Soviet medium tanks T-55 were exported to many foreign countries and some of them eventually developed their own versions of modernization of such equipment. A very interesting project was created in Iraq in the late eighties, its goal was to increase the level of protection. This version of the T-55 was known under the names of Al Faw and Enigma.
Unfortunately, the exact history of the project “Enigma” is still unknown. Iraq during the reign Saddam Hussein was a closed state and was in no hurry to disclose all information about their military technology. However, from different sources there are various information that helps to understand the big picture.
The appearance of the project Al Faw (estimated Iraqi name) can be considered as one of the consequences of the Iran-Iraq war. During the conflict it became clear that the existing medium tanks can not effectively resist modern anti-tank weapons. Needed radical updating of Park of vehicles.
The first demonstration of the tank “Type 69” with a set of Al Faw. Photo Tanks-encyclopedia.com
Own production of tanks was missing, and its launch was not possible. Buy new tanks abroad was excluded because of a weakened economy. The only solution was upgrading cash machines on their own. Using those or other decisions, it was possible to improve some characteristics of the armored vehicles and thus to improve its combat capabilities.
The backbone of the armored forces of Iraq was a medium tank T-55 and its variants production in several countries. Originally this technique was bought from the States OVD, and then began to supply the Chinese copies. By the end of the eighties the army had a mixed fleet of 2.5-3 thousand different models of tanks. That T-55 and its derivatives were due to modernization.
Probably work on the project commenced in the final phase of the Iran-Iraq war. The project immediately faced a serious difficulty: the T-55 is obsolete and needed replacement or upgrading of all major systems. However, the replacement of weapons or fire-control systems were impossible, and the power block was characterized by extreme complexity. In the end it was decided to make do with an increasing reservation of the frontal and side projections.
Full image serial “Enigma”. Figure Tanks-encyclopedia.com
Regular homogeneous armor hull and turret added patch blocks combined protection. Each block consisted of a box of 5-mm steel with a special filling. The unit had a capacity of 5-6 packs of 15-mm aluminum sheet, 4 mm sheet steel and 5-mm rubber layer. Between packages remained void of a width of 20-25 mm. Blocks could have a different shape corresponding to the installation place.
Larger patch blocks were installed on the upper front part of the body; they are distinguished by the presence of rectangular cut-outs for the tow hooks. A couple of the smaller blocks were placed on the shelves only. Eight blocks of different shapes and sizes gathered in a screen covering the front half of the Board and the chassis. The remaining part of the sides and stern for additional protection had not.
The forehead and cheekbones of the tower has got eight patch blocks, four on the right and left of the gun. Tower blocks have different sloped shape, and formed a kind of skirt, increasing the projection of the dome. Installation of additional armor on the forehead of the tower led to a change in balancing and threatened by jamming of the ring. For this reason, appeared on the stern brackets with a rectangular block counterweight.
Enigma trophy tank in the Tank Museum, Bovington. Visible elements gain front projection. Photo Wikimedia Commons
It is believed that the extra set of armor was to protect the tanks from the old and modern means of destruction. Composite armor on top of regular homogeneous can count on the protection against shaped-charge or subcaliber armor-piercing shells and tank guns. Also some sources mention that the tank is Al Faw was able to withstand a hit by a rocket MILAN unidentified modification. Early versions of the ATGM could penetrate 350-800 mm homogeneous armor.
The protection of the tank were able to improve the price of a considerable increase in the fighting mass. A set of blocks for the hull and turret weighed more than 4 tons as a result, the combat weight of the upgraded T-55 had grown to 41 t, and watt fell from 16.1 to 14.1 HP, which led to some reduction of mobility and permeability.
Riddles of production
In 1989, at a military exhibition in Baghdad, first showed the tank with a set of Al Faw. Curiously, as a test sample used is not T-55 and Chinese the modernization of the “Type 69-II”. Exhibition tank received additional armor blocks, but had no counterweight to the tower. This unit appeared a little later, probably in the test results.
Same car, rear view. On the turret is a counterweight. Photo Wikimedia Commons
In the common version, the serial modernisation of the cash tank started in the late eighties and lasted just a couple of years – in fact, between the two wars. Production volumes are unknown. According to various estimates, Iraq had time to finish at least five tanks. The upper limit of their size is estimated from eight units to a few dozen.
Subsequently, the study of wrecked or captured tanks demonstrated that the modernization was carried out at a low technological level. Standardization of production was minimal. Overhead blocks differed from each other and, probably, in each case tailored to the installation site. The interchangeability and maintainability is poor.
There is a version according to which the few tanks with better protection distributed between different units and were used as command vehicles. This explains the fact that Al Faw subsequently worked in the same combat formations with the other tanks family of T-55.
Tanks in battle
Al Faw took part in the fighting in late January 1991, during the battle of Khafji. In the attack on Saudi territory was attended by approx. 100 Iraqi tanks, including a certain number of cars with reinforced armor. The International military coalition, the UN have never met with such a technique, which she was given the nickname Enigma (the”Enigma” or “Mystery”). It was under this name Iraqi tanks has received world-wide recognition.
During the fighting at Khafji, the Iraqi army lost 30 tanks of different types. The coalition had the opportunity to study some of padded “A” and draw conclusions. It turned out that the armour can protect the tank from hitting those or other anti-tank weapons. However, the rocket hit could lead to failure of the block from his place. In addition, one of the modernized tanks had a hole in the center of the guns – enemy shell hit the slit between the blocks for additional protection.
Further tanks at Al Faw / Enigma repeatedly used in new battles of the Gulf War, but their operation was not massive due to the limited number. Technical and organizational superiority of the enemy led to a known outcome. T-55 “Enigma” constantly suffered losses; part of the equipment in a particular condition was the trophies.
In General, the Iraqi project, known as the Al Faw or Enigma, you can’t recognize the best way to upgrade the medium tank T-55. Due to a number of constraints, the project touched on only one aspect of the war machine, and its practical results were far from ideal.
As the events of the Gulf War, tank armor “Enigma” is really different from the basic T-55 “Type 59 or Type 69” for the better from the point of view of resistance to anti-drugs. But otherwise it was almost the same car with the same firepower and deteriorating mobility. The sum of the characteristics of the upgraded T-55 lost almost all the tanks of the enemy.
T-55 Enigma in the Museum of Aberdeen, USA. Photo Tanks-encyclopedia.com
From the point of view of the coalition forces tanks the basic configuration and upgraded Enigma almost did not differ from each other, and their defeat was a “matter of technique”. All this has led to well-known results for both tanks and their operators.
The known data, survived at least 4-5 tanks T-55 “Type 59/69” with packs of booking. Now they are in museums in the United States, Britain and other countries. All these machines were taken as trophies during the events of 1991 In 2003, such trophies are absent, which may indicate the cessation of production in the early nineties.
Most of the information about the Enigma project / Al Faw still remains a mystery and perhaps will never be known. However, even the available data allow us to draw important conclusions. The Iraqi project once again confirmed that T-55 can be upgraded in different ways and to very interesting results. However, it was also shown that upgrading technology needs to be integrated. The armor has minimally helped “A” in battles and has virtually no impact on the fighting.
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