Cold War Brazil MB-3 Tamoyo

MB-3 Tamoyo 1

Federative Republic of Brazil (1984-1991)
Medium Tank – 4 Built + 1 Mock-up

The development of a national tank in Brazil started as early as 1969, with the founding of the Centro de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento de Blindados (CPDB) (English: Centre for the Research and Development of Tanks). The CPDB studied the possibilities of locally produced tanks and initiated its first project in the early 1970s, which would become the X1 light tank family.

Bernardini, the company which developed the X1 family together with the Parque Regional de Motomecanização da 2a Região Militar (PqRMM/2) (English: Regional Motomecanization Park of the 2nd Military Region), went on to develop the M41B. The successful development of the M41B gave Bernardini enough confidence and experience to initiate the development of a national tank together with the Army.

Before Engesa’s Osório rose to prominence, Bernardini initiated the development of their national tank in the late 70s. This project was called the MB-3 Tamoyo. The MB-3 Tamoyo started off as an improved version of the M41 Walker Bulldog, sharing as many components as possible to ease logistics, but would reach its apex as the Tamoyo 3, which could be classified as a full-fledged Main Battle Tank in South America. It is important to note that the Tamoyo’s were not conversions from the M41, but completely new designs.

Although the Tamoyo, and especially the Tamoyo 3, had much potential and fitted the initial requirements of the Brazilian Army, they were not selected and were overshadowed by the Osório. The Tamoyo’s were tested very late in comparison to the Osório, and it seems that this delay caused the Army to realise that they did not want the Tamoyo 1. They wanted a main Battle Tank like the Osório and the Tamoyo 3. In the end, the Tamoyo would end up as the most realistic tank for Brazil, but would never come to fruition.

The Tamoyo 1.
Source: Author’s collection


The Tamoyo had various designations to denote the stages of the project. The first stage of the Tamoyo was designated X-30, with the X standing for prototype and the 30 for its 30 tonnes weight. This designation was used until the first working prototype of the Tamoyo 1 was delivered in May 1984.

There is also the VBC CC XMB3 (Viatura Blindada de Combate – Carro Combate – X Médio Bernardini-3, Armored Fighting Vehicle – Combat Car – X Medium Bernardini-3) designation, which is seen at a sign accompanying the mock-up of the Tamoyo and is written on the sides of most variants of the Tamoyo as well. The X again denominates the prototype phase of the vehicle, and the MB refers to the designer and manufacturer of the vehicle. The 3 denotes that this is the third vehicle Bernardini ‘’designed’’, with the 1 being the X1, the X1A1 being the 1A, the X1A2 being the 2, and the X1A2 second production batch being known as 2A. What is interesting is that the M41B and M41C projects of Bernardini were not counted in the MB-X designation system of the company.

The X-30 mock-up with a sign stating VBC CC XMB 3 at the CTEx.

The earliest mention of the Tamoyo designation was recorded in November 1983, named to honor the Tamoyo Confederation of the Tupinambá people. The Tamoyo Confederation was an alliance of various indigenous tribes of Brazil in response against the slavery and murder inflicted on the Tupinambá tribes by the Portuguese discoverers and colonizers. The Tupinambá people fought against the Portuguese from 1554 to 1575. A peace treaty between the two warring parties was signed in 1563, although the fighting did not completely end until 1567, after the Portuguese colonists were sufficiently strengthened to tip the scales completely in their favor. The Tamoyo Confederation was effectively wiped out by 1575. Tamoyo means grandfather or ancestor in the Tupi language.

It seems that after the first Tamoyo prototype was built on May 7th 1984, that the Tamoyo received its official designation MB-3 Tamoyo. The MB-3 Tamoyo has 3 main sub designations, these are Tamoyo I, Tamoyo II, and Tamoyo III (named Tamoyo 1, 2, and 3 in this article for ease of reading). The Tamoyo 1 refers to the Tamoyo meant for the Brazilian Army, armed with a 90 mm BR3 gun, DSI-14 500 hp engine and a CD-500 transmission. The Tamoyo 2 was exactly the same as the Tamoyo 1, except that it used a modern HMPT-500 transmission. The Tamoyo 3 refers to the export version, which was a much-upgraded version of the original Tamoyo. The Tamoyo 3 was armed with a 105 mm L7, had an 8V-92TA 736 hp engine, a CD-850 transmission, and was armored with composite armor instead of only steel. The Tamoyo 3 would eventually be proposed to the Brazilian Army as well in 1991, a year after the failure of the EE-T1 Osório.

The 8 vehicles which were planned, and the first prototype received individual designations as well. These designations went from P0 to P8 and had sub-designations regarding their models as well. The first working prototype was designated P0 and held the model designation TI-1, where TI refers to Tamoyo 1 and the 1 refers to the first Tamoyo 1 vehicle. There were also three support vehicles envisioned, which were a bulldozer, bridgelayer, and engineering vehicle. These are denoted by VBE (Viatura Blindada Especial, Special Armored Vehicle)

The Tamoyo TI-1, TI-2, TI-3, and TI-4 will be the four main vehicles of interest in this article. These are all Tamoyo 1s with slight variations between them, from the location of pioneer tools, to the mounting of a Laser Range Finder. It is important to note that the overall development of all the different Tamoyos is intertwined. Thus, there are a reasonable amount of references to other Tamoyo versions in this article. Please refer to this table of designations to prevent possible confusion of all the various designations that distinguish the individual vehicles from each other.

Tamoyo Type Prototype Model designation
Tamoyo 1 P0 TI-1
Tamoyo 1 P1 TI-2
Tamoyo 2 P2 TII
Tamoyo 1 P3 TI-3
Tamoyo 3 P4 TIII
Tamoyo 1 P5 TI-4
Engineering Tamoyo P6 VBE Bulldozer
Engineering Tamoyo P7 VBE Bridge Layer
Engineering Tamoyo P8 VBE Engineering


The development of the Tamoyo can be traced back to the X1. The X1 was a modernization project of the M3 Stuart, carried out by the PqRMM/2 team, Biselli and Bernardini. Bernardini was responsible for the turret and the suspension. After the X1, the team would try to fix some of the vehicle’s flaws by designing the X1A1. The X1A1 was effectively a lengthened X1 tank with a hybrid M4 Sherman/18-ton M4 Tractor suspension and a redesigned turret. The X1A1 project ended up breaking the X1 even more and was canceled. Biselli left the X1 project around this time in the mid-1970s, making Bernardini fully responsible for the X1 family of vehicles and all future tank development.

The X1.
Source: Blindados no Brasil

The X1A1 was canceled, as it was too much effort to fix the old base M3 Stuart. The engineers would have needed to widen the Stuart hull, and would still retain issues inherent to the age of the hull. It was decided to develop a new tank, which was designated X-15. The X-15 would be the first fully designed tank in Brazil, which resulted in the X1A2 tank.

The X1A2 used the same suspension and a further developed turret of the X1A1. The X1A2 hull was wider than the X1A1, fixing the issues of the X1A1. The tank used several new components, of which the most notable were the EC-90 low-pressure gun, and the CD-500 transmission. Both the CD-500 transmission and the design concepts of the X1A2 turret were later incorporated in the Tamoyo 1 project. The X1A2 was Brazil’s first and so far only tank which was fully designed in Brazil and used in active service. The X1 family of projects and the X1A2 gave the engineers of Bernardini the experience and confidence to start developing the M41 Walker Bulldog upgrades.

The X1A2.
Source: Image Caiafa

The M41 Projects

With the success of the X1 family project, Bernardini and the Brazilian Army initiated the development of the M41 upgrade programs. This started much the same way as the other projects of the Brazilian Army. The first step was to remotorize the M41 with a locally produced Scania DS-14 V8 350 hp diesel engine. This upgrade was designated as M41B and included various other smaller upgrades beside the engine. The first M41B was built in 1978.

The M41B
Source: M-41 Walker Bulldog no Exército Brasileiro – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

Bernardini had now gained enough confidence to start developing their own tank. A year later, Bernardini started the development of what would become the Tamoyo 1. Bernardini also went on to further develop the M41B upgrade into the M41C, parallel to the development of the Tamoyo. The first M41C was developed around 1980 and mounted the same engine, a turret with additional spaced armor, a rebored 90 mm low-pressure gun, and a multitude of other minor upgrades and upgrade packages. A single M41C would end up as a testbed for the high-pressure 90 mm armament of the Tamoyo 1.

