAM 2C, modernized by Elbit Systems. Illustrations by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

The TAM 2C
The TAM 2C prototype in a slightly different livery. Illustration by Pablo Javier Gomez

Categories
Argentinian armor

VCTP

Argentina (1977) IFV – 350 built

The Argentinian IFV

VCTP stands for “Vehículo de Combate Transporte de Personal”. Also called TAM VCTP, it is the modern Infantry Fighting Vehicle of the Argentinian Army. It shares most of its components with the TAM tank, but more VCTPs were produced than TAMs. Both vehicles were built by the state-owned Tanque Argentino Mediano Sociedad del Estado (or TAMSE) before production was stopped altogether in 1983.
At that stage, only 100 VCTPs have been delivered out of an order of 312, and production resumed once again before 1995 when the order was raised to 500 (this figure was never attained). Historically, the first requirements date back to the 1970s when a replacement was needed for the M3/M5 half tracks in service at that time. The new vehicle was to be based on the 1971 Thyssen German Marder chassis. The design work started in 1977 at TAMSE.

Design

The VCTP chassis is similar to the TAM, but the hull is roomier. It has a rear compartment, large enough for 10 infantrymen, being able to enter or exit the vehicle through the rear door. The infantrymen can fire on the move through six pistol ports, three on each side of the vehicle. The central rapid-fire 20 mm (0.79 in) Rheinmetall Rh-202 or Hispano-Suiza Oerlikon Kontraves KAD 18 autocannon is placed in a two-man turret. It is fired by the leader of the infantry platoon within the vehicle. The autocannon has 880 rounds in store and can fire the DM63 armor-piercing round, which is able to destroy most IFVs. In addition, a roof-mounted FN-MAG GMPG is located on top of the turret for AA defense. There is an additional remote-controlled FN-MAG on the rear of the vehicle.
The first vehicles had the 20 mm (0.79 in) cañón automático Rh-202, but the final serial production vehicles used the Hispano-Suiza Oerlikon Kontraves KAD 18. Like on the TAM, the main engine is located on the front-right side with the driver on the right. The driver has a sliding hatch and three vision blocks, the central one can be replaced by a thermal imaging unit. The commander has a modified 7-vision block cupola.
TAM VCTP driver position
TAM VCTP driver position
Like the TAM, production of the VCTP still shared many components with the German Marder, but at least 70% of the parts were produced in Argentina. The main engine is the same MTU Friedrichshafen MB833 KA500 6-cylinder supercharged diesel, which develops 720 hp at 2400 rpm, coupled with a Renk transmission, 6 speeds (5 forward, one reverse). Air intake is through a front-right grille, and replacement of the engine can be done through a large hinged door panel opening to the right.
Mobility specifications include a top speed of 75 to 80 km/h (46-49 mph) on flat ground, the capability to climb a 60% slope gradient, 30% side slope, 1 m vertical step, gap a 2.5 m wide trench, or ford 1.5 m deep water without preparation. The vehicles are NBC protected, with two banks of four Webman Gmbh 88 mm smoke dischargers fitted on either side of the hull for concealment.

The VCTP in action

Once entered in service, VCTPs first saw action in Argentina, during the military uprisings of Carapintadas, and during the recovery of Rimec 3 “General Belgrano” during the takeover of La Tablada. Conflicting sources point to an introduction to military service in 1976, 1979 or 1983. It seems, however, to have already been in service when the Falkland war started in 1982. In 1992, 15 vehicles were deployed to Croatia (UN mission UNPROFOR), and formed the Argentine Army armored battalion (BEA), part of the eighth contingent (BEA 8). They were used for logistics, escort missions, and protection of civilians. They were removed from action in August 1995.
Main variants of the vehicle are the VCTM 120-mm mortar carrier and the VCPC command vehicle. Generally simpler compared to the Marder, the VCTP is also faster, due to its more powerful engine. But despite all its advantages, the VCTP was never exported. The level of German technology included could also be an issue due to thirlicensees licence issues. Thyssen-Henschel is now part of the larger Rheinmetall Landsysteme group.

Links

The VCTP on wikipedia (Spanish)

VCTP specifications

Dimensions 6.9×3.29×2.67 m
22.6 x10.8 x8.8 ft
Total weight, battle ready 28.2 tons (31 long tonnes) (68,343 Ibs)
Crew 2+10 (driver, commander, platoon)
Propulsion 720hp MTU MB833, V6 diesel 25,6 hp/t
Suspension 6 torsion bar units
Speed (road) 75-80 km/h (50 mph)
Range 520-870 with additional tanks km (367 mi)
Armament 20 mm (0.79 in) Autocannon KAD18, 800 rounds
2x 7.62 mm (0.3 in) GMPG 2000 rds
Armor 45 to 75 mm front (1.77 to 2.95 in)
Total production 350 in 1976-1995

Initial series VCTP IFV with the green/dark green livery
Initial series VCTP IFV with the green/dark green livery.
VCTP in another camouflage livery type
VCTP in another camouflage livery type.
VCTP in washable white UN livery, Croatia, 1992
VCTP in washable white UN livery, Croatia, 1992.

