Categories
Argentinian armor

Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM)

Argentina Argentina (1979-present)
Light Main Battle Tank/Medium Tank – 231 Built

The Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM) has, since the early ’80s, equipped the forces of the Ejército Argentino [Eng. Argentinian Army]. Designed and developed by the West German company of Thyssen-Henschel, the TAM’s history is full of inconsistencies and exaggerations, primarily the fact that it is an Argentinian indigenous tank. Whilst some important components have been produced in Argentina and most assembly took place there, too much of it is dependent on foreign companies to consider it fully indigenous.

Old and new. A TAM races a horse during an exhibition. Source: Fagliani, p. 103

Context – Plan Europa

Argentina had remained neutral during most of World War Two. Although it declared war on Germany and Japan in March 1945, the country had previously held strong sympathies towards Germany. On June 4th 1943, a coup took place which in time gave rise to Colonel Juan Domingo Perón, the most divisive character in Argentinian history, who became the country’s president in 1946.

Perón would be overthrown by a military coup in 1955. For the following two decades, there were several other military coups, stagnating Argentina.

In military terms, Argentina had a large army. Taking advantage of the end of WWII and the availability of a large stock of surplus and extremely cheap US and British armored vehicles, Argentina became a considerable military power in the region. Between 1946 and 1949, Argentina purchased or acquired at least 250 Universal Carriers, around 400 Shermans (M4A4 and Firefly tanks), 18 Crusader II, Gun Tractor Mk I, 6 M7 Priests and 320 M-series Half-tracks.

By the mid-1960’s, these vehicles were becoming obsolete and needed replacing. Tensions with the USA following the 1966 military coup meant that the purchase of a large number of M41 Walker Bulldogs failed, leading Argentinian military officials to launch ‘Plan Europa’ [Eng. Plan Europe] in 1967. Led by General Eduardo J. Uriburu, the intention of this plan was to modernize and diversify Argentina’s armored vehicles with the purchase of European vehicles. The ultimate goal, however, was to avoid dependence on any foreign power to provide armored vehicles. As set out by the Estado Mayor General del Ejército (EMGE) [Eng. General Staff of the Army], the plan would be not only to acquire vehicles but also the license to produce them in Argentina. Before the end of the decade, the purchase of 80 AMX-13’s armed with a 105 mm gun, 180 AMX VCI Armored Personnel Carriers, 14 AMX-155 F3’s and 2 AMX-13 PDP (Poseur De Pont) Modèle 51’s from France and around 60 or 80 Mowag Grenadier and possibly a number of Mowag Roland from Switzerland was agreed. Additionally, 60 Mowag Rolands and 40 AMX-13’s were assembled under license in Argentina.

Despite this, none of these vehicles were sufficiently powerful to replace the Sherman Firefly as the main tank for the Argentinian forces. During the trips to Europe, the AMX-30 and the Leopard 1 were studied and considered, but for whatever reason, negotiations for their purchase were not continued. In 1973, and still without a tank, EMGE got serious and outlined the requirements for a medium tank to equip Argentinian forces from the 1980s onwards.

‘Potencia de Fuego, Movilidad y Protección’

Potencia de Fuego, Movilidad y Protección’ [Eng. Firepower, Mobility and Protection] were the three main basic criteria determined by EMGE for this new tank in 1973. In a document, they established the requirement priorities:

    • A modern canon of at least 105 mm
    • Secondary armament consisting of two machine guns and smoke dischargers
    • Integrated automatic fire-control system
    • Over 500 km range
    • 70 km/h speed on roads
    • A power to weight ratio of 20 hp/t
    • Weight under 30 t
    • Low silhouette
    • Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) warfare protection
    • Crew of 3 or 4

The low weight needed for the new tank was determined by the existing infrastructure. A heavy tank would not fare well on the roads and bridges of the likely deployment areas (in the south and along the border with Chile), so weight had to be limited. Additionally, the rail network, though extensive, was quite old and again would not have been able to carry heavy vehicles.

A TAM driving through a stream at top speed in La Pampa province in central Argentina. Argentina’s varied terrain was a consideration in the design of the TAM. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 17

At the end of 1979, the Jefatura IV Logística [Eng. Logistics Headquarters IV] of EMGE, following the set requirements, created the Proyecto de Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM) [Eng. Argentinian Medium Tank Project] which set out to study the feasibility of designing and developing the new tank.

They soon found out that a project of that magnitude and with such strict requirements could not be developed in Argentina. Argentina had very limited know-how of the development of tanks, having only previously built the Nahuel in 1943 and done some minor to major modifications of British and US vehicles, but this was another matter altogether.

In 1974, the Argentinian Ministry of National Defense reached an agreement for co-production and technology sharing with the West German company Thyssen-Henschel. Thyssen-Henschel, with the participation of Argentinian technicians, would design the tank based on EMGE’s requirements, build three prototypes (including one for the Vehículo de Combate Transporte de Personal – VCTP) and carry out the construction of a pre-production series and of the production series in Argentina.

It was agreed by both parties that, for ease of production, speed of development and presumably cost, it was best to base the new vehicles on pre-existing and tested technology. To that end, the Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicle, which equipped the West German Army, was chosen as the basis for the new vehicles.

The following two years were dedicated to the design and development of the TAM, until September 1976, when the first prototype was completed, followed by the second in January 1977. The prototype for the VCTP was finalized in 1977.

The TAM being presented to the Argentinian public at the Plaza de Mayo on May 25th 1977. The commander in charge is General Suárez Mason. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 8

Trials

The vehicles were tested at the Thyssen-Henschel facilities before the VCTP and at least one of the TAM’s were sent to Argentina for further testing and evaluation under the supervision of EMGE. Thyssen-Henschel would keep one of the prototypes and improve it with more expensive equipment. This vehicle, the TH-301, was intended for the export market, but unfortunately for the West German company, it was unable to find any additional customers. It is very important to establish that the TH-301 was not a prototype to the TAM as many sources state, but rather a development of the TAM prototype by Thyssen-Henschel.