The M41C armed with the 90 mm F4.
Source: M-41 Walker Bulldog no Exército Brasileiro – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

The German proposals of 1976-1977

Beside the projects of Bernadini, the Germans also seemed to have some influence during the concept stages of the Tamoyo 1 development. Previous military relations between the US and Brazil had declined and, in 1977, Brazil and the US broke off their military agreements. This break was caused by the German-Brazilian nuclear energy cooperation and the lost usefulness of the military agreement for Brazil. Germany tried to capitalize on the declining relations by proposing a range of vehicles to the Brazilian Army.

Two of these vehicles were tanks, of which one was essentially a TAM tank for Brazil, and the other a 35-tonne tank. The TAM was still being designed by the Germans and Argentinians around this time, and the first prototype of the TAM was completed in September 1976 for Argentina. The 35 tonnes tank had a much more conventional layout compared to the TAM, as it did not have an engine located in the front of the vehicle. Brazil did not buy either of these tanks, preferring to rely on their own industry to build a new tank.

It is thought that the proposal by the Germans and the appearance of the TAM in Argentina influenced the initial concept stages and design requests by the Brazilian Army for the Tamoyo project. If this influence came directly from the German proposals or from the usage of the TAM in Argentina is unclear. Both factors probably contributed in varying importance to the requests of the Brazilian Army.

The TAM proposal for Brazil.
Source: Blindados no Brasil – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos


Bernardini SA Indústria e Comércio was founded by Italian immigrants in 1912. They manufactured steel safes, armored doors, and value transport vehicles. In the 1960s, Bernardini would come in contact with the Armed Forces by building the bodies for trucks for both the Brazilian Marine Corps and the Army. In 1972, the company was asked by the Army to participate in the PqRMM/2 project to develop the X1 tank with Biselli.

Bernardini’s participation in the X1 project solidified their position as the company responsible for building tanks in Brazil. The Brazilian defense industry was founded with a gentleman’s agreement to prevent competition between the various companies involved. Engesa initially focused on wheeled vehicles, for example. The main difference between the two companies was that Engesa was very much export-driven, while Bernardini carried out projects according to the needs of the Brazilian Army and then looked at potential export possibilities. In a way, Bernardini was much more dependent on the Army, while Engesa was dependent on selling their equipment abroad.

This difference in policy can be seen in the total amount of exports of Bernardini compared to the rest of the Brazilian defense industry. Bernardini exported 5% of their total production compared to 80 to 95% of the rest of the Brazilian defence industry. Although this made Bernardini less susceptible to failed export bids, it did make Bernardini dependent on an Army with an ever-tight budget.

Bernardini logo.

The X-30

The Brazilian Army staff was worried about the Argentinian acquisition of the TAM tank. The TAM effectively outclassed any vehicle the Brazilian Army owned in firepower, armor, and in the mobility department. In comparison, the most advanced tank of the Brazilian Army was the M41 Walker Bulldog, which was still in the initial stages of modernization. As a result, the Army staff decided that Brazil needed a new tank.

The specifications of the new tank were released around 1979 by the CTEx (Centro Tecnológico do Exército (CTEx, Army Technology Center), which was led by Division General Argus Fagundes Ourique Moreira. Division General Argus Moreira and the CTEx were responsible for the acquisition of funds from the Army for the project, and to give input in the selection of components, design, and companies working on the new tank. The CTEx effectively participated in this project to ensure that the Army would receive a feasible Carro de Combate Nacional Médio (National Medium Combat Car/tank, the Brazilian army calls all their tanks combat cars). This basically meant that they would get a tank, capable of dealing with the TAM and with a favorable price tag for the Army. For this project, the CTEx selected Bernardini as its partner.

Division General Argus Fagundes Ourique Moreira
Source: CTEx

A range of requirements for the new tank were put forward by the CTEx for both an indigenous and export version. What is interesting, is that the Army seems to not have completely abided by these requirements when they accepted the Tamoyo projects. The Army wanted a tank that weighed 30 tonnes (33 US tons, although this later seems to have increased to 36 tonnes (39.7 US tons) and was 3.2 meters (10.5 feet) wide for rail transport (same width as the Leopard 1), an operational range of around 500 km (310 miles), a ground pressure of roughly 0.7 kg/cm2 (10 lbs/in2), a high percentage of locally-produced components as possible, and have as many commonality of parts as possible with the M41 and the Charrua for logistical reasons. The Charrua was a locally designed tracked troop transport that was meant to replace the M113.

The Charrua.
Source: Author’s collection

In addition, the vehicle had to use a conventional layout, a turret with 3 crewmen (there was no interest in autoloading systems), the national vehicle was to be armed with a 105 mm gun, while the export vehicle was to be armed with a 120 mm gun, a stabilized gun, day/night sights, armor that should provide a high level of protection, diesel engines which gave the vehicles good power to weight ratios, and a fire extinguishing system.

As an interesting bit of information, although mainly for the Tamoyo 3, Bernadini visited Israel a number of times for consultation by General Talik Tal, the mastermind of the Merkava tank. In addition, Bernardini also hired General Natke Nir (sometimes referred to as Natan Nir), who served as a Colonel during the Yom Kippur War, for 6 months as a consultant for the design of armored vehicles. Natke Nir is credited by Flavio Bernardini for introducing spaced and composite armor concepts, improved protection against explosions, ammunition compartmentalization, mine protection, and the employment of tanks in combat situations. Although these consultancies were mainly focused for the Tamoyo 3, it would not be surprising if some concepts were or would eventually be carried over to the Tamoyo 1 as well.

General Natke Nir, picture taken in 1979.
Source: The National Library of Israel

How many Tamoyos did the Army want?

It is unknown how many Tamoyo’s the Army intended to acquire from Bernardini. A couple of estimations can be made to give some idea of the planned Tamoyo’s to be fielded by the Army. The first number is based on the German proposal of the TAM tank for Brazil, which was for at least 300 vehicles. This number also appears in other estimations of how many Osório’s the Army would potentially buy, which ranged from 70 to 300 Osório’s.

Another estimation can be made by basing it on the number of M41C’s Brazil operated at the time, and on the number of Leopard 1’s Brazil is operating today. 323 M41C’s were built by Bernardini for the Army. Although the Tamoyo 1 was meant to operate besides the M41C, it is quite likely that the M41C’s would be gradually phased out as more Tamoyo’s were delivered. This for example happened when the Army bought 378 Leopard 1’s in total. In an issue of International Defense Review, it is stated that the army has a requirement of 300-400 vehicles.

Although the exact number is unknown, both Brazilian and foreign sources, and previous and later events seem to suggest a number of around 300 to 400 vehicles. This is a sizable number compared to the 231 TAMs operated by the Argentinian Army.

The X-30 TAM

Division General Argus Moreira initially requested a tank with a front-mounted engine and rear turret, like the TAM. The tank and the project were designated X-30 (X for prototype and 30 for 30 tonnes (33 US tons)), and the first concept art was released to the public in the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo on May 27th 1979. The article practically presents an improved copy of the TAM, although some of the combined requirements seem to have been somewhat unrealistic when one considers the TAM specifications. The new Brazilian X-30 tank was presented as a 30-tonne tank, armed with a 120 mm cannon, telemetric laser finder, a range of 600 km (370 miles), armor up to 70 mm (2.75 inch), NBC system, fire-extinguishing systems, 4 crewmen, dual controls, and heat-treated armor angled at 20 to 50 degrees. It was also supposed to be able to mount Brazilian copies of the Roland Surface-to-Air Missile system, although Brazil would never manage to successfully copy the SAM system.

To put these specifications in perspective, the TAM weighed 30.5 tonnes (33.6 US tons), had a 105 mm cannon, 590 km (366 miles) operational range, armor up to 50 mm (2 inch), a crew of four, and armor angled from 32 to 75 degrees. The amount of road wheels of the X-30 is also exactly the same as on the TAM, suggesting more or less equal dimensions as well. The interesting part is that the X-30 effectively promised a better gun and better armor, while weighing as much as the TAM.

This presentation of the X-30 seems more of a propaganda article with the technician, who gave the information to the journalist, sketching a very impressive and capable vehicle that the Brazilian Army would most likely not have been able to afford in the first place. The construction of a steel mock-up that used the front-engine configuration was already underway, but would never be finalized. The TAM-inspired design was very short-lived, as Bernardini and the CTEx opted for a traditional lay-out in less than 6 months.

