Categories
WW2 German prototypes

Pz.Kpfw. Panther With 8.8 cm Gun Design Proposals

 

Nazi Germany (1944-45)
Medium tank – Project only

By 1944, the fate of the Großdeutsches Reich (English: ´Greater German Reich´), more colloquially known as Nazi Germany, started becoming clearer and it was certainly not in the favor of the Germans. However, the German nation was not ready to surrender. As a result, the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, one of the armored staples of the Wehrmacht at the time, continued to see development and upgrades until Germany’s eventual defeat in May of 1945.
While the 7.5cm Kw.K.42 L/70 main gun on the Pz.Kpfw. V Panther was a formidable tank gun capable of engaging any armored vehicle the Allies were able to field at the time, it was felt that the gun lacked enough future-proofing. In retrospect, these sentiments may not have been completely unjustified seeing as how vehicles developed by the Soviet Union near the end of the Second World War, like the T-54 and the IS-3, managed to be frontally resistant to the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 as mounted on the Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf.B. Other vehicles, such as the United States’ Heavy Tank T32 and Heavy Tank T32E1, could also be theoretically frontally resistant to most of Germany’s anti-tank arsenal.

This IS-2 Mod.1944 was tested against the 8.8cm PaK.43 L/71 and 7.5cm Kw.K.42 L/70. The upper hull was impervious to the 7.5cm at any ranges while the 8.8cm could defeat it at 450 m, making it a great example as to the difference that an 8.8cm could have made in a real combat situation. Source: warspot.ru
During mid to late 1944, the firm of Daimler-Benz was in the midst of developing the Schmalturm (English: ‘narrow turret’), a replacement for the regular Rheinmetall-designed Panther turret. The Schmalturm was supposed to be used on the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F. Considering that the Schmalturm was set to replace the original Rheinmetall turret and presumably Krupp thought that turret would be more accepting of a larger gun, Krupp designed an up-gunned version of the Schmalturm with a minimal amount of modifications. Krupp´s drawing Hln-130 (also referred to as Hln-B130), called ‘8.8cm L/71 I, Panther, schmal’ in at least one of the drawings, shows the Schmalturm mounting a modified version of the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 dating back to October 18, 1944.

Faded drawing of Hln-130 showing the internals of Krupp’s proposal from a top-down point of view with the turret facing left. (Source: Yuri Pasholok.)

Hln-130 modified to show major components of the turret. The red outline shows the armor structure, turret ring in orange, cupola in purple, bulbous turret extension in yellow, 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 gun breech in brown, and 8,8cm round in green.
The gun was able to be accommodated by creating an armored bulbous extension at the front of the turret. The trunnions on the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71´s gun carriage were moved 350 mm rearwards along the length of the gun, or the gun itself was moved 350mm forwards on the trunnions depending on how one wants to interpret it. The new gun mantlet was entirely different compared to the pot-shaped mantlet used on the regular Schmalturm. The installation of this new, larger gun compromised internal space and would mean that the loader would have a tough time loading rounds into the breech due to the limited amount of space between the gun breech and the rear of the turret. The round had to be loaded at an angle going upwards from the base of the turret, where there was enough room to squeeze in the round to the breech. One further modification was that the aperture for the main gun differed from the regular Schmalturm, although the apertures for the gunsight and machine gun were to remain identical.
Krupp´s Hln-E142 drawing, called ´Pz.Kpfw. “Panther” mit 8.8cm L/71 (Kw.K.43)´, dating back to November 17, 1944, shows the turret from drawing Hln-130 or the Schmalturm mounting the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 mounted onto a regular Panzerkampfwagen V Panther chassis. Here it is revealed that the gun has a depression angle of -8 and elevation angle of +15. The whole length of the vehicle with the turret and gun facing forward is 9,250 mm (9.25 m) with the length from the very front of the chassis to the end of the gun being 2,650 mm (2.65 m) and the vehicle (excluding gun) being 6,600 mm (6.60 m) long. On December 4, 1944, Wa Prüf 6, the department of the Waffenamt in charge of the development of armored and motorized vehicles, awarded Krupp a development contract.

Drawing Hln-E142 showing Krupp’s proposal for mounting an 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 onto a Pz.Kpfw. V Panther chassis. Source: Yuri Pasholok
Krupp was curious about Wa Prüf 6’s opinions on some of the aspects of the proposal and whether further development was worthy of advancing forward. Krupp asked Wa Prüf 6 these three following questions, which are taken verbatim from Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy.

  • Is there sufficient space for the loader?
  • Is the shape of the armored cover in the turret front plate acceptable?
  • Is relocating the center of balance about 200 mm forward plus a weight increase of 900 kg bearable?

For the first question, Krupp proposed mounting a wooden model of the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 onto a “Panther turret” in order to test the loading of the main gun. For the third question, Krupp proposed a test turret with the load being off-center. Wa Prüf 6’s exact responses are not known.
For the sake of brevity, Schmalturm mounting the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 on a Panzerkampfwagen V Panther will be referred to as ‘Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm’ although it is important to note that this is not an official name and used here solely for clarity.

Renditions of Krupp’s Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm proposal. Source: Doyle and Jentz

Daimler-Benz Joins In

A meeting by the Entwicklungskommission Panzer (English: ‘Tank Development Commission’) was held on January 23, 1945, in which Colonel Holzäuer from Wa Prüf 6 reported that development of the Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm project was to be completed by Daimler-Benz. In addition, a wooden model is said to have been completed. Earlier, on December 12, 1944, Daimler-Benz had displayed a wooden model of the vehicle, but it is not known if it was the same wooden model Colonel Holzäuer reported or an unknown previous iteration.
The turret ring of the Daimler-Benz Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm was to be enlarged by 100 mm, making it 1,750 mm compared to the turret ring on the regular Rheinmetall-designed turret on the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (Ausf.D to G), which was 1,650 mm. In doing so it gained a single tonne of weight. It also carried 56 rounds for the main gun.
On February 20, 1945, Krupp and Daimler-Benz representatives, Wa Prüf 6, and Wa Prüf 4 (a sister department to Wa Prüf 6 in charge of the development of artillery) held a meeting comparing both Daimler-Benz and Krupp’s Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm designs. One large difference was the gun itself. Daimler-Benz used a ‘8.8cm Kw.K.’ with the recoil cylinders installed underneath the gun and the turret ring widened by 100 mm, while Krupp opted to use, for the most part, a regular 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 with repositioned trunnions in a mostly unchanged Schmalturm turret as mentioned earlier. Wa Prüf 6 recognized that Krupp’s design was an expedient one meant to save time, however, their representatives did not much appreciate the idea.
In the end, it was proposed that Daimler-Benz and Krupp would work together on a project involving the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 with relocated trunnions and a larger turret ring with Daimler-Benz tackling the turret and Krupp the gun, unsurprisingly. This would have lead to the creation of a more complex project, but also combine the best elements of both designs and create additional space inside the turret.
On February 27, 1945, it was decided by Wa Prüf 6 that Daimler-Benz would continue development of the Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm and was slated to produce a soft steel prototype of the turret to the specifications listed. Some of the specifications listed below reflect Krupp’s Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm design which might indicate their involvement.

  • Needed to depress -8 degrees and elevate 15 degrees, which Krupp’s design was able to achieve.
  • The turret ring diameter was to be enlarged to 1,750 mm which was designed to give the loader more room to do his duties. Daimler-Benz’s previous design had already accomplished this.
  • The vehicle had to use only the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 as its main gun. The bore evacuation cylinder was to be placed in the middle of the recoil cylinders above the gun.
  • The trunnions were relocated and the muzzle brake was removed similar to Krupp’s Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm.
  • Interestingly, the trunnions were to be located on the “forward edge” of the turret front plate, implying that it lacked any turret front extension like Krupp’s design.
  • The turret front was to have a “smooth armor plate” with the apertures being as small as possible but including an aperture for the main gun, presumably with the coaxial machine gun included. It is not clear if the turret was to be equipped with a telescopic gunsight or a coaxial machine gun
  • Mounting the S.Z.F.2 or S.Z.F.3 stabilized gunsight was to be considered.
  • The turret traverse gear and the cupola were to stay the same as on the regular Schmalturm.
  • The design was to use either a 1.32 m or 1.65 m stereoscopic rangefinder. It should be noted that the regular Schmalturm could already mount a 1.32 m stereoscopic rangefinder.
  • The turret was to feature ready racks which would make ammunition easily accessible.
  • Emphasis was placed on a low turret height.
  • Lastly, the rear turret plate was to be sloped instead of “upright” as it was on the first wooden model of the Daimler-Benz Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm. The wooden model might be the one showed off on December 12, 1944, but this is just speculation.

Krupp’s Return and Wa Prüf 6’s Variant

Krupp appears to have returned to the project under the request of Colonel Crohn from Wa Prüf 6 on March 8, 1945. They were to design an “armor shell” of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F turret (otherwise known as a Schmalturm) mounting the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 by March 12, 1945. Speculatively, considering that they were given four days to design, it might be the case that they simply took their previous design, such as like Hln-130 or a similar iteration around the same time, and adapted it to the existing Schmalturm design of the time.
On March 14, 1945, during a discussion of further developing the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther in the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen, the Waffenamt is said to have done an excellent job designing the ‘8.8cm Kw.K. L/71’ onto a Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, with Wa Prüf 6 being thanked specifically. If the Waffenamt’s ‘8.8cm Panther’ was to be put into production, existing Panthers that received major overhauls would also be subject to mounting a turret with the 8.8cm. A ‘Versuchs-Panther’ or a prototype of the 8.8cm Panther was to be built out of soft steel and completed by early June. Mass production was to begin in the last quarter of 1945 if the “necessary support” was given.
This significantly improved vehicle with the new turret and increased firepower would weigh just one tonne more than the “current Panther”. Armor was to protect the rangefinder and it featured a stabilized gun sight “about the same as the Panther-Schmalturm”. Fifteen rounds were to be stored and be accessible in the turret and fifty to fifty-four more rounds were to be stored in the hull, meaning a total of 65 to 69 rounds could be carried.
Wa Prüf 6 was requested by the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen on March 14, 1945, to build a Versuchs-Panther mounting an 8.8cm Kw.K. L/71 based off the wooden model Daimler-Benz had shown off on December 12, 1944. The turret was to be made out of soft steel and the superstructure of the hull was to be modified in an unspecified way. Wa Prüf 6 was to complete the Versuchs-Panther quickly and display the vehicle on time.
Albert Speer, who was the Reich Minister of the Reichsministerium für Bewaffnung und Munition (English: ‘Reich Ministry of Armaments and Munitions’), requested on March 23, 1945, a display of a Panther armed with an 8.8cm Kw.K. gun, along with other weaponry, to be viewed by Adolf Hitler some time in mid-April. Hitler, however, was never able to see the vehicle as it was never built.
Daimler-Benz representatives were interrogated by the Allies after the Second World War had ended. They claimed that they had made plans to mount the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 onto a Schmalturm equipped with a stabilized gun sight with the project still being early in development. A wooden mockup of the project apparently existed up to June of 1945, three months after the German defeat, but after that it was lost to time.

