Romania Is Shopping for a Battalion of M1 Abrams Tanks: Here is Why

Romania technically has extra operational tanks than France, Germany, or the UK, with 377 in service in response to the 2023 version of The Army Stability. However that fleet can also be amongst essentially the most outdated within the alliance for a rustic of its dimension, primarily based on the Soviet T-54/T-55 tank, which entered service in 1954.

As neighboring Ukraine battles a Russian invasion, that state of affairs is not sitting properly in Bucharest, which has elevated protection spending to 2.5 p.c of GDP, exceeding NATO’s typically flouted 2 p.c requirement, and moved to buy Patriot air protection missiles, F-16 fighters, and HIMARS batteries.

Earlier this month, Romania’s army procurement chief Lt. Gen Teodor Incicas mentioned Bucharest would quickly search to buy a “battalion” of M1 Abrams foremost battle tanks from america, per Observatorul Militar. A regular Romanian battalion has 54 tanks.


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The 65- to 70-ton Abrams nonetheless ranks amongst the best-protected and hardest-hitting tanks on the planet, alongside Leopard 2, Challenger 2, and Leclerc tanks operated by its NATO allies, and would symbolize an enormous change for Romania, as its present fleet is under-gunned versus fashionable Russian T-72B3, T-80 and T-90 tanks.

Romania’s army modernization will complement an expanded NATO defensive contingent in Romania, together with a rotating multi-national battlegroup below French command, supplementing parts of the twond Armored Cavalry regiment geared up with Stryker armored automobiles and a 4,000-strong brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.

Undoubtedly, the Abrams battalion will likely be costly. Neighboring Poland spent $4.75 billion for an order of 250 new M1A2s, adopted by $1.4 billion for 116 used M1A1s from the U.S. The full of $6.15 billion displays the steep extra overhead prices to introducing the brand new sort into service, and recommend a worth hovering round or beneath the $1 billion mark for Romania. However Polish investments in M1 coaching, logistics, and upkeep may considerably ease service-entry prices for Romania.

It would take years earlier than any tanks are delivered, nonetheless, between 31 tanks promised to Ukraine, Poland’s in-progress deliveries, and Taiwan, which is anxiously awaiting 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks. Whereas the U.S. has hundreds of M1s in storage, the annual capability to refurbish these into fashionable automobiles stays low as heavy tanks have been more and more considered Chilly Battle dinosaurs.

Different notable Romanian arms offers within the works embody a current $410 million deal to acquire seven Watchkeeper X unmanned fight air automobiles; an armed drone primarily based on the Israeli Hermes 450, which is able to result in an meeting line opening in Romania; and procurement of license-built Piranha-5 armored automobiles.

Romania’s Tank Dilemma: Importation or Self-Sufficiency?

The Romanian Land Forces right this moment dispose of 1 tank and 5 mechanized brigades, every with one battalion of tanks and two of infantry mounted on both BTR-style armored troop carriers (APCs), Piranha Vs, or tracked MIL-84 infantry preventing automobiles (IFVs).

Energetic stock consists of 220 T-55AMs, an upgraded mannequin with bolstered BDD-type laminated “forehead” armor, laser range-finders, smoke grenade launchers, stabilized weapons and sights, and gun-launched missile functionality because of new fireplace management techniques. It additionally counts 103 indigenous TR-85 tanks primarily based on the T-55, and 54 closely enhanced TR-85M1s.

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T-55 tanks at Cincu firing vary throughout MILREX ’07 army train.

Wikimedia Commons

The TR-85s emerged in response to Romania’s expertise throughout and after the Second World Battle. Throughout that battle (by which Romania fought first in opposition to after which for the Allies) Romania’s military operated under-gunned tanks imported from France (FT-17s, R-35s) and stouter German-supplied Panzer IIINs, IVs, 38ts and assault weapons. Romanian factories did handle to strap efficient weapons onto the hulls of captured and outdated tanks, leading to numerous tank destroyers referred to as TACAMs.

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A TACAM R-2 tank destroyer on the Nationwide Army Museum in Bucharest.

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Put up-war, Romania grew to become a Soviet consumer state. However after the Moscow-instigated invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Romanian management grew decided to turn out to be self-sufficient in arms manufacturing. Within the Seventies, Romania developed a home model of the ever present Soviet T-55 tank referred to as the TR-77-580, with a stretched hull with six as a substitute of 5 highway wheels, a modified turret, and a rifled A308 100-millimeter gun tailored from an indigenous M1977 towed anti-tank gun.

However after Romanian spies acquired specs on the MTU engine and transmission utilized by Germany’s nimble Leopard 1 tank, it was reverse-engineered into an 830-horsepower, turbocharged diesel engine and hydromechanics transmission fitted to the still-serving 46-ton TR-85.

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TR-85 tank with out aspect skirts.