The X-30 with the TAM lay-out.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 Tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

The actual design of the X-30 TAM concept appears in an undated video of Bernardini where a show briefly shows the design. The design resembles the sketch from the newspaper with some changes. The smoke launchers are located on the front of the turret, there is no structure on the sides of the turret for the commander and loader hatches, the vehicle has an extra structure on the top of the hull which can be seen by the lower placed driver sights, and the vehicle has 3 return rollers instead of 4. The armament shown in the design of Bernardini is unknown, but is thought to be a 105 mm gun. The sketch does not yet take the engine placement into account, although this might have to do with the drawing not being finished. The construction of a steel mock-up that used the front-engine configuration was already underway, but would never be finalized. The TAM-inspired design was very short-lived, as Bernardini and the CTEx opted for a traditional layout in less than 6 months.

The X-30 TAM design as shown in the video from Bernardini.

The Traditional X-30

The front-mounted engine design was discussed with Bernardini, considering weight balancing, armor distribution, and the moments of forces and inertias. In the end, Bernardini and the Army decided to go for a traditional layout with a rear-mounted engine. A contract between the Army and Bernardini was signed and the development of a mock-up and prototype was initiated. The switch to the traditional design happened anywhere between May 1979 and January 1980.

Transmissions and Engine

The first step in developing the new tank was the selection of a transmission. The Brazilian Army wished for the CD-500-3 transmission to ensure interchangeability with the M41 Walker Bulldog fleet and because of an envisioned M113 replacement. The M113 replacement was named Charrua and in development by Moto-Peças. The project would never go further than the prototype phase. Considering the CD-500 transmission was no longer in production, Bernardini thought that it could obtain the designs from General Motors Allison and start producing the CD-500 transmission and spare parts in Brazil.

CD-500 transmission.
Source: TM 9-1730B – Maintenance Cross-Drive Transmission model CD-500

Bernardini decided that it would be a wise decision to offer the X-30 with a more modern transmission as well. Bernardini started negotiations with General Electric to obtain the HMPT-500-3 transmission, as used on the M2 Bradley. The advantage of the HMPT-500 was that it would allow the use of more powerful engines up to 600 hp, and thus give the eventual Tamoyo more upgrade potential. The HMPT-500 Tamoyo would eventually be designated as Tamoyo 2 after Bernardini had requested permission for the funds to develop it in June 1984.

With the selection of the CD-500 and HMPT-500 transmission, Bernardini was effectively bound to the Scania DSI-14 V8 500 hp diesel engine. This was not necessarily bad regarding the logistical structure of the Brazilian Army, considering the interchangeability with the M41s, but it would limit the power to weight ratios of the Tamoyos severely and even cause significant issues in the end.

HMPT-500-3 transmission.

Arming the Tamoyo

The process of arming the Tamoyo began parallel to the process of rearming the M41C. Since the 76 mm ammunition was not being produced anymore by the United States, Bernardini and the Army decided that rearming the M41C was the way to go. The Army did some research in the possibilities on how to rearm the M41C, and after they tested a rearmed M41B with an EC-90 90 mm low pressure gun of the Cascavel, the Army decided that reboring the original guns to 90 mm would be the most affordable decision.

As such, the first batch of 76 mm guns were rebored at Engesa to have the same rifling as the EC-90 and were even cut down to the same caliber length as the EC-90 (later, they would discover that cutting the barrels from the original 4.5 meters (14.8 feet) to 3.6 (11.8 feet) did not provide any advantages). Both these cannons used the same low-pressure ammo as the EE-9 Cascavel and were designated ‘Can 90mm 76/90M32 BR1’ (shortened barrel) and ‘Can 90mm 76/90M32 BR2’ (long barrel).

M41C with the BR2 gun.

Parallel to the development of the BR1 and BR2 guns, the Brazilian Army and the CTEx also looked into arming the M41C with a GIAT 90 CS Super Gun, also known as the Super 90 of 90 mm F4. The Super 90 had a longer barrel than the EE-9 Cascavel’s EC-90 guns, which made them more fitting for firing kinetic ammunition. The low-pressure EC-90, the BR1, and the BR2 relied on HEAT ammunition to take out their opponents due to the lacking muzzle velocity in order to lessen the recoil of the guns. The Super 90 used a single baffle muzzle brake which allowed the gun to fire APFSDS ammunition.

A single Super 90 gun was purchased, together with about a thousand APFSDS rounds. The CTEx proceeded to test the gun and to take apart the APFSDS round in order to develop their own APFSDS round for local production. During these tests, the Brazilian Army determined that the Super 90 could also be mounted on the M41 Walker Bulldog. As a result, a single M41C mounted the Super 90 gun, potentially to one day arm the entire M41C fleet of Brazil or simply as an export option for Bernardini. In the end, this single M41C would be nothing more than a testbed for the Super 90 gun and ammunition.

The Brazilians copied the Super 90 gun and designated it ‘Can 90mm 76/90M32 BR3’. As this designation suggests, these guns were and could be converted from the 76 mm gun of the M41 Walker Bulldog. The BR3 gun was selected by the Army to arm the Tamoyo 1 and 2 tanks to take on the TAM tanks of Argentina. This decision makes it clear that the Brazilian Army originally did not intend to operate a tank with a 105 mm gun like the TAM, mainly due to budget constraints, but probably realized with the EE-T1 Osorio that the 105 mm was the new standard.

The BR3 gun during tests.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 Tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

Interestingly however, when the author visited one of the Tamoyo 1 vehicles himself in Brazil, it turned out that the Barrel itself seems to have come from an M41 and was likely a rebored 76 mm cannon. This is because the barrel itself had WVT Arsenal stamped on, suggesting Watervliet Arsenal in the United States, and barrel number 32687. This was the only marking present on the entire cannon, suggesting the breech was altered but just not serialized.

The markings on the barrel from the Tamoyo 1/1.
Source: Author

Working towards a Mock-Up

From this point on, development becomes a bit vague. This mainly has to do with a lack of dates on when concept arts were made and when the first mock-up was actually built. There are about 3 concepts that are estimated to have been made before the mock-up was made. The writer proposes a certain timeline on the order of the designed concepts. This proposal is not confirmed by hard evidence or dates, but is speculation based on design steps taken in comparison with either previously developed vehicles or on how much the design has been worked out in the details. The date when the mock-up was finished is unknown, but can be estimated in between 1980 and 1984.

Jane’s Concept

A concept sketch of the X-30 was presented in the first issue of Jane’s 1980 International Defence Review. A description of the concept was given as well, stating that the drawing shows Bernardini’s project for a 30-tonne medium tank, designated X-30, which was currently in the definition phase. It would have a Diesel engine of 520 to 745 kW (700 to 1000 hp), an automatic transmission, have a range of 500 km (310 miles) and a ground pressure of about 0.7 kg/cm2 (10 lbs/in2), of which the last two specifications were based on the Brazilian Army’s requirements. According to the Brazilian correspondent, it was to be armed with either a 105 mm or 120 mm gun, although the current concept shows a Cockerill 90 mm gun. In addition, it is stated that the first prototype was estimated to be ready for trials in two years.

The concept sketch presented in Jane’s IDR.
Source: Jane’s 1980 International Defence Review

This concept is estimated to be the first concept for two reasons. The first is the date when this concept was released (January 1980), which means that this concept was made about 6 months after the first TAM-inspired concept. The second reason is that this concept is nothing more than a mash-up of two tanks previously designed by Bernardini.

Jane’s concept mixes an enlarged X1A2 turret with the hull of an M41B. The concept derives in two major ways from the two vehicles it is based on. The first is that the hull is longer, as it has 6 road wheels instead of 5 on the M41, and the second is that the main gun looks like a lengthened EC-90 gun of the X1A2 with an added bore evacuator. Another difference is the driver’s hatch, which does not correspond with either vehicle.

X1A2 during ramp tests at the PqRMM/2.
Source: Brazilian Stuart – M3, M3A1, X1, X1A2 and their Derivatives

It seems that this concept was already based on the specifications of the export version of the Tamoyo, which was the Tamoyo 3. There are a few interesting statements though. The first is the engine power, which is denominated in kW instead of hp. This was probably some kind of mix-up between units, as 520-745 kW translates to 700-1000 hp, considering the given specifications are very close to the horsepower values which Bernardini presented for the DSI-14 and 8V-92TA engines.

The M41B, note the engine deck.
Source: M-41 Walker Bulldog no Exército Brasileiro – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

Overall, this concept seems to be mainly suggesting a potential export version of the X-30 instead of the X-30 for the Brazilian Army. This concept is potentially one of the first drawings of the X-30 in a traditional layout. The design itself is somewhat unimaginative, considering it’s a mash-up of the X1A2 and the M41B, and the specifications are somewhat questionable as well.

An Artistic Interpretation

This concept was released in the press and abroad after the switch to the traditional layout. This concept dates back to at least April 1980, as the sketch is shown on the cover of Brasil Defesa – Os Blindados do Brasil. In this sketch, the X1A2 turret is a little bit altered, but uses a redesigned hull that resembles the final hull design much closer.

