A much needed expedient :As a member of the Axis, Romania was ill-prepared to assist the Germans in their struggle to the east. After facing the full might of the Soviet offensive at Stalingrad, much of the armoured forces has been lost and what remains were second-class units, blatantly unable to cope with the latest Russian tanks. Since the Germans were unwilling to send them additional tanks, an expedient was chosen : Since the offensive started in 1941, the Romanian forces has managed to capture many Soviet 76.2mm field guns and tanks (175 tanks and 154 artillery pieces), especially T60s. According to Lieutenant-Colonel Constantin Ghiulai, this soviet light tank was reliable and fast, and could provide an excellent gun platform, inspired by German's Marder. The idea came to engineer Leonida which worked on a prototype fit for a limited production, according to Romanian industrial capacities of the time. This vehicle was ready by january 19, 1943, and after trials and minor modifications, accepted and rushed into production as the Tun Anticar pe Afet Mobil (TACAM) T60 (Or "Self-propelled Gun on Mobile Carriage T-60").
Caracteristics of the reconversion :Basically, the Tacam T60 was a turretless chassis with a Russian 76.2 mm (3.00 in) M-1939 F-22 field gun without carriage, mounted on top, and a three-sided shield protected the servants. In many cases, the original GAZ engine was supplied by parts of a Dodge-Derotto-Fargo (under licence) F.H.2, and a new engine cover with better cooling was adaptated. The suspensions were reinforced to cope with the added weight, with stronger torsion arms and new galet roadwheels (on the late serie). The shield plates originated from captured BT-7s and other Soviet tanks hulls, and were 15mm thick and sloped. The frontal part was pierced in a cross-like shape for direct vision and increased traverse. Maximal traverse was 32° and elevation +8 -5°. Forty-four rounds were carried inside and partly into the four storage boxes, front and rear of the mudguards on each sides. To soften the massive recoil and reduce the rolling, a rotating brake (to be firmly dug into the ground) was fixed at the rear of the hull. There was hull machine-gun for close defence. The hull frontal armor was increased to 35mm, and in other parts to 25mm. The main gun was not an Antitank, but the muzzle velocity in direct fire was nonetheless impressive, and HE rounds had enough punch to do some serious damage on a T34 and destroy or disable any lighter vehicle.
War operations :Conversions to the Tacam T60 took only a few months at Atelierele Leonida at Bucharest. When ready at the end of 1943, they were send to the Mechanised Training Centre, sixteen later formed the 61st Tacam Company and were attached to the 1st Armored Regiment, while eighteen formed the 62nd Tacam Company (2nd armored regiment). They seen action on the Bessarabian and Moldavian fronts: By february 24, 1944, the Cantemir Armored Group was formed to defend the Northern Transnistria, with a battery of fourteen Tacam T60s (Budapest Offensive). After a succesful delaying action, these units joined a new defensive line to hold the Soviet Jassy-Kishniev Offensive. Losses were unknown, not the fate of the surviving vehicles, when Romanian sided with Soviet Union in october 1944. No Tacam T60 has survived to this day...
Links about the Tacam T60 :The T60 on wikipedia. Steve Zaloga page on Missing Links.
Specs. TACAM T60
|Dimensions (L-w-h):||4,24 (5.15oa) x2,35 x1,77m (14 x7.7 x5.7fts)|
|Total weight, battle ready :||9 Tons (9.9 short)|
|Crew :||3 (driver, gunner, loader)|
|Propulsion :||GAZ 202 6-cyl gas. 80hp (60KW)|
|Max speed (on/off road):||40/20 kph (25/12 mph)|
|Range (road/bad road) - Fuel:||200km (120 mi)- 280L (74 US Gal)|
|Armament :||Main : 76.2 mm M1936 F22
Sec. 7.92 ZB 53 hull machine gun.
|Armour :||From 4 to 10 mm|
TACAM T60 early version, with the original spoked roadwheels. A frame aerial protected tghe crew from the weather and could provide a basis for ambush camouflage nettings.
T60 late version, winter 1944, with galet roadwheels. This was just before these surviving vehicles were recaptured by the Red Army in october.