Gallery

TAM VCTP at a military exposition
TAM VCTP at a military exposition
TAM VCTP in Croatia, 1992.
TAM VCTP in Croatia, 1992.
Technical drawing of the VCTP
Technical drawing of the VCTP

Categories
Argentinian armor

TAM (Tanque Argentino Mediano)

Argentina Argentina (1979)
Medium Tank – 280 built

The Argentinian Leopard

Due to the historical relationships between South America and the USA, a sizable part of all AFVs used by Argentina, including tanks, were of American manufacture (British Sherman V Firefly tanks, M3 Half Tracks, M113 APCs). The only Argentinian domestic tank until this point was the Nahuel, built in 1943, which had strong similarities with the Sherman. In the meantime, by the 1960s, Argentina turned to Europe (“Plan Europa”) for the delivery of AMX-13/105s (40
However, by the 1960s, Argentina turned to Europe (“Plan Europa”) for the delivery of AMX-13/105s and the comparable Austrian Kürassier (112 still in service). Although armed with a 105 mm (4.13 in) main gun, both were light tanks, lightly protected, and therefore not suitable as main battle tanks. The French AMX-30 and the German Leopard were examined for purchase or under license production.
In the 1970s, the government launched an ambitious program for a European-based domestic-built medium tank, the TAM (Tanque Argentino Mediano). Largely inspired by the German Leopard, it became one of the few examples of large production tank in South America during the Cold War.
TAM painted in the Argentine flag colours

Development

Due to the lack of experience and industrial resources for building a modern tank, the Argentinian Ministry of Defense, impressed by the German Leopard’s performances, turned to Thyssen-Henschel to design a domestic model. This vehicle would be largely based on German components but tailored for the Argentinian army needs.
Specifications asked for a lightweight (30 tons), fast (75 km/h or 45 mph), low profile, 105 mm (4.13 in) armed tank that was able to deal with most AFVs used in South America. For this, it was to be based on the Marder IFV, substantially smaller than the Leopard and therefore more suitable for a medium tank. The development began in 1974, and in early 1977, two early prototypes were delivered by the joint Argentinian-German team and extensively tested on a 10,000 km (6,200 mi) test run in various conditions, climates and terrains. In the meantime, a 9,600-square-meter (103,000 sq ft) state-owned plant, called TAMSE, was set-up for manufacturing the new tank. The first product delivered was the third pre-production prototype previously ordered for extra testing.

Design

Hull & protection

Externally, the TAM can be compared to a Marder IFV fitted with a rear Leopard turret. The hull is constructed of welded laminated steel RHA. The hull has a pointed nose, a very long sloped glacis plate, 50 mm thick (1.97 inches at 75 degrees) protecting the powerplant and transmission. The engine is frontally mounted, which was uncommon at the time. The engine compartment was on the left-hand side, separated from the driver (right-hand side) and fighting compartment (rear) by fireproof bulkheads. The driver had a one-piece hatch opening to the right, and three periscopes covering the frontal arc, while the central one could be replaced by an IR vision block for driving by night or in poor visibility. The engine could be accessed by a single very large hatch, opening to the right, which allowed access to most of the engine parts and allowed the lifting and replacement of the engine as a single unit on the field. The hull was made entirely waterproof and the TAM could, therefore, cross 1.40 m of water or up to 4 meters depth after preparation. A snorkel was then installed at the rear, over the engine louvers. Exhaust fumes were conducted along the hull, exiting to the rear. NBC protection is also provided as a standard.
The main fighting compartment was placed at the rear. The hull’s sides were also sloped at 32 degrees, protecting against anti-armor shells from guns up to 35 mm (1.38 inch) in caliber. The choice was made to increase mobility over protection and play on the low profile of the tank to make it a difficult target to spot and hit. In addition, a generous array of smoke grenades (and later flares) was added to provide an extra layer of active protection. The sloped sides received a large array of fixations and straps to carry tools and a steel cable. Provisions were also made for the fording equipment, and for extra skirts along the sides for protection. As a standard, only the front and rear mudguards had side extensions in the early production model.
TAM with the snorkel fitted