This concept retains a redesigned variant of the X1A2 turret, but the hull in this concept is different. The hull shares much fewer design features with the original M41 or the Brazilian M41B and M41C. The engine deck looks more like a main battle tank and resembles the Tamoyos which were built. The tracks of the concept do show a very clear resemblance to the M41 tracks. The gun on this concept is unknown, but it does seem to resemble a 105 mm gun, although this is pure speculation.

The artist rendition of the X-30.
Source: Brasil Defesa – Os Blindados do Brasil

The Tamoyo Maquette

The next design was a wooden mock-up. This design might have been built between the concept sketch phase and the full-scale mock-up production phase, although this is not confirmed. This model is almost identical to the full-scale mock-up. The hull and turret shapes are effectively the same, although the gun is indistinguishable. This design is also the first design that incorporates side skirts.

Unusually, this vehicle has Tamoyo and Selva written on it. If this was done when the wooden model was originally built or if it received a repaint afterward, is unknown. It is not known where Selva comes from, but it might refer to the builder of the mock-up or to jungle, as Selva translates to jungle. This mock-up is preserved at the CTEx.

The wooden mock-up.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 Tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

The Full-Scale Mock-Up

A mock-up of the X-30 was built somewhere in between 1980 and 1984. This mock-up was a full-scale metal model which shared some components of the M41 Walker Bulldog to make production easier. It is important to note that the mock-up and the Tamoyo project as a whole were not lengthened M41s or converted M41s in any way.

The X-30 mock-up used the M41 suspension, Brazilian copies of the T19E3 tracks produced by Novatraçao, and an altered 76 mm gun of the M41 (with a muzzle brake of the Super 90). The design of the previous X-30 mock-up was practically unaltered. The X-30 was, in principle, the shell of the Tamoyo 1 without all the components like smoke launchers, sights, hooks and so on. The X-30 is preserved as a monument at the CTEx.

The X-30 mock-up.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

The Tamoyo 2 Mock-Up?

According to Flavio Bernardini, then one of the CEO’s of Bernardini, Bernardini also produced a mock-up of the Tamoyo 2. Although this is probably true, it does not make much sense. The only difference between the Tamoyo 1 and the Tamoyo 2 is the transmission of the vehicle. The rest of the design remained unchanged in the initial stages.

The Tamoyo 2 mock-up.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

Even more confusing, the picture of the mock-up is dated August 1983. The lower hull is more or less completed, but the turret is a styrofoam mock-up. This styrofoam mock-up is almost exactly the same as the X-30 mock up except for a few details, like lifting eyes. In addition, the gun presented on the Tamoyo 2 mock-up is a dummy of the 76 mm from the M41. The rear side hull plate does look different from the eventual X-30 mock-up, as the rear part does not widen as gradually.

Another detail that makes this mock-up confusing is that the contract for the development of the Tamoyo 2 was signed in 1984 and not 1983. It is possible that Bernardini proposed this upgrade earlier on, which could explain the existence of the mock-up.

Finally, it is unknown what happened with the Tamoyo 2 mock-up, while the X-30 mock-up was preserved at the CTEx. This makes it impossible to either fully prove or disprove that a Tamoyo 2 mock-up existed. For all we know, it was scrapped, or it was integrated with the current X-30 mock-up preserved at the CTEx.

The writer thus somewhat questions the existence of the Tamoyo 2 mock-up and suggests that it might just be the X-30 mock-up in early stages. This would not be very unlikely, as the contract for the production of the Tamoyo prototypes between the Army and Bernardini was only signed in March 1984. The styrofoam turret suggests that, as of late 1983, no steel mock-up turret was available, and the slight change in the hull design suggests further development in this regard as well. This means that the general design of the hull and turret, and the mock-up itself, would have been finalized in the coming 7 months when the contract was signed for the prototype production in late March 1984.

Considering the mock-up is outfitted with tracks, it is also a possibility that the Tamoyo 2 mock-up was later converted to the Tamoyo 2. But this also seems somewhat unlikely, because it would not make sense to convert the Tamoyo 2 mock-up into the Tamoyo 2, but not do this for the Tamoyo 1 by converting the X-30 mock-up.

The writer cannot definitively prove his theory, and would like to add that he does not want to imply that Flavio Bernardini is wrong, considering Flavio Bernardini was present at the time and involved with the project. The writer implies that the picture might have been labeled incorrectly and that, over the period of 20 to 30 years, the exact details might have been hard to remember. The writer thus questions the logic and practicality of designing a mock-up for basically the same vehicle, and provides an alternative chain of events to what might have happened.

The Tamoyo 1 Has Been Built

The first working prototype was delivered on May 7th, 1984, and received the official designation MB-3 Tamoyo. This Tamoyo was known as the Tamoyo I/1 model and received 0001 as the serial number. Interestingly, while delivered in 1984 for trials, the manufacturing year was stamped as 1985 on the internal identification plate.

The Tamoyo I/1 internal identification plate.
Source: Marco Miranda

The Tamoyo used a high number of locally-produced components, with the suspension, gun, steel for the hull and turret, engine, and the electric turret drive being produced in Brazil. Bernardini specifically selected as many components as possible which could be manufactured in Brazil through license deals or subsidiaries in Brazil itself to make the Tamoyo as indigenous as possible, which included the CD-500 transmission. The prototype was successfully tested by the Army two days after completion in Rio de Janeiro.

Suppliers Tamoyo 1
Country Company Component(s)
Brazil Bernardini Hull, turret, suspension components, electric turret and elevation drives
Brazil Themag Engenharia Electric turret and elevation drives
Brazil Universidade de São Paulo Electric turret and elevation drives
Brazil Eletrometal Torsion bars
Brazil Usiminas Steel
Brazil Novatracão Tracks and suspension components
Brazil D.F. Vasconcellos Driver’s day sights (unknown if they suppied the driver’s night vision sight
Brazil Brazilian Army Funding
Sweden-Brazil Scania do Brasil DSI-14 500 hp engine
United States General Motors Allison CD-500-3 transmission
United States Unknown Turret slewing bearing

Interestingly enough, the CTEx and Bernardini had already signed a contract for the construction of 8 Tamoyo 1s on March 27th, 1984. This might suggest that the full-scale mock-up was finished not too long before March 27th and that the first working Tamoyo 1 prototype might have been built between March 27th and May 1984, although this is more speculation.

As stated, the contract covered 8 vehicles, of which 4 were Tamoyo 1s, 1 was a Tamoyo 2, and 3 were engineering vehicles (Bulldozer, Bridge Layer, and Recovery vehicle). The first working prototype was included in this contract. The Tamoyo 3, meant for export, was logically not included in this contract, although the Army did need to give permission to Bernardini to develop an export version. With the signing of the contract, Bernardini ordered 15 CD-500 transmissions for both the Tamoyo and the Charrua project, of which 5 CD-500’s were passed to Moto-Peças.

The Brazilian Cousin of the Stig preparing to test drive the Tamoyo 1 in 1984, note the X1A1 or X1A2 in the rear.
Source: Tecnologie & Defesa Magazine volume 14 with courtesy of Bruno ”BHmaster”

Building the Tamoyos

Bernardini had two locations available for the construction of the Tamoyo. The first was located in the Ipiranga district of the city of São Paulo in São Paulo state. This factory had a production floor of about 20,000 m2 and would focus on the production of components for the Tamoyo 1. The second factory was located in the city of Cotia, about 20 km from São Paulo city. This factory was meant to assemble the Tamoyos and produced the armament of the Tamoyo and M41C’s. The Cotia factory was bought from Thyssen in 1984 for an undisclosed amount of money. Bernardini estimated it could produce about 50 Tamoyo 1’s per year with these two factories.

A Tamoyo hull under construction together with a second hull to the left in the background

The Cotia factory was equipped with the equipment to manufacture or rebore gun barrels with a length of up to 8 meters/67 calibers in length and a diameter of at least 105 mm. Bernardini could also manufacture cannons with a diameter from 20 to 60 mm and a length of 3 meters/25 calibers in length. In addition, Bernardini had 5 CNC machines available to produce the Tamoyo, which included 3 lathes and 1 milling machine. The company also had forging and further machining equipment, was capable of testing their torsion bars, could test their guns, and could simulate equipment wear. With this equipment, Bernardini would have been able to produce most of the essential components by themselves.

The turret ring bearings.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 Tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

The quality control was supported by the CTEx, which checked the gun barrels and breeches with the help of 3D design on computers. The performance of every individual gun was logged during the manufacturing process and the certification tests.