Conclusion

The Panther-Schmalturm-8.8cm isn’t one homogenous project as it is sometimes depicted. It is a series of unrelated and related projects from various different firms and organizations. In the end, arming the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther with an 8.8cm L/71 in a Schmalturm became little more than a fantasy. The war was nearing its end when actual progress was made and such a turret would have made no difference to the outcome of the war. Krupp’s proposal though would have been the most feasible when compared to the design from Wa Prüf 6 and Daimler-Benz’, since it was simply a regular Schmalturm with the 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 stuffed inside. The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F was already placed into production and at least two mostly finished Schmalturms were made by the end of the war, one of which was captured and analyzed by the United States and the other captured and analyzed by the United Kingdom before ending up as a range target. However, there would have been issues with this design. Along with the bigger gun, the design was, in general, worse ergonomically for the crew and the cramped interior would have hampered the crews’ ability to carry out their tasks. There is no real surprise as to why Wa Prüf 6 was not fond of this design.
On the other hand, it is rather difficult to judge the Daimler-Benz or Wa Prüf 6 designs as very little is actually known. It appears, though, that the Daimler-Benz design would have required significant changes to an already existing design (Schmalturm) which would cause even further delays. In the case of Wa Prüf 6’s design, not only was the design of the turret changed, but existing Panthers would have to have their turret rings widened by 100 mm which would cause even more significant delays.
Despite the technical challenges of fitting an 8.8cm L/71 gun into a space smaller than that which had previously accommodated a 7.5cm gun, all designs managed to come up with workable solutions. Undoubtedly, had the final design for the compromise Schmalturm come to fruition, it would have made the new Panther a more powerful vehicle on the battlefield with a smaller silhouette, smaller profile, more firepower and improved protection, but at the expense of the crew ergonomics in the turret and their ability to carry out their tasks.

Sources

Jentz, T.L. 1995. Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy. 1st ed. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
Jentz, T.L. & Doyle, H.L. 2001. Panther Tracts No. 20-1: Paper Panzers.1st ed. Boyds, Maryland: Panzer Tracts

Specifications for Krupp’s 8.8cm Schmalturm turret

Crew 3 (commander, loader, and gunner)
Armament 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71
-8/+15 gun elevation
Armor Armor: Presumably identical to Schmalturm with the exception of the mantlet and bulbous turret extension
Turret front: 120 mm (20 degrees)
Turret sides and rear: 60 mm (25 degrees)
Roof: 40 mm (horizontally flat)
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index


Krupp’s proposal for mounting an 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 onto a Pz.Kpfw. V Panther chassis according to drawing Hln-E142. Illustration by Andrei “Octo10” Kirushkin. Funded by our Patreon campaign.

Categories
WW2 German Medium Tanks

Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F (Sd.Kfz.171)

Nazi Germany (1945)
Medium tank – Small number of unfinished hulls and turrets. At least one F/G hybrid.

Panther’s Final Form

As early as 1943, the Germans sought to design a new turret for the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (Sd.Kfz.171). The Rheinmetall-designed turret that the Panther was equipped with was considered to be an inefficient design with various flaws. Wa Prüf 6, a department of the Waffenamt tasked with designing and testing armored vehicles, presumably thought that Rheinmetall could redeem themselves by redesigning the new turret. Wa Prüf 6 required that the new turret was to have a smaller visible frontal area, elimination or reduction of the mantlet’s shot trap from the original Panther turret (which tended to deflect rounds into the hull), increase in armor protection, and internally mount a stereoscopic rangefinder, while weighing no more than the original Panther turret.
On March 1, 1943, Rheinmetall created conceptual turret design drawing, H-Sk 88517, otherwise known as the ‘Turm-Panther (schmale Blende)’ (English: ‘Turret-Panther (narrow mantlet)’) under these requirements. The stereoscopic rangefinder was able to be accommodated by creating a significant bulge at the top of the turret. In addition, a periscopic gun sight was considered over a standard telescopic gun sight. The frontal turret armor had a thickness of 120mm set at an angle of 12 degrees, a thickness of 60mm at the sides and rear set at an angle of 25 degrees, and a thickness of 40mm set at an angle of 17 and 7 degrees on the turret roof. With these changes in mind, everything else was to be the same as the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.A’s turret.
The schmale Blende seems to be some sort of adaption of Rheinmetall’s H-SKA 86176 otherwise known as ‘Turm Panther 2 (schmale Blendenausführung)’ (English: ‘Turret Panther 2 (narrow mantlet variant)’) which the drawing dates back to November 7, 1943. The turret served as one of several proposals for the Panzerkampfwagen Panther II. It lacked the triangular roof line which accommodated the rangefinder, the rangefinder itself, and the armored guard underneath the mantlet which was designed to prevent shot traps. It is unclear if the schmale Blende is a parallel development to schmale Blendenausführung or a way for Rheinmetall to salvage the design after the cancellation of the Panzerkampfwagen Panther II in May, 1944.

Drawings of Rheinmetall’s schmale Blende redesigned Panther turret. Source: Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy
Wa Prüf 6 was dissatisfied with Rheinmetall’s design for reasons unknown and, thus, in Spring of 1944, they handed the responsibility over to Daimler-Benz. Wa Prüf 6 gave a new set of requirements, most of which were the same as the original. The exceptions were exchanging the co-axial M.G.34 with the M.G.42, minimizing of the production cost, ability to be quickly converted into a Befehlswagen Panther (commander’s tank version of the Panther), and ability to use infrared night vision equipment.
Under these new specifications, the Schmalturm (English: ‘narrow turret’) was born. It did everything it was required to do and then some. It weighed less than the original Panther turret (from 7665 kg to 7565 kg) and made the area of the frontal armor smaller while not affecting the internal crew space. It also reduced the production time by about 30-40%. The new turret shared little to no relation to the original Panther turret, unlike its Rheinmetall predecessor.
It was then decided that the genesis of the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausführung F (Sd.Kfz.171) would be determined by mounting the Schmalturm on a slightly modified Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G hull.

Prototypes

Several Schmalturm prototypes, dubbed ‘Versuchs-Schmalturm’ (English: ‘experimental narrow turret’), are known to have been built for Wa Prüf 6. These were essentially experimental Schmalturm turrets on a Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G hull, effectively making them Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F prototypes.
The first Versuchs-Schmalturm, completed by August 20, 1944. It was mounted on Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G chassis number 120413, which was built by M.A.N. and was originally intended for combat. The chassis was instead used as a test bed. It featured a loader’s periscope on the turret roof which ended up being removed and the hole left from the installation was filled with a welded armor plug. A hole at the front of the turret was created for a telescopic gun sight, presumably a monocular version of the articulating T.Z.F.13 gun sight and an unspecified periscopic gun sight. ‘T.Z.F.’ stood for ‘Turmzielfernrohr’ (English: ‘turret gun sight’). The redesigned cupola had a hole to extend a T.S.R.1 observation periscope without opening the hatch.
Semple Tank undergoing trials
Front and side shot of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf G. mounting the first Versuchs-Schmalturm. Source: Panzer Tracts
The second Versuchs-Schmalturm was built by January 4, 1945 and also mounted on a Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G, chassis number 120413 (according to a different source), which might suggest that the same chassis was used for both Versuchs-Schmalturm turrets. The new turret featured a S.Z.F.1 stabilized periscopic gun sight, but no hole for a telescopic gun sight. The hull was also photographed with ‘Schürzen’ side skirts and with the rain and debris guard band on top of the mantlet omitted. The muzzle brake was most likely omitted on this iteration.

Front photograph of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G mounting the second Versuchs-Schmalturm. Source: Panzer Tracts

Vision

One of the defining features of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F was the inclusion of a rangefinder. The E.M.1.32 m stereoscopic rangefinder was under development by Zeiss of Jena, Germany. ‘E.M.’ is an acronym for Entfernungsmesser (English: ‘rangefinder’) and ‘1.32 m’ stood for the length of the rangefinder. It has a magnification of 15x and a field of view of four degrees. However, no example of this rangefinder would ever be built. Development would end in April of 1945 and mass production was meant to begin in July of 1945. In order to accommodate the rangefinder, it was located near the front top of the Schmalturm. Two spherical bulges were created to properly accommodate the piece of equipment on both upper front sides of the turret.
Initially, the monocular, articulated telescopic T.Z.F.13 was the intended gun sight for the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf F, developed by Leitz of Wetzlar, Germany. An aperture at the front of the turret would need to be created to accommodate the sight, a feature that the first Versuchs-Schmalturm possessed. The T.Z.F.13 had a selectable magnification of 2.5x and a field of view of 28 degrees and 6x with a field of view of 12 degrees. An order of 4208 T.Z.F.13 gun sights was placed from Leitz which only ended with the dismal production of two gun sights, one in October of 1944 and the other in January of 1945.