The TAM A PROTOTIPO, in other words, the first prototype of the TAM, during military trials. Note that “E.A. TAM A PROTOTIPO” is written beneath the Sun of May. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 8

Over the next 2 years, the VCTP and TAM drove almost 10,000 km over all the types of terrain and in all the climates found in Argentina. For context, Argentina has a very varied geography: mountainous and very high peaks in the west, arid deserts across the middle at all lengths of the country, wetlands in the northeast and polar tundra in the south.

Left, The first TAM during trials at what would become TAMSE, in Boulogne sur Mer. Right, the same vehicle, accompanied by the first VCTP, during one of the extensive trials before being accepted into service- source: Mazarrasa, p. 13 & p. 14

The final assessment by EMGE was satisfactory and it authorized the series production of the TAM, though it recommended a total of 1,450 modifications.

Whilst trials were taking place, EMGE ordered the construction (though this was most likely more of an assembly job) of 4 more prototypes (2 TAM and 2 VCTP) in the General San Martín and Río Tinto factories to carry out more tests and evaluate the factory’s capacities before producing the serial version.

Industrialization

Although designed abroad, the whole idea EMGE had in mind was to be able to produce, or at least assemble, the new tank in Argentina. So, a whole new infrastructure had to be created incorporating state-run enterprises and also private companies. Arms factories were repurposed to produce the TAM components to be developed in Argentina, with General San Martín factory building the hulls and Río Tercero factory building the turrets and armament. The Argentinian Company Bator Cocchis SA also produced the torsion bars and rubber pads. However, many components were still produced in West Germany or other countries with several different companies working on different elements, including:

    • Feinmechanische Werke Mainz GmbH – electro-hydraulic system for gun stabilizer
    • Motoren- und Turbinen-Union (MTU) GmbH – engine
    • Renk – transmission
    • Diehl – tracks
    • Standard Elektrik Lorenz – communications
    • AEG-Telefunken – fire-control system
    • Carl Zeiss – optics
    • Tensa
    • Bertolina
    • Pescarmone and Fiat – some elements of the undercarriage

In all, according to Mazarrasa and Sigal Fagliani, by 1983, 70% of all TAM components were produced in Argentina.

Two photos of a turret for the TAM being produced at Río Tercero. Source: Fagliani, p. 103

In March 1980, with the objective of having one company that would coordinate the whole TAM program, Tanque Argentino Mediano Sociedad del Estado (TAMSE) was created. TAMSE was established as the main contractor of the TAM (and VCTP) and given the task of overseeing the final assembly, delivery integration of the tanks into the army, trials, homogenization of the optics and armament and potential exports.

TAMSE was given a 9,600 m2 covered assembly plant in Boulogne sur Mer, just outside Buenos Aires. The installations at Boulogne sur Mer also housed two warehouses to stock vehicle components, offices, laboratories for quality control evaluation, engine test benches, a pit for trials, and a shooting range.

Production had begun beforehand in April 1979, with most components coming from West Germany and assembly taking place in already existing factories. The initial order was for 200 TAM and 312 VCTP, though this number would not initially be fulfilled.

Design

External Appearance and Armor

The TAM is simply a modified Marder IFV hull with a turret to occupy the role of a medium tank or light Main Battle Tank. Thus, externally, in appearance and design, they are very similar. The frontal plate is at a pronounced 75º angle and the sides and rear plates are positioned at 32º. The turret is rear mounted. The sides have several attachments for tools, spare tracks, spare machine gun ammunition, water cans, medical kits, and various other ancillary equipment. At the front of the tank, on each side, are headlights. Behind these, also on each side, are wing mirrors.

Some early TAM prototypes retained the side-skirts of the Marder 1, but these were removed on the series TAM. The TAM’s armor is made out of electrically welded nickel-chromium-molybdenum steel. The front plate is 50 mm thick and the sides and rear 35 mm. With such feeble armor, the tank’s best protection is its speed, mobility and low silhouette.

Additionally, the TAM is equipped with an NBC protection system allowing the crew to operate in a contaminated area for up to 8 hours. The NBC system feeds the main and driver’s compartment with filtered air that can absorb solid or gaseous elements from poisonous or radioactive substances. The vehicle is able to operate in very harsh temperatures, from as low as -35ºC to as much as 42ºC. There is also an automatic fire extinguishing system that can be triggered from the interior or exterior.

Turret

The turret for the TAM was what took Thyssen-Henschel the longest to design and develop, as it was a new element. A simple glance at it demonstrates the heavy influence of the Leopard 1 and 2 on the design, combining two elements: low silhouette and ample internal volume.

It is shaped as a frustum and, like the hull, is made out of sheets of electrically welded nickel-chromium-molybdenum steel. The front of it is 50 mm thick, the sides 22 mm and the rear and top 7 mm. All of it is at a 32º angle. Full turret traverse takes 15 seconds.

The turret of TAM ‘EA 435498 GRL ROCA’ being removed by a crane. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 19

The top of the turret houses several mechanisms. At the front right, the gunner’s gyro-stabilized panoramic periscope, behind which is the commander’s own PERI-R/TA periscope. On the opposite side to the latter is the loader’s periscope. Behind the commander and loader’s periscopes were their respective hatches. The commander’s hatch, serving as a cupola, has an anti-aircraft machine gun on it. The commander’s cupola has eight angular periscopes.

The rear of the turret housed the electrical unit for the commander’s periscope, which could be accessed from the exterior. On the rear of the left side wall, at the same height as the loader’s hatch, was another hatch through which to insert ammunition, but more importantly, eject spent shells. Each side has four Wegman 77 mm smoke launchers.

Armament and Fire Control System

Initially, the TAM was equipped with the rifled Rheinmetall Rh-1 105 mm gun, a German variant of the British Royal Ordnance L7A1. However, this was deemed insufficient and Argentina upgraded it to the more modern FM K.4 Modelo 1L, similarly rifled, itself also a license production variant of the L7, in this case, built in Argentina by Río Tercero.

The barrel of a TAM (EA 435388) which has blown-up after a malfunction whilst firing. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 32

The whole gun weighs 2,350 kg and the barrel is made out of one forged steel piece. There is no muzzle brake on the barrel, but rather a bore evacuator in the middle. The gun has a maximum depression of -7º and a maximum elevation of +18º, a somewhat limited arc of fire and the consequence of having the turret so far back. Maximum effective range when firing is 2,500 m. The rate of fire for the TAM is 10 rounds per minute. The recoil distance is between 560 to 580 mm at a recoil force of 300 kN.

