Armor: New Iranian Tank is an Odd Improvisation


December 23, 2023: Iran recently introduced an updated version of its 44-ton Tiam tank. The prototype of this tank was revealed in 2016 and the decision has still not been made to create more Triam tanks. It can take several years to organize mass production. If this is approved, several hundred Taim tanks will be assembled and put into service. Tiam appears to be rather odd, and it is. The body, or hull, of the tank is from an American Korean War vintage 44-ton M47M. Iran received 400 M47s from the United States in the 1960s. Back then, Iran was on good terms with the Americans. Most of the M47s were lost in battle with Iran during the 1980s. The United States stopped using the M47 in 1959 as it moved onto the M60. In the 1980s the first M1s appeared and upgraded M1s have been the primary American tank ever since.

Iran had a revolution in the late 1970s, replacing the monarchy with a religious dictatorship. That earned Iran the first of many economic sanctions which made it difficult to obtain new weapons. Iran learned to improvise and avoid getting into any more major wars.

Without a source of new weapons, Iran had to rely on upgrading what it had. Iran had a lot of skilled and eager engineers, and this produced some impressive improvisations. The Triam tank was one of them. Tian consists of the hull of the upgraded M47M tank, but the turret is from a Chinese Type 69 tank armed with an American 105mm rifled gun. There is a modern fire control system. Triam has a crew of four.

To increase protection Triam covers most of its hull front and all around the turret with blocks of ERA or Explosive reactive Armor. This is a remarkably effective way to increase protection from several weapons, ERA was invented by the Israelis in the 1970s, and each block consists of explosives packaged between layers of sheet metal. When the hot gas jet produced by a shaped charge of an RPG or missile warhead hits the ERA explosives, the gas jet is disrupted and rendered harmless by the ERA explosion. Many American M-2 and AAV-7 armored vehicles in Iraq are already protected by ERA kits, which cost over $100,000 each. The Stryker ERA cost nearly $300,000 per vehicle and added 3.5 tons of weight, compared to 2.5 tons for the less effective slat armor it replaced.

There are currently fewer than 200 Triam tanks in service and these would not last long against modern tanks like the American M1 or German Leopard 2. Tiam is very effective against lighter armored vehicles. Against M1s and Leopard 2s the most effective weapon is lots of anti-tank mines, which disables tanks, which makes them more vulnerable to other weapons. Trian is an improvisation for a country that cannot obtain anything better. Triam is a word that translates into English as darling or loved one.




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