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History of the Tiran in IDF service

The T54 was designed during the mid to late 1940s. First production models with an early pattern turret were started rolling off assembly lines in 1949. the new tank would incorperate the D-10 100mm gun originally intended for a SU anti tank vehicle similiar to the SU-85. This gun specifically and the T-54 in general would send the western allies scrambling for a comparible weapon during the early part of the 1950s culminating in the adoption of the British L68 105 mm rifled main gun as the NATO standard.

The T-54 would recieve numerous upgrades during the early 1950s. some of which included amin gun stabilization, night fighting equipment and a fume extractor at the end of the barrel. The T54 would be licenced produced in many warsaw pact countries as well as in China under the T-59 designation. The next step in the evolution was the advent of the T-55 series. Although very similiar to the T-54, The T55 had numerous improvements over the T-54 series. The most notable difference between the two was the deletion of the ventilator dome in front of the loader. There were also more important shanges in automotive ability as well as an eventual laser range finder.

The next step in soviet tank evolution was the T-62. although similar in general appearence to the earlier T-54/55 series, the T62 was a very different tank. The turret on the T-62 has a more balistic form and is a single peice casting. main armament is a 115 mm main gun. the engine deck also has minor changes as well from the T-55 series. The Hull of the T-62 is longer and wider than the t-55. Two quick ways to Identify a T62 from a T-55 is the location of the fume extractor on the barrel. on the T-62 it is about a third down from the point , on the T-55 it is literally at point of the barrel. the second way is the spacing of the road wheels. where the T55 has a space between the first and second road wheels the T-62 has a space between the third and fourtha as well as between fourth and fifth.

The IDF Tiran

The is the name given to this series of vehicle in the IDF. Although there is some debate as to its origin, It most likely comes from the primary cause of the Six Day war, which was the closing of the Straights of Tiran. For certain however the designation Ti-67 is a Janes or other printing house fantasy or a miscopy that became its nickname. The First Tirans came into IDF hands during the Six Day War. These were mostly late model T-54s as distiguished by the roof top ventilator although some T-55s were captured as well. While exact numbers are not known, enough were captured to arm at least 3 battalions during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Following the Yom Kippur war even more t54/55s were captured as well as the latest T-62s. Again while exact numbers are not known, it wouldn't be far fetched to say enough vehicles were captured to equip a number of brigades.

Acccording to IDF designations there are three Tirans, Tiran4, 5, and 6. Four for theT-54, five for the T-55 and Six for the T-62. While there have numerous updates and modifications of the Tirans I have been unable to find any sub designations for them. or rather any IDF designationtions media ones abound. The IDF also made use of a number of support vehicle based on the T-55 chassis such as bridgelayers and engineer vehicles. To the best of my knowledge these retained their Identification numbers and few modifications other than radio equipment were made to the vehicles.

Like most other tools the IDF began an almost immediate improvement project to modify and upgrade the captured vehicles. Some vehicles are seen with early straight barrel 100mm guns and only two water cans added to the rear of theturret. By 1973 the 100mmm gun is repalced by the standard 105mm found on western tanks, now built under license in Israel. This was possibly the hardest modification as it entailed flipping the Breach so it could be loaded from the right side.extra antenna mounts were added . By 1973 only the rear stowage basket, the affore mentioned 105mm modification. 2 watercan holders were placed behind the loader,along with a small storage box. the vehicles seen were armed with one .30 cal. crew served weapon mounted sectraly on the turret top.

The hard lessons learned during the Yom kippur war brought about alot of doctrinal cnages in the IDF, as well as physical changes to it armour fleet. By the late 70s early 80s. The changes no seen in the Blast and Legendupdate sets were in place. By the end of the 80s the main battle tank version of the T55 series were withdrawn friom service. T54/55 series hulls however were modified into APCs using the latest modular armour technology. This gave mechnized infantry the same protection on the battlefield as any tank enhancing crew survivability.

Israel has had so much experience with Soviet armour they now sell upgrade packages to almost all the former Soviet client states. Isreali test beds have included blazer packages, Merkava style turret basket and Urdn style cupolas. While the T54/55/62 series is concidered obsolete in the european arena, they still soldier on in many third world countries. Israeli influence can clearly be seen in communist China's up graded armour fleet. The T54/55 definitely has made a place for itself in armour history, along with tanks like the Sherman, Centurion and Patton.