In total, 3 Tamoyo 1s were finished, while the fourth ended up as an empty ‘shell’, with only the hull and turret being produced. Three out of four Tamoyo 1s still exist to this day and are located at various institutions of the Brazilian Army.

The Tamoyo 1 in Detail

The exact weight of the Tamoyo 1 is a bit uncertain as there is no clear document that specifically mentions the weight of the Tamoyo 1. Two weights do recur in documentation, which are 29 and 30 tonnes (32 and 33 US tons) combat loaded. Considering the prototype was designated as X-30, it is quite likely that the actual combat weight is 30 tonnes. Considering the combat weight of the Tamoyo 3 was 31 tonnes (34 US tons) and the empty weight was 29 tonnes, it is estimated that the Tamoyo 1’s empty weight would be around 28 tonnes (30.9 US tons).

The vehicle had a hull length of 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) and was 8.77 meters (28.8 feet) long with the gun pointing forward. It was 3.22 meters (10.6 feet) wide, and 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) tall to turret top and 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) tall in total. The tank was operated by a four-man crew, consisting of the commander (turret middle right), the gunner (turret front right, in front of the commander), loader (turret middle left), and the driver (front hull left).

Some of the details of the technical desciption have been done based on the interior of a Tamoyo 1 museum piece. As a result, certain details may have been different from when the vehicles were initially constructed considering the Tamoyo 1’s have been neglected for about 20 to 25 years.

The Tamoyo 1 (TI-2) with a 90 mm round on the fender.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos


The hull consisted of a welded homogenous steel construction. With the help of Adriano Santiago Garcia, a Captain in the Brazilian Army, ex-company commander on the Brazilian Leopard 1’s, and former instructor at the CIBld (Centro de Instrução de Blindados, Armor instruction center), who knew someone present at the CIBld, the writer has been able to uncover a sizable amount of the armor thickness values of the Tamoyo 1 and 2 by measuring the plate thicknesses, which up to now had not yet been published. The armor is heavier than the M41 Walker Bulldog and was meant to stop 30 mm rounds from the front, and 14.7 mm on all sides.

Tamoyo 1 hull armor
Location Thickness Angle from vertical Effective thickness
Upper front 40 mm (1.6 inch) 65-70 95-117 mm (3.75-4.6 inch)
Lower front 40 mm (1.6 inch) 45 57 mm (2.25 inch)
Sides 19 mm (0.75 inch) 0 19 mm (0.75 inch)
Rear ? 0 ?
Top 12.7 mm (0.5 inch) 90 12.7 mm (0.5 inch)

The Tamoyo had a headlight and blackout marker on both sides of the upper front hull, with a siren installed behind the right set of lights. A set of tools was installed, on one version of the Tamoyo, on the right mudguard, although on a different Tamoyo, it seems that the engineers installed something resembling a fire extinguisher on both mudguards instead. This version with the fire extinguisher mounts the tools on the right side of the upper front plate. Two lifting eyes were welded on both sides of the side upper front plates as well. In the middle of the upper front plate, in between the sets of lights, were mounting points for a set of spare tracks.

The Tamoyo 1 (thought to be the TI-3) with pioneer tools on the fender.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

The driver was situated on the left side of the upper front plate, and had 3 vision blocks available. The driver’s hatch was a rotating hatch and the driver also had access to a hull escape hatch. 36 rounds of 90 mm ammunition were stored on the front right of the hull, next to the driver in the museum piece.

Hull ammunition stowage of the Tamoyo 1.
Source: Author’s collection

The driver had access to a seat and used a steering wheel to steer the vehicle and pedals to throttle and brake. The gear shift for the CD-500 transmission was located to the right allongside the dashboard. The dashboard included information like fuel level, temperatures, speed, but also switches for lights.

The driver’s compartment of the museum vehicle.
Source: Author’s collection

The hull side provided mounting points for the installation of side skirts, which consisted of 4 sets of skirts on each side. The early versions of the side skirts were made from steel, but would later incorporate materials like rubber and aramid fibers to improve the effectiveness against certain projectiles.

The Tamoyo has two rear lights on the rear hull plate, and a towing hook on the lower rear plate. In addition to the towing hook, two brackets were installed on this plate and on the lower front plate as well.

The rear view of the Tamoyo 1.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos


The Tamoyo 1 was powered by a DSI-14 turbocharged V8 500 hp diesel engine. This liquid-cooled intercooler engine provided 500 hp and 1700 Nm (1250 ft-lbs) at 2100 rpm. This engine gave the Tamoyo a power-to-weight ratio of 16.6 hp/ton. The Tamoyo 1 used a General Motors CD-500-3 cross-drive transmission, which had 2 gears forward and 1 for reverse. Combined, this powerpack gave the Tamoyo a top speed of 67 km/h (40 m/h) on level roads. It had a fuel capacity of 700 liters (185 US gallons) which gave it a range of approximately 550 km (340 miles).

A DSI-14 engine.
Source: Authors collection

The Tamoyo used a torsion bar suspension with 6 road wheels and 3 return rollers on each side. It had 3 additional shock absorbers installed, with 2 mounted on the front two road wheels and 1 on the last road wheel. The torsion bars were previously developed by Eletrometal for the M41B program. These torsion bars were made from 300M alloy steel, which was also used for the torsion bars of the M1 Abrams. The idler wheel was mounted on the front side of the vehicle, while the drive sprockets were installed in the rear.

The Tamoyo used Brazilian copies of the T19E3 tracks produced by Novatraçao. The suspension was protected by a side skirt. The T19E3 tracks had a width of 530 mm (20.8 inch), and a ground contact length of 3.9 meters (12.8 feet). This gave the Tamoyo a ground pressure of 0.72 kg/cm2 (10 lbs/in2) and a trench crossing ability of 2.4 meters (7.9 feet). The tank had a ground clearance of 0.5 meters (1.6 feet) and could climb a 0.71 meters (2.3 feet) tall vertical slope. It could climb a slope of 31 degrees, and be operated on a side slope of about 17 degrees. The vehicle had a fording capability of 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) and could neutral steer as well.


The Tamoyo 1’s turret was armored with welded homogeneous steel plates presented at various inclinations. Turret was meant to protect the Tamoyo from frontal 30 mm and all-round 14.7 mm fire. Like with the hull armor, these armor values were uncovered with the help of the writer’s contacts in the Brazilian Army.

Tamoyo 1 Turret Armor
Location Thickness Angle from vertical Effective thickness
Gun Shield 50 mm (2 inch) 45 70 mm (2.75 inch)
Front 40 mm (1.6 inch) Presented armor angle when firing at the front:
Front top : 60
Front side: 67
Front bottom: 45Angle of the front side when firing at the side:
Presented relative armor when firing at the front:
Front top : 80 mm (3.15 inch)
Front side: 100 mm (4 inch)
Front bottom: 57 mm (2.25 inch)Relative armor of the front side when firing at the side:
43 mm (1.7 inch)
Sides 25 mm (1 inch) 20 27 mm (1 inch)
Rear (not including storage box) 25 mm (1 inch) 0 25 mm (1 inch)
Top 20mm (0.8 inch) 90 20 mm (0.8 inch)

The Tamoyo turret was practically shaped like a less ergonomic M41 turret because of the use of flat plates instead of an intricately shaped side plate. It had a turret ring diameter of 2 meters (6.5 feet). The turret had 2 hatches, one for the commander and gunner, and one for the loader. The hatch for the commander was located on the middle right of the turret, while the loader’s hatch was located on the middle left. The gunner was located in front of the commander and had a passive day/night periscope located in a depression of the turret top. In addition, the gunner also has access to a direct sight telescope coaxial to the main gun. The commander had 7 periscopes available, which were passive day/night sights. A laser range finder was mounted on top of the main gun.

The Tamoyo (TI-2), note the laser range finder on top of the main gun.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 Tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

A set of 4 smoke dischargers was mounted on both sides of the turret front. It also had 2 handles on each side, behind the smoke dischargers, to enable the crew to climb on the turret. A pickaxe was mounted on the right side of the turret, behind the handles. Various mounting points for boxes and tools were available on the rear side plate of the turret as well, including a lifting eye on each side on both the rear and front side plates. Finally, a storage box was mounted on the rear of the turret and a jerrycan was then mounted on both sides of the storage box.

The Tamoyo 1 at the CIBld, note the smoke launchers.
Source: CIBld

The turret top configuration seems to have undergone some minor changes during the development. 2 mounting points for antennas were located on each outer side on the rear top plate. In another turret design, the left mounting point was located just behind the loader’s hatch instead. In between the antenna mountings was the inlet for the ventilation system, as the Tamoyo had an NBC system available. In the middle were the two hatches and in front of the loader’s hatch was another component with an unknown purpose. In a single picture of the Tamoyo 2 with the 105 mm turret, this location is outfitted with a meteorological system.

