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T-55 ENIGMA


Martinnfb

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From the 1970s through the 1980s, Iraq acquired a large number of T-55s from various nations. These vehicles were already showing signs of obsolescence by the 1980s, however, and so were modified for continued use. “Enigma” was not an official Iraqi designation for the variant but rather a term used by Coalition forces in the Gulf War. The T-55 Enigma can be identified by the boxes of simple composite armor bolted to the turret and to the front and sides of the hull.

The Enigma appears to be little more than a T-55 with a crude armor upgrade. Essentially, large armor boxes have been fitted to the turret and front and sides of the hull. These are held in place mostly by bolts and brackets. These armor boxes are composite armor – inside the steel boxes are four plates of steel and rubber which are spaced apart by a few centimeters, although at least two captured Engimas did not use rubber sheeting.
It seems likely that the idea was to try to create an armor upgrade that can resist HEAT shells (High Explosive Anti Tank) and ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles). This was no doubt a lesson hard learned in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), in which both sides used missiles such as the BGM-71 TOW, AGM 65 Maverick, and similar missiles in an anti-tank role to devastating effect. Post-capture testing by Coalition forces has also proven that the armor is resistant to HESH (High Explosive Squash Head) shells.

The design history of Enigma is unknown, but some details can be worked out from the context.
The first Enigma was actually based on a 
Type 69-II and was presented at the Baghdad Arms Fair in 1989, but this does not mark the start of the project. The start of the project is likely to be closer to the later Iran-Iraq War.
The actual production run of the Enigmas has been narrowed down to between 1988 and 1990. This is because Enigmas were first encountered in First Gulf War at the Battle of Khafji (29th January – 2nd February, 1991), and because the first Enigma package (the Type 69-II at the Baghdad Arms Fair was possibly even a prototype) was first seen in 1989. Assuming this to be true, it can generally be assumed that the project started, at earliest, towards the end of the Iran-Iraq War. Given that Enigmas were encountered in January 1991, this only gives an approximate three-year window for the conversions to have taken place – 1988-1990.
Of course, it is also possible that the Type 69-II was not a prototype as such, but a demonstrator tank using the most modern hull available to show off to visitors.
The reasons as to why the Enigmas were created seems fairly obvious. As mentioned earlier, it can be generally assumed that the conversion was a means of stopping modern missiles, but with a very small budget. Around this time, many cheap and crude conversions were made by Iraq. These include, but are not limited to, the T-55QM2 (which was actually a Type 69-II with a T-72’s 125mm smoothbore gun, and apparently a prototype only), the 
T-55/130 (a one-off crude SPG using a 130mm field gun based on a T-55 chassis), T-55/160 (a small number, estimated 18, of self-propelled mortar carriers on the T-54/55 chassis mounting a 160mm mortar), and the OT-62 Cascavel (an OT-62 with an EE-9 Cascavel turret mounted, also likely a one-off).
These vehicles (and some other much more obscure conversions) were likely built in anticipation of combat with a markedly technologically superior force. However, it is also possible that they were made as a cheap and quick means of rebuilding Iraq’s armored forces. Many Iraqi tanks were knocked out in the Iran-Iraq War and needed replacing. Iraqi arms production at this time was believed to be limited to local workshops and small-scale factories, which produced conversions such as the T-55 Enigma, assembled cheap tanks such as the 
Asad Babil, and made copies of Soviet and Chinese field guns.
Iraq’s economy was devastated by the Iran-Iraq War, partly from buying so many foreign arms, but also from the fact that the country had been in a devastating war for eight years, with high casualties.
Importing foreign arms was hardly a likely solution, either. Iraq was in serious debt to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia following the Iran-Iraq War. Demands for the debts to be forgiven were denied, and this would be a factor that led to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The invasion of Kuwait prompted the adoption of United Nations Security Resolution 661, which led to serious economic sanctions on Iraq, including the prohibition of arms deals to Iraq, which had effectively propped up the Iraqi army during the Iran-Iraq War.
Given the context, it seems more than likely that the Enigmas existed as the absolute best that the Iraqis could produce to bring their AFVs closer to a modern standard.

 

 

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Thanks for the information Martin. I knew some about these conversions, but how these armor boxes were constructed internally is news to me. I built the Tamiya kit a long time ago, using Legend resin upgrades and Voyager PE.

If it's not the place to show the kit here, let me know and I edit the pic away.

P1130552.thumb.JPG.a070310b273ab510addd0a5b780edc0f.JPG

Cheers Rob

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(Non-explosive reactive armor) enclosed in steel boxes, this composite armor named unofficially as "Haji". Every NERA layer consists of 3 sublayes: a 10mm thick aluminium plate, a 4mm thick natural rubber (as reactive element) then a 4.7mm thick high hardness steel plate

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