A general view of the binocular version of the T.Z.F.13 gun sight. Source: Walter J. Spielberger
It appears that the T.Z.F.13 and S.Z.F.1 gun sights were going to compliment each other with S.Z.F.1 acting as a supplement. However, the S.Z.F.1 ended up being chosen, seeing as a periscopic stabilized device was desired for series production of the Schmalturm turret. Ten trial series S.Z.F.1s were ordered from Leitz in 1944 which seemed to have resulted in the production of five examples from September to December, 1944. One thousand more production versions were ordered in January of 1945. Meanwhile, four S.Z.F.1b modified gun sights were produced in January and February 1945.
According to the President of the Panzer Kommission Stiele von Heydekampf, they became interested in stabilizing both guns and gun sights after the discovery of the Medium Tank, M3’s stabilizers during the North Africa Campaign. Heydekampf claimed that they had managed to build an experimental gun and gun sight stabilizers for the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther. However, he refused to give any additional details other than claim that the experiments were promising.
The optical parts of the S.Z.F.1 sight were built by Leitz of Weltzar, but the gyroscopic parts for vertically stabilizing the sight were provided by Fa. Kreiselgerate of Berlin.  Ernst Haas from the Berlin firm was credited as the inventor and designer. Haas claims that he invented the equipment prior to the Second World War and offered his patents to the American Sperry Gyroscope Company. The company offered him too little for his patents and thus Haas refused their offer. However, his claims contradict the claims of Ludwig Leitz, head of development at Leitz. A less refined sight similar to the S.Z.F.1 sight was found in the Leitz plant. Ludwig Leitz claims that the sight was captured on the Eastern Front. He also goes on to claims that the sight was being refined and copied by both Leitz and Kreiselgerate together.
The original precursor to the S.Z.F.1 sight lacked the ability to fire accurately while on the move. While the sight was stabilized in the vertical plane, the gun was not. This meant that one could easily use the sight for observation, but could not be used to accurately fire while the vehicle was moving. However, the inclusion of a “pre-ignition device”, as Haas called it, allowed it to fire with a degree of accuracy while the vehicle was moving. The “pre-ignition device” was, in reality, a gyroscopic rate-of-turn indicator which measured the rate of angular motion in the vertical plane. With this device, when the unstabilized gun and stabilized gun sight aligned at the right moment when moving, the gun would fire after the gunner has triggered the firing of the gun. There would thus be a delay until the gun and sight align. This effectively gave the tank the ability to fire accurately while driving albeit only when the inconsistent alignment occurred.
The S.Z.F.1 periscopic sight consists of the periscope, control box, and motor generator. The control box sits at a “comfortable” proximity to the gunner. It features switches for correcting the optical sighting axis by elevating or lowering it, for power supply, lighting, and firing, and for the “arresting device”. The sight had a magnification of 3x and 6x with “clean” observation up to 6000 m, elevation/depression of ±18, and the gyros rotated at 28000 RPM. The device consumed 120 watts on the direct current side.
The S.Z.F.1 was seen as a very rugged and sturdy design which “works without the least failure” even beyond the elevation of the sight because of the “good arrangements of the gyros”. Trials showed a mean value of 10 rounds which each deviated ±0.5 m from a target 1000 meters away, which corresponded with the angular value of 0.5 milliradians.
It is not confirmed if the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F would have had the ability to fire on the move. It is known that the S.Z.F.1 was intended for the vehicle and that the second Versuchs-Schmalturm also equipped with it. The information on the performance and characteristics is based on Ernst Haas claims albeit in great detail. Without solid documentary evidence, this information should be used cautiously. The documentation doesn’t explicitly mention the S.Z.F.1, but it does provide photographs of the S.Z.F.1 implying that is what is being referred to. Speculatively, it could be possible that the S.Z.F.1b was the variant with the pre-ignition device equipped which would allow it to fire on the move accurately while the S.Z.F.1 was the original precursor that did not have this ability. Both sights were known to have been built.


Top: general view of the S.Z.F.1 motor generator (left) and control box (right). Bottom: general view of the S.Z.F.1 periscopic gun sight. Source: Stabilized Optical Sight for German Tank Guns
The loader’s periscope from the previous Panther turrets was carried over to the first Versuchs-Schmalturm and production Schmalturm turrets. However, a design change omitting the loader’s periscope occurred after production of the Schmalturm turret commenced. The hole for the loader’s periscope was plugged by a welded armor plug.
Compared to the earlier Panther cupolas, the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F tank’s cast cupola was lower in height and, as a result, presented a smaller target. It featured seven slots for easily replaceable watertight and bullet resistant periscopes. A traversable ring was mounted internally at the top of the cupola, where a V-shaped rangefinder, scissor telescope, FG 1250 infrared night vision device (of which can be screwed on easily), and an anti-aircraft machine gun mount could be mounted. Internally, a cupola azimuth indicator was located near the bottom of the cupola. The azimuth indicator showed the commander and the gunner the relative position of the turret to the hull and consisted of a “clock dial drive”, comprised of ring connected via a gear train to the turret.

Protection

The Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F featured overall improved armor on the turret and even the hull (although to a lesser extent) compared to previous Panthers. The armor plates were made from E22 alloy. Armor plates that ranged from 16-30mm thick had a Brinell hardness of 309 to 353, 278-324 for 35-50mm plates, and 265-309 for 55-80mm plates. Armor plate thickness were allowed to deviate 0% to 5% from the intended specifications. The cast armor portions were made from alloy ‘B’ and had a Brinell hardness of 220 to 336. Brinell scale is a standardized method of characterizing the hardness of a certain material.

Drawing of a production series Schmalturm for the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F. Both the telescopic and periscopic gun sights are drawn. Source: Panzer Tracts
The frontal turret armor plate thickness consisted of 120mm at 20 degrees, 60mm on the sides and rear at 25 degrees, 40mm flat on the roof, and 150mm of cast armor on the ‘Saukopf’ (English: pig’s head) style mantlet. The hull’s armor was largely the same as the Ausf G, with the differences lying on the hull’s roof. With the hull’s armor being entirely made out of armor plating, the frontal upper glacis plate consisted of 80mm thick plate at 55 degrees, 50mm at 55 degrees for the frontal lower glacis, 50mm at 29 degrees for the upper side hull, 40mm vertically flat for the lower side hull, 40mm at 30 degrees at the rear, 40-25mm horizontally flat for the hull roof (compared to the Ausf G’s 40-16mm), 16mm horizontally flat on the engine deck, 16mm horizontally flat on the panniers (plate protecting the bottom of the hull superstructure overhang above the tracks), 25mm flat at the frontward belly, and 16mm horizontally flat at the rearward belly.

An alternative or replacement Schmalturm design dating back to September 30, 1944 from Daimler-Benz for the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F shows it with 100mm thick frontal armor, 50mm thick sides and rear, and 30mm thick turret roof. It also lacks a periscopic gun sight and has a telescopic gun sight. Source: Panzer Tracts
The Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F was equipped with a Nahverteidigungswaffe (English: close defense weapon). The Nahverteidigungswaffe consisted of a circular plate bolted down with a 92mm launch tube angled at 39 degrees. It primarily fired Schnellnebelkerze 39 (English: ‘quick smokescreen’) smoke candles for concealment.


Drawings of the Nahverteidigungswaffe as shown in Panther and Tiger II manuals. Source: custermen.net

The new ventilator’s position for the fighting compartment made it more economic in armor parts. The ventilator was now mounted on the right front of the turret reinforcement ring and the ventilator’s fan also saw use as an extractor of fumes from firing the gun. Greater efficiency was gained by swapping the flexible ducting from the previous Panthers with a thin metal tubing.

Firepower

The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F tank’s main armament consisted of the 7.5cm Kw.K.44/1 L/70 developed by Skodawerke of Pilsen, Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (English: ‘Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia’) (German-occupied Czechoslovakia), with the assistance of Krupp. The gun was essentially a 7.5cm Kw.K.42 L/70, but modified to be more compact by placing the buffer and recuperator below the gun instead of either side as on the 7.5cm Kw.K.42 L/70. The gun cradle was now welded and the air compressor set for the fume extractor was now replaced by an air pump cylinder by surrounding the recuperator with a single additional cylinder. The air pump cylinder activated once 420mm of recoil was reached. The muzzle brake was removed which caused the recoil force to increase from 12 to 18 tonnes, however, this omission was probably necessary to reach the 420mm of recoil. Few early 7.5cm Kw.K.44/1 L/70s were fitted with muzzle brakes and an example can be seen on the first Versuchs-Schmalturm. The Kw.K.44/1 weighed 1920 kg and had a muzzle kinetic energy of 285 tonnes.

Side shot of the 7.5cm Kw.K.44/1 L/70 with its mantlet. Source: Walter J. Spielberger
The 7.5cm Kw.K.44/2 L/70 was a further development of the 7.5cm Kw.K.44/1 L/70. Essentially, it was a Kw.K.44/1 with a mechanical rapid reload device weighing 3400 kg with the gun. The device consisted of a large structure to the right of the gun carriage which held 4 rounds This device, when activated by the recoil of the gun, would lift up a round onto a holder at the end of a pivoting arm. After the breech opened and ejected the spent casing, it stayed open and the holder would move downwards and a tension spring guide would insert the round into the breech. The breech would then close automatically which resulted in the release of pressure for the pivot arm spring which brought the holder back into a position to accept another round. When the gun fired the newly inserted round, the tension spring guide would reset and thus the process repeated. Three examples of the 7.5cm Kw.K.44/2 L/70 were built and sent to Unterlüß, Germany at the Rheinmetall-Borsig test range. The device gave the gun an impressive rate of fire of 40 rounds per minute albeit with only four rounds to fire. However, it would take a significant amount of space in the Schmalturm. Nevertheless, steps were taken to mount it in the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F.
All 82 rounds were stored in the hull, likely in the same fashion as the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G. carrying mostly Pzgr.39 (APCBC), Sprgr. (HE), and possibly a few Pzgr.40 (APCR) shells.
Due to the cancellation of production of the armored M.G.34, the M.G.42 was chosen as the replacement for the coaxial machine gun. A new mounting was designed in order to receive the M.G.42. The mounting was attached to the gun cradle and comprised of a front support with locking clamps, rear support, recoil spring, and a mechanism to adjust the gun. Two ammunition bags were positioned below the mounting. One for live ammunition and the other for spent casings.
On the rear turret plate, a pistol port was created in order to defend against enemy soldiers from climbing over the rear of the vehicle. In addition, the M.G.34 bow machine gun for the radio operator was replaced by a St.G.44.

Mobility and Maneuverability

Most if not all the automotives of the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F were the same as on the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.G.
The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F was propelled by a V12, watercooled, Maybach HL 230 P30 engine generating 600 hp @ 2500 rpm. The Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F had a combat weight of 45.5 tonnes which gave it a power-to-weight ratio of 13.2 horsepower per tonne. Coupled with a ZF A.K.7/200 transmission (located at the front), the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F could reach 3.4 km/h in the first gear, 6.8 km/h in the second gear, 10.9 km/h in the third gear, 17 km/h in the fourth gear, 24.6 km/h in the fifth gear, 34.7 km/h in the sixth gear, 45.8 km/h in the seventh gear, and 3.3 km/h in the reverse gear.
It had a maximum speed of 46 km/h, average road speed of 30-35 km/h, and a cross country speed of 20 km/h. It carried 700 liters of fuel which gave it a range of 200 km on road and 100 km on cross country.
The Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F was 8.86 m long (with gun), 6.866 m long (without gun), 3.42 m wide (with Schürzen, and 2.917 m tall. It had a ground pressure of 0.88 kg/cm^2, could climb slopes of 35 degrees, a ground clearance of 540mm, was able to ford depths of up to 1.9 m, could climb steps of up to 900mm, and cross trenches of up to 2.45 m wide. It also had a steering radius of 9.4 m and a steering ratio of 1.5.
The suspension consisted of 8 overlapping road wheels on each side with 860/100 rubber tires connected to torsion bars. The drive sprockets were located at the front and the idler wheels at the rear. Eighty-seven dry pin Kgs 64/660/150 track links were located on both sides. ‘Kgs’ is code used to describe the characteristics of the tracks. ‘K’ stands for ‘rapid tracks for vehicles’, ‘g’ stands for ‘cast steel all alloys’, and ‘s’ stands for ‘floating pins’. ‘64’ stands for the design of the track, ‘660’ stands for the width of the tracks in millimeters, and ‘150’ stands for the pitch of tracks in millimeters.