In total, 50 rounds are carried, 20 in the turret and the remaining 30 in the hull. 13 of the turret rounds are carried on holding brackets for immediate use. The TAM carries five different types of rounds, all NATO standard:

.
A column of TAMs belonging to the Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 6 «Blandengues» heading to a shooting range at Monte Caseros, on the Uruguayan border, in September 2005. Note the distinctive pinkish camouflage pattern. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 18

The fire control system on the TAM is quite austere to keep costs down. The main gun is stabilized with four gyroscopes designed and built by Feinmechanische Werke Mainz GmbH. It operates via an electro-hydraulic system controlled by the gunner or commander, who also has the capacity to override priority over the gunner. Gunners on the TAM have at their disposal a TZF-LA sight designed and produced by Zeiss weighing 40 kg and 1,320 mm in length. It is situated on the gun mantlet to the right of the gun with a 6,000 m range (9,000 m according to Mazarrasa) laser-rangefinder which is stabilized with the gun and has a precision of up to +/-5 m. If the commander is firing the gun, he has an independently stabilized periscope that can align with the gunner’s sight, aim the gun or observe the surroundings. This is done with the commander’s periscope, the PERI-R/TA, also produced by Zeiss. Its control panel can be used instead of the ballistic computer, but only as a last resort. The ballistic computer in the TAM is a FLER-HG produced by AEG-Telefunken, which makes calculations for firing the gun considering the ammunition being used, distance to target, gun elevation, and other relevant factors. The ballistic computer is connected to the four gyroscopes that stabilize the main gun and the gunner’s control panel. The fire control system has three modes: manual, electro-hydraulic and stabilized.

The different elements of the fire control system in the TAM . Source: Mazarrasa, p. 27
Inside of the turret showing different components of the fire control system. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 43

Secondary armament consists of a coaxial 7.62 mm FN MAG 60-40 machine gun and a 7.62 mm FN MAG 60-20 for anti-aircraft duties placed on the commander’s hatch, both of which are license-produced in Argentina by Dirección General de Fabricaciones Militares. The machine guns have a 1,200 m range and are able to fire between 600 and 1,000 rounds per minute. Between the hull and turret, 5,000 rounds for the machine guns are carried. Inside the TAM, 8 hand grenades are carried.

Two TAMs (231 and 234) of Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 8 «Cazadores General Necochea» using their 7.62 mm FN MAG 60-40 machine guns during a firing exercise. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 21

Each side of the turret has four Wegman 77 mm launchers which can launch anti-personnel grenades or the more conventional smoke grenades, the latter creating a smokescreen 200 m wide, 40 m deep and between 8 and 20 m high.

Close-up of one of the two sets of Wegman 77 mm launchers on the side of the TAM’s turret. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 42

Suspension and Undercarriage

The vehicle’s lightweight means that there is substantial recoil from the powerful gun. A solution to these issues can be found in the original suspension and running gear of the Marder 1, which consisted of a torsion bar type suspension with six rubber-tired dual road wheels and three return rollers on each side. The first, second, fifth, and sixth road wheel stations had hydraulic shock dampers that absorb a significant part of the stress created by firing the main gun.

The tracks are of a Vickers system, each track consisting of 91 links with rubber tank treads. These can be substituted by snow cleats if required.

Interior

The interior of the TAM is divided into two main sections with the frontal section being further sub-divided into two subsections. The bigger of these subsections, occupying 2/3 of the space, houses the engine, whilst the smaller one is for the driver and driving mechanisms to his left. The driver has a hatch above his position and the whole section of the frontal hull covering the engine can be opened for engine maintenance. The bigger rear section occupies the central and rear part of the tank and houses the combat area and turret basket, with the commander, gunner and loader sitting on folding seats in this area, along with all the ammunition.

The crew positions inside the TAM. Conductor = Driver; Tirador = Gunner; Jefe de Carro = Commander; and Cargador = Loader. Source: Mazarrasa, p. 26
The driver’s seat inside the TAM. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 43
An overturned TAM after an accident. Note the escape hatch at the bottom of the tank. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 32

At the rear of the vehicle there was a small door for the crew to enter and exit and to replenish ammunition and other things the tank may need.

The small door at the rear of the TAM, in this case ‘EA 433998 Perdriel’. It is used for entry and exit of the crew and replenishment of ammunition and other equipment the tank may need. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 42

Communications are by means of VHF SEL SEM-180 and SEM-190 systems and a SEL SEM-170 radioreceptor. For communication between the different crew members, each has intercom headphones and a telephone to communicate externally.

The telephone on the rear of the TAM for infantry to communicate with the tank’s crew. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 42

Engine and Performance

Mobility was one of the most important aspects considered by EMGE when setting the TAM requirements. The engine on the TAM is the MTU MB 833 Ka 500 diesel engine, a six-cylinder rated at 537 kilowatts (720 hp) at 36.67 revolutions per second or 2,200-2,400 revolutions per minute and with a power-to-weight ratio of 17.6 kilowatts per tonne or 24 hp per tonne.

A TAM with its engine deck open and its MTU MB 833 Ka 500 diesel engine by its side. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 19

The engine is kept cool by two ventilators at its rear powered by a 33 hp engine of their own. The gearbox on the TAM is the HSWL 204 automatic planetary gearbox with torque converter and four forward/four reverse gear ratios. The first three are epicyclic gear trains (also known as planetary gears) and the fourth is a clutch disc.

The maximum road speed is a very impressive 75 km/h forwards and backward. Off-road or cross-country speed was limited to 40 km/h. The maximum range is limited to 590 km, but can be increased by 350 km to 840 km with the additional fuel tanks. The fuel capacity inside the tank is a meager 650 l, but with the addition of two 200 l fuel tanks on the back of the tank, this can be extended to over 1,000 l.

Due to its small size, the TAM carries only a small amount of fuel. This can be increased by using external fuel tanks, as with these two TAMs of Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 2 «Lanceros General Paz» near their headquarters in Olavarría, Buenos Aires province. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 21

Among other performance indicators, the TAM can overcome 60% gradients, 30% side slopes, 1 m tall obstacles and 2.9 m trenches. When it comes to fording, it is capable of fording 1.5 m deep waters without preparation, increased to 2 m with preparation and 4 m with a snorkel, which takes 45 minutes to set.

