The Newly Discovered Romanian Tank Destroyer Apex
Ever since the mid-1950’s, Romania was slowly distancing itself from the Communist bloc. All while staying loyal to the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, but steadily loosening the Soviet grip on Romania’s economy and military. After Nicolae Ceaușescu, the Communist leader of Romania (1965 – 1989), condemned the 20th of August 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, relations between the Romanians and the Warsaw Pact were significantly diminished.
A right perspective of the TAA tank destroyer
The Romanian military was no longer under the control of the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact due to the incident, although they were still formally part of the Warsaw Pact. From the 1970’s onwards, Romania was generally free to develop and manufacture whatever equipment they were capable of, while buying some of it from Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.
This caused the inception of the TR-77-580, TR-85-800, TR-125, MLVM, IAR-93, IAR-95, IAR-317, IAR-330 development as well as various other examples. The TAA, a recently discovered patent, was another of Romania’s domestic designs. A truly unorthodox design for a nation that mostly focused on slight or relatively insignificant alterations of existing mass-produced Soviet projects.
The TAA was an elusive Romanian project originating from the 1980’s that involved an “MLI” chassis and an unspecified 100 mm gun. Until now, the vehicle was known as the “Tun Antitanc Autopropulsat model 1985”, “TAA-85”, or the “TAA md. 85” with the ‘model 1985/-85/md. 85’ part of the name likely a fabrication or misunderstanding.
The TAA was designed specifically for anti-tank purposes with direct fire and from concealed positions. It also provided an unique crew and equipment layout which theoretically further protected the crew.
Prior to the discovery, the only information available for the TAA-85, as it was called, was from the Romanian Wikipedia page about the vehicle. According to the patent however, the tank was simply referred to as the ‘Tun Antitanc, Autopropulsat’ meaning ‘self-propelled anti-tank cannon’. This could just be the name for the patent of a tank destroyer design, but the Romanians like to create designations for their armored vehicles with acronyms that stand for simple descriptions of the purpose of the vehicle. For example, ‘TR’ in TR-77-580, TR-85-800, and TR-125 (Romanian MBT designs) stand for ‘Tanc Românesc’ which translates to “Romanian tank”. As a result, it was not far-fetched for them to call it the ‘TAA’ with varying numbers that stand for the caliber of the gun or year of service.
Frontal view of the TAA Tank Destroyer. Take note of the extremely narrow front profile turret.
The history of the TAA is obscure. The earliest known mention of this vehicle was in 1978 when the Romanian Command of Artillery was authorized to figure out how many domestically produced artillery pieces and what types they were going to need. They decided that 1716 self-propelled 100mm anti-tank guns mounted on the “MLI” chassis (uncertain if they were referencing the MLI-84, a slightly longer BMP-1 clone) were going to be needed. This meant that the tank was developed sometime around 1978 to 1985 (or possibly earlier) until it was patented in September, 1985.
The tank was patented by Institute 111 from Bucharest, Romania for its unique crew and compartment layout. They were responsible for designs such as the TR-85-800. The designers who were credited were Buracu Mihail and Dârvariu Paul. No other information is currently known about them.
The photograph above is one of the Merkava’s prototype, which shares some broad similarities with the TAA. While no direct link between the two projects has been found, it is an interesting coincidence nonetheless. Like the Merkava, the TAA would have the engine and the transmission at the front which meant that the crew would have extra protection from a frontal hit (with the exception of the driver, he was not given the same luxury). However, any frontal penetration would most probably have rendered the tank immobile. The TAA and Merkava both share the method of entering from the rear into the fighting compartment for the crew and the rather thin turret.
The tank had four crew, with the commander situated at the rear of the turret in his own small cylindrical compartment with a cupola above and between the rear ammunition compartments. The gunner was located on the left side of the gun with his head inside the turret closest to the mantlet. The loader was located on the right side of the turret closest to the commander and the ammunition compartment. Additionally, the loader and the gunner were given their own hatches. The driver was furthest to the front, besides the engine, with a window for a reasonable view ahead of the tank and a periscope (which means there was probably some armored shield provided for the window), and an access hatch. As mentioned earlier, the fighting compartment could also be entered by the rear through two doors.
View of the internals of the TAA. Take note of the driver not being illustrated.
From the design as shown, the TAA had thin armor at the rear, top, bottom, and presumably the sides, however, the cupola and the ammunition compartment featured relatively thicker armor. The crew would have been protected by approximately 100 mm of frontal hull armor accompanied by the engine and transmission as further protection, although, as stated earlier, the driver didn’t receive the same benefit. In addition, the turret featured a thick mantlet intended to defeat high explosive anti-tank rounds (HEAT) for further frontal protection, coupled with an additional 100mm of approximate armor.
The tank was designed with an isolated ammunition compartment with blowout panels, similar to what is seen on the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams, one of the main reasons for the patent’s existence. It was designed to contain the explosion of the propellant from the crew and the tank itself. However, from what can be interpreted from the drawings, if the turret was to rotate around thirty degrees to the right or left, it could possibly put the commander in a position of injury or possibly death by the impact of blowout panels or the extreme temperatures from the combustion of the ammunition.
The TAA was equipped with an unique autoloader. The loader would be given two trays that could hold an unspecified amount of rounds, sort of like a magazine. The trays would then have to be filled with the designated ammunition type and the separate propellant cartridge. After the loader completed his task of filling the tray, the elevator would then raise the tray to a position where the round could be inserted into the breach. The gun must be at a predetermined position, presumably approximately level with the tank, for it to be loaded. After the loader is done loading his initial tray, he is then tasked to fill his second tray with the propellant cartridge and the designated ammunition. The cycle then continues. In this way, the commander and/or gunner can designate different ammunition types to the loader and/or gunner which are prearranged and set which, in return, increases the loading speed.
A top perspective of the TAA tank destroyer. This drawing in particular is sloppily done.
The TAA was armed with an unspecified 100 mm gun with a laser rangefinder on top of the mantlet and calculated elevation and depression angles of -7/+20. One might be mistaken by thinking it was an 125 mm gun, but it’s likely an upgraded variant of the 100mm M1977 Resșița or a whole new gun entirely. The weight and the horsepower of the engine aren’t given, but it is likely a more potent one compared to the MLI-84’s 355 hp engine, due to the extra space available compared to the MLI. It could either be the T-55 and TR-77-580’s 580 hp V-55 engine or the 830 hp engine allegedly based on the Leopard I’s powerpack, that would eventually be used on the TR-85-800.
Using the 100mm sized bore of the gun as a reference, the size of the TAA is approximately 2.5 meters (8.2 feet tall), 3.4 meters (11.15 feet wide), 7.35 meters (24.11 feet long) (hull only), and 8.4 meters (27.56 feet long) including the gun. This makes the TAA a slightly taller, slightly wider, and significantly longer target than the T-55 when it comes to the size. This gives the tank a somewhat low profile and the chance of it getting hit further decreases due to the thin turret. The weight and speed of the vehicle are also not given. The fuel, lubricants, spare parts, and tools are located on each side of the TAA, exposed to any threat. The suspension is of the torsion bar variety, a fairly simple and effective suspension that was and still is widely used on many armored vehicles.
The TAA never came into fruition likely due to it being unnecessary, costly, impractical, or Romania wasn’t ready to make a vehicle that complicated. If it did enter service the way it is presented in the patent, the tank would have been a very unusual tank to have been fielded in Europe in the 1980’s, but would have suffered many problems, from retraining crews from a ‘normal’ tank layout to the cost of the machine when Soviet tanks were easily available. The TAA until now has been a forgotten design, a remarkable tank from a country not well known for tank production, and a testament to the skills of the designers and engineers involved in its development.
Wikipedia has a reputation of providing dubious information on armored vehicles, particularly the type with little info available on them. This article uses a TAA-85 article from wikipedia.ro as a source. However, it should be noted that it only uses a specific portion of the article that uses a patent site called breveteonline.ro that is no longer seemingly accessible as a source on the internet. The specific portion of the wikipedia.ro article mentioned earlier and the recently rediscovered patent do closely correlate, so this, in turn, proves the legitimacy of at least the specific portion of the TAA-85 article that was mentioned.
In World of Tanks
An amazing TAA tank destroyer 3D model. It is decorated with some conjectural elements that are based off the TR-77-580, TR-85-800, and MLI-84. Large thanks go to Giganaut for the model. Check out the model and his Sketchfab page here.
The TAA could work as a tier 10 tank destroyer for the Romanian tech tree which is still in development, and new tanks are are always being discovered for it. This could have a very unique gameplay style that we have not seen yet in World of Tanks. The TAA was indeed created somewhere around the late 70’s and early 80’s, but considering the outdated technology Romania had at that time, this tank destroyer would have had significantly primitive equipment compared to Western nations and the Soviet Union. It also has a laser rangefinder which it won’t be the first to have one in World of Tanks if it is ever implemented. The Strv 103B from the Swedish tech tree has a laser rangefinder and Wargaming gladly implemented it.
It has impressive turret armor and sufficient gun depression to go hull down. The lower hull armor is fairly flat, but the top hull with approximately 100mm of armor may bounce incoming rounds effectively. However, the TAA has paper thin side and rear armor which makes it vulnerable from those areas. The driver’s window could also be a frontal weak spot.
The 100mm gun is equipped with an autoloader which can hold an unspecified amount of shells. WG can decide how many shells the TAA could hold for balance purposes. They can also decide on the penetration since the exact gun type and its ballistics are currently unknown.
Since the weight of the TAA is unspecified, WG could probably use an educated estimate of around 35-40 metric tons considering the armor thickness, height, width, and length are similar to the T-55. It would also likely be equipped with the TR-85-800’s 830 hp engine since it was in development around this time and it has a lot of space for it. Alternatively, they could use the V-55 580 hp for balance purposes.
The relatively low height and thin turret can make it an effective long range tank destroyer. Perhaps a replacement for the Waffentrager E 100, but a lot less cancerous and more practical. If they decide to implement it, Wargaming should try to avoid making it a TVP T 50/51 replacement by giving it slow turret traverse speed.
All in all, it’s a tank destroyer with an unique gameplay style. It has an autoloader, speed, frontal armor that is useful at medium to long ranges and it can go hull down if needed.
Approximate dimensions (H x W x L): 2.5 x 3.4 x 7.35 m (8.2 x 11.15 x 24.11 ft)
Crew: 4 (driver, gunner, loader, and commander)
Suspension: Torsion bar
Armament: Unspecified 100mm gun (autoloader)
Approximate armor: 100mm of turret and hull armor, thick anti-HEAT mantlet, and thin side and rear armor.
Gun depression/elevation: -7/+20
A blueprint based off Giganaut’s TAA tank destroyer model. As stated earlier, it does have conjectural elements and it’s not the authentic blueprint. Thanks go to Giganaut for providing the blueprints.
A really inaccurate interpretation of the TAA from wikipedia.ro. It is essentially a BMP-1 or MLI-84 drawing with a crudely drawn 100mm gun. It was already inaccurate in comparison to the accurate description on the TAA-85 wikipedia.ro page.
“165 ani de existență a artileriei române moderne” by Col. dr. Adrian STROEA (coordinator). Col. Constantin AFRIM, Col. Dobrică BUTUC, Col. (rz.) Ion CANĂ, Col. (rz.) Marin GHINOIU, Col. Nicolae MITU, Lt.col. Gheorghe BĂJENARU, Mr. Florin BARBU, and Mr. (rz.) prof. DUMITRU CONSTANTIN
Thanks go to Steppewolf for translating the sources above.