Layout of the Tamoyo turret as seen from the commander’s position.
Source: Author’s collection

The turret was armed with the BR 90 mm gun and a coaxial 12.7 mm heavy machine gun. In addition, the Commander’s station could be armed with a 7.62 mm machine gun for Anti-Air purposes. The turret had an electrical and manual turret drive and the gun had an elevation of 18 degrees and a depression of 6 degrees.

The crew positions of the Tamoyo 1

The turret of the museum piece had an 11 round stowage in the turret bustle on the left side and 10 rounds in ready racks, totalling in 21 rounds of 90 mm ammunition. The radio would have been located on teh right side of the Tamoyo, where the commander was situated. a ventilation system was located inbetween the radios and ammunition stowage.

The turret bustle.
Source: Author’s collection


The Tamoyo 1 was armed with an unstabilized Brazilian copy of the GIAT 90 mm CS Super 90 F4 gun. The Brazilian designation for this gun was ‘Can 90mm 76/90M32 BR3’. This gun was an L/52 gun that could handle a pressure of 2,100 Bar (210 MPa) and had a recoil stroke of 550 mm (21.6 inch). The gun had a recoil force of 44 kN for standard ammunition and 88 kN for APFSDS ammunition. The BR3 gun used APFSDS as its main anti-armor round due to the 52 caliber length and the incorporation of the single baffle muzzle brake, which allowed the firing of APFSDS projectiles. The BR3 would have had 5 types of ammunition available to it: canister, high explosive, high explosive anti-tank, smoke, and armor-piercing fin stabilized discarding sabot rounds.

Tamoyo Ammunition
Round Capability Effective Range Velocity Weight
APFSDS (armor piercing fin stabilized discarding sabot) Heavy
NATO Single Plate: point blank (60 degrees 150mm)
NATO Triple Plate: 600 m (65 degrees 10 mm, 25 mm, 80 mm to simulate side skirt, road wheel and side hull respectively)Medium
NATO Single Plate: 1200 m (60 degrees 130 mm)
NATO Triple Plate: 1600 m (65 degrees 10 mm, 25 mm, 60 mm)
1,650 meters (1,804 yards) 1275 m/s 2.33 kg full projectile (5.1 lbs)
HEAT (high explosive anti tank) 130 mm (5.1 inch) at 60 degrees from vertical or 350 mm (13.8 inch) flat at any range. 1,100 meters (1,200 yards) 950 m/s 3.65 kg (8 lbs)
HE (high explosive) Lethal radius of 15 meters (16 yards) 925 meters (1000 yards)
6900 meters (7545 yards) for long range HE
750 m/s (700 m/s for long range HE 5.28 kg (11.6 lbs)
Canister Training projectile 200 meters (218 yards) 750 m/s 5.28 kg (11.6 lbs)
White Phosphorous – Smoke Smoke round 925 meters (1000 yards) 750 m/s 5.4 kg (11.9 lbs)

The Tamoyo had stowage for 68 rounds of 90 mm ammunition according to sourcing, but the museum piece would have only had room for 51 rounds allthough stowage could have been missing. In addition, it was armed with a coaxial 12.7 mm machine gun and could be armed with a 7.62 mm machine gun on the commander’s station for anti-air purposes, with 500 and 3,000 rounds of ammunition respectively. The Tamoyo 1 also had 8 smoke discharges, of which four were installed on each side of the front turret. The turret had an electric and manual traverse system and the gun had an elevation and depression of 18 and -6 degrees, respectively.

The turret bustle ammunition stowage.
Source: Author’s collection

The fire control system included a computer with unknown usage, most likely to better integrate the usage of day/night sights and the laser rangefinder which were used by the Tamoyo 1. This could potentially also mean a lead calculator and the integration of a meteorological system, although these were features of the Tamoyo 3, which used a much more advanced fire control system. The electric fire-control system, turret rotation and gun elevation were produced by Themag Engenharia and the Universidade de São Paulo (University of São Paulo). The Tamoyo 1 did not have a stabilized gun, while the Tamoyo 3 did incorporate this feature.

Other Systems

The electrics were powered by a main engine-driven main generator, which produced 24 volts. In addition, four 12-volt batteries were available when the main engine was stopped. The Tamoyo could be fitted with an NBC system and a heater as optional equipment. The NBC system could be mounted on the already existing ventilation system.

The vehicle used a radio which was also integrated with the M41C and the X1A2 tanks, capable of receiving the EB 11-204D and simpler frequencies. The radio also worked with AN/PRC-84 GY and AN/PRC-88 GY frequencies. The Tamoyo also had an intercom system for the entire crew which could be linked to the radio. The Tamoyo is said to have had a bilge pump as well, which might have been optional.


The MB-3 Tamoyo series had 7 variants in total. Four of these were combat variants, while the other 3 were engineering variants. Practically nothing is known about the engineering variants, as no sketches of these vehicles exist and the projects were cancelled with the shutdown of the Tamoyo program.

Tamoyo 2

The Tamoyo 2 was effectively nothing more than a Tamoyo 1 with an HMPT-500-3 transmission, which was requested to be developed by Bernardini, so that the company could provide a more modern vehicle. This transmission would allow the usage of an engine with more horsepower, as the HMPT could handle 600 hp, compared to 500 hp on the CD-500. Eventually, the Tamoyo 2 would serve as a brief testbed for the 105 mm armed turret of the Tamoyo 3, but would end up being scrapped with the end of the Tamoyo program.

The Tamoyo 2 with the Tamoyo 3 turret, note the Charrua in the rear.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 Tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

Tamoyo 3

The Tamoyo 3 was the export version of the Tamoyo program, armed with a 105 mm L7, using a 736 hp engine, a CD-850 transmission, a much more advanced fire control system, and the incorporation of composite armor. The Tamoyo 3 was a serious attempt by Bernardini to try and sell the Tamoyo to the rest of the world. It was effectively a lighter Leopard 1, with potentially better frontal armor due to the planned composite and spaced armor package, and the usage of a low recoil 105 mm gun. The Tamoyo 3 would eventually be trialed and considered by the Brazilian Army as well in 1991, but failed due to economic issues and the increasingly cheaper stream of second-hand material after the end of the Cold War.

The Tamoyo 3, note the additional spaced hull armor on the hull. The Tamoyo 3 would not receive the armor package for the turret before the project was cancelled.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

Tamoyo 4

The Tamoyo 4 was a plan to convert the TI-3 Tamoyo 1 to a Tamoyo 4 standard. The Tamoyo 4 was supposed to receive an MWM engine and a ZF transmission in order to fix the issues of the Tamoyo 1 which came to light during Army trials in 1988.

Since Bernardini had already considered the possibility of a ZF transmission for 900 to a 1,000 hp engine on the Tamoyo 3, it is quite likely that the Tamoyo 4 would also sport these characteristics. It is possible that the Tamoyo would have received the same MWM TDB 834 12 cylinder 1040 hp diesel engine as the EE-T1 Osório. This upgrade would have roughly doubled the hp to ton ratio from 16.6 to 33.3 (although this number would probably be limited, as it might cause issues with other components). Even the 736 hp Detroit 8V-92TA Diesel engine of the Tamoyo 3 would have raised the hp to ton ratio to a respectable 24.5. The EE-T1 Osório had about 24.2. The Detroit engine could supposedly be upgraded to higher hp as well.

In the end, Bernardini would not convert the Tamoyo 1 (TI-3) to a Tamoyo 4. The program was scrapped in 1991, while the Tamoyo (TI-3) was already taken apart before for a potential conversion but would never be reassembled.

Bulldozer, Bridge Layer, and Recovery Tamoyo

These three vehicles were planned, but never realised. The vehicles were designated as VBE Bulldozer (Viatura Blindada Especial Bulldozer, Special Armored Vehicle Bulldozer), VBE Lança Ponte (Viatura Blindada Especial Lança Ponte, Special Armored Vehicle Bulldozer Bridge Layer), and VBE Socorro (Viatura Blindada Especial Socorro, Special Armored Vehicle Recovery). These vehicles were part of the contract of 1984 with the army and were designated as P6, P7, and P8. They were supposed to all receive the DSI-14 engine and CD-500 transmission. It is very likely that the actual development of these projects would only really be initiated when the Brazilian Army started to acquire the Tamoyo 1.

An Anti-Air Tamoyo?

