A Romanian licence-built BTR-60PB
Since 1962 the Socialist Republic of Romania acquired the license and documentation to manufacture the Soviet armored carrier BTR-60P. With this information, Romanian engineers were able to build the open-top TAB-63 prototype. However, it was not pushed into production as the authorities asked the Military Industrial Committee of COMECON to acquire the manufacturing license of the more advanced BTR-60PB instead. This license was obtained in 1970, and production was planned at the Plant Automecanica Moreni.
Eventually, the vehicle was called TAB-71 (for Transportorul Amfibiu Blindat model 1971) and was largely similar to the Soviet model, but with some significant differences as an improved turret and more powerful gasoline engines. Since 1971 until 1990, 2,073 TAB-71s has been manufactured, and six variants were declined. The vehicle was also used by Moldova and Yugoslavia (and successor states). According to army-guide.com, 1306 were manufactured, including 1170 for the Romanian Army, 131 for Moldova and 5 for Serbia.
The general layout of the BTR-60PB was respected, with an 8×8 welded steel RHA sloped hull 6-10 mm thick which had a modified rear section due to the new engines. These consisted of two French 140 hp Saviem SR-225 gasoline V8 engines (instead of 2x 90 hp), with a maximum 3600 rpm for 25,4 hp/ton of power-to-weight ratio. Top speed was raised to 95 km/h on flat and 10 km/h when swimming. The same trim vane, bilge pumps and propellers were kept.
Ground clearance was 0.47 m, and field performances include fully amphibious capabilities helped also by the original boat-like nose of the vehicle. The other major upgrade came for the main one-man turret which mount was modified to allow almost 90° of vertical elevation for its 14.5 mm KPVT heavy machine gun, enabling full anti-aircraft capabilities. The latter was still coupled with a coaxial 7.62 mm PKT machine gun. In addition, the TAB-71 received more vision day periscopes with a distinctive rear left side turret ground/air gun telescopic sight.
Standard equipment also included the original front winch, central tire-pressure regulation system, and NBC collective protection system. The only backdrop of the TAB-71 were its exit doors located between the 2nd and 3rd pair of roadwheels which were small and presented security problems when the crew dismounted when in motion. However, in addition to the two hatches over the driver and commander’s positions were two rectangular roof hatches above the rear section.
Upgrade: The TAB-71M
The TAB-71 was upgraded in the early 1980s as the TAB-71m and TAB-72 by foreign intelligence services. The main improvement consisted in a pair of Saviem 797-05 diesels (not gasoline) which developed 130 horsepower each, also used by TAB-77 (based on the BTR-70). This enhanced both safety (lower ignition point) and range. The rear section was modified, roomier, and the exhaust pipes were positioned horizontally. Also, a small hatch was between the second and third axles either side. In addition, the left main side turret telescopic sight received a grid protection.
TAB-71AR mortar carrier (1973)
(NATO TAB-73) The turret is removed and replaced by a circular roof hatch opening for an 82 mm mortar (Russian-designed M-1937) with 100 projectiles in store. Two rectangular roof hatches are added each side, and a single 7.62 mm PKMS machine gun is mounted.
TERA-71L maintenance and recovery
Maintenance and recovery (ARV) vehicle with a new enclosed troop compartment at the front, an open technical compartment in the center with a crane, heavy duty winches, jib and other equipment. The light hydraulic crane is traversed and attached to the front when idle. Single 7.62 mm PKMS machine gun for close defense.
TAB-71A R-1450/51/52 command vehicles
Outside internal modifications, there is a second antenna on the left side of the hull roof, in addition to the regular front right side one. The 1451 received a modified turret with a single 7.62 mm PKT machine gun and small crane for the removal of batteries, right side external generator and four antennas, including a large telescopic model. There is also the R-401M and R-1451 signal equipment. The R1 1452 command vehicle is relatively similar to the previous model but with some extra radio equipment.
Production, users and service
The TAB-71 was produced by RATMIL (later ROMARM), and it was first revealed in a military parade in Bucharest held in August 1972. So far (Wikipedia) 1872 were made but by 2010 only 375 were still in active service. Gradually withdrawal is connected to the arrival of the new TBT 8×8 APC (development started March 17, 2011). Moldova ordered in 1992 and obtained 171 TAB-71M, delivered in 1992-1995. 89 were still enlisted as of 2010. Yugoslavian also ordered in 1978 40 vehicles for the police 71, delivered 1980-1981 and now withdrawn. Croatia (or Serbia according to some sources) also used a few for some time after the civil war. Outside of the 1989 revolution, TAB-71s also took part in SFOR operations in Bosnia.
|Dimensions||7,22 x2.83 x2.70 m|
|Total weight, battle ready||11 tons|
|Crew||3+8 (driver, cdr, gunner, 8 infantry)|
|Propulsion||2× Saviem SR-225, gas V8 280 hp @3600 rpm, 25,4 hp/t|
|Suspension||8×8 independent coil springs|
|Armament||14.5 mm KPVT HMG, PKT 7.62 mm LMG|
|Armor||8-10 mm (0.2-0.4 in)|
TAB-71 in the 1970s
TAB-71M in the 1990s
TAB-71M, SFOR, Bosnia 1990s