TAM (tank)

TAM (tank)

Infobox Weapon

caption=Argentine Army TAM
type=Medium tank
length=6.75 m
width=3.25 m
height=2.42 m
weight=30.5 tonnes
speed=75 km/h
vehicle_range=590 km, 800 km with auxiliary fuel tanks
primary_armament=FM K.4 "Modelo" 1L
secondary_armament= 2×7.62 mm machine gun
engine= MTU-MB 833 Ka-500 6-cylinder 22.4 l diesel
engine_power=720 hp (537 kW)
pw_ratio=24 hp/tonne

The Tanque Argentino Mediano ("Argentine Medium Tank"), or TAM, is the main battle tank in service with the Argentine Army. Lacking the experience and resources to design a tank, The Argentine Ministry of Defense contracted German company Thyssen-Henschel. The vehicle was developed by a German and Argentine team of engineers, and was based on the chassis of the German Marder infantry fighting vehicle.

The TAM met the Argentine Army's requirement for a modern light-weight and fast tank with a low silhouette and sufficient firepower to defeat contemporary armored threats. Development began in 1974 and resulted in the construction of three prototypes by early 1977 and full-scale production by 1979. Assembly took place at the local 9,600 meters squared (103,333 ft²) TAMSE plant, founded for the purpose by the Argentine government. Economic difficulties halted to production in 1983, but manufacturing began anew in 1994 until the army's order of 200 tanks was fulfilled.

The TAM series includes seven different variants, such as a 155 millimeter (6.1 in) self-propelled howitzer and a self-propelled mortar vehicle. In total, over 280 such vehicles were built, including armored personnel carriers, artillery and mortar pieces. The TAM and VCTP were manufactured for the Peruvian Army, only to be integrated into the Argentine Army when Peru canceled the contract. The TAM also competed for other export orders, but the TAM was ultimately not exported.

The TAM has never seen combat, although 17 armored personnel carriers based on the TAM chassis were deployed to the former Yugoslavia for a United Nations peacekeeping mission.


During the 1960s Argentina sought to replace its aging fleet of tanks, which included British Sherman V Firefly tanks, American M8 Greyhounds, and M3A1 half-tracks dating from shortly after the Second World War. In their attempts to procure equipment from the United States, Argentina could only secure 50 M41 Walker Bulldogs and 250 M113 armored personnel carriers. When the United States turned down requests for further equipment, the Argentine government turned to the other side of the Atlantic, putting their "Plan Europa" (Plan Europe) into action. It was hoped that European technology could stimulate Argentine industry so the country could produce its own armaments in the future. Argentina procured 80 AMX-13 light tanks, as well as 180 AMX-VCIs and 24 AMX-155 F3s, from the French government, manufacturing around 40 AMX-13s and 60 AMX-VCIs at home. The French AMX-30 and German Leopard 1 were also examined as possible replacements for the Argentine Sherman fleet. [Mazarrasa, pp. 9–10]

In 1973 the Argentine Ministry of Defense drew up a series of requirements for a tank to enter service in the 1980s. The armored vehicle would weigh no more than 30 tonnes (33 short tons), move at a maximum speed of 70 kilometers per hour (43 mph), and cover at least 500 kilometers (310 mi) on the roads. It would be armed with a modern 105 millimeter main gun, two machine guns, and grenade launchers. The tank designers also had to take into account Argentina's existing infrastructure, including railroad capacity, bridges and road capacity, as well as the country's varied terrain. In late 1973 the "Proyecto de Tanque Argentino Mediano" (Medium Argentine Tank Project) was founded with the goal of designing and developing a tank for the Argentine Army. Lacking the experience and the necessary technology, the Argentine government sought collaboration with a foreign company, resulting in a contract with the German company Thyssen-Henschel. The contract agreed to a transfer of technology resulting in a program to develop a tank in line with the government's requirements and under a technical team that included both German and Argentine engineers. It was decided to use the hull of the German Marder armored personnel carrier,Mazarrasa, pp. 11–15] and the chassis was strengthened to support the increased weight of the TAM. Two prototypes were manufactured in late 1976 and early 1977, [Bishop, p. 218] which were put through extensive testing for two years and over a road range of 10,000 kilometers (6200 mi.). Simultaneously, another prototype was manufactured to further the investigation of the new vehicle and complete the three prototypes as agreed in the contract. [Miller, p. 10]

