Romanian armor 1919-2016
About 3,000 armored vehicles
In August 1945 an insurrection overthrew Marshal Antonescu and the fascist regime. A new provisional regime sympathetic to the USSR as established and, until the end of the war, Romanian Forces fought under control of the Red Army against German Armies to claim back its territory. After the war, Romania entered the Soviet sphere of influence and later joined the Warsaw pact.
The Cold War
These years were dominated by the “Sovietisation” of the country and army (adoption of Soviet tactics and doctrine) and Minister of Defence’s, Emil Bodnăraş, reforms, followed by the beginning of a semi-autonomy under the Ceaușescu regime. In the 1980s, the land forces comprised 140,000 personnel, of whom two thirds were conscripts, organized into four armies: 1st at Bucharest, 2nd at Buzău, 3rd at Craiova and 4th at Napoca. Just before the 1989 revolution, the armored forces were partitioned between 8 mechanized infantry divisions and two armored divisions, the 57th (Bucharest) and 6th (Tîrgu Mureş).
MLI-84M at a Military Parade
Although the Army was supplied with Soviet tanks and APCs, industrial resources allowed some local production, either under licence and/or with extensive modifications in the 1980s. These locally produced models were the TAB-71 (BTR-60), TAB-77 (BTR-70) and TABC-79 APCs (4×4 variant of the latter), and later B33 Zimbru (BTR-80) and MLI-84 (BMP-1) and MLVM (local IFV).
TR-580 at the Ferdinand Museum
Romania relied chiefly on T-55As, modernized into the AM and AM2 versions prior to 1990. Development of a local MBT began in 1977 with the TR-580 or Tanc Românesc Model 1977, a well-modified T-55 with, among others, a new engine, suspension, tracks and roadwheels, new FCS and new local gun. It evolved until 1985 with the introduction of the TR-85, which is now the reference MBT of the Romanian Ground Forces.
1989 revolution and post-communist era
The fall of the autocratic regime of Ceaușescu was greatly helped by the defection of the Army, which joined the insurrection. At that time, however, finances were at their lowest and the army was left with obsolescent material, lack of spare parts and, more critically, fuel. During the first phase of reorganization, major units were disbanded, while obsolete vehicles were sold for scrap. In the early 1990s, the new organization included territorial corps and the regiments became battalions.
In 1996, the new government dramatically increased the military budget, and the full applications of these reforms came to fruition in 2000, with foreign purchases including, until 2013, new wheeled vehicles, 31 MOWAG Piranha III, 122 HMMWV, 62 URO VAMTAC, 16 Panhard PVP, while many tanks and other vehicles were modernized. A major change was the transition from a large, Soviet-style conscript army to a smaller, professional well equipped and well trained army. Diversity in equipment also illustrates these changes, with purchases of US vehicles, weapons, and joint tactical training sessions. The modern structure of the Army implies three divisions, the Bucharest Garrison, the Honor Regiment, a few independent supporting battalions and instruction centers. At all tactical levels procedures and equipment were made compliant with NATO standards.
The Romanian army saw action in the 2000s, taking its “tour of duty” in Afghanistan, using many leased MPVs and MRAPS, along with its own vehicles, for patrols and operations. Such vehicles were 108 Cougar HE, 60 MaxxPro Dash and some M-ATV. One battalion was stationed in Zabul, one guard detachment in Kandahar and one reconnaissance squad in Mazari Sharif as part of ISAF. A special forces squad and training detachment were also deployed in the area.
ABC-79 in Afghanistan
Bosnia and Herzegovina
About 45 personnel were deployed in Sarajevo and Banja Luka as part of EUFOR since 2000 and 150 personnel in Peć, Kosovo (KFOR).
Modern Romanian Tanks
TR-85 Main battle tank (1985)
TABC-33 Zimbru APC (1990)
Cold War Romanian Tanks
TR-77/580 Main battle tank (1985)
TAB-71 armoured personal carrier, a local version of the BTR-60
AM-425 APC in the 1980s markings and livery.
TABC-79 in the 1990s. Post-revolution vehicle were very often camouflaged, with a large variety of spotted patterns over the original factory dark green.
TABC-79A PCOMA Artillery Observation Vehicle
TABC-79 with IFOR, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1996
ABC-79M in Afghanistan, 88th infantry battalion.
TABC-79AR mortar carrier of the 191 battalion firing its 82mm Model 1977 mortar in april 2010
T-55A in Romanian service. This helps to see the differences with the TR-77.
TR-77 early version.
TR-77 MBT of serie, with the large side skirt model
Camouflaged TR-77 in the 1980s.
Late TR-77 with the elongated turret model adopted by the TR-85M1.
Reconstruction of an Iraqi TR-580 in operational markings, Iran-Iraq war. This is purely conjectural as no photos or evidence of this tank in Iraqi service has been confirmed.
Cold War Tanks