Illustration of the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F (Sd.Kfz.171).


Illustration of the Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.G (Sd.Kfz.171) mounting the first Versuchs-Schmalturm.


Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.A (Sd.Kfz.171) equipped with Rheinmetall’s schmale Blende.

These three illustrations are by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin, funded by our Patron Golum through our Patreon Campaign.


Maybach HL 230 P30 engine schematics.
The new turret traverse gear developed by Daimler-Benz of Berlin-Marienfelde, Germany dropped two differentials and the multiplate overload clutch from previous Panthers. This resulted in it being cheaper, lighter, and smaller.
The traverse gear was fixed in place to the turret ring and “driven from the main transmission shaft through a hydraulic motor”. The hydraulic motor developed by Böhringer GmbH produced 6 hp at 800-4200 rpm. Normal turret traverse and precise horizontal gun sight aiming were both done by the hydraulic motor. Accurate control of the turret traverse, instead of the gunner’s feet as on previous Panther variants, was now done by hand. In addition to the gunner, the commander was also able to directly manipulate the turret traverse because of a linkage to the hydraulic motor. However, the commander wasn’t able to precisely traverse the turret needed for good aiming of the gun. The maximum 360 degrees turret traverse time via hydraulic power was 30 seconds.
Traversing the turret by hand took four minutes for a full 360-degree traverse. One full turn of the handwheel equaled 0.405 degrees of turret traverse. If the tank were to tilt to one side, the loader had an auxiliary turret traverse handwheel to help the gunner traverse the turret.
Elevating the main gun and coaxial machine gun was also made lighter, cheaper, and more compact with the new elevation mechanism. The mechanism consisted of a screw and nut which were connected by universal joints from the turret turntable to one end and the other end of the gun cradle. Elevating the gun was done by a handwheel on the turret traverse gearbox casing which used a carden shaft and beveling gear to connect to the screw and nut mechanism. To dampen shocks from the movement of the vehicle, a ring spring was installed. The gun was able to elevate up to 20 degrees and depress down to 8 degrees. A full rotation of the hand wheel equated to 4 degrees of elevation.

Crew

The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F carried over the five-man crew, three in the turret and two in the hull. In the hull, the driver was seated on the left front and the right radio operator was located on the right next to the driver with the St.G.44 hull machine gun under his control. In the turret, the gunner sat to the right of the gun and the loader on the left. The commander was located behind the gunner.

Miscellaneous

The deep groove type turret ball race had the same internal diameter as the previous Panther turret. Additionally, instead of being separate as on previous Panthers, the inner race was integral with the traversing rack.
The turret basket was connected to the inner turret ball race which used a tubular frame to connect with the turret floor. The tubular frame carried the hydraulic turret traverse motor, gun elevating gear, and a compartment for spent cartridge casings. Removable and adjustable leather cushioned with “rubber hair filler” seats for the gunner and loader were mounted on upper left and upper longerons (longitudinal bar added to provide rigidity), respectively. 20 “belt sacks” on the longeron, a container for a spare M.G.42 barrel, two containers for breathing tubes, and a container for a spare periscope are located in the turret basket. The rest of the equipment was put away behind a guard on the turret reinforcement ring.
For communication between vehicles, the Fu 2 and Fu 5 intercoms were used. Other changes include modification of the driver’s periscope mount and new hatches for the driver and radio operator. In order to open the new hatches, the hatch would be raised slightly and “move to the side”, presumably as opposed to swiveling away as on previous Panther iterations.
A Befehlswagen Panther configuration could be easily achieved by personnel in the field. The FuG5 ultra-short wave radio set was mounted on the hull and the Fu 8 long range radio was mounted in the turret. An armored encasement besides the cupola located on top of the turret shields the insulator below the antenna for the Fu 8 radio.
There were two types of methods the upper front plate and side plate interlocked with each other on the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf F. The side hull plate interlocked with the front hull plate in two different methods. The side plate either locked with the front plate perpendicularly or horizontally.

Frontal portion of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F hull showing the two methods for the upper front plate and side plate can interlock. Source: Panzer Tracts
The rear turret escape hatch was made out of the leftovers from cutting the rear turret plate.

Production

Production of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F was to start in early 1945 and done by Krupp-Gruson in April, M.A.N. in April, Daimler-Benz in March, M.N.H. in May, and Nibelungenwerk in April. To Krupp-Gruson and Nibelungenwerk, the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F was to be their first Panthers produced while for M.A.N. production would have started with Panther number 2229, Daimler-Benz with Panther number 2621, and M.N.H. with Panther number 2303.
Semple Tank undergoing trials
Unfinished Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F hulls on a welding jig. Source: Panzer Tracts
The sought after production goal of all the German firms combined was 2,940 Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.Fs in 1945. Most of the firms were to share the production load about equally together with Krupp-Gruson and initially Nibelungenwerk doing the least, presumably due to their lack of experience in building Panthers.
Due to numerous delays and setbacks, the planned production schedule was never achieved. Krupp-Gruson was to build their first two Panthers in May and Nibelungenwerk was to build their first two Panthers in August.

The second, third, and fifth unfinished hulls are Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F hulls mixed in with Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G hulls. Source: Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy
According to M.A.N. representatives, M.A.N. was unable to finish any Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.Fs, although they claim that Daimler-Benz was able to finish a Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F chassis outfitted with a Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.G turret and “steel tire, rubber cushioned” road wheels. Even if the turret ring sizes were the same between the Ausf.G and Ausf F, significant changes were going to be needed in order to mount an Ausf.G turret on an Ausf.F hull as the turret race and turret traverse gear were incompatible.
It seems that only a few Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf F. hulls were completed with a couple of mostly finished Schmalturm turrets (although they lacked some essential equipment such as the gun sights and range finder). Some Schmalturm examples were captured and sent to the United States, specifically the Aberdeen Proving Ground and the United Kingdom for analyzation.

A Schmalturm, missing its gun, that was sent to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in the United States. Take note that the turret lacks a periscopic gun sight, but has a hole for a telescopic gun sight perhaps suggesting that this Schmalturm is an early example. Source: Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy
Semple Tank undergoing trials
Two front photographs of a production Schmalturm sent to the United Kingdom. Take note that it lacks a hole for a telescopic gun sight, but has an armored guard for the periscopic gun sight suggesting that this Schmalturm was produced later. Also take notice of the rings on both sides of the turret for mounting camouflage and the turret basket present on the left image. Source: Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy

Service

The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F, in its completed state, never saw service as the turrets were never completed. If a few Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf F. managed to be completed by 20-23 of April 1945, they would have immediately seen combat defending Berlin with the II Abteilung/Panzer Regiment 2 (2nd battalion of the 2nd Panzer Regiment). However, at least one Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F mounting a Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf G. turret was seen defending Berlin in 1945 and subsequently moved into some sort of tank dump next to a Tiger I and Tiger II. This is most likely the Daimler-Benz-made Pz.Kpfw. Panther F/G hybrid M.A.N. representatives mentioned.

Semple Tank undergoing trials
Three different images of the same Pz.Kpfw. Ausf F/G hybrid knocked out in Berlin. It seems to have been knocked out from a round hitting the barrel near the mantlet, fracturing the barrel, and thus being abandoned by its crew. The hull was identified as Ausf.F hull by examining the interlocking plates. The side superstructure plate interlocks with the front upper plate horizontally, which means it is a Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F hull.

Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F/G hybrid at an unidentified tank dump after being knocked out in the streets of Berlin. This hybrid is the same as the one in Berlin due to the mud guards being bent the same way. A Tiger II and Tiger can be seen in the background. Source: Unknown

Conclusion

The Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.F was the right upgrade at the wrong time. The Schmalturm was a significant improvement over the previous turret, however, it was far too late. By the time the vehicle entered production, Germany’s fate was sealed. The Allies were closing in and by the time they reached the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F’s production facilities, what they found were a couple of unfinished hulls and turrets. What is left of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F is a fractured Schmalturm that was used as a range target at The Tank Museum, Bovington.
Semple Tank undergoing trials
Two more photographs showing the left side and rear of the Schmalturm that was sent to the U.K. Source: Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy

This Schmalturm was the one that was sent to the United Kingdom. The last remaining relic of the Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.F at The Tank Museum. Source: Mark Nash

Krupp’s design to mount an 8.8cm Kw.K.43 L/71 onto a Panther based on the Schmalturm. Source: Panzer Tracts

Side Note: Panther’s Designation

It is important to note that the designations, ‘Panzerkampfwagen V Panther’ and ‘Panzerkampfwagen Panther’ are both correct for the same family of vehicles. It is also important to note that the designation ‘Panzerkampfwagen V Panther’ did not receive an Ausführung letter modifier, however ‘Panzerkampfwagen Panther’ did.
For example, it is incorrect to say ‘Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf.G’ (or any other Ausführung letter modifier). On the other hand, it is correct to say ‘Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausf.G’.