The new tank's firepower requirements were met by fitting a British Royal Ordnance L7A1 105 mm (4.13 in) main gun. This gun was later replaced by the modified L7A2 and finally by Rheinmetall's Rh-105-30 105 mm (4.13 in.) gun, a German built L7A3. This gun is manufactured in Argentina as the FM K.4 "Modelo" 1L.Mazarrasa, p. 27] The Rh-105-30's advantages include low weight, compact size and increased lethality. [cite web| url= http://www.rheinmetall-defence.com/index.php?fid=1447&lang=3&pdb=1 |title= 105 mm Tank Guns - Rh 105-20 / Rh 105-30 |publisher= Rheinmetall Defence |work= Weapons and Ammunition |accessdaymonth=6 January|accessyear=2008 ] Unlike the Rh-105-30, the FM K.4 does not have a muzzle brake. The locally built cannon can be elevated to 18 degrees or depressed to -7 degrees on the TAM.Foss, "Jane's Tank Recognition Guide", p. 10,] The gun's hydraulic recoil mechanism has an extended range of 580 millimeters (22.8 in) to absorb the 34 tonne recoil force.Mazarrasa, p. 28] It is designed to fire the M735A1 armor piercing fin stabilized discarding sabot, which can penetrate a maximum of 370 millimeters (14.6 in) at 1,000 meters (3,280.8 ft). It can also fire high explosive anti-tank rounds, high explosive squash head and smoke rounds. [Mazarrasa, p. 30] The tank's secondary armaments include a co-axial 7.62 millimeter (0.3 in) FN MAG 60-40 general purpose machine gun and a second FN MAG 60-20 mounted on the TAM's turret roof [Mazarrasa, p. 29] as an anti-air machine gun. The fire control system includes a with a range of 9,900 meters (32,480 ft.) and a FLER-HG ballistic computer to compute the gun's fire solutions—helping the gunner aim and hit the target. The tank commander uses a Zeiss PERI-R/TA panoramic periscope, with a 2x and 8x zoom. [Mazarrasa, p. 32]

The TAM's engine requirements included low weight and volume, but with a fast rate of acceleration and high reliability. The program chose MTU's MB-833 Ka 500 diesel engine, producing 720 horsepower at 2,400 rotations per minute. This gives the TAM a power to weight ratio of 24 horsepower per tonne and a maximum speed of 75 kilometers per hour (46 mph) on road and 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph) off-road.Mazarrasa, pp. 33–35] With a 680-liter internal fuel tank, the TAM can travel 500 kilometers (310.7 mi). Its range is extended to 900 kilometers (559.23 mi) if the vehicle is equipped with two 200-liter external fuel tanks (44 gal). [Miller, p. 11] The TAM's transmission is a Renk HSWL-204 automatic, with a hydrodynamic torque converter. A double brake system includes hydraulic disk brakes on the roadwheels, and the suspension is a torsion bar. Foss, "Jane's Armour & Artillery 2004-2005", p. 54]

The TAM's survivability is dependent upon its low profile turret, based on that of the Leopard 1A4s and the Leopard 2, [Mazarrasa, p. 24] and its physical armor arrayed. It has 50 millimeters (2 in) at 75 degrees on the glacis plate and 32 degrees on the vehicle's sides. This offers protection against anti-armor shells from up to 35 millimeter (1.4 in) guns. [Mazarrasa, p. 36] The turret front is protected by 50 millimeters of steel armor at an angle of 32 degrees. [Mazarrasa, p. 60] Although the tank's weight and armor protection are light compared to other main battle tanks, it has the advantage of better tactical mobility over the nation's terrain. [Schneider, p. 59]

As a private venture, Rheinmetall Landsysteme built a fourth prototype. Completed in 1978, it added a PERI R12 periscope, originally designed for the Leopard 1A4, for the tank commander. The gunner and loader each received a day periscope as well. To enable the crew to fire effectively at night, a low low light level television (LLLTV) camera, which moved in elevation with the main gun, was fitted to the mantlet. Furthermore, the tank was given a more powerful 750 metric horsepower (551.62 kW) engine. The improvement program also made provisions to increase the thickness of the armor for additional protection.


A number of variants were built on the same chassis as the TAM tank. The original program called for the design of an infantry fighting vehicle, and in 1977 the program finished manufacturing the prototype of the "Vehículo de Combate Transporte de Personal" (Personnel Transport Combat Vehicle), or VCTP. The VCTP is able to transport a squad of 12 men, including the squad leader and nine riflemen. The squad leader is situated in the turret of the vehicle; one rifleman sits behind him and another six are seated in the chassis, the eighth manning the hull machine gun and the ninth situated in the turret with the gunner. All personnel can fire their weapons from inside the vehicle, and the VCTP's turret is armed with Rheinmetall's Rh-202 20 millimeter (.79 in) autocannon. The VCTP holds 880 rounds for the autocannon, including subcaliber armor-piercing DM63 rounds. It is also armed with a 7.62 millimeter FN MAG 60-20 mounted on the turret roof. Infantry can dismount through a door on the rear of the hull. [Mazarrasa, pp. 40–43] The commander has a day sight and seven observation periscopes, while the gunner has a day sight and three observation periscopes. [Foss, "Jane's Armour & Artillery 2004-2005", p. 277]

Variants also include the "Vehículo de Combate de Artillería de 155 mm" (155 millimeter Artillery Combat Vehicle), or VCA 155, and the "Vehículo de Combate Transporte de Mortero" (Mortar Transport Combat Vehicle), or VCTM. The VCA-155 is an elongated TAM chassis fitted with Oto Melara's Palmaria 155 millimeter (6.1 in) self-propelled howitzer turret.Foss, "Tank Recognition Guide", p. 11] It carries 28 projectiles, 23 of which are stored in the turret bustle. [Mazarrasa, p. 48] The VCTM carries an AM-50 120 millimeter (4.72 in) internal mortar, which has a range of 9,500 meters (31167.98 ft) and a rate of fire of 8 to 12 shots per minute. Based on the TAM chassis, the "Vehículo de Combate Puesto de Mando" (command combat vehicle), or VCPC, is another variant designed in 1982. [Mazarrasa, pp. 43–44] The "Vehículo de Combate Lanzacohetes" (Rocket launcher combat vehicle), or VCLC, designed in 1986, is also based on the TAM chassis and can be fitted with both 160 mm (6.3 in.) and 350 millimeter (13.8 in.) rockets. A combat ambulance, "Vehículo de Combate Ambulancia" (VCA), and an armored recovery vehicle, "Vehículo de Combate de Recuperación" (VCRT) are other combat variants of the tank.


Production began in 1979, with the intent to fabricate a total of 512 armored vehicles (200 tanks and 312 VCTP infantry fighting vehicles). Economic problems, however, ended production in 1983 with only 150 TAMs and 100 VCTPs built. These vehicles were produced by the Argentina company "Tanque Argentino Mediano Sociedad del Estado", or TAMSE, founded by the government in March 1980. 70% of the TAM's components were manufactured in Argentina, while the 30% manufactured in Germany corresponded to the transmission, optics and fire control system. In 1983, 20 TAMs and 26 VCTPs were delivered to the Argentine Army after an original order of 80 TAMs by Peru was canceled due to budgetary issues. In 1991, TAMSE and the TAM production line was shut down, although in 1994 TAMSE was reactivated to complete an order for 120 of both TAMs and VCTPs to replace the M4 Shermans in the 2nd Armored Cavalry Brigade of the Argentine Army. By 1995 the Argentine Army was equipped with 200 TAM tanks and 216 VCTP and VCPC armored vehicles. [Mazarrasa, pp. 16–18] Although 25 VCA-155s were originally planned for production starting 1990, [Mazarrasa, p. 45] only 19 were completed and delivered by 1995, along with 50 VCTMs.Mazarrasa, p. 18] No other variants of the TAM, including the VCLC, VAC and VCRT were put into production due to budget restrictions. [Foss, "The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles", p. 250]