The TAM prototype using its snorkel to ford a river. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 9

Additional Optional Equipment

While it is uncommon for TAMs to be equipped with one, all vehicles in the TAM family can carry an Israeli-built RKM mine roller for mine-clearing duties; however, this task would more likely be given to a VCTP or, especially, a VCTM.

Rare sight of a TAM equipped with a RKM mine roller. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 36

One of the TAM’s main disadvantages resulting from its small size is its meager fuel capacity. Argentina is a large country with extensive plains and a long border with its potential adversary, Chile. Therefore, an Argentine tank needs either a good road or rail network and an extensive operative range. The TAM has just a 650 l fuel capacity, so this is extended by additional fuel tanks carried on the TAM’s rear. These are not standard and there are many variations. There are two types of fuel tanks: 200 l and 175 l, and tanks carry either one or two, or as already stated, none at all.

A bright, rudimentary additional fuel tank on a TAM. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 36

Some of the TAM prototypes built in Argentina were equipped with Marder 1-style side-skirts. On a small number of TAMs, non-standard side-skirts have been added by their crews.

Two early TAMs with Marder 1-style side skirts. These have not been widely adopted. Source for both photos: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 10

Operational Service

When production began in April 1979, it was expected that 200 TAM and 312 VCTP would be completed by April 1985, when the project was expected to terminate. However, economic difficulties meant that in 1983 production was stopped at 150 TAM and 100 VCTP. Additionally, 70 unfinished vehicles were left in the factory. The first serial production vehicles left the factory in 1980.

Having built the facilities and invested a considerable amount of money in them but with production terminated, it was decided to try to find success in exporting both types of vehicles. However, several deals with Arab and Latin American countries fell through and to date no vehicle has been exported. In the meantime, the Ejército Argentino incorporated 20 TAM and 26 VCTP which had been built for export.

During the 1982 Falklands War, the recently introduced to service TAM were deployed to the southern region of the country to deter a potential invasion by British forces.

Although the TAM’s were never used for their intended purpose, they were kept busy by the multiple military coup attempts (levantamientos carapintadas) which shook Argentina between 1987 and 1990. In the third attempt, between December 1st and 5th 1988, TAMs were used by the loyal government forces to break the siege at Villa Martelli where the uprising was strongest and detained the leaders of the uprising.

In the last of this series of coups (December 3rd 1990), rebellious forces under Captain Gustavo Breide Obeid took over a series of military installations, among them TAMSE. The officer who took the factory, Colonel Jorge Alberto Romero Mundani, ordered 9 or 10 TAM in the factory to head to Buenos Aires. On route, the tanks ran over a group of civilians, killing 5 of them before heading off to Mercedes. Seeing that the attempted coup was heading for failure, Romero Mundani committed suicide, one of 8 military casualties of the failed coup.

In 1994, after an effort from the Ministry of Defense, TAMSE was repurposed to build a total of 120 vehicles – TAM and VCTP – to phase out older equipment, among them Sherman Repotenciados. According to Mazarrasa, by 1995, there were a total of 200 TAM. During this period, other variants of the TAM family were built. Total production numbers are often cited at 231, but the exact number is far from clear.

.
The state of what was once TAMSE in 1999 with uncompleted TAM hulls. Many of these chassis were used to create TAM derivatives. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 11
Abandoned and forgotten, this early TAM was repurposed in the early 2000’s after decades of neglect. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 9

After a few more years of negligence, the Argentine company Champion SA worked on a series of maintenance and modernization programs on the TAM in the early 2000’s.

Organization

The TAM of the Ejército Argentino are divided among six tank regiments in two brigades:

      • I Brigada Blindada «Brigadier General Martín Rodríguez» based in Buenos Aires province.
        • Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 2 «Lanceros General Paz» (RC Tan 2)
        • Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 8 «Cazadores General Necochea» (RC Tan 8)
        • Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 10 «Húsares de Pueyrredón» (RC Tan 10)
      • II Brigada Blindada «General Justo José de Urquiza» based in Entre Ríos province, on the Uruguayan border.
        • Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 1 «Coronel Brandsen» (RC Tan 1)
        • Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 6 «Blandengues» (RC Tan 6)
        • Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 7 «Coraceros Coronel Ramón Estomba» (RC Tan 7)

Each regiment is equipped with three squadrons of 13 tanks each, sub-divided into three sections of 4 vehicles plus an additional command vehicle.

A TAM of the Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 1 «Coronel Brandsen» in the early 80’s with a two-tone camouflage. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 9

Modernization

All things considered, the TAM is a product of its time, a late-70’s tank based on mostly 1960’s technology and so it has become seriously outdated. When first introduced, the tanks equipping the armies of its neighbors were the M41 Walker Bulldog and M-51 Sherman, for Brazil and Chile respectively. At this point, the TAM could claim to be the most advanced tank of the region. However, by the late 90’s, Brazil had the M60A3 and would go on to purchase the Leopard 1A5 and Chile had several variants of the AMX-30 and Leopard 1V. By this point, the TAM was lagging behind its regional rivals and was in desperate need of modernization.

A group of TAM of the Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 1 «Coronel Brandsen» at the end of a military exercise in Corrientes province, on the border with Brazil and Paraguay in September 2005. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 17

TAM S 21

In 2002, the Argentinian military and political authorities decided that it was a matter of urgency to reorganize the military industrial capacity. In a document titled Simposio sobre la Investigación y Producción para la Defensa, a project for the modernization of the TAM and other TAM-based vehicles was outlined in a project designated ‘TAM S 21’ – the TAM for the 21st Century. The Argentinian company Champion SA was put in charge of this modernization project. Due to the closure of TAMSE, many TAM had fallen into a state of disrepair and repairs were being carried out in regimental and battalion workshops. The initial projections were for 20 TAM to be maintained and modernized each year.