An AA design of the Tamoyo is suggested in the Jane’s Armour and Artillery 1985-86 book. No evidence of the existence of such a vehicle exists in Brazilian sources. The vehicle was supposed to be armed with a Bofors 40 mm L/70 but no further information was given. It might be possible that this version was confused with another Brazilian vehicle, the Charrua. Besides being an APC, the Charrua was proposed as a multiplatform vehicle, including a Bofors AA gun which was actually built. It is also likely that the AA Tamoyo might just have been mentioned as a possibility if any customer showed interest in such a vehicle, mainly for marketing reasons.

Engesa Enters the Fray

With the signing of the March 27th, 1984 contract, the development of the Tamoyo project was secured with Brazilian Army backing. In the same year, the vehicle seems to have been successfully trialed as well. But it seems that the Army’s stance regarding the Tamoyo project changed in 1986.

In 1982, Engesa broke the gentlemen’s agreement on which the Brazilian armored vehicle industry was founded. Engesa, which was supposed to focus exclusively on the development of wheeled armored vehicles, initiated the development of the EE-T1 Osório. Although the Osório was not directly developed for the Brazilian Army, Engesa still decided to use some of the initial requirements laid out by the Brazilian Army so that they could sell it to Brazil as well, but with a 105 mm gun instead. Engesa decided to increase the weight to make it more capable on the export market, but retain the 3.2 meters (10.5 feet) width.

EE-T1 P2 Osorio.

The tank Engesa ended up with was a vehicle that outperformed the Tamoyo 1 in every aspect, except price. The Osório would outperform the later Tamoyo 3 as well in multiple aspects. In 1986, the Osório with 105 mm gun was trialed by the Brazilian Army. The Osório impressed the Brazilian Army so much that they practically seemed to have forgotten about their initial requirements of interchangeability. The Brazilian Government supposedly promised Engesa that they would buy 70 Osórios, but this would later increase to 150 or 300 Osórios according to sources. This decision effectively meant that the Army forgot about the Tamoyo project which they had initiated, which was tailor-made to Brazilian requirements, and decided to go with the Osório.


The now finished prototypes of the Tamoyo 1 were retrialed by the Brazilian Army in 1988. Considering various Tamoyos, like the Tamoyo 2 and 3, were already finished around 1986-1987, this date seems to be quite late. Flavio Bernardini noted in one of his memoirs that the Tamoyo program was ‘’Empurrada com a barriga” (English: Put under the belly)’ by the Army, which is a saying suggesting that the Army seems to have somewhat deliberately postponed the trials.

The Tamoyo (TI-2) on trials with the Charrua in 1988.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

The second Tamoyo 1 (TI-2) was trialed by the Army in 1988, and subsequently rejected. The TI-2 was not fast enough and its acceleration was lacking as well. In addition, the oil filter was damaged and the gearbox was damaged due to cracking near the fixation points of the spur gears.

The Tamoyo (TI-2) during the 1988 trials.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 Tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

This rejection presented a few major issues. The first was that neither the Tamoyo 1 or the Tamoyo 2 could match the new requirements by the Army in their current configuration. Bernardini considered converting the Tamoyo 1 (TI-3) to a potential Tamoyo IV (4) version. The Tamoyo 4 would have used an MWM engine and ZF gearbox for its powerpack. This was viable since both MWM and ZF had sizable subsidiaries in Brazil at the time. The construction of a Tamoyo IV was never carried out.

By 1991, the construction of the Tamoyo 1 (TI-2), the Tamoyo 2 (TII), and the Tamoyo 1 (TI-3) had cost a little under 2.1 million US dollars (4.2 US Dollars in 2021). This suggests that a Tamoyo 1 would have cost about 700,000 US Dollars (1.4 million US Dollars in 2021) to manufacture a piece during the prototype stages. The cost per vehicle might have been less if the vehicle had reached serial production.

In 1991, the Tamoyo 3 was finally considered by the Army instead. The Tamoyo 3 would also face a brick wall, as the Army staff was split regarding the Tamoyo 3. One side was in favor of the Army sharing the costs of the evaluation of the Tamoyo 3, while the other side wanted to terminate the entire Tamoyo projects and that the costs of the evaluation should fall solely on Bernardini.

This was because the Tamoyo 3 was classified as a foreign vehicle instead of an indigenous design, since it used a lot of components that were not yet produced in Brazil. These components included the L7 cannon, automatic fire extinguishing sensors, and the fire control system among other components. The Army definitively canceled the entire Tamoyo project on July 24th, 1991 without testing the Tamoyo 3 even once. With this decision, Brazil effectively shut down any possibility of an indigenous designed and manufactured main battle tank for the Army.

Rear view of the Tamoyo 3.
Source: Author’s collection

Even worse, this decision may have sealed Bernardini’s fate as well, as the company closed its doors in 2001. If the Army had decided to acquire the Tamoyo tank, whether it would have been the Tamoyo 1, 2, 3, or 4, Bernardini would probably have lived on. The acquisition of the Tamoyo would mean much more than just buying the tanks. Maintenance support, supply of spare parts, further development and upgrade programs, and more nationally produced components would all give Bernardini a steady flow of income. More importantly, Bernardini’s survival and further development of the Tamoyo’s would have meant that the knowledge on designing tanks and all the advancements made in the field would have been retained in Brazil.

What Happened?

In a way, the Osório trials seem to have sent a signal to the Army that heavier main battle tanks, armed with guns over 90 mm, were the way forward. On top of that, it seems that the Army then decided to put their trust in the Osório program, barely considering the export version of the Tamoyo, which was built in 1987. Even worse, the Tamoyo 3 would be trialed as late as 1991, a year after the Osório project failed and a year after Engesa filed for bankruptcy. This only further solidifies the notion that the Army decided it wanted the Osório from Engesa and not the Tamoyo 1 or the Tamoyo 3 from Bernardini.

Brazil also underwent a political shift in 1985. The country transitioned from a military dictatorship towards a democracy again. With this shift, the newly reformed democracy found itself in a 10-year-long battle against hyperinflation and economic disaster. To give an idea of the inflation which the democracy inherited from the military dictatorship: inflation rose to 658.91% in between March 1984 and December 1985. The Brazilian economy would only start to recover from the rampant inflation around 1994. As a result of this crisis, the Brazilian government practically cut any acquisition of new material for the Brazilian Army.

Remaining Tamoyo 1s

Three out of four Tamoyo 1’s still exist to this day. 2 of these are completed prototypes and one is a completed shell. These prototypes are kept at various Army institutions like the CTEx and the CIBld. This is an interesting decision, as this means that none of the Tamoyo vehicles are available to the public in museums like Conde de Linhares and Militar Comando Militar Do Sul. By not presenting the Tamoyo to the public, the vehicle itself becomes much more obscure and paints a picture of the EE-T1 Osorio being the sole Main Battle Tank of Brazil.

X-30 Mock-Up

The X-30 mock-up still exists to this day and is presented at the CTEx as a monument. The CTEx is located in Guaratiba in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It seems to have had a few repaints during its time there, having received a gray paint scheme and a modern orange green scheme.

The X-30 mock-up.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

MB-3 Tamoyo 1 CIBld

One of the remaining Tamoyo 1’s is preserved at the CIBld, the Brazilian Armor Instruction Centre. This Tamoyo was most likely the first Tamoyo (TI-1) to have been built. This is because the second Tamoyo 1 is preserved at the CTEx and the third Tamoyo 1 was scrapped. When this Tamoyo arrived at the CIBld is unknown, but it has been on display at the CIBld Museum since at least 2010.

This Tamoyo does not have a fire extinguisher on both sides of the front hull, and it does not have a Laser range Finder. In addition, this Tamoyo can also be recognised by the single black-out marker next to the right headlight. This particular Tamoyo was used to obtain the armor thicknesses.

Recently, this particular Tamoyo 1 was restored in driving condition by the Army, which was made public on January 22nd 2022 with a video of it slowly driving into the workshop in Alegrete, Rio Grande do Sul State. According to contacts, the vehicle is basically a shell and is only repaired to drive around. Considering Brazil had to recently restore a number of M41C tanks of Uruguay which do have the DS-14 engine, it is definitely possible that the Tamoyo retained its original engine. The vehicle is thought to have been restored so it can drive during the 200 years of independence celebration parade on the 7th of September this year. It already made an appearance during the 100 years of tanks in the Brazilian Army celebration on November 8th 2021, but it was not yet in running condition as it was presented on the trailer of a truck.

The restored Tamoyo 1.

