The Romanian Land Forces currently operate a main battle tank force consisting of 220 T-55AMs, 103 TR-85s and 54 TR-85M1s. The TR-85s are a Romanian development of the Soviet designed T-55, with the TR-85M1s being main battle tanks upgraded to NATO standards with a Romanian powerpack based on a German V8 830 hp diesel engine. Based on the TR-77-580, the TR-85 tank was developed from 1978 to 1985 and produced from 1986 until 1990. The upgrade for the TR-85M1 would serve to fill the gap until the introduction of a new main battle tanks, and that tests of the upgraded vehicle could commence as soon as 2024.
A modernization program was initiated in March 1994 to upgrade the TR-85 tanks to NATO standards. The result was the TR-85M1 Bizonul (“Bison”) third-generation main battle tank, currently the most modern tank in service with the Romanian Land Forces. 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, new 100 mm BM-412 Sg (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.
Defense industry news site Janes reported that the TR-85M1 would serve to fill the gap until the introduction of a new main battle tank, and that tests of the upgraded vehicle could commence as soon as 2024. The Romanian Land Forces have announced their intention to procure a battalion of US M1 Abrams main battle tanks. Local publication Defense Romania, which has previously suggested that a Romanian M1 purchase was likely, has reported that an intention to purchase the tanks has already been submitted to the US government. It is understood that the German Leopard 2 MBT was also being considered by the Romanian Land Forces.
Although the scope of the upgrade programme is in the process of being determined by the Romanian Land Forces, it is expected to include enhancements to the platform’s situational awareness, as well as the installation of an automatic fire suppression system and a new gun stabilisation system. The situational awareness upgrades are expected to comprise installing more capable optics, including a thermal imager, and the integration of communications systems that will enable the platform to operate more effectively with the Romanian Land Forces’s Piranha V 8×8 armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs).