Romanian Tanks and AFVs of the cold war

Socialist Republic of Romania (1947-1990)

In August 1945 an insurrection overthrew Marshal Antonescu and the fascist regime. A new provisional regime sympathetic to the USSR as established and, until the end of the war, Romanian Forces fought under control of the Red Army against German Armies to claim back its territory. After the war, Romania entered the Soviet sphere of influence and later joined the Warsaw pact.

Romanian T-55Ms

The Cold War


TAB 77
TAB B33 Zimbru
Stimpex Dracon

These years were dominated by the "Sovietisation" of the country and army (adoption of Soviet tactics and doctrine) and Minister of Defence's, Emil Bodnăraş, reforms, followed by the beginning of a semi-autonomy under the Ceaușescu regime. In the 1980s, the land forces comprised 140,000 personnel, of whom two thirds were conscripts, organized into four armies: 1st at Bucharest, 2nd at Buzău, 3rd at Craiova and 4th at Napoca. Just before the 1989 revolution, the armored forces were partitioned between 8 mechanized infantry divisions and two armored divisions, the 57th (Bucharest) and 6th (Tîrgu Mureş).

MLI-84M at a Military Parade

Although the Army was supplied with Soviet tanks and APCs, industrial resources allowed some local production, either under licence and/or with extensive modifications in the 1980s. These locally produced models were the TAB-71 (BTR-60), TAB-77 (BTR-70) and TABC-79 APCs (4x4 variant of the latter), and later B33 Zimbru (BTR-80) and MLI-84 (BMP-1) and MLVM (local IFV).

TR-580 at the Ferdinand Museum

Romania relied chiefly on T-55As, modernized into the AM and AM2 versions prior to 1990. Development of a local MBT began in 1977 with the TR-580 or Tanc Românesc Model 1977, a well-modified T-55 with, among others, a new engine, suspension, tracks and roadwheels, new FCS and new local gun. It evolved until 1985 with the introduction of the TR-85, which is now the reference MBT of the Romanian Ground Forces.


1989 revolution and post-communist era

The fall of the autocratic regime of Ceaușescu was greatly helped by the defection of the Army, which joined the insurrection. At that time, however, finances were at their lowest and the army was left with obsolescent material, lack of spare parts and, more critically, fuel. During the first phase of reorganization, major units were disbanded, while obsolete vehicles were sold for scrap. In the early 1990s, the new organization included territorial corps and the regiments became battalions.

In 1996, the new government dramatically increased the military budget, and the full applications of these reforms came to fruition in 2000, with foreign purchases including, until 2013, new wheeled vehicles, 31 MOWAG Piranha III, 122 HMMWV, 62 URO VAMTAC, 16 Panhard PVP, while many tanks and other vehicles were modernized. A major change was the transition from a large, Soviet-style conscript army to a smaller, professional well equipped and well trained army. Diversity in equipment also illustrates these changes, with purchases of US vehicles, weapons, and joint tactical training sessions. The modern structure of the Army implies three divisions, the Bucharest Garrison, the Honor Regiment, a few independent supporting battalions and instruction centers. At all tactical levels procedures and equipment were made compliant with NATO standards.


The Romanian army saw action in the 2000s, taking its "tour of duty" in Afghanistan, using many leased MPVs and MRAPS, along with its own vehicles, for patrols and operations. Such vehicles were 108 Cougar HE, 60 MaxxPro Dash and some M-ATV. One battalion was stationed in Zabul, one guard detachment in Kandahar and one reconnaissance squad in Mazari Sharif as part of ISAF. A special forces squad and training detachment were also deployed in the area.

ABC-79 in Afghanistan

Bosnia and Herzegovina

About 45 personnel were deployed in Sarajevo and Banja Luka as part of EUFOR since 2000 and 150 personnel in Peć, Kosovo (KFOR).


The Romanian Ground Forces
List of vehicles and equipment (modern)

Modern Romanian Tanks

TR-85 Main battle tank (1985)

TABC-33 Zimbru APC (1990)

Cold War Romanian Tanks

TR-77/580 Main battle tank (1985)

TAB-71 armoured personal carrier, a local version of the BTR-60

TR-85M, the late version of a very much improved Romanian T-55, currently Romanian's own main battle tank

Links and sources

On wikipedia (in Romanian). On

Gallery :

AM-425 APC in the 1980s markings and livery.

TABC-79 in the 1990s. Post-revolution vehicle were very often camouflaged, with a large variety of spotted patterns over the original factory dark green.

TABC-79A PCOMA Artillery Observation Vehicle

TABC-79 with IFOR, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1996

ABC-79M in Afghanistan, 88th infantry battalion.

TABC-79AR mortar carrier of the 191 battalion firing its 82mm Model 1977 mortar in april 2010


Basic MLI-84, 1990s.

MLI-84M IFV as of today.
MLI-84M IFV as of today.

TAB-71 in the 1970s
TAB-71 in the 1970s

TAB-71M in the 1990s
TAB-71M in the 1990s

TAB-71M, camouflaged variant as of 2001 (Joint Operation Rescue Eagle)
TAB-71M, camouflaged variant as of 2001 (Joint Operation Rescue Eagle)

TAB-71M, SFOR, Bosnia 1990s
TAB-71M, SFOR, Bosnia 1990s

Romanian T-55A
T-55A in Romanian service. This helps to see the differences with the TR-77.

Romanian TR-77
TR-77 early version.

TR-77 MBT of serie, with the large side skirt model

TR-77 camouflaged
Camouflaged TR-77 in the 1980s.

Late TR-77, with the elongated turret model, 1985.
Late TR-77 with the elongated turret model adopted by the TR-85M1.

Iraqi TR-850 M1977
Reconstruction of an Iraqi TR-580 in operational markings, Iran-Iraq war. This is purely conjectural as no photos or evidence of this tank in Iraqi service has been confirmed.

Cold War Tanks

Argentine Tanks

Cold war tanks posters

Cold War Main Battle Tanks

Cold War Soviet Army

Museums, Movies, Books & Games
The Tanks and Armor in pop culture

Tanks and armored vehicles in general are only really grasped when seen first person: The mass, the scale, it's all there. Explore also the way tanks were covered in the movie industry, in books and in video games.

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They go hand in hand.

Tanks had no tactical manual when first used. It was learned the hard way and perfected over decades, as well as weapons, countermeasures and accompanying vehicles.