Four different features were to be modernized:

    • Fire Control System: To make the TAM able to perform and fire in all weather conditions and times of day, a thermal sight was to be installed. The selected model was Israeli and was built in Argentina by CITEFA. Fitted to the right of the main gun, it significantly increased the TAM´s range, being able to detect enemy targets at 7 km, recognize them at 2.8 km, and identify them at 1.6 km. Curiously, the improved TH-301 by Thyssen-Henschel was equipped with a thermal sight from the very beginning.
    • Device for stationary battery maintenance: Improved performance of the tank’s batteries by extending their lifespan.
    • GPS: The incorporation of a GARMIN 12 GPS and outside antenna.

The initial projection for 20 was reduced to 18, before the project was canceled after only 6 vehicles had been modified, 3 per regiment of the first brigade.

Close-up of the CITEFA thermal sight equipped on 6 TAM after the modernization by Champion SA. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 15
The TAM S 21 built by Champion SA. This much needed modernization was supposed to bring the TAM feet up to date, however, only 6 vehicles were modernized before the project was canceled. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 15

TAM 2C

By the mid-2000’s, the age and obsoleteness of the TAM was beginning to be a major concern for the Argentinian political and military authorities, who set out several plans to bring the main battle tank of the Argentinian forces up to date. This was especially a concern when Chile, historically Argentina’s major rival, acquired Leopard 2A4’s in 2007. There were two options: either modernize the TAM (A) or acquire a new vehicle (B).

With option B, the M1 Abrams, Challenger 2 (despite the fact that since 1982, Britain had an arms embargo placed on Argentina), Leclerc, Merkava Mk. I and T-90 were all considered and the plan was to buy 231 tanks and allow technology transfer. With an estimated cost per unit of $8,185,517 for a new tank, option A became financially the most viable, with a unit cost of $3,446,800.

EMGE laid out the requirements in 2010 in a document titled Documento de Requerimiento Operacional, stipulating many compulsory requirements, most of which were intended to increase the TAM’s lethality by modernizing and improving the tank’s fire control system and gun stabilization. There were several optional and preferable requirements including improved armor and more modern communication systems, among others.

Three foreign companies put in bids for the TAM’s modernization: Carl Zeiss Optronics with ESW GmbH, Elbit Systems, and Rheinmetall with ESW GmbH. Elbit Systems was the cheapest option, and was given a contract at some point between 2010 and 2011 with the initial plan for the modernization of one prototype vehicle and 108 serial vehicles, almost half of the total TAM in service, for a total of $133,460,000.

In March 2013, the first prototype was presented. Some of the principal characteristics on this vehicle not present on the TAM were:

    • All-round vision for the commander and gunner with the addition of a COAPS (Commander Open Architecture Panoramic Sight)
    • All-round vision for the driver
    • Automatic target tracking
    • Auxiliary power unit allowing the TAM’s mechanism to work without the need of the engine being on
    • ELBIT laser threat detection system
    • Digitization of the firing control system
    • Electric drive for azimuthal rotation of turret and barrel elevation instead of the old hydraulic system
    • Battle management and state-of-the-art communications and intercom equipment
    • Automatic fire suppression system in the fighting compartment
    • Thermal sleeve on the FM K.4 Modelo 1L main armament
    • Addition of side skirts for increased protection

In short, the modifications were mainly in the fire control system in an attempt to bring the TAM closer to modern standards.
Despite one prototype being satisfactorily presented, the project with Elbit Systems did not go ahead. However, on June 26th 2015, the project was revived when the Argentinian government, now under the leadership of Mauricio Macri, reached an agreement with the Israeli government for the modernization of 74 TAM along the lines presented by Elbit two years previously with some extra additions, such as the substitution of the FLER-HG analogic ballistic computer with a digital one.

In March 2019, Minister of Defense Oscar Aguad highlighted the fact that the modernization of half the TAM fleet to the TAM 2C standard would prolong the TAM’s service life for another 20 years. However, as of March 2020, only one tank has been fully modernized. The latest communications from Argentinian state officials suggest that the modernization is going to be canceled, and instead, Argentina will look into substituting the TAM with a wheeled vehicle.

The TAM 2C parading in front of units of the Argentinian Army dressed in traditional uniforms. The TAM 2C was designed by Elbit Systems as a modernization of the TAM which mainly focused on improving the fire control system, thereby increasing the tank’s lethality. Source: r/TankPorn

TAM 2IP

At the same time as the TAM 2C project stalled, in May 2016, Argentina presented a new modernization pack for the TAM, the TAM 2IP. Whilst the TAM 2C was an improvement in the fire control system and general performance of the TAM, the TAM 2IP was intended to overcome one of the TAM’s greatest weaknesses, its armor. Fulfilling EMGE’s initial requirements in the mid-70’s, the TAM was light and fast, which was achieved with thin armor, 50 mm at its thickest. The TAM 2IP was designed by the state-owned Israeli IMI Systems. This project presumably originated following the TAM 2C negotiations between the Argentinian and Israeli governments in June 2015. The main improvement was the addition of an add-on armor kit all along the hull and the front and sides of the turret. Side skirts were also added. It is unclear if the upgrades from the TAM 2C were also continued on the TAM 2IP. As far as can be established, only the one prototype of the TAM 2IP was ever built and it was mainly used to test and evaluate the possibilities of add-on armor on the TAM.

The TAM 2IP, the up-armored modernization project on the TAM developed by IMI Systems, as presented in May 2016. Source: defence-blog.com

Export Failures

Having invested large amounts of money into the development of the facilities for assembling the TAM but with production for the Argentinian Army finished, the state-owned TAMSE was an expensive asset funded by the state. So, it was decided that rather than waste the facilities and run at a loss, the TAM should be offered for export. Several countries were interested and Peru and Ecuador even trialed it. Several other countries allegedly negotiated or showed interest in the tank, but sources are inconsistent and vague. As things stand, no other country apart from Argentina uses the TAM or any of its derivatives.

Peru

In mid-1983, Peru made an effort to purchase 100 TAMSE vehicles (TAM and VCTP). However, financial reasons meant that they would cancel the order and stick with the T-54’s and T-55’s already in service. The 20 TAM and 26 VCTP which had been already built for this delivery were canceled and transferred to the Argentinian Army.

A TAM during its unsuccessful trial with Peru. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 34

Panama

In 1984, Panama ordered 60 vehicles, again, divided between TAM and VCTP. However, this would not materialize. It is possible that the sources about this are incorrect, and that the tanks for Panama were actually for Iran.