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IDF designations


Where as in the case of the T54/55/62 series IDF designations are straight forward, being Tiran 4 for the T-54, Tiran 5 for the T55 and Tiran 6 for th eT-62. We will take a little closer look at the modifications made over time to the base vehicles. The table below is based on photos from 1967 to the late 80s. Unlike other tanks in the IDF no MK numbers were given to any particular upgrade. As mentioned it wasn't uncommon for different levels of modifications being seen operating in ht esame time period. As usual if you have somthing to add please do NO ONE has all the answers.

Click on thumbnails for larger photos.

Standard designation IDF designation Modification notes Photo
T-54 Tiran 4 This is possibly one of the earliest modified types. Note new fenders, rear opening loaders hatch and antenna mount in front of TC similar to the one at APG. these vehicles alos have their original lights. early tiran4
  Tiran 4 this is the reverse veiw of a similar vehicle. Items to note are the twin gas cans, locations of antennas, rear opening loaders hatch and early style rounded rear stowage bin. vehicle also has .30 cal in MG ring on loaders hatch. this type of vehicle would also have two gas cans on front fenders. Some vehicles of this type still had manufactured tie downs and a '+'sign marking which more closely resembled an inverted 'T' early tiran4 rear
  Tiran 4 This is one of the more common pictures and depicts a upgraded T-54 just before the Yom Kippur war. the biggest change from the previous type is the 105mm ISraeli produced main gun.other additions are a newer type antenna mount infront of TC, TC spotlight with red filter lense on left just below TC cupola, sherman style aiming device in front of TC position, fire extinguisher left side infront of spot light, US style head lamps and centraly located .30 cal. machine gun.Also note blue bridge weight circle with res quartered ring around it, weight marking here would be 37. Also of note is the upturned engine exaust not seen on any in "action" vehicles. late tiran 4 left front
  Tiran 4 this is a clear shot of the left side of a similar vehicle to the previous one only during the Yom Kippur this picture the location of the signal flag holders, uzi clip for the TC and some crew stowage. A yellow air Identification flag/panel is draped over the front of the turret. Also visible is the mounted box to rear of the tc hatch and to the right of the added antenna arm. also of note is the oil can stowage box on the leftrear fender. 73 t54 left side thumb
  Tiran 4 this last photo of a destroyed tank gives us a relatively clear picture of the rear turret and hull layouts.On the rear of the turret starting from the left you have new antenna mount on extended arm, box likely for TC equipment, one gas can mount and another antenna mount. This two antenna system would seem to become the standard. The vehicle in the previous pic may be a command vehicle as it has a antenna in the mount just in front and left of the TC. also of note this vehicle also has the rear opening loaders hatch and rounded rear stowage basket..
T-55 Tiran 5 This photo of a cross suez raid during the war of attrition (1967-70) is of an number of slightly modified T-55s. This can be seen from the newer 100mm main gun with fume extractor and the fact none of the turrets sport the roof ventilator. The Tanks seem to be painted in the very light tan of the Egyptian army.This vehicle has the new IDF fenders but with out the rubber sections. note that all th ecovers are off all IR lamps and sites.
  Tiran 5 Here is a rear view of the above tanks. Note the rounded type rear stowage bin rear fenders with rubber sections painted color of tank, centraly located .30 Mg and original soviet box layout on fenders no IDF oil storage box.also note even gas cans are painted base vehicle color and dicoloration of barrel due to use.