Panzerkampfwagen Panther Ausführung F (Sd.kfz.171) specifications

Dimensions Length: 8.86 m
Length (without gun): 6.866 m
Width (with Schürzen): 3.42 m
Height: 2.917 m
Weight, combat loaded 45.5 tonnes
Crew 5 men (commander, gunner, loader, radio operator, and driver)
Propulsion Water-cooled, gasoline Maybach HL 230 P30 V12 motor producing 600 hp @ 2500 rpm
coupled to a ZF A.K.7/200 transmission
Suspension Torsion bars
Top speed 46 km/h (28.6 mph)
Range (road) On road: 200km
Cross Country: 100km
Armament 7.5cm Kw.K.44/1 L/70
Secondary armament 1x coaxial 7.92mm M.G.42
1x St.G.44 bow machine gun
Armor Hull
80mm (55 degrees) upper frontal hull
55mm (55 degrees) lower frontal hull
50mm (29 degrees) upper side hull
40 (vertically flat) lower side hull
40mm (30 degrees) rear hull
40-25mm (horizontally flat) roof
16mm (horizontally flat) engine deck
25mm (horizontally flat) frontward belly
16mm (horizontally flat) rearward belly
16mm (horizontally flat) pannier
Turret
150mm (pot shaped) cast mantlet
120mm (20 degrees) turret front
60mm (25 degrees) turret sides and rear
40mm (horizontally flat) roof
Total built Few unfinished hulls and turrets. At least one Ausf.F/G hybrid

Sources

Jentz, T.L. & Doyle, H.L. 2006. Panther Tracts No. 5-4: Panzerkampfwagen Panther II and Panther Ausfuehrung F. 1st ed. Boyds, Maryland: Panzer Tracts
Jentz, T.L. 1995. Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy. 1st ed. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
Spielberger, W.J. 1993. Panther & Its Variants. 1st ed. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military/Aviation History.
Doyle, H.L. & Jentz, T.L. Panther Variants 1942-1945. 1st ed. London, England: Osprey
The Custermen Division. 2001. Nahverteidigungswaffe. https://www.custermen.net/nahvert/nah.htm Date of access: 6 Feb. 2018.
CIOS XXXII-33 Tank Development at the Daimler-Benz Factory Berlin-Marienfelde
Stabilized Optical Sight for German Tank Guns (S.Z.F.1 document)
The author would like to extend his gratitude to Harold Biondo for providing sources.

Categories
Cold War Romanian Prototypes

TAA – Tun Antitanc Autopropulsat

Socialist Republic of Romania (Circa 1984)
Self-propelled Anti-tank Gun – Concept only

Starting in the 1950’s, the Republica Populară Română (English: ‘Romanian People’s Republic’) tried to lessen the mighty Soviet economic and cultural grip as a response to Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization campaign. After Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, leader of the Romanian People’s Republic from 1947 to 1965, died in 1965, a new more ambitious leader came onto the scene. Nicolae Ceaușescu, leader of the newly renamed Republica Socialistă România (English: ‘Socialist Republic of Romania’), would rule from 1965 until the fall of the Partidul Comunist Român (English: ‘Romanian Communist Party’) in 1989. Early on, Ceaușescu made efforts to distance the nation from the Warsaw Pact. His biggest opportunity to do so came during the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, known as Operation Danube, which lasted from August 20 to 21. On August 21, 1968, Ceaușescu gave a speech denouncing the invasion and de facto asserting the independence of the Socialist Republic of Romania from the Soviet Union.
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Right side profile drawing of the Tun Antitanc Autopropulsat from the patent.
While still formally in the Warsaw Pact, Romania gained a new level of autonomy due to Ceaușescu’s efforts to distance the country from the Soviet Union. As a result, the nation felt the need to become more militarily independent, produce weaponry within its own borders, and even to seek assistance from the West and China. While complete autonomy was not an easily achievable prospect, especially for a nation such as Romania, they had to occasionally rely on its Warsaw Pact allies for equipment and technology. Nevertheless, the effort was a great one of which lead to the creation of the Tun Antitanc Autopropulsat (TAA) and various other domestically designed Romanian armored vehicles.
One of the earliest mentions of the Socialist Republic of Romania’s quest for developing a self-propelled anti-tank gun was in 1978. The “Command” devised a plan to produce artillery pieces inside Romania’s borders between 1978 and 1990. Among the types of artillery pieces listed was a self-propelled anti-tank gun using the ‘Mașina de Luptă a Infanteriei’ chassis armed with a 100mm anti-tank gun. ‘Mașina de Luptă a Infanteriei’, which is also abbreviated as ‘MLI’, is Romanian for ‘Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV). It is not known what MLI chassis it is referring to, as the MLI-84 was developed and produced in the early 1980’s and this vehicle supposedly originated circa 1978. It can only be concluded that the MLI and the self-propelled anti-tank gun based on it were separate late 70’s Romanian projects as there had been no IFVs in Romanian service prior to this. The vehicle would have served as a replacement for the aging Soviet designed and manufactured SU-76s in Romanian service. There were 1716 of these pieces destined to be produced and serve in mechanized battalions. However, it appears that the plans fell apart with the reasons being unknown and the vehicle was never built.
On the 27th September 1984, Institutul 111 (English: ‘Institute 111’) patented a self-propelled anti-tank gun design referred to as the ‘Tun Antitanc, Autopropulsat’ (English: ‘Self-propelled Anti-tank Gun’). The credited inventors were Buracu Mihail and Darvariu Paul who are presumably apart of Institutul 111.
Buracu Mihail is also credited as one of the inventors of the 2x30mm M1980 towed anti-aircraft gun and its advanced prototype counterpart, the Viforul 2x30mm, the 30mm autocannon itself used on the two designs mentioned earlier, a prototype TAB-77 (licensed modified BTR-70 copy) armed with a single 30mm autocannon from the 2x30mm M1980 towed anti-aircraft gun and two Malyutka anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), 100mm A407 (also known as the M1977) towed anti-tank gun, and the APRA-40 multiple launch rocket system (MLRS).
On the other hand, Davariu Paul does not appear to have the same track record as Buracu Mihail when it comes to being credited as an inventor of military equipment.
Institutul 111 was a Romanian government organization tasked with designing vehicles and equipment for the Romanian Land Forces. Institutul 111 was responsible for successful designs such as the TR-85-800 (P 124-800) tank and the 2x30mm M1980 towed anti-aircraft gun.
The name ‘Tun Antitanc, Autopropulsat’ (English ‘Self-propelled Anti-tank Gun’) is probably more of a descriptor than an actual designation. However, there is a possibility that it could be its designation and abbreviated to ‘TAA’. The Romanians created designations using acronyms which stood for the role, purpose, or characteristics of the vehicle, similar to the way the Soviets designated some of their vehicles. For example, the ‘MLI’ in MLI-84 means Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the ‘TR’ in TR-77-580 and TR-85-800 stands for Tanc Românesc (English: ‘Romanian Tank’), and the ‘TAB’ in TAB-71 and TAB-77 stands for Transportor Amfibiu Blindat (English: ‘Amphibious Armored Transporter’). For the purposes of this article, the vehicle will be referred to as the ‘TAA’.
The TAA, at face value, is roughly analogous to China’s Type 89, a tank destroyer originating in the late 80’s. Both are vehicles designed to combat tanks with the automotives at the front and the fighting compartment at the rear equipped with a large caliber anti-tank gun comparable to its main battle tank counterpart.
However, the design, particularly the fighting compartment, is much more unorthodox. The turret is extremely narrow to the point where no crew could possibly be accommodated on either side of the gun (although the commander is located at the very rear).
The purpose of this unconventional design was to decrease the frontal silhouette of the vehicle in order to harder to hit by an enemy vehicle. It also has the benefit of being a very efficient use of space as not having crew either side of the gun means that there is much less space which needs to be protected and therefore much less weight of armor involved. The position of the commander provides him with protection by virtue of being behind the mass of the gun.
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Front view drawing of the Tun Antitanc Autopropulsat from the patent showing the extremely narrow turret.
Another purpose of the design was to limit the amount of ammunition located in the fighting compartment for the safety of the crew. Large ammunition that is in contact with the crew of a vehicle can be dangerous and fatal, as enemy fire that has come in contact or perforated the vehicle can combust the ammunition either through direct contact or through spalling. Making the ammunition stowage safer was achieved through several features such as limiting the ammunition in the fighting compartment through the use of a separated ammunition compartment at the rear equipped with blow-off panels.

Design, layout, and crew

The layout of the TAA resembles that of the Model 1989 (although the TAA predates it) and even more so with the 2S1 Gvozdika. The 2S1 and TAA both have a similar layout, similar hull shape, similar hatch shape for the driver, an indentation on the upper front glacis for the driver’s window and a rear hull entrance. It is perhaps possible that the TAA may be based or was inspired by the 2S1 considering the similarities and considering that the Romanians may have taken an interest in such a vehicle since at least 1978. However, the link is speculative based on the common design features rather than documentary evidence to confirm this.
The engine is located to the right of the driver with the transmission positioned near the front. The fighting compartment is located centrally in the rear half of the hull behind the engine and driver, but ahead of the ammunition space. The ammunition stowage is located at the very rear and separated longitudinally into two sections by a rear entrance aisle which has an exterior door for the entrance aisle and an interior door for the fighting compartment. This arrangement is similar to that used on the Israeli Merkava main battle tank except here the ammunition is held in a fixed space in racks with a protected corridor whereas on the Merkava the whole area is open with the ammunition in containers leaving the crew in direct contact with the ammunition.
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Top view drawing of the Tun Antitanc Autopropulsat from the patent showing various features.
The turret is extremely narrow if looked at from the front. It is somewhat boxy, with a slightly triangular roof-line likely designed to allow the main gun to depress and recoil. The turret rotates electro-mechanically and has a base with a hatch for the gunner on the left side and a hatch for the loader on the right. The turret basket contains the autoloader, part of the crew, and part of the ammunition storage. In this way the turret is best described as a low-profile turret in some ways similar to the M60A2 ‘Starship’.
The TAA is crewed by four men; the driver, loader, gunner, and commander. The driver is located to the left of the automotives which are situated at the front of the vehicle. The loader, gunner, and commander are located in the fighting compartment near the rear. The loader and gunner are situated in the hull and sit on the bottom of the turret basket. This is how the turret was able to achieve such a narrow silhouette. The gunner appears to be front-middle of the turret beneath and slightly left of the gun with his head peeking into the turret. The loader appears to be on the right side completely inside the hull. The commander is located in the turret directly suspended above the rear entrance aisle and behind the main gun, in his own semi-cylindrical compartment. He is given his own radio which is mounted to the front of him and numerous periscopes on the cupola to view his surroundings.