The TAMSE plant is a 9,600 square meter (103,300 ft²) facility. The factory is completely covered, with two warehouses for storing components, quality control laboratories, a project office, an engine test room and a firing range. Also participating in the production of TAM and variant components were Argentine companies Military Factories General San Martín (manufacturing the chassis), Río Tercero (turret and armament) and Bator Cocchis, S.A. [Mazarrasa, p. 17]

Export and combat history

Although the TAM has never been exported, a number of nations were interested in buying it. In 1981, Malaysia signed a contract for 102 vehicles of the TAM family, including the tank, VCTP and VCRT (renaming these Lion, Tiger and Elephant, respectively). However, none of these vehicles were delivered and Malaysia chose to procure Poland's PT-91.Foss, "Jane's Armour & Artillery 2004-2005, p. 53] In mid-1983, Peru established a contract for 80 TAMs. The order was, however, canceled due to budgetary problems after 20 tanks had been completed. A similar order was established by Panama in 1984, although this contract was also canceled. In 1989 the TAM competed in a tank procurement order from Ecuador, alongside the American Stingray light tank, the Austrian SK-105 Kürassier and the French AMX-13-105 light tank. The TAM achieved 950 out of 1,000 points, while its closest competitor earned 750 points, but in the end Ecuador did not procure any of the vehicles presented.

In the Middle East, both Iran and Saudi Arabia expressed interest in the TAM. The Iranian deal fell through after Saudi Arabia and Iraq successfully appealed to Germany to cancel the order. TAMSE attempted to sell 60 tanks through a Panamanian company, Agrometal, offering this company a commission worth 10% of the contract's price. This failed when TAMSE lowered the price of the vehicles, angering the Iranian government, which subsequently canceled the offer. [Garasino, "Advierten que Panamá podría embargar la fragata Libertad"] The Saudi Arabian deal was scrapped when Israel appealed to Germany to cancel the order.Mazarrasa, pp. 17–18] Failing to export the tank, the Argentine government closed the TAMSE fabrication plant in 1995. ["Admiten que el sirio intentó vender tanques", Clarín]

The TAM did not participate in the Falklands War, although it had entered service by the beginning of the conflict. Later, seventeen VCTPs were deployed with an Argentina battalion to Yugoslavia during United Nations peacekeeping operations.



*cite journal
title = Admiten que el sirio intentó vender tanques
journal = Clarín
location = Buenos Aires, Argentina
date = 03 June 1988
url = http://www.clarin.com/diario/1998/06/03/t-01101d.htm
language = Spanish
accessdaymonth = 3 October |accessyear=2008

*cite book |last= Bishop |first= Chris |title= The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles: From World War I to the Present Day |location= San Diego, CA |publisher= Thunder Bay |year= 2006 |isbn= 978-1592236268
*cite book |last= Foss |first= Christopher F. |title= Jane's Armour & Artillery, 2004-2005 |location= Coulsdon, Surrey |publisher= Jane's Information Group |year= 2004 |isbn= 978-0710626165
*cite book |last= Foss |first= Christopher F. |title= Jane's Tank Recognition Guide |publisher= Harper Collins |year= 2006 |location= London, United Kingdom |isbn= 978-0007183265
*cite book |last= Foss |first= Christopher F. |title= The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles: The Comprehensive Guide to over 900 Armored Fighting Vehicles from 1915 to the Present Day |location= San Diego, CA |publisher= Thunder Bay Press |year= 2002 |isbn= 978-1571458063
*cite book |last= de Mazarrasa |first= Javier |title= La Familia Acorazada TAM |publisher= Quirón |year= 1996 |location= Valladolid, Spain |isbn= 84-87314-27-9 |language= Spanish
*cite journal
last = Garasino
first = Luis
title = Advierten que Panamá podría embargar la fragata Libertad
journal = Clarín
location = Buenos Aires, Argentina
date = 09 September 1999
url = http://www.clarin.com/diario/1999/09/09/t-01401d.htm
language = Spanish
accessdaymonth = 9 October |accessyear=2008

*cite book |last= Miller |first= David |title= The Illustrated Directory of Tanks and Fighting Vehicles: From World War I to the Present Day |location= Osceola, WI |publisher= MBI |year= 2000 |isbn= 978-0760308929

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