Romanian army looking to replace its aging TR-85M1 Bizonul tanks

The Romanian army lags far behind with investments in main battle tanks, still operating its aging T-85M1 Bizonul (Bison), a local adaptation of the old Soviet T-55's successor. These tanks were modernized in the 1990s but are in small numbers in the army. So, it will start a program for the acquisition of tanks in the near future, reports.
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The aging T-85M1 Bizonul remains the main tank of the Romanian armored forces (Picture source: Army Recognition)

Brigadier General Constantin Spînu, the spokesman of the Romanian Ministry of Defense, commenting on the Romanian Television about the December 1st parade, confirmed that the Ministry of Defense is analyzing and substantiating a program to acquire tanks: "There is also a tank provisioning program in the Romanian Army's medium and long-term program. Their turn will come. I can't go into details, the program is being analyzed and substantiated and will enter in 2023".

"The war in Ukraine showed us the importance of artillery, tanks, air defense, logistics, as well as the possibility of projecting the force at long distances and for long periods, and supporting them in contact with the enemy", concluded Brigadier General Constantin Spînu, echoed by

The M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams and a so-far-unspêcified variant of the Leopard 2 (but probably the Leopard 2A7) appear to be favored but the South Korean K2 Panther might poke its nose in the competition. DefenseRomania announced last summer that Romania already sent a letter of intent for the purchase of Abrams tanks. A second contender for this program will be the Leopard tank. And there have been reports of interest in the South Korean K2 Black Panther as well. However, DefenseRomania’s information source says that, so far, the discussions with the South Koreans have only focused on K9 self-propelled howitzers.

TR-85M1 Bizonul, the backbone of the armored units of the Romanian Army

The TR-85 is a third-generation main battle tank designed for the armed forces of Romania. Based on the TR-77-580 (successor of the T-55), the TR-85 tank was developed from 1978 to 1985 and produced from 1986 until 1990.

In March 1994, the Romanian General Staff initiated the modernization program of the TR-85 tanks by order no. 1429. On 14 April 1994, the upgrade program was approved by the Supreme Council of National Defense and the development of the new tank, officially designated TR-85M1 Bizonul (The Bison), began in 1996 when two prototypes were built. The aim of the program was to upgrade the TR-85 to NATO standards by improving the firepower, protection, mobility, communication systems and reliability of the engine, transmission and braking systems.

The modernization program involved both foreign companies (most of them from France), such as Aerospatiale Matra, Sagem, Kollmorgen-Artus, Racal, and local defense companies such as the ROMARM military consortium, METRA (Military Equipment and Technologies Research Agency), Electromagnetica, FAUR, Elprof, Aeroteh, IOR, Prooptica, Artego, Arsenal Reșița, Metav, Forsev, Anticorozivul, IEMI, Rolast, Aerostar and IOEL. The result of the modernization program, the TR-85M1 tank, is compliant with NATO standards.

Although a further development of the T-55, the TR-85M1 uses a T-block powerpack (similar to the one used in the Leopard 1) based on a V8 German 830 hp (620 kW) diesel engine, an improved turret, a locally-designed "Ciclop" fire control system (with cross-wind sensor, laser rangefinder and night vision), new 100 mm BM-412 Sg armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS-T) projectiles and a fully redesigned suspension with 6 road wheels on each side, protected by metal side skirts. Combat weight is 50 tons.

An old Romanian-German cooperation project without result?

On April 30, 2015, Army Recognition reported that Romanian authorities would lay the foundations for bilateral cooperation in the defense industry with the German company KraussMaffei Wegmann. A working group had already been formed after a meeting between Sorin Encutescu, State Secretary of the Romanian Ministry of Economy, coordinator of the defense industry, and Thomas Fritzsch, regional sales director of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), according to a Romanian newspaper." The discussions focused on the possibility of bilateral cooperation in this field which is required for the completion of a national defense project or third-party beneficiary," said representatives of the Ministry of Economy. "At the end of the meeting, it was agreed for both the Romanian and the German parties to consider setting up a working group in order to find the best solutions for future collaboration in the interest of all parties," Economy Ministry officials said. However, it seems that this move gave no actual result.