Wikimedia Commons

Extreme issues with the TR-85’s energy pack and fireplace management techniques have been solely starting to be resolved when the homebrew tanks noticed their solely fight use within the Romanian Revolution between December 16-27, 1989—initially to fend off mass protests in opposition to dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu.

revolution square of bucharest, romania, during the 1989 revolution

Revolution Sq. of Bucharest, Romania, throughout the 1989 Revolution.

Wikimedia Commons

When Romania’s protection minister died suspiciously—probably after demurring on orders to instruct troops to fireside on protesters—the army switched sides in assist of the protesters, finally executing Ceaucescu and battling hardliners within the dreaded Securitate secret police.

Within the Nineteen Nineties, Romania developed an improved 55-ton TR-85M1 Bizonul (Bison) mannequin match with fashionable thermal night-fighting succesful sensors harnessed to an indigenous Cyclops-M fireplace management techniques (75 p.c accuracy out to 1.86 miles), computer-aided gun stabilization, an uprated 860-horsepower engine, improved sloped spaced and composite armor to most 580-millimeter equal versus kinetic, and different survivability options.

However whereas the TR-85M1 and T-55AMs do profit from respectable armor and fireplace management enhancements, they keep 100-millimeter weapons which are underpowered by fashionable requirements. Romania did co-develop with Israel an unusually high-performing 100-millimeter tungsten fin-stabilized discarding-sabot (APFSDS) shell referred to as the BM-421 Sg (or M309) that achieves 425 millimeters of penetration at 1 kilometer. That also falls quick given a typical T-72B has frontal hull and turret armor equal to 480-540 millimeters RHA versus kinetic shells.

Romania is now becoming a member of Poland, Taiwan, and Ukraine as late adopters of the Abrams greater than 4 a long time after it entered service. Romania will in all probability ultimately obtain the newest M1A2 variant, reconstructed from the hulls of retired older-model Abrams tanks, however fitted with tungsten armor as a substitute of depleted uranium on U.S. automobiles. (There’s debate amongst specialists on whether or not deplete uranium armor is simpler than Tungsten, or simply a lot more cost effective.)

As Romania receives Abrams, it may hypothetically switch retired TR-85s to Ukraine—if there’s mutual curiosity. Ukraine has inducted a full battalion of Slovenian M-55S tanks additionally primarily based on the T-55, however these closely upgraded automobiles sport 105-millimeter L7 weapons extra prone to pierce Russian tank armor. To be truthful, direct engagements between tanks stay comparatively uncommon in Ukraine.

Sophisticated Historical past: Romania, Russia, and Ukraine

In 1940, the Soviet Union pressured Romania to cede the area of Bessarabia, a transfer greenlit below a secret accord with Nazi Germany. The seized territory was reallocated to Ukraine and the Moldavan autonomous republic. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, some former Romanian territory grew to become Ukraine’s, leaving Bucharest with a territorial disputes with Ukraine over possession of the infamous Snake Island close to the important thing delivery channel by which the Danube River enters the Black Sea.

The remainder went to a newly impartial state of Moldova—which was then riven in a battle by pro-Russian separatists. Backed by Russia’s 14thMilitary and a few Ukrainian parts, the Transdniestrian separatists repelled attempts by the Moldovan authorities to reassert management. To this present day, Moldovan territory on the east financial institution of the Dniester is dominated by a separatist state-within-a-state, shielded by 1,600 Russian “peacekeeping” troops in two to 3 battalions.

Whereas Romanians largely assist reunification with Moldova, Moldavans themselves haven’t reached a consensus on doing so. Moldova’s authorities, nonetheless, has grown nervous, alleging that Russia plans to orchestrate a coup (harking back to a failed Russian-instigated coup attempt targeting Montenegro in 2016) or that the separatists may redefine their territory as Russian soil.

In the meantime, Ukraine worries, Transdniestria might be used as a base for assaults on Ukraine, although that prospect appears distant after Russia’s withdrawal from the western bank of the Dnieper river. In reality, Ukrainian officers state they even supplied to intervene militarily against the Transdniestrian separatists if invited by Moldova’s authorities, which turned the provide down.

Russian officers have nonetheless talked about creating a “land-bridge” through Ukrainian territory to Transdniestria—rhetoric doubtless meant to troll, misdirect, and threaten reasonably than one thing they’re militarily in any place to do. Moscow has additionally lengthy complained concerning the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile protection techniques deployed to Deveselu, Romania, claiming its naval-origin Mark 41 launchers may be used to launch Tomahawk land-attack missiles at Russia.

Whereas neither Bucharest nor Chisinau appear inclined to make use of pressure, they’re undoubtedly intently observing occasions as turbulence within the wake of Putin’s battle threatens to thaw what had appeared a frozen-over battle. That will clarify Bucharest’s willingness to lastly spend money on new tanks—even when they aren’t constructed domestically.

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Sébastien Roblin has written on the technical, historic, and political elements of worldwide safety and battle for publications together with 19FortyFive, The Nationwide Curiosity, MSNBC,, Inside Unmanned Methods and Battle is Boring. He holds a Grasp’s diploma from Georgetown College and served with the Peace Corps in China. You may observe his articles on Twitter