MB-3 Tamoyo 1 CTEx

The second Tamoyo (TI-2) is said to be preserved at the CTEx, but no pictures of the Tamoyo 1 at the CTEx have been found. What is known, is that this Tamoyo was trialed during the 1988 trials, and subsequently displayed at the EsMB (Escola de Material Bélico, School of Military Materiel) in Rio de Janeiro. The vehicle was then stored at the IPD (Instituto de Pesquisas e Desenvolvimento, Research and Development Institute), the overarching institute of the CTEx, until 2003. At the IPD is received an inscription LTCM 1 (Laboratório de Tecnologia e Conceitos Móveis 1, Mobile Technology and Concepts Laboratory 1) with the 1 referring to the “first vehicle”. In 2003, the vehicle went to the CTEx in Rio de Janeiro.

This version is easily distinguishable by its Laser Range Finder and its two fire extinguishers. In addition, it has a black-out light next to each headlight as well.

The Tamoyo 1 at the Escola de Material Bélico.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

The MB-3 Tamoyo 1 IPD

The final remaining Tamoyo 1 is the fourth Tamoyo 1 (TI-4) at the IPD. This Tamoyo is effectively nothing more than a shell. The overall steel construction of the hull and turret was completed, but did not progress any further. It is likely that this Tamoyo was cancelled in 1991, together with the cancellation of the Tamoyo project. The hull has ‘’Aqui nascem os blindados brasileiros’’ written upon it, translating to: ‘The Brazilian armored vehicles are born here’.

The vehicle was displayed as a monument in 2003 at the IPD location in Marambaia in Rio de Janeiro. IPD was absorbed by the CTEx in 2005. What happened with the Tamoyo afterwards is unknown. The Tamoyo is probably still there, but might also be lost.

The uncompleted Tamoyo 1 (TI-4) at the IPD.
Source: Bernardini MB-3 Tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos


The Tamoyo 1 was effectively a victim of its own conception. The Brazilian Army wanted a cheap vehicle that could share as many components with the M41C and the potential Charrua as possible. The Army had agreed to the specifications of the Tamoyo 1 in 1984, but only later seemed to have realized what their requirements for the Tamoyo 1 actually entailed for the program, and what they actually wanted in their future tank. The Osório was potentially the wake-up call for the Brazilian Army and the death of the Tamoyo projects.

The Tamoyo 1 could have been a vehicle that matched the Army requirements if the Army had requested for better components from the start and not delayed its trials until 1988 only to reject the obvious. The Tamoyo 1 concept in and of itself was not a bad one in the first place. It was cheap and it would have been able to take on the TAM. If the political and economical situation of Brazil had allowed it, the Tamoyo would have been an excellent vehicle in combination with the Charruas and the M41Cs.

In the end, the failure of the Tamoyo 1 program can be boiled down to 3 main issues. The lack of strategic vision of the Army regarding requirements, Engesa breaking the gentlemen’s agreement by building the Osório, and the economic and political situation of Brazil at the time.

The Tamoyo 1 itself was not an exceptional vehicle, and it is clear that the Tamoyo 3 would have been a much better and future-proof vehicle for the Brazilian Army. The tank can be summed up as a decent and realistic medium tank that was tailor-made for the Brazilian Army’s requirements at the time, but, like almost the entire Tamoyo project, ended up being overshadowed by the much more advanced and, for Brazil, unrealistic Osório Main Battle tank.

Illustration and artist impression of the X-30 with the TAM lay-out based on the sketch used in the newspaper. An illustration by Vesp.
The X-30 illustration based on the designs seen in a video from Bernardini. An illustration by Vesp.
The X-30 design as seen in Jane’s IDR. The design incorporates many elements of previous projects from Bernardini like the X1A2 style turret and the M41B like hull. An illustration by Vesp.
The X-30 mock-up, note the plaque with Bernardini’s logo wlded on the side of the hull and the CTEx logo on teh rear side. The turret mounted a 76 mm gun with the muzzle brake of the later 90 mm BR3 gun. An illustration by Vesp.
An illustration of the Tamoyo 1 without laser rangefinder. An illustration by Vesp.
Tamoyo 1 with laser rangefinder installed on the top of teh gun. An illustration by Vesp.
Illustration of the unfinished Tamoyo 1 (TI-4) as it remains at the IPD. An illustration by Vesp.

Specifications MB-3 Tamoyo 1

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) and 8.77 meters (28.8 feet) with the gun pointing forward, 3.22 meters (10.6 feet), 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) to turret top and 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in total.
Total weight 28 tonnes empty, tonnes combat-loaded (30.9 US tons, 33 US tons)
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Scania-Vabis DSI-14 turbocharged V8 500 hp diesel engine
Suspension Torsion bar
Speed (road) 67 km/h (40 m/h)
Armament 90 mm BR3
Coaxial .50 caliber MG HB M2
Anti-Air 7.62 mm mg
Armor Hull
Front (Upper Glacis) 40 mm at 65-70 degrees (1.6 inch)
Front (Lower Glacis) 40 mm at 45 degrees (1.6 inch)
Sides 19 mm at 0 degrees (0.75 inch)
Rear ?
Top 12.7 mm at 90 degrees
(0.5 inch)Turret
Front 40 mm at 60/67/45 degrees (1.6 inch)
Gun mantlet 50 mm at 45 degrees (2 inch)
Sides 25mm at 20 degrees (1 inch)
Rear 25 mm at 0 degrees (1 inch)
Top 20 mm at 90 degrees (0.8 inch)
Production 4+1 mock-up
Special thanks to Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos, the leading expert in Brazilian vehicles, please visit his website for further reading on Brazilian vehicles:, Jose Antonio Valls, an Ex-Engesa employee and expert in Engesa vehicles, Paulo Bastos, another leading expert of Brazilian Armored vehicles and the author of the book on Brazilian Stuarts and the website, Adriano Santiago Garcia, a Captain in the Brazilian Army and ex-company commander on the Leopard 1 and ex-lecturer on the Brazilian Armored School, and Guilherme Travassus Silva, a Brazilian with whom I was able to endlessly discuss Brazilian Vehicles and who was always willing to listen to my near endless ability to talk about them.


Blindados no Brasil – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos
Bernardini MB-3 Tamoyo – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos
M-41 Walker Bulldog no Exército Brasileiro – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos
M-113 no Brasil – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos
Jane’s armour and artillery 1985-86
Brazilian Stuart – M3, M3A1, X1, X1A2 and their derivatives – Hélio Higuchi, Paulo Roberto Bastos Jr., and Reginaldo Bacchi
Moto-Peças brochure
Memoir of Flavio Bernardini
Author’s collection
Bernardini compra fábrica da Thyssen – O Globo, archived by Arquivo Ana Lagôa
The Centro de Instrução de Blindados
Tecnologia & Defesa magazines with courtesy of Bruno ”BHmaster”

With Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos, Expert in Brazilian Armoured Vehicles
With Paulo Roberto Bastos Jr., Expert in Brazilian Armoured Vehicles
With Adriano Santiago Garcia, A Captain of the Brazilian Army and ex-company commander on the Leopard 1

6 replies on “MB-3 Tamoyo 1”

Short comment about “Empurrado/a com a barriga”. Translation would be “pushed with/by the belly”, and the meaning of the expression is to postpone something by (deliberate) inaction. So the Brazilian Army postponed the trials by simply not doing anything.

The painting of an indian warrior, is not from a tupinambá, but from a Charrua warrior. Carrua people was not related to the Tamoyo confederation, and were from a distinct ethnic group. Other than that, great article! And the illustrations are beautiful.

Dear Darren Hazes

My name is Flavio Bernardini !
I was the general director on industry for this project.
It is the first time I try to contact you. I had read the article, and I was surprised by full detailed descriptions of situations and problems we had on hands. It is for sure the best article about Tamoyo Tank Family Project I ever read. I could not do better
If you need any other information fell free to contact me, I will be glad to explain any other detail.

Dear Flavio Bernardini,

Thank you very much for your extremely kind words, they mean a lot as I did my best to do all the Tamoyo vehicles justice. Have you seen the other articles on the other Tamoyo’s and the X1 family as well?

I had been trying to find you for a while but could not get a hold of you, I perhaps refrained asking Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos for your contact details because i did not want to interfere with him too much either.

The Tamoyo family has been by far my favorite vehicles of Brazil and is in fact the reason why I satrted writing on Brazil. I was really happy when during my first ever visit to Brazil, I had the privilige to see both the Tamoyo 1 and the Tamoyo 3 up close and take pictures and measurements. It is a true honor to have your endorsement. There have been a number of things I would like to ask you, so i would happily take you up on your offer.

My E-mail adress is: [email protected]

I think this is a bit easier to talk through that. I am really looking forward to your response.


Darren Hazes

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