tiran 5


This is a somewhat hard vehicle to pinpoint a time period for.While we know some Tirans still had their 100 mm guns in 73, no other vehicle I've seen has latter type turret storage boxes. This particular vehicle is missing the rear hull storage box and has the forward opening loaders hatch. Also this vehicle has the later 100mm gun with fume extractor on the barrel likely making it a T-55, somthing also not seen in photos of the Yom Kippur war. Missing as well are the articulated mount for a loaders .30cal seen on late 70s variants. CAN ANYONE HELP??
  Tiran 5 The next 4 photos come from a Tank MAgazine issue and depict a late variant with all the modifications and additions. This picture of the left side clearly shows the movement of the TC's box and a gas cans movement to the left side of hull. Of note is the TC's box being painted black with tank number painted on it. this tank also has the latter style squared off rear stowage box. note the .50 cal above the main gun and the rubber extensions to the rear fenders.
  Tiran 5 This photo gives the location for the right side platoon level markings. of note are the extra gas cans on rear stowage box as well as the first aid box. Located on the right rear fender is a US style rear telephone.lastly is the addition of a swing arm mount for the .30 cal at the loaders hatch.
  Tiran 5 Anice front view of a late modified tank. Notice the location of the chevron marks on the turret.On the front glacis, behind the splash screen is the new m60 style lights protected with a plate when not in use and a folded stretcher to the left( vehicle left), also take note of a 'step' bolted to the left most attachement point on the vehicles nose. Markings on right fender are platoon markings in white on black backround.. Markings on left fender are possibly battallion and are white on red backround. The Tiran is the only vehicle I know with red backed unit markings.
  Tiran 5 A very nice clear shot of the rear of a late version Tiran 5. Of note is the extra two gas cans on the rear of stowage box. platoon and unit markings are seen in this photo very clearly. also of not is the legnth of the rubber added to the fenders.
  samovar? While I'm not sure of this vehicles exact designation we can see some interesting changes from th eprevious vehicles. This tank has an upgraded engine, thermal sleeve on main gun, extra radio antena right side of turret , armour block on glacis plate, mounts for 10 round smoke discharger and side skirts.
  Samovar This side view of similar vehicle to the one above is interesting in that the new veicle seems to have both rear and side turret storage bins removed replaced with fender storage. Although there seems to be a somewhat smaller turret basket possibly to do with access to new engine deck. Clearly seen here are th elarge air cleaner boxes.
  Samovar final turret This is a picture of the final test turret, it has a basket added to the left side of the turret, a magach style TC cupola. enlarged sight box , thermal sleeve on the main gun. out of site to the rear is a Merkava 1/2 turret basket. From these photos its hard to see where or how the TC .30 cal would be mounted

Tiran 5 Blazer test bed

These next two photos depict a test set up of Blazer armour blocks on a Tiran. from this photo we can see the deletion of the TC's storage box and th emovement of the left side gas can to th eleft rear of the turret stowage basket.
  Tiran 5 Blazer test bed As see in both photos angled Blazer blocks are installed in front of fender gas tanks to give them at least some protection. Also note attachment points for 10 round smoke grenade units. as well as stretcher mount on top of front Blazer.
Czech T-55 ARV ???? This vehicle is the Czechoslovakian version of the soviet T-54-T ARV. It is further modified by the IDF with a pintle for a .30 cal in front of the TC hatch, a welding/burning setup on right side , IDF style storage boxes, antenna mounts and misc. other additions
Czech MT-55   This is a Czech built scissors bridge initialy meant to replace the soviet Mt-34 according to Janes. A small number of these were captured and used by the IDF with some small modifications, one of which is the extended antenna boom visible in the photo.

As with the AVLB type above nimvbers of utility types were captured as well. This is the ammunition carrier version others included a trench digger as can be seen at Latrun

T-62 Tiran 6 This is a series of photos fromm Tank magazine only this time of a Tiran 6 or T62 . This photo clearly shows a layout very similar to the TIran 5. The left antenna is on a much longer shelf the purpose of thich is unknown to me. Unclear at least in theis photo is whether or not a 60mm mortar is mounted.
  Tiran 6 Here is a view of the rear of a Tiran 6 from the left side. Similar to the Tiran 5 the rear Basket is squared and spaced away from the hull. Also note oil storage bin on left rear fender. Of interest in these pictures is the lack of the standard swivel mounts for crew served .30 cals. Instead this tank only has one located centrally. also note larger storage boxes on turret and location of second antenna mount no extended far off turret.
  Tiran 6 This shot of the right side of the vehicle clearly shows the differnt layout of hte road wheels on the T62 vs. the T54/55. notice the IR spotlight, .50 cal over maingun and unmodified front fenders.

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Title Reference Type/location Summary Vehicle
Tamiya T-55A reviewed
FineScale Modeler Magazine May 2003 Review article of new T-55 kit from Tamiya T-55
T-54/T-55 Main Battle Tanks 1944–2004
Osprey Publications, New Vangaurd # 102 Covers history and developement of series, doesn't go in depth in differences between Pact manufacturing T-54/55
T-55/55A Pt.2
Rossa Graph
N/A info T55/55a
IDF Tiran T-54/T-55/62
Verlinden Publications War Machines #10

A photo walk around by the curator of Latun Michael Mass covers T54/55, 55dozer and T62 in IDF service

Building an Israeli Tiran 6 IDF modelling site A build article by Richard Howden Tiran 6

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