Romanian TAA by Giganaut

Firepower autoloader, and ammunition stowage

The TAA appears to be armed with a 125mm 2A46 smoothbore or some derivative of it seen on Soviet vehicles like the T-64, T-72, and T-80. The 2A46 was later designated as the 125mm A555 on Romanian T-72s. The gun elevates hydraulically and a laser range finder is mounted on top of the mantlet. The articulating main gun sight is mounted to the left of the gun and the mantlet has a bulge to properly accommodate the sight.
Reloading of the gun is very reminiscent of these Soviet vehicles mentioned earlier, but with a few differences. It could be described as an autoloader. However, it requires much more input from a human loader compared to the autoloader on the Soviet vehicles mentioned earlier. A dedicated loader became necessary. It is very possible that the autoloader is based off the one from the T-72, as Romania operated 30 T-72s, with various tweaked features.
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Left side profile drawing of the Tun Antitanc Autopropulsat from the patent showing the internals. Note that the driver’s compartment is missing.
The loading process consists of a “mobile loader” with an unspecified amount of “racks” that holds rounds. The rounds are of the two piece variety. The projectile and the cartridge casing are separated, typical of the Soviet 125mm 2A46 smoothbore and its derived guns. The mobile loader “slides perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the turret” roughly meaning that the racks are being moved latitudinal to the turret, which moves the racks onto an elevator. When it is time to reload, an elevator moves the rack upwards from the turret floor behind the gun breech. At the same time, the gun moves to its designated index position, presumably parallel with the vehicle, to receive the round. The breech opens and the projectile is first pushed in and then the cartridge casing. The breech then closes, the elevator moves the rack downwards to the turret floor into the mobile loader, and then the gun moves to the position it previously was before reloading. The empty spent rack is replaced by a new rack and thus the cycle continues until all the rounds have been fired.
Once all rounds have been dispensed on the mobile loader, the loader extracts the projectiles from a rotating storage located behind the gunner and roughly underneath the gun and places them on a “system of roller guides”. It is unclear if the roller guides insert the projectiles into the racks or the loader. The loader extracts the cartridge casing from a shelf located on top of the rotating storage mentioned earlier and insert it into the racks.
If all the projectiles and cartridge casings from the racks, shelf, and rotating storage are spent, ammunition would be extracted from the ammunition storage at the rear of the vehicle and the projectiles and cartridge casings would be transferred through a window of the interior door. The racks, shelf, and rotating storage would then be replenished.
The armored isolated ammunition storage at the rear is separated in two by the rear entrance aisle, as mentioned earlier. The left side of the ammunition storage is larger than the right. The 125mm 2A46’s projectile is generally longer than the cartridge casing and this is also seen in TAA drawings. With this in mind, the left rear ammunition storage likely contains the projectiles while the right rear ammunition storage contains the cartridge casings.
In case of combustion of the ammunition, the high pressure and the flames would vent upwards through the use of blow-off panels located on both sides of the ammunition compartment. This feature is commonly used on modern main battle tanks such as the M1 Abrams and Leopard 2. The commander, sat about this, would be protected by the turret armor.
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Red dot points to the rotating storage for the projectiles, blue dot points to the shelf for the cartridge casing, green square shows the mobile loader with a rack, purple square shows the articulating gun sight, the orange square shows the laser range finder, and yellow square points the approximate location of where the driver would be.

Armor

The TAA is mainly protected by conventional armor. The thickest parts of the armor on the hull appears to be thicker than the average IFV or late Cold War tank destroyer, however, the patent doesn’t state the thickness. It is possible that the line thickness simply represents where the thickest armor is located and is not to scale. The gun mantlet is intended to defeat HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) rounds. The sides, rear, and top of the hull and turret appear to be armored relatively thinly, likely intended to protect against small arms, machine guns, and shrapnel. The front mounted automotives can act as additional protection against incoming rounds. However, it would be at the expense of the functionality of the engine and/or transmission. The driver of the vehicle doesn’t receive the same benefit as he is located next to the engine as opposed to behind it. However, he may receive some additional protection for the lower half of his body, as he is located behind the transmission. Side skirts are present on both sides of the hull and are meant to combat HEAT rounds. There is likely an armored shroud for the driver’s windscreen as there are periscopes for the driver.

Automotives, dimensions, and suspension

The automotives for the vehicle aren’t specified in the patent but, considering the nature of the layout of the vehicle and the date on the patent, it is likely akin to the MLI-84’s 8V 1240 DTS diesel engine which produces 360 hp perhaps a bit more powerful.
The drive wheel is located at the front, idler wheel at the rear, and six road wheels on either side connected to torsion bars. The road wheels are placed similarly to the TR-85-800’s road wheels with the front two road wheels spaced out and four road wheels clumped together closer to the rear. It is unknown whether it was equipped with return rollers.
Its tracks appear to be fairly wide, similarly proportional to that of main battle tanks and heavily armored and armed tanks. This implies that the vehicle weighs significantly more than an MLI-84, BMP-1, 2S1 Gvozdika, Model 1989, etc. Tracks are generally widened in order to spread the weight out across more ground, reducing ground pressure. Vehicles such as those mentioned earlier typically weigh less than 20 tonnes and are equipped with relatively thin tracks as they are not as heavy as modern battle tanks, which typically weigh 50+ tonnes. Considering the wide tracks, the vehicle likely weighs more than 20 tonnes. It also likely weighs less than 40 tonnes since it appears to have less armor than a T-55. The weight it probably around 30-35 tonnes.
The dimensions appear to be comparable to that of the T-72. Using the main gun to compare both the T-72 and TAA and assuming the TAA is equipped with 125mm 2A46 or some derivative of it, the TAA appears to be slightly taller and slightly longer than the T-72.
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The blue portions highlight the “special tanks” for storing fuel and lubricants. The red portions highlight containers used for storing spare parts and accessories.

Conclusion

It is not entirely clear how far this design developed. Nevertheless, the TAA was most likely never built and stayed on paper as a concept. If it ever had entered service the way it is presented in the patent, it would have been a very unusual tank to have been fielded in Europe in the 1980’s. The TAA is a design from a nation not very well known for its domestically designed and built armored vehicles. Nonetheless, it is a creative design which tries to solve various issues at the same time.

TAA – Tun Antitanc Autopropulsat

Weight Probably around 30-35 tonnes
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, and loader)
Suspension Torsion bars
Armament Likely armed with a 125mm 2A46 or a derivative
Protection Conventional armor. Equipped with a anti-HEAT mantlet and side skirts
Total production Concept only
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Sources

“165 ani de existență a artileriei române moderne” by Col. dr. Adrian STROEA (coordinator). Col. Constantin AFRIM, Col. Dobrică BUTUC, Col. (rz.) Ion CANĂ, Col. (rz.) Marin GHINOIU, Col. Nicolae MITU, Lt.col. Gheorghe BĂJENARU, Mr. Florin BARBU, and Mr. (rz.) prof. DUMITRU CONSTANTIN
Link to the TAA patent
Original article posted on February 18, 2017. The author would like to extend his gratitude to steppewolf for translating the sources above.

TAA
The Tun Antitanc Autopropulsat by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet based on Giganaut’s 3D model with fictitious elements.

Categories
Romanian armor

Obuzierul autopropulsat românesc, Model 1989

Socialist Republic of Romania/Romania (1987-1992)
Self-propelled howitzer – 42 built

Model 1989 at the Mizil factory. Source: MFA

Starting in the 1950’s, the Republica Populară Română (English: ‘Romanian People’s Republic’) tried to lessen the mighty Soviet economic and cultural grip as a response to Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization campaign. After Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, leader of the Romanian People’s Republic from 1947 to 1965, died in 1965, a new more ambitious leader came onto the scene. Nicolae Ceaușescu, leader of the newly renamed Republica Socialistă România (English: ‘Socialist Republic of Romania’), would rule from 1965 until the fall of the Partidul Comunist Român (English: ‘Romanian Communist Party’) in 1989. Early on, Ceaușescu made efforts to distance the nation from the Warsaw Pact. His biggest opportunity to do so came during the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, known as Operation Danube, which lasted from August 20 to 21. On August 21, 1968, Ceaușescu gave a speech denouncing the invasion and de facto asserting the independence of the Socialist Republic of Romania from the Soviet Union.
While still formally in the Warsaw Pact, Romania gained a new level of autonomy due to Ceaușescu’s efforts to distance the country from the Soviet Union. As a result, the nation felt the need to become more militarily independent, produce weaponry within its own borders, and even to seek assistance from the West and China. While complete autonomy was not an easily achievable prospect, especially for a nation such as Romania, they had to occasionally rely on its Warsaw Pact allies for equipment and technology. Nevertheless, the effort was a great one of which lead to the creation of the Model 1989 and various other domestically produced Romanian armored vehicles.

If It Ain’t Broke, Continue Fixing It…

The Obuzierul autopropulsat românesc, Model 1989 (English: ‘Romanian self-propelled howitzer, Model 1989’) or simply known as the Model 1989, is a Romanian self-propelled howitzer based on both the MLI-84 and the 2S1 Gvozdika.
As with many domestically produced vehicles from the Socialist Republic of Romania, the Model 1989 is one example of many Romanian license-produced vehicles featuring design changes that seem to offer no real advantage over the original like the MLI-84 which is essentially slightly longer BMP-1 clone with a marginally more powerful engine. However, in the case of the Model 1989, the MLI-84 elements such as the suspension were likely used to ease production.
Prior to the Model 1989, Socialist Romania’s Forțele Terestre Române (English: ‘Romanian Land Forces’) were never equipped with any self-propelled artillery. In 1978, the Romanian Command of Artillery was tasked with the job of figuring out how many domestically produced modernized artillery pieces were going to be needed from 1978 to 1990. It was concluded that 1205 122mm armed self-propelled artillery pieces were going to be needed, likely having the Soviet Union’s 2S1 Gvozdika in mind. These vehicles were destined for artillery battalions within mechanized regiments.
As a result, Romania ended up ordering an artillery battery from the Soviet Union consisting of six 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled artillery pieces without fire control systems in 1987 and received them in 1988 according to the SIPRI trade register. They were designated as the ‘Obuzierul autopropulsat 2S1’ in Romanian service.

2S1 under Romanian service. Source: Artileria Română În Date și Imagini
Between 1987 and 1992, the Socialist Republic of Romania built 2S1s under license even after the fall of the socialist regime in 1989. These were the Model 1989s of which 42 were made. The hulls were built at the Mizil factory where the MLI-84s were also built. However, the turret was imported from the Soviet Union along with the 122mm 2A31 gun it was equipped with, which was redesignated as the A565. The SIPRI trade register, a less reliable source, claims that forty-two 2S1 turrets meant for installation on the Model 1989s were imported from the People’s Republic of Bulgaria.
After the fall of the socialist regime in Romania in 1989, the Model 1989s the Model 1989s saw use from 1990 until 2005 when they were put in storage. During this period, 24 Model 1989s saw use by the 25th Artillery Battalion of the 22nd Tank Brigade and 22 Model 1989s plus the six 2S1s were used by the 55th Artillery Battalion of the 6th Tank Brigade.