Iran

In the mid-80’s, an ambitious order was allegedly placed by Iran for 100 TAM, or even as many as 1,000, which seems extremely disproportionate, and these numbers and dates seem confused.

What is known is that in 1983, Diego Palleros, whose company Agrometal was based in Panama, offered to act as an intermediary between TAMSE and Iran in an operation worth $90 million for the purchase of 60 TAM. Palleros himself may have been in line for a $9 million commission. In 1984, the Argentinian government tried to alter the deal which prompted the Iranian delegation to cancel the purchase. Presumably, the use of an intermediary would have been because West Germany would not have sanctioned the selling of West German technology and components to Iran.

Rumors that as many as 10 TAMs made their way to Iran are most likely untrue.

Ecuador

The closest Argentina got to selling the TAM was to Ecuador in 1988-89. Ecuador was looking for a tank for its armed forces and had a competition between different tanks to inform and determine their decision. The TAM’s competitors were the Austrian SK-105, the American Stingray and the French AMX-13. The TAM was the comfortable winner, scoring 950/1000 points.

The deal was going to be for the purchase of 75 vehicles (TAM, VCTP and VCRT) for $108 million, but fell through, according to Sigal Fagliani, because of the threatened closure of TAMSE. In the end, Ecuador did not purchase any tanks.

The TAM and some of its competitors (Stingray – top, SK-105 – bottom) during trials in Ecuador. Ecuador ended up not purchasing any tanks after all. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 34

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait

Allegedly, during a tour of the Middle East in 1990, an Argentinian delegation offered the TAM to different countries of the region. Saudi Arabia was in line to make an offer for 400 tanks and went as far as extensively testing a vehicle. However, no purchase was ever made, and there are two versions of the events: 1. Israel protested to Germany that German technology was being sold to Saudi Arabia and Germany blocked the transfer. This seems very unlikely as Germany sold a number of TPz Fuchs Armored Personnel Carriers to Saudi Arabia in 1991 without any Israeli protests. 2. The USA, which had Saudi Arabia as a traditional weapons customer, did not want competition. In the same period, the USA was negotiating a deal worth $1.5 billion including investments in the Saudi arms industry and Saudi production of some components for the M1A2 Abrams. This latter explanation is the most likely reason why Saudi Arabia did not purchase the TAM, but it is hard to determine if they were even interested in buying the TAM in the first place.

On this same tour, another potential customer was Kuwait, who again, allegedly, was interested in acquiring 200 tanks. A TAM was tested in Kuwait where it impressed with its ability to overcome gradients and was required to fire 400 consecutive shots, which it achieved. Regardless, Kuwait did not end up purchasing the TAM and bought 149 M-84’s from Yugoslavia instead.

It is unclear how much truth there is in the negotiations to sell the TAM to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, however, it is known for certain that the government of Carlos Menem did make an effort to sell the TAM in the Middle East. In 1998, when being tried for his involvement in selling weapons contraband to Ecuador and Croatia in the mid-90’s (both nations were involved in wars at the time), the former Ministry of Defense, Oscar Camilión, admitted that the Argentinian government had used the Syrian arms trafficker Monzer Al Kassar to sell the TAM to the Middle East.

United Arab Emirates

Just before the Gulf War, a relative of the sheik of Abu Dhabi supposedly visited Argentina with the intention of purchasing weapons. Whilst convinced by the TAM, he requested some modifications so it could also carry 4-6 troops. Roberto Ferreiro, a senior engineer at TAMSE, was put in charge of carrying out these modifications, which were achieved by installing a bench from the VCTP instead of the electric batteries and the ammunition racks. This would have meant that the TAM’s ammunition capacity would have been severely reduced. In the end, no order was placed and the modified TAM was put back in its normal configuration. Some of the sources regarding the TAM purchase by the UAE are inconsistent, and it is possible that the UAE negotiations were actually with Kuwait.

Others: Iraq, Libya, Malaysia and Taiwan?

There are other alleged potential customers of the TAM for which information is very limited.

In Bartrones’ thesis, he claims Iraq was interested in purchasing 400 TAMs in the early 80’s but international pressure made the deal impossible.

According to Sigal Fagliani, in early 1986, TAMSE contacted Libya to try to sell the TAM, but were unsuccessful.

Cicalesi and Rivas state that the TAM was “exhibited and tested” by Malaysia. No other source mentions Malaysia, apart from Wikipedia in English (as of February 23rd 2020) which claims the South East Asian country “signed a contract for 102 vehicles of the TAM family, including the tank, VCTP and VCRT (renaming these Lion, Tiger and Elephant, respectively)”. This seems very unlikely, as it goes on to claim that the PT-91 ‘Twardy’ was acquired instead, which is completely untrue, as this purchase was not done until the mid-2000’s.

In 1993, Admiral Fausto López, with the knowledge of the Argentinian government, offered the TAMSE installations and 500 vehicles to Taiwan, an offer that was not accepted by Taiwan.

La Familia TAM – Derivatives

One of the most distinguishing factors of the TAM is how flexible a platform it is, having spawned several derivatives, including recovery vehicles, self-propelled guns and mortar carriers. Whilst this flexibility was not one of the initial requirements set by EMGE, it was very much appreciated and was in line with the initial wishes of the Argentinian military authorities, to reduce or limit the reliance on foreign vehicles.

VCTP (Vehículo de Combate de Transporte de Personal)

Hardly a derivative, the VCTP is an infantry fighting vehicle and personnel carrier developed alongside the TAM by Thyssen-Henschel. Very similar to the Marder 1, on which it was based, it is equipped with a 20 mm Oerlikon KAD 18 automatic cannon in a turret and can transport 10 troops. 124 vehicles have been built, with a number seeing service in Bosnia and Croatia as part of UNPROFOR peacekeeping forces.

The VCTP was developed alongside the TAM and has been the main tracked infantry fighting vehicle of the Argentinian Army since the early 80’s. Source: www.military-today.com

VCTM (Vehículo de Combate Transporte Mortero)

Produced from 1980’s onwards, it was the first TAM family vehicle to have been designed in Argentina. Eliminating the turret of a VCTP, it carries a 120 mm Brandt MO-120-RT mortar which fires through the hole where the turret once stood. 36 VCTM’s have been built and are still in service.

