Ramses II Tank: Egypt's Modest Upgrade Package for the Soviet T-55

The Egyptian Army emerged in the late 1960s and early 70s as one of the largest operators of the Soviet T-54/55 battle tank, with over 1200 reportedly in service by the mid-1970s despite hundreds having been lost or abandoned in the 1967 and Six-Day War with neighboring Israeli and during clashes in the following six years. 

As multiple countries began to initiate more ambitious upgrade packages for their T-55s approaching the turn of the century, most notably the Soviet T-55AAMV-1 with Kontakt explosive reactive armor and a new V-46 engine from the T-72 tank, Egypt sought to modernize its own units as a cheaper alternative to acquiring new armor from abroad. 

The modernisation of the T-55 would be heavily influenced by the technologies of its American rival the M60, which Egypt had acquired from the late 1970s and received very large numbers of following the end of the Cold War from American reserves. 

By the time the Ramses II program was underway the M60 was widely considered obsolete, but with Egypt largely fielding heavily downgraded armaments from the mid-1970s until a change of government in 2013 this fit in with broader trends in the country’s armed forces. 

The upgraded T-55 used the same main armament and ammunition as the M60 which were provided by the United States, and the first of the new tanks was delivered for firepower and mobility trials in early 1987. 

The tank’s new M68 105 mm cannon was only very slightly larger than the T-55’s original 100mm gun, however, and had few advantages with both being obsolete rifled guns rather than smoothbore weapons which was the modern standard. The lack of an autoloader and requirement for four crew meant the tank had 33% more crew than modern Russian and Chinese designs such as the T-72s used by neighbouring Sudan, Libya and Syria. The tank’s most notable improvement was to its fire control systems, with the incorporation of a laser range finder, new displays and superior sensors for night fishing, as well as a new communications system. 

The tank also received a new 908hp engine which provided a very high degree of parts commonality with the M60 to reduce the logistical burden on Egypt’s frontline units. Other improvements included some lunchers,  new air filtration system, added armour to the side skirts, a new ballistic computer and turret stabilisation system, and new road wheels from the American M48 tank.

Overall the Ramses II was far from an impressive tank, and was much less capable than other cheaper T-55 upgrades packages developed in the USSR and elsewhere such as the T-55AAMV-1. 

Egypt acquired an estimated 400-500 of the vehicles, but continues to operate the original T-55 alongside them. The program had significant political motivations behind it - namely to standardise armaments to use Western fire controls, spare parts and ammunition across the Egyptian Army. 

The Egyptian Military would shift sharply away from this direction after 2013, however, when it overthrew the country’s Western-aligned government and began to rely more heavily on armaments from Russia in particular. With Egypt moving to produce 500 or more T-90MS tanks under license, which are the most capable Russian tanks ever exported, the possibility that the T-55 and Ramses II will be retired in the coming years remains considerable. 

Post a Comment

If you have any doubt comment me.

Previous Post Next Post