Model 1989s stored away. Take note of the center left Model 1989 with a rounded rear access door resembling the type used on the MLI-84. Notice the SU-100 tank destroyers on the left. Source: cartula.ro

A group of Model 1989s lined up in the early 2000’s. Source: cartula.ro

Characteristics

If compared to an MLI-84, it appears to be a lengthened version of it with an extra roadwheel on each side, single door rear entrance instead of two doors and various minor differences.
Compared to the 2S1, the Model 1989 features shorter side hull walls due to the greater amount of area the suspension takes. The front features a much more prominent angled hull extending further outwards. It also lacks a driver’s window and an indentation for the driver’s window on the left.
The 122mm A565 is 38 calibers long and uses compatible ammunition with the Soviet-designed towed 122mm D-30 howitzer. It can fire High Explosive shells (HE), High-Explosive Anti-Tank rounds (HEAT), illumination rounds, and smoke rounds. The Model 1989 carries 40 rounds in total, 35 HE and 5 HEAT rounds. The HEAT rounds have a maximum effective range of 2000 m and the 122mm A565 has a maximum range of 15.2 km. The turret is able to rotate a full 360 degrees and the 122mm A565 can depress -3 degrees and able to elevate +70 degrees. Night vision systems are also installed.
The Model 1989 consists of a crew four; the driver, gunner, loader, and commander. The driver is located to the left of the engine near the front of the vehicle and the gunner, loader, and commander are in the fighting compartment at the rear, which they can enter through the rear entrance.

Illustration of Obuzierul autopropulsat românesc, Model 1989
Illustration of the Obuzierul autopropulsat românesc, Model 1989 by Jaroslaw “Jarja” Janas. This illustration has been sponsored by Golum through our Patreon page

Rear view of the Model 1989. Source: valka.cz


Top view of the Model 1989 showing the engine deck and hatches. Source: valka.cz
The engine the vehicle uses is currently unspecified, but it is most likely equipped with the MLI-84’s 360 hp 8V 1240 DTS engine. The placement and design of the vents allude to the possibility of being equipped with this engine as they are a very similar type used on the MLI-84. The Model 1989 has a maximum speed of 64 km/h, can climb slopes of 35 degrees, has a range of 450 km, has amphibious capabilities, and consumes 200 liters per 100 km. It weighs 18.3 tonnes, is 7.505 m long, 3.15 m wide, and 2.72 m tall. The Model 1989’s suspension is very reminiscent of the MLI-84’s suspension. The road wheels, idler wheels, drive sprockets, and return rollers seem to have been borrowed from the MLI-84. The 2S1 on the other hand lacks return rollers. Seven road wheels are located on each side connected to torsion bars, with the idler wheels at the rear, drive sprockets at the front, and three return rollers on each side. The cluster of five road wheels are located at the front with a pair of two at the rear on both sides, unlike the 2S1’s uniform roadwheel spacing.
In the first image in this article, the Model 1989 appears to have an idler wheel borrowed from the 2S1.
The armor is only effective enough to protect from small arms fire and artillery shrapnel. Side skirts are provided for the frontal portion of the vehicle and are stored away at the rear of the turret. The vehicle is also NBC protected.

A recently surfaced image (relative to the publication of this article) of the rarely photographed Model 1989 seen in an accident. The accident has fractured the thinly armored lower front hull. Source: Pro TV

Conclusion

Romania never came close to their desired goal of 1205 122mm armed self-propelled artillery pieces, but at the very least they attempted to fill a gap in their military. Till this day, the Model 1989s still haven’t been decommissioned, but are instead stored away. This might seem like the end of the vehicle’s career waiting to be sold off or scrapped, but there seems to be some hope for the Model 1989. According to an unverified source, the Model 1989’s chassis may be used as the basis for the MLI-84M mortar carrier. If the claim is true and if the conversion takes place, the service life of the vehicle could potentially expand for decades to come.

Modern photo of the Model 1989 showing the right side of the vehicle. Source: MFA

Contemporary photo showing the front-left side of the vehicle. Source: valka.cz
Semple Tank undergoing trials
More images of the Model 1989 from the accident mentioned earlier. Take note of the left image where the rounded rear access door is seen. Source: Pro TV

Obuzierul autopropulsat românesc, Model 1989 specifications

Dimensions
L x W x H
7.505 m x 3.15 m x 2.72 m
(24ft 7.5in x 10ft 4in x 8ft 11in)
Weight 18.3 tonnes
Crew 4 (commander, driver, gunner, and loader)
Propulsion Most likely equipped with a 360 hp (268.5 kW) 8V 1240 DTS engine
Suspension Torsion bar
Top speed 64 km/h (39.8 mph)
Range (road) 450 km (280 miles)
Armament 122mm A565, 40 rounds (35 HE, 5 HEAT)
Armor Effective enough to protect from small arms fire and artillery shrapnel
Total built 42

Links & Resources

“Artileria Română În Date și Imagini”
“165 Ani de Existență a Artileriei Române Moderne”
Romtehnica MLI-84 brochure
mfa.ro (manufacturer’s site)
arsenal.ro (manufacturer’s site) (archived link)
SIPRI trade register
britannica.com
The author would like to extend his gratitude to steppewolf for translating some of the sources above.

Categories
Cold War Romanian Prototypes

MLI-84M mortar variant

 Romania (2015)
Mortar Carrier (Planned Variant)

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An un-silhouetted, but low quality rendering from the patent of the MLI-84M with a CARDOM mortar. Some internal details can be seen.
On the 25th of September, 2015, Pro Optica S.A. and MFA S.A. Mizil, two prominent Romanian defense companies, filed a patent for a new variant of the MLI-84M. The five inventors who were credited on the patent were Lespezeanu Ion, Jipa Vasile, Oțelea Traian, Șerbănescu Paul, and Mareș Marcel. This MLI-84M variant is equipped with a 120mm mortar and carries some unique features. There is no real name given to this variant, however, MFA’s official website has it listed under “Future Military products”, but the link leads to a couple of images of the MLVM variant with a 120mm mortar, a MLVM variant which MFA has deemed as one of their “Past Military products”.
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MLVM armed with a domestic 120mm M1982 mortar. The newly discovered 120mm mortar armed MLI-84M variant is likely the spiritual successor of this vehicle. Image source: mfa.ro
MFA’s website refers to it as “120mm Mortar on MLI-84M chassis” and the patent refers to it as ‘Mașina de Luptă cu Sistem de Armament Tip Aruncator Calibru 120mm, Integrat’ which translates in English to ‘Fighting Vehicle with a 120mm Caliber Mortar Type Armament System’.
The purpose of this vehicle is to support ground forces directly by ensuring the annihilation and neutralization of enemy personnel, equipment, and positions using its 120mm mortar. In addition, the invention brings an increase of firepower, precision, mobility, and modularity. Presumably, compared to the 120mm mortar carrying MLVM variant which it may or may not be replacing.
Earliest mention known mention of the MLI-84M mortar variant is during the Cincu 2004 test and trials. MFA showed off the design of the vehicle. Some time before 2015, MFA was negotiating with the Romanian Ministry of National Defence to equip the Forțele Terestre Române (Romanian Land Forces) with MLI-84M mortar variants between 2015-2017. It appears such a thing has not happened. So far, whether the vehicle design has been built, still in development, or the project was scrapped entirely is unknown.
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An image taken during Cincu 2004 showing boards with supposed drawings of the MLI-84M mortar variant. Due to poor image quality, the drawings can not be properly seen. A Zimbru 2000 and an MLVM mortar variant (possibly modernized), presumably being trialed, can be seen on the left side of the boards. Source: MFA

Characteristics

The vehicle is based on the MLI-84M standard which itself is based off the MLI-84, a licensed Romanian BMP-1 copy with a slightly modified design. Whether the 120mm mortar armed MLI-84M variant is or will be converted from the MLI-84M or MLI-84 is unknown, but it is likely the latter due to MLI-84s being mass converted into MLI-84Ms and its variants.
Alternatively, according to unverified sources, the MLI-84M mortar variant will be based on the Obuzierul autopropulsat românesc, Model 1989, a Romanian version of the 2S1 Gvozdika. The Model 89’s hull is based off the MLI-84 and 42 Model 89s are in storage since the 2000’s which makes them a prime candidate for conversion.

Mobility

This variant most definitely retains the same 400 hp, 2,200 rpm, 6 cylinder, 4 stroke, turbocharged, C9 Caterpillar diesel engine as on the other MLI-84M variants. An exact weight is not given though it is likely around the 17 tonnes as on the other variants. This means an exact power to weight ratio cannot be determined. The mechanical transmission for the MLI-84M has five gears forward and one gear backwards.
Length and width are expected to be the same as the other MLI-84M variants as they all have the same length of 7.32 meters and a width of 3.3 meters. However, since this variant uses a 120mm mortar instead of a remote weapons station, superstructure, or crane as on the other variants, the height will most likely differ.
The suspension is also likely similar if not the same as on the MLI-84M. The MLI-84M’s suspension consists of drive gears at the front, three return rollers on each side, six road wheels on each side connected to torsion bars, and the idler wheels at the rear. Hydraulic shock absorbers with bilateral action are installed on each side on the first, second, and sixth road wheels.
As on the other MLI-84M variants, a single driver controls the vehicle.

Firepower

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An illustration from the patent of the 120mm mortar being used on the MLI-84M mortar variant.
There is no information about the 120mm mortar itself listed on the patent. However, from what the illustrations of the 120mm mortar show, it is identified as the Israeli 120mm CARDOM mortar manufactured by Soltam Systems (now owned by Elbit Systems). It is currently not known whether Romania has acquired the CARDOM mortar, is in the process to do so, or if negotiations have ended.
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CARDOM 120mm/81mm recoil mortar system being marketed in Brazil by Elbit Systems’ Brazilian subsidiary, ARES. Image source: Thai Military and Asian Region blog
According to Elbit Systems, the CARDOM is an autonomous and computerized 120mm recoil mortar system which fits with NATO standards. The state-of-the-art fire control system combines an ‘Inertial Navigation System’ (INS) which automatically lays the CARDOM to the intended target via electrical drives and a ‘Battle Management System’ (BMS). The CARDOM is in service with the U.S. Army, Israeli Defence Force, and various other militaries. The 700 kg 120mm mortar is able to rotate 360 degrees with the rate of fire of 16 rounds per minute with a firing range of 7000 meters. A minimum of 2 crew members are required although 4 is recommended.
The 120mm CARDOM is likely operated by a crew of two since when the vehicle is on the move, only two foldable chairs for the mortar operators are drawn with the battery box (most likely to power the 120mm CARDOM) attached.
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A silhouette illustration from the patent of the foldable seats (shown unfolded) for the mortar crew. Number 28 points to the battery box.
The 120mm mortar armed MLI-84M variant will likely have an accessory identified as an anti-double load attachment at the end of the barrel. This is shown in the diagram of the wiring scheme of the fire control system of the 120mm CARDOM for this variant. This attachment prevents another mortar round from being loaded until the one previously loaded has fired in order to prevent combustion of the two mortar rounds.
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A diagram of the wiring scheme of the fire control system for the CARDOM on the MLI-84M. On the middle-right, an anti-double load attachment can be seen for the CARDOM.
The 120mm mortar has a certain degree of modularity. For example, it can be relatively easily removed from the vehicle and attached to the ground. It is mounted on a specially made holding frame and the interior side walls have been strengthened to effectively handle the recoil. The ammunition is stored laterally with the vehicle on each side of the CARDOM mortar. Each type of ammunition is separated via a wall and fastened down with a clamp.
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A silhouette illustration from the patent of the holding frame for the 120mm CARDOM.
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A silhouette illustration from the patent of the storage for the 120mm mortar rounds.


