Soviet averages Tanks T-55s were delivered to many foreign countries, and some of them eventually developed their own options for the modernization of such equipment. A very interesting project was created in Iraq in the late eighties, its task was to increase the level of protection. This version of the T-55 gained fame under the names Al Faw and Enigma.
Unfortunately accurate история The Enigma project is still unknown. Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein was a closed state and was in no hurry to disclose all the data on its military equipment. Nevertheless, various sources are known from various sources, which make it possible to make an overall picture.
The appearance of the Al Faw project (the alleged Iraqi name) can be considered one of the consequences of the Iran-Iraq war. During the conflict, it turned out that the existing medium tanks cannot effectively counter modern anti-tank weapons. A radical renewal of the fleet of armored vehicles was required.
The first demonstration of the Type 69 tank with an Al Faw kit. Photo Tanks-encyclopedia.com
Own production of tanks was absent, and its launch was not possible. The purchase of new tanks abroad was ruled out due to a weakened economy. The only way out was the modernization of cash machines on their own. Using certain solutions, it was possible to increase some characteristics of armored vehicles and thereby improve its combat capabilities.
The basis of the Iraqi armored forces was the T-55 medium tank and its production options in several countries. Initially, such equipment was purchased from the ATS states, then the supply of Chinese copies began. By the end of the eighties, the army had a mixed fleet of 2,5-3 thousand tanks of different models. It was the T-55 and its derivatives that were to undergo modernization.
Features of the project
Probably, design work began at the final stage of the Iran-Iraq war. The project immediately faced serious difficulties: the T-55 is obsolete and needed to be replaced or updated with all the main systems. However, the replacement of weapons or fire control systems was impossible, and updating the power unit was extremely difficult. As a result, it was decided to do only by strengthening the reservation of the frontal and side projections.
The full face of the serial Enigma. Figure Tanks-encyclopedia.com
The regular homogeneous armor of the hull and turret was supplemented by overhead combined protection units. Each such block was a box of 5 mm steel with a special filling. The block contained 5-6 bags of 15 mm aluminum sheet, 4 mm steel sheet and 5 mm rubber sheet. Between the packages there were voids 20-25 mm wide. The blocks could have a different shape corresponding to the installation site.
Larger overhead blocks were installed on the upper frontal part of the body; they were distinguished by the presence of rectangular cutouts for towing hooks. A pair of smaller blocks were placed on the fenders. Eight blocks of various shapes and sizes were assembled into a screen covering the front half of the side and chassis. The rest of the sides and feed did not have additional protection.
The forehead and cheekbones of the tower received eight patch blocks, four to the right and left of the gun. Tower blocks differed in beveled shape and formed a kind of skirt that increased the projection of the dome. The installation of additional armor on the forehead of the tower led to a change in balance and threatened to jam the shoulder strap. For this reason, brackets with a rectangular counterweight block appeared at the stern.
Enigma Trophy Tank at the Bovingt Tank Museum. Elements of strengthening the frontal projection are clearly visible. Wikimedia Commons Photos
It is believed that a set of additional armor was supposed to protect the tanks from old and modern means of destruction. Combined armor on top of the regular homogeneous allowed to count on protection against cumulative or sub-caliber armor-piercing shells of tank guns. Also, some sources mention that the Al Faw tank was able to withstand the hit of an unidentified MILAN missile. Early versions of this ATGM could penetrate 350-800 mm of homogeneous armor.
The protection of the tank was improved at the cost of a noticeable increase in the combat 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 tank grew to 41 tons, and the specific power fell from 16,1 to 14,1 hp, which led to some reduction in mobility and patency.
Mysteries of Production
In 1989, a tank with the Al Faw kit was shown for the first time at a military exhibition in Baghdad. It is curious that the T-55 was not used as a prototype, but its Chinese modernization, Type 69-II. The exhibition tank received additional blocks of armor, but did not have a counterweight on the tower. This unit appeared a little later, probably according to the test results.
According to a common version, the serial modernization of cash tanks started in the late eighties and lasted just a couple of years - in fact, between the two wars. Volumes of production are unknown. According to various estimates, Iraq managed to refine at least five tanks. The upper limit of their numbers is estimated from eight units to several tens.
Subsequently, the study of wrecked or captured tanks showed 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 were adjusted to the installation site. Interchangeability and maintainability left much to be desired.
The frontal block of the tower is raised, its internal structure is visible. Wikimedia Commons Photos
There is a version according to which a few tanks with improved protection were distributed between different units and used as commander tanks. This explains the fact that Al Faw subsequently worked in the same battle formations with other tanks of the T-55 family.
Tanks in battle
Al Faw first took part in the fighting at the end of January 1991 during the Battle of Khafji. In the attack on the territory of Saudi Arabia participated approx. 100 Iraqi tanks, including a number of cars with enhanced reservation. The military of the UN International Coalition had not previously encountered such a technique, which is why it was given the nickname Enigma ("Riddle" or "Secret"). It was under this name that Iraqi tanks became widely known in the world.
During the battles at Khafji, the Iraqi army lost 30 tanks of various types. The coalition was given the opportunity to study several of the crippled Enigms and draw conclusions. It turned out that the patch armor can protect the tank from being defeated by various anti-tank weapons. However, a missile hit could disrupt the block from its place. In addition, one of the upgraded tanks had a hole in the gun’s area - an enemy shell fell into the gap between the additional protection units.
Subsequently, Al Faw / Enigma tanks were repeatedly used in the new Gulf War battles, but their operation was not mass due to the limited number. The technical and organizational superiority of the enemy led to well-known results. T-55 and Enigma constantly suffered losses; part of the equipment in one state or another has become trophies.
In general, the Iraqi project, known as Al Faw or Enigma, cannot be considered the best option for modernization of the T-55 medium tank. Due to a number of objective limitations, the project affected only one aspect of the combat vehicle, and its practical results were far from ideal.
As the events of the Gulf War showed, the Enigma armored tank really differed from the base T-55, Type 59, or Type 69 for the better in terms of resistance to anti-tank weapons. However, for the rest it was almost the same machine with the same firepower and deteriorating mobility. By the sum of the characteristics, the modernized T-55 lost to almost all of the enemy’s tanks.
T-55 Enigma at the Aberdeen Museum, USA. Photo Tanks-encyclopedia.com
From the point of view of the coalition forces, the basic tanks and the upgraded Enigma were almost the same, and their defeat was a "matter of technology." All this led to well-known results for both tanks and their operators.
According to known data, at least 4-5 T-55 and “Type 59/69” tanks with additional reservation packages have been preserved. Now they are in museums in the USA, Great Britain and other countries. All these machines were taken as trophies during the events of 1991. In 2003, such trophies were absent, which may indicate a cessation of production in the early nineties.
Most of the information about the Enigma / Al Faw project is still a mystery and may never be known. However, even the available information allows us to draw important conclusions. The Iraqi project has once again confirmed that the T-55 can be modernized in various ways and get very interesting results. However, it was also shown that the modernization of technology should be comprehensive. Strengthening the armor minimally helped the Enigmas in battles and actually did not affect the course of hostilities.