Armor: A Balkan Mystery Moves To South Asia

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August 8, 2015:   Serbia has sold 282 T-55 tanks to Pakistan. This was supposed to be kept secret as the tanks are being sold as obsolete but are actually going to be modernized in Serbia. Since the 1990s and the end of the Cold War upgrading cheap (often free) T-55s has become big business. Thus many T-55s have been upgraded to the “T-55H” standard. This involves engine and armor upgrades as well as new machine-guns. A better fire extinguishing system is added as well as mine clearing and self-entrenching capabilities. Some new electronics are added as well. It is unclear if the upgrade is to the T-55H standard or something more ambitious. For example Ukraine sells upgraded T-55s more suitable for Pakistan (whose main foe is India.) One Ukrainian upgrade, called Typhoon 2 included a new, 1,050 horsepower engine and a new turret with a 125mm gun, modern fire control electronics (including a thermal imager) and an auto-loader. There is also additional armor (ceramic panels and ERA, Explosive Reactive Armor), skirts and standoff panels. There are also improvement to the running gear, to handle the greater weight (five more tons). The crew is reduced from four to three, and ammo storage for the main gun is reduced from 43 to 30 rounds. Secondary armament consists of a 12.7mm and 7.62mm machine-gun. Ukraine can also provide T-55s armed with NATO type 120mm guns. Some observers believe the T-55s will be converted to other uses (combat engineering vehicles or personnel carriers. Despite being a 1950s design, there are still thousands of T-55s out there.

The original T-55 is a 40 ton vehicle that was the ultimate development of the World War II T-34. Armed with a 100mm gun, as well as a 14.5mm and two 7.62mm machine-guns, it was a formidable vehicle in the 1950s. Over 90,000 were produced (even more than the T-34) before production ended in the 1980s. The crew of four is not well protected from anti-tank weapons, and the 100mm gun is largely useless against modern tanks. But against civilians and poorly armed troops the T-55 has proved to be effective. Many nations see an upgraded T-55 as adequate for use against possible battles with neighbors even when the potential foe is are armed with more modern tanks.

 

 


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