Mobility

One of the best assets of the TAM is its speed. Power was provided by a German proven and reliable MTU MB-833 Ka 500 diesel engine, with an output of 540 kW (720 hp) at 2,400 rpm. The power-to-weight ratio was therefore of 24 horsepower per tonne, allowing a maximum speed of 75 km/h (47 mph) on road, and up to 40 km/h (25 mph) off-road.
It is connected to a Renk HSWL-204 automatic transmission, coupled with a hydrodynamic torque converter for better flexibility and handling. The fuel capacity is 680-liter (180-US-gallon – 150-imperial-gallon), carried internally, which allowed a 500 km (310 mi) autonomy. However, this range can be extended to 900 kilometers (560 mi) by the use of the two rear-mounted drum-type 200-liter (53 US gal – 44 imp gal) external fuel tanks. For braking, a double brake system was installed, comprising hydraulic disk brakes on the road wheels. Suspensions were the well-proven torsion bar system developed for the Leopard and also adopted for the Marder, which provide an excellent mobility. Field performances include the crossing of a 2.5 m wide trench, 60% gradient, 30% side slope, and a 0.9 m vertical step. The chassis was manufactured by General San Martín.

Turret

The turret is reminiscent of the Leopard one, with a low-profile, wide, roomy, and protected by layers of laminated RHA. It also has a characteristic front mantlet reminiscent of German productions. The turret front was protected by 50 mm (1.97 in) of steel armor at an angle of 32 degrees, which was quite light. The mantlet width was much reduced compared to the three-sided turret that offered only frontal slopes to enemy fire.
The gunner was located on the right-hand side, with his own periscopic gunner day sight with 8x magnification. Behind was located the commander, with his own cupola fitted with large vision blocks providing a 360° peripheral view, and a Zeiss PERI-R/TA panoramic periscope, with a 2x and 8x magnification and IR in front. On the left-hand side stands the loader, with a hatch opening to the rear and his own periscopic day sight behind it. An FN MAG 60-20 machine-gun could be mounted on the commander cupola ring for AA defense purpose. Smoke dischargers were mounted in two banks of four on each side. A pistol port/manual ejection port was located on the left-hand side of the turret. Radio and extra ammo rounds were stored at the back of the turret, with a single large transverse hatch for loading above the pannier. Later in production, straps were fitted over the back plate to mount extra storage. The turret was manufactured by Río Tercero, with the armament made by Bator Cocchis, S.A.
Close view of the side of the turret of a TAM

Armament

The TAM was given a main gun and fire control system (FCS) derived from those of the German Leopard. Initially, the TAM was meant to be armed with the British Royal Ordnance L7A1 105 mm (4.13 in) main gun, but it was replaced by the modified L7A2 and then the Rheinmetall Rh-105-30 105 mm (4.13-inch), manufactured in Argentina as the FM K.4 Modelo 1L. This version was relatively more compact and light than the original L7, but had even better performances.
The Argentinian version did not have a muzzle brake. The FM K.4 had 18°/-7° of elevation and its hydraulic recoil mechanism run was 580 mm (22.8 inches) for absorbing a 34-tonne recoil force. The regular ammunition was the M735A1 APFSDS, with 370 mm of penetration (14.6 inches) @ 1 km (1,100 yd). It could also fire HEAT rounds, HESH, and smoke rounds. The secondary armament included a co-axial 7.62 mm (0.3 in) FN MAG 60-40 general purpose machine gun. The FCS of German manufacture included a Nd:YAG laser rangefinder with a range of 9,900 meters (32,480 ft) coupled with an FLER-HG ballistic computer to provide a fire solution for the gunner. There was no hunter-killer mode but the gun was fully stabilized.

Production

Production of the TAM was managed by the newly created Tanque Argentino Mediano Sociedad del Estado (or TAMSE) founded by the government. It was set-up to start in 1979, with an initial order of 512 vehicles, including 200 medium tanks and 312 VCTP IFVs. However, due to an economic crisis and drastic budget cuts, only 150 TAMs (and 100 IFVs) had been delivered until 1983 when it was all halted. At that stage, 70% of all parts were manufactured locally, with 30% imported from Germany. 20 more were delivered after Peru ordered 80 tanks (latcanceledled), and the production line was eventually reactivated in 1994 for further orders. It was completely shut down the next year, after a total of 280 were built.
Another view at the TAM with the snorkel

Modernization

As a private venture, Thyssen-Krupp built a fourth prototype in 1978, called TH 301. It was given a PERI R12 periscope (same as on the Leopard 1A4) and a low light level television (LLLTV) camera fitted over the main gun mantlet, which also received a thermal sleeve. A 750 hp (550 kW) engine was also provided and the protection level was increased.
In 2010, a second modernization (TAM 2C) program was proposed by the Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems. The prototype was delivered and tested in March 2013. However, conversion is still stuck due to financial and political problems.
Another upgrade variant was unveiled in 2015, the TAM 2IP. It features more armor added to the turret and hull.