Two VCTM firing during a military exercise. Source: thaimilitaryandasianregion.wordpress.com

VCPC (Vehículo de Combate Puesto de Comando)

A variant of the VCTP developed in 1982, the VCPC is a command vehicle which substitutes the turret of the VCTP for a hatch for the commander. It has additional radio and communications systems and a map table in the middle of the vehicle. Only 9 have been built.

Entering service in 1982, the VCPC has served as a command vehicle. Source: www.taringa.net

VCA (Vehículo de Combate Artillería)

One of the most adventurous derivatives, development for the VCA began in 1983, though production would not start until 1990. Designed to overcome a dependence on towed artillery, the VCA is an elongated TAM chassis where the main turret is substituted by one designed by OTO Melara. Equipped with a powerful Palmaria 155 mm gun, 20 VCA have been built and are in service.

A VCA in 2002 showing off its impressive 155 mm main armament. Source: www.military-today.com

VCAmun (Vehículo de Combate Amunicionador)

With a limited load capacity and the weight of its ammunition, the VCA was found to be impractical in some aspects. Thus, in 2002 a vehicle to transport and load the VCA’s ammunition was built. Only 2 VCAmun have been built to date. Due to these low numbers, M548A1’s are used in a similar fashion.

Developed to assist the VCA, the VCAmun has not been built in large numbers. Source: www.fundacionsoldados.com.ar

VCCDF (Vehículo de Combate Centro Director de Fuego) and TAM VCCDT (Vehículo de Combate Centro Director de Tiro)

Two identical vehicles derived from the VCTP were built for artillery fire control in the mid-90’s. The difference between them comes down to their roles; whereas the VCCDF is used by artillery groups, the VCCDT is used at battery level. Built in small numbers, there are 2 VCCDF and 4 VCCDT.

VCRT (Vehículo de Combate Recuperador de Tanques)

Originally envisioned in 1982 for the support and recovery of TAM and VCTM equipped units, the VCRT has a long crane, a winch, an auxiliary winch and a dozer blade. Only one was built and it is still in service.

The VCRT was intended to have been the recovery vehicle that would assist the TAM, however, only one was ever built. Source: razonyfuerza.mforos.com

VCLC (Vehículo de Combate Lanza Cohetes)

Developed in 1986 at the request of EMGE to have an armored vehicle equipped with rocket launchers. Originally intended to have two versions equipped with light CAL-160 rockets or medium CAM-350 rockets, only a prototype for the light version was built. Budget limitations meant that this example, which survives to this day as a static display, is the only one.

The CAL-160 armed VCLC never entered service and only one prototype exists. Source: www.military-today.com

VCA (Vehículo de Combate Ambulancia) and VCAmb (Vehículo de Combate Ambulancia)

Two different derivatives were manufactured to fulfill the role of an armored ambulance.The VCA was developed in the 80’s and is a turretless VCTP with internal modifications to carry stretchers. Several VCTP retained the turret but had their armament taken away.

One mock-up VCAmb was built in 2001 sharing a chassis with the VCAmun, but not even a prototype was built.

The mock-up of the VCAmun. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 10

TAP (Tanque Argentino Pesado)

It is unclear when the TAP was envisioned, but it is possible that it dates as far back as the early to mid-80’s. Using the elongated TAM chassis as in the VCA, its main armament was a 120 mm gun in a Leopard 2-like turret. No prototypes were built and there is very little trace of a design.

Artist’s impression of what the TAP may have looked like. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 11.

VCDA (Vehículo de Combate Defensa Aérea)

The VCDA was a TAM derivative designed for air defense and would have been equipped with twin 35 mm guns. Almost no details exist about this derivative.

VCLM (Vehículo de Combate Lanza Misiles)

The VCLM was to be a TAM derivative intended to launch Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs). Roland and locally-designed Halcón missiles were considered. Almost no details exist about this derivative.

VCLP (Vehículo de Combate Lanza Puentes)

The VCLP was to be the armored vehicle-launched bridge derivative of the TAM. Again, hardly any details exist about this derivative.

Conclusion

The TAM has become a piece of Argentinian folklore and a source of pride. Although claims that it is an indigenous tank are untrue, the TAM has hugely benefited Argentinian industry and limited the dependence on foreign suppliers to equip its armed forces. When first introduced in 1980-81, the TAM was a decent tank, packing a strong punch with its 105 mm main armament and a mesmerizing speed and mobility which would have served it well along the vast Argentinian plains. Put simply, at the time, in the region, it was unrivaled. However, financial difficulties meant that the TAM was never built in the numbers intended and the failure to export it doomed any future progress on the tank. By the 1990s, the TAM’s age, and more importantly the technology it was based on, meant that other nations in the region had caught up or surpassed Argentina and the TAM. This is even more accentuated the further we go into the new millennium. Modernization programs, as sound and well-intended as they may have been, have been stuck by Argentina constantly being held back due to a lack of liquidity and corruption. Taking this into consideration, a 20-year prolongation of the TAM may not be what Argentina’s armored forces necessarily need, and issues such as weak armor are never going to be fully resolved. The time may be coming to bid farewell to the TAM and find a more suitable replacement for the Argentina of the twenty-first century.

A TAM recovering another TAM which has become bogged-down during a military exercise. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 17
Still going strong. Two TAMs taking part in Exercise Reconquista in 2006. Source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 27


Tanque Argentino Mediano, Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 1 «Coronel Brandsen» two-tone green camouflage. Illustrated by David Bocquelet


TAM call sign number 224, serial number EA 435488, ‘GBD ACUNA’, of the Regimiento de Caballería de Tanques 8 «Cazadores General Necochea». Illustrated by David Bocquelet with modifications by Brian Gaydos, funded by our Patreon campaign


TAM call sign number 322, serial number EA 435506, ‘CHACABUCO’, with snorkel and different ammunition types. Illustrated by Pablo Javier Gomez


TAM S 21 call sign number 200, serial number EA 433836, ‘TCRL AGUADO BENITEZ’, in Magdalena (Buenos Aires province) September 2005. Illustrated by Pablo Javier Gomez