Variants

VCTP Infantry Fighting Vehicle

The first historical variant developed alongside the TAM was called the Vehículo de Combate Transporte de Personal. It was given a rear compartment large enough for 12 infantrymen, the squad leader being seated in the central turret armed with a rapid-fire 20 mm (0.79 in) Rheinmetall Rh-202 autocannon. The soldiers could fire their weapons from the inside, through pistol ports. The autocannon has 880 rounds in supply, including the armor-piercing DM63. There is also a roof-mounted FN-MAG GMPG. The commander cupola is a modified 7-vision block cupola. This vehicle has obvious similarities with the Marder. 350 of all the 500 planned were built until 1995.

TAM VCA 155 Self propelled gun (Palmaria)

The Vehículo de Combate de Artillería de 155 mm has an elongated version of the TAM chassis and the Italian Oto Melara’s Palmaria turret and a main 155 mm  (6.1 in) gun-howitzer. The original Palmaria was developed on the basis of the OF-40, a locally built Italian Leopard. Both models shared a lot of common parts. 28 rounds are stored, including 23 in the turret bustle. The maximum range is about 45 to 50 km with additional round booster. In addition, there is a roof-mounted FN MAG GMPG machine-gun. The VCA is the heaviest of all TAM varaints, weighing 40 tons, and the slowest (55 km/h).
VCA 155
VCA 155 Palmaria howitzer variant

VCTM mortar carrier

The VCTM (for Vehículo de Combate Transporte de Mortero) carries an AM-50 120 mm (4.7-inch) internal mortar. Maximal effective a range is 9,500 meters (31,170 ft) with an average rate of fire of 8 to 12 shots per minute depending on the crew’s skills.

Other variants:

The VCPC Command vehicle or Vehículo de Combate Puesto de Comando 25 t has another set of radios and generator, and a single GMPG machien-gun for close defence.
The VCLC (Vehículo de Combate Lanzacohetes) rocket launcher had a set of two banks of 160 mm (6.3 in) or 350 mm (13.8 in) rockets, centrally mounted in place of the turret (1986).
The VCA (Vehículo de Combate Ambulancia) is a combat ambulance and the Vehículo de Combate de Recuperación (VCRT) is the ARV version (armored recovery vehicle).
VCLC 160 mm MRL
VCLC 160 mm MRL

Active service

The TAM arrived into service a few months too late to take any part in the Falklands war. It’s only active foreign duty was a peacekeeping mission in Croatia in the 1990s. The TAM and its derivatives are still in service today. The factory line can be reopened and reactivated if a new version was to be built or if exports materialized in the meantime.
TAMs and VCTP in Croatia in peace keeping mission
TAMs and VCTP in Croatia in peacekeeping mission

Exports

The TAM had potential and was substantially cheaper than most regular MBTs. It was therefore evaluated for a possible purchase by the following countries:
Iran (1986 – 1,000 vehicles estimated purchase, but never sold due to US pressures), Iraq (1986 – 400 vehicles, export cancelled due to third-parties technology transfer blocked by Germany), Peru (1987 – 40 TAMs, cancelled on economical grounds), Ecuador (1990 – cancelled), Kuwait (1993 – provisional order for 250 vehicles prevented by US intervention).

Tank Mediano Argentino links & resources

The TAM on Wikipedia
The TAM on Army-Guide
The TAM on Taringa.net

TAM specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 8.23 (6.77 without gun) x 3.12 x 2.42 m
27′ (22’2″) x 10’2″ x 7’9″
Total weight, battle ready 30.5 tons (61,000 lbs)
Crew 4 (commander, driver, loader, gunner)
Propulsion MTU-MB 833 Ka-500 6-cyl diesel, 720 hp (540 kW)
Maximum speed 75 mph (47 mph) on road
Suspensions Torsion bar
Range (Fuel) 370 miles/590 km or 500 miles/800 km with external FT
Armament 105 mm (4.13 in) FM K.4 Modelo 1L
2 x 7.62 mm NATO FN MAG GMPG (0.3 in) coax/AA
Armor Nose glacis, turret mantlet 50 mm (2 in)
Production 280

TAM variants gallery

VCTPVC Amun ammo supply vehicleVCA 155VCLC

Early production Tanque Argentino Mediano prototype in green livery, 1979.
Early production Tanque Argentino Mediano prototype in green livery, 1979.

Mid-series TAM in a green camouflage, 1990.
Mid-series TAM in a green camouflage, 1990.

Mid-series TAM (1994) with the usual light brown/light green pattern.
Mid-series TAM (1994) with the usual light brown/light green pattern.

TAM 2C, modernized by Elbit Systems, 2010s.