TAM 2C prototype, 2013. Illustrated by David Bocquelet


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


TAM 2IP prototype. Illustrated by Pablo Javier Gomez

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

Sources

Agustín Larre, Infodefensa.com, Aguad destaca el avance en la modernización de los tanques argentinos (27 March 2019) [accessed 01/03/2020]

Anon., “Admiten que el sirio intentó vender tanques,” Clarín, 03 June 1998

Anon., “Advierten que Panamá podría embargar la fragata Libertad,” Clarín, 09 September 1999

Anon., Infodefensa.com, El Ejército de Argentina presenta el TAM modernizado por Elbit (09 May 2013) [accessed 01/03/2020]

Anon., Infodefensa.com, El Ejército Argentino presenta un segundo prototipo mejorado del TAM (03 June 2016) [accessed 01/03/2020]

Anon., “Involucran a Menem y a Kohan en una venta de submarinos a Taiwán,” Clarín, 16 June 2001

Anon., Military Vehicle Forecast, TH 300 (TAM – Tanque Argentino Mediano) and TH 301 [archived report]

Anon., Zona Militar, TAM 2C: más incertidumbres que certezas (19 February 2020) [accessed 01/03/2020]

Anon., Zona Militar, TAM 2C momento de definiciones (5 February 2020) [accessed 01/03/2020]

Diego F. Rojas, VC TAM Vehículo de Combate Tanque Argentino Mediano (Buenos Aires: Monografías Militares, 1997)

Dylan Malyasov, Defence Blog, Argentine Army has unveiled upgraded model of TAM 2IP medium tank (1 June 2016) [accessed 01/03/2020]

Fernando A. Bartrons, “Modernización del Vehículo de Combate TAM 105 mm”, Thesis, Ejército Argentino Escuela Superior de Guerra, 2012

Gabriel Porfilio, Infodefensa.com, Argentina firma un convenio con Israel para modernizar 74 tanques TAM (30 June 2015) [accessed 01/03/2020]

Gabriel Porfilio, Infodefensa.com, Fabricaciones Militares y Elbit Systems modernizan el TAM 2C (29 September 2015) [accessed 01/03/2020]

Guillermo Axel Dapía, “El Desarrollo de la industria de blindados en Argentina y Brasil: un estudio comparado de integración económico-militar”, Thesis, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 2008

Irene Valiente, Infodefensa.com, Argentina avanza en la modernización de sus TAM (10 August 2017) [accessed 01/03/2020]

Javier de Mazarrasa, La Familia Acorazada TAM (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1996)

Juan Carlos Cicalesi & Santiago Rivas, TAM The Argentine Tanque Argentino Mediano – History, Technology, Variants (Erlangen: Tankograd Publishing, 2012)

Marcelo Javier Rivera, El Tanque Argentino Mediano – TAM, Universidad Federal de Juiz de Fora, 2008

Michael Scheibert, SPz Marder und seine Varianten (Friedberg: Podszun-Pallas-Verlag GmbH, 1987)

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. According to sources, however, the turret would have been very cramped with the 105 mm gun.

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 M2HB 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.

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”

The Journey of the Czech Repotenciado

The journey of this particular Sherman Repotenciado started in the Detroit Tank Arsenal in 1943 where it was built. After its construction, it would be shipped to the United Kingdom and converted to a Sherman Firefly. Then, the Sherman would go to Belgium before being sold to Argentina in 1947. In Argentina it would receive the registration EA 03055 and later be converted to a Sherman Repotenciado in 1977. After the Repotenciados were phased out, an Argentinian dealer would acquire this particular vehicle. It was later bought by the KVH 16th Armored Division CZ and transported to the Czechia in 2018 where it would be reconverted to the original M4A4 variant and continue its service as a reenactment tank with the KVH 16th Armored Division CZ.

The Czech Repotenciado on the 4th of May 2018, EA 03055, Czechia exact location unknown. Photo: KVH 16th Armored Division CZ

Conversion and Continued Service With the KVH 16th Armored Division CZ

In 2014, the Czech reenactment club KVH 16th Armored Division CZ discovered a Sherman Repotenciado for sale by an Argentinian dealer. It took three and a half years to finish up the paperwork and the tank would then be transported as a whole to the Czech Republic. The arrival of the Sherman Repotenciado was made public on the 4th of May 2018 on the 16th Armored Division Facebook page.

The Repotenciado was to be reconverted to the original M4A4 with a 75mm gun. The reconversion process would begin on 1st August of that year by removing the gun from the turret and subsequently removing the turret from the hull the day after. The removal of the turret revealed the poor state of the Repotenciado as the bearings and the turret drive gears were rusty and starting to rot away. The poor state of the tank when it was acquired is most likely due to outside storage for years after the Argentinian Army phased out the Repotenciado. Suspension restoration would begin on 17th August and work on the hull would start on 23rd October.

The engine was surprisingly well preserved compared to the turret and repairs would start in February 2019 and were completed in April of the same year. The repaired engine would be placed into the tank in May and the first test drive would be done on 1st August. The conversion was completed on 12th August 2019, and subsequently, the M4A4 would be accepted into service by the 16th Armored division on the same day. The M4A4 would see its first deployment just four days after it was accepted into service on the 2019 Friend Fest in Pardubice, Czechia.

The reconverted M4A4 of the KVH 16th Armored Division CZ, Friend Fest in Pardubice, Czechia, 16th of August 2019.
Photo: KVH 16th Armored Division CZ

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”


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.

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
KVH 16th Armored Division
www.thevintagenews.com
nationalinterest.org
the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_Shermans_Repotenciado.pdf
www.taringa.net
patriciodelfosse.ar.tripod.com


Tank-It Shirt

“Tank-It” Shirt

Chill with this cool Sherman shirt. A portion of the proceeds from this purchase will support Tank Encyclopedia, a military history research project. Buy this T-Shirt on Gunji Graphics!


American M4 Sherman Tank – Tank Encyclopedia Support Shirt

American M4 Sherman Tank – Tank Encyclopedia Support Shirt

Give ’em a pounding with your Sherman coming through! A portion of the proceeds from this purchase will support Tank Encyclopedia, a military history research project. Buy this T-Shirt on Gunji Graphics!

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.
null
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.
null
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.
null
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.
nullnull
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
null
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.
null
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.

null
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.
null
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.
null
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.
null
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