The original MLI-84. Illustration by David Bocquelet

MLI-84M illustration by David Bocquelet.
The upgraded MLI-84M IFV, on which the mortar variant would be based. Illustration by David Bocquelet.

Protection

This MLI-84M variant likely has very similar, if not the same protection as the MLI-84M which may differ from the original MLI-84.
This variant is given right and left shutters for the protection of the crew members and the 120mm CARDOM mortar. When it is the time to fire the 120mm mortar, the left and right shutters would open thus revealing the mortar and the internals. Once firing is completed, the mortar can lie back down and have the shutter conceal the mortar and the internals.
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Three silhouette illustrations from the patent of the left and right shutters at three different angles.

Conclusion

This newly discovered MLI-84M variant presents itself as an opportunity for the Romanian Land Forces to receive updated and modern means of self-propelled indirect fire, which they seem to be currently lacking. It’s also an opportunity to repurpose and refurbish outdated equipment. As stated earlier, it is not known if Romania will be receiving these vehicles. However, the project being referenced on MFA’s website suggests that it may be planned.
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A silhouetted illustration from the patent of the 120mm mortar armed MLI-84M variant.
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Silhouette illustrations from the patent of the 120mm CARDOM, holding ring, and baseplate combined and separated.
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An image of an unmodified MLI-84. Image source: Romtechnica
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An image of an MLI-84M missing its guided missile launcher. Image source: MFA
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An image of the the MLVM armed with a domestically produced 120mm M1982 mortar. Compared to the CARDOM, it is very rudimentary. Image source: “Artileria Română În Date aI Imagini”

MLI-84M with 120mm CARDOM specifications

Dimensions  (L x W x H) 7.3 m x 3.3 m x N/A m (24 ft x 10.8 ft x N/A ft)
Total weight, battle ready Approx. 17 tonnes
Crew 4 or more (driver, commander, 2 or more mortar operators)
Propulsion 400 hp @ 2,200 rpm, 4 stroke, turbocharged, C9 Caterpillar diesel engine
Suspension Torsion bars & hydraulic shock absorbers with bilateral action
Speed (road) N/A
Range N/A
Armament 120mm CARDOM recoil mortar system
Armor Likely the same as on the MLI-84M
Total production N/A
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Links, Resources & Further Reading

MLI-84M mortar variant patent
120/81mm CARDOM PDF by Elbit Systems
mfa.ro (manufacturer’s site)

Categories
ww2 romanian armor

Vânătorul de Care R35

Kingdom of Romania (1944) Tank hunter – 30 converted

Prospective buyers

Before Romania’s involvement into the 2nd World War, its Army had been trying to establish a solid effective tank corp for decades. At the time, Romania was only armed with measly Renault FTs. British Whippets, Disston tractor tanks, Czechoslovakian V8Hs, etc had all been explored as possibilities. However, questionable offers, 3rd party involvement, unfair agreements, lack of interest and so on had meant that none of them entered service with the Romanian Armed Forces.
A Vânătorul de Care R35 with the turret traversed to the rear sitting seemingly intact in Znojmo Railway in 1945. Source: AFV Photo Album: Volume 2
A Vânătorul de Care R35 with the turret traversed to the rear sitting seemingly intact in Znojmo Railway in 1945. Source: AFV Photo Album: Volume 2
Tensions between European nations and Romania’s neighboring countries became even more clear. Consequently, trade agreements by Romania were created, particularly with the French and Czechoslovakians. The initial trade negotiations between the Czechoslovakians involved LT vz. 35s and AH-IVs. As a result, 126 LT vz 35s and 35 AH-IVs were bought in 1937 and redesignated as the R-1 (AH-IV) and the R-2 (LT vz 35). Additionally, the R-1 was chosen as the first vehicle to be made by the Romanians, but the German occupation of Czechoslovakia extinguished this prospect. Between the French and Romanians, negotiations were deeper. There were discussions about the production of two-hundred R35s in Romania by Franco-Romanian factories and factories owned by the infamous Romanian industrial tycoon, Nicolae Malaxa.
The agreements fell through and France chose to slowly deliver forty-one R35s in 1939, before the 2nd World War, instead. In September 1939, during the invasion of Poland by the Germans and Soviets, the Romanians helped the Polish Government, its gold reserves, 40,000 people, and 60,000 troops escape. However, the Romanians kept thirty-four R35s after a Polish tank battalion escaped to Romania. Now Romania was armed with seventy-five R35s. Sometime between 1939 and 1940, they redesignated the R35 as the Carul de Luptă R35. Due to the fall of France in 1940, R35s could no longer be delivered. Romania looked to the Czechs for an alternative. The Romanians asked the Germans for the license of the Czech T-21 (provisionally named as the R-3), however, they were denied as they had not yet joined the Axis. They were denied again when the Romanians asked to buy T-21 directly from them.
In early to mid 1940, the border between Romania and the Soviet Union was plagued with relatively minor attacks from the Soviets. Since a Soviet invasion was a guarantee, the Romanians renounced their defense pacts with the British and the French as it did no good to the Polish who had a similar pact with the British. Instead, Romania decided to align its foreign policy with the German one, a move by Romania that pleased the Germans.
In 1941, war was heating up between the Soviets and Romanians. Romania’s involvement in Operation Barbarossa ensured Romania’s position as a major participant of the 2nd World War.

Obsolete upgrade for an obsolete tank

Around mid-1942, the 1st Armored Regiment, one of the two Romanian tank regiments that made up the 1st Armored Division, expressed their discontent with their Carul de Luptă R35 tanks during the Battle of Stalingrad. The armament and armor proved to be ineffective against contemporary Soviet vehicles such as the T-34. The T-34 featured sloped 45 mm (1.77 in) of armor while the R35 had 40 mm (1.57 in) of poorer quality cast armor and the R35’s 37 mm (1.46 in) SA18 was no match for the T-34’s 76.2 mm (3 in) F-34.
Romanian tankers parading in their Carul de Luptă R35 tanks after their successful invasion of Odessa.
Romanian tankers parading in their Carul de Luptă R35 tanks after their successful invasion of Odessa.
The command of the second half of the 1st Armored Division, the 2nd Armored Regiment, sent their suggestions on how to modernize their Carul de Luptă R35 tanks to higher authorities, presumably the Romanian Ministry of Supply. The 2nd Armored Regiment went as far as to develop a prototype of an R35 with the turret and armament of an unknown Soviet T-26 variant. This was done in their own workshops to show that a modernization of the R35 was possible.
The 2nd Armored Regiment suggested that, if the marriage of the R35 hull and T-26 turret was to be kept, the French-designed, Romanian-manufactured 47 mm (1.85 in) Schneider Model 1936 anti-tank gun should be used as the replacement for the Soviet 45 mm (1.77 in) 20K, the main gun on the T-26. As for the secondary co-axial weapon, the 7.92 mm (0.31 in) ZB-53 machine gun was proposed as a replacement for the co-axial Soviet 7.62 mm (0.3 in) DT machine gun. The alternate proposal left out the T-26 turret and kept the R35 turret. This time, the 45 mm 20K or the 47 mm Schneider Model 1936 were proposed as replacements for the R35’s 37 mm SA18 gun. As for the secondary weapon, the 7.62 mm DT machine gun or the 7.92 mm ZB-53 machine were proposed as substitutes for the Carul de Luptă R35’s 7.62 mm ZB-30 machine gun.
This eventually caught the attention of the Romanian Ministry of Supply. Its technical department suggested that studies should be made on the best possible way to cram a 45 mm 20K gun into the rather small turret of the R35. Sufficient Soviet BT-7s and T-26s were captured to provide enough 45mm guns for the conversions to become a reality.

Quart in a pint pot

In early December 1942, the seemingly omnipresent Colonel Constantin Ghiulai, the man who designed most of Romania’s domestically converted tanks, was studying the proposal along with Captain Dumitru Hogea. They were eventually endowed with the project that would later become the Vânătorul de Care R35. Meanwhile, the “Direction” would commence work on the new project after the conversions of the TACAM T-60s were complete. The studies (presumably, the studies mentioned earlier by the Romanian Ministry of Supply’s technical department) concluded that the best possible manner to mount the Soviet 45mm 20K was to extend the front of the turret to accommodate the recoil system, similar to what the Soviets had done with the T-26 and BT-7.
The proposed co-axial ZB-53 machine gun would have remained unchanged with the exception of the gun sights. It would have used some of the seven-hundred long range peep sights (tall gun sight used for long range fire) left over from western fortifications in Romania. However, the long range peep sight would have had to be cut down in height in order to fit in the turret.
The project was found to be very difficult. Eventually, the 2nd Armored Regiment’s proposal for a belt-fed 7.92mm co-axial machine gun, or alternatively, a 7.62 mm DT co-axial machine gun with a sixty round drum, was no longer considered as a possibility. The reduced interior space caused by the 45 mm shells being three-four times as large compared to the SA18’s 37 mm shells meant that there was little room for any co-axial machine gun and its ammunition. Additionally, the amount of ammunition carried for the main gun was drastically reduced from ninety 37 mm shells to around thirty to thirty-five 45 mm shells.

The prototype

A prototype of a 45mm 20K armed Carul de Luptă R35 was ready by the end of February, 1943. It featured the Septilici optics produced by I.O.R., a major Romanian gun optics manufacturing company owned by Nicolae Malaxa. The Septilici optics were also mounted on the TACAM T-60, TACAM R-2, and the Vânătorul de Care Mareșal prototypes. After trials of the prototype were held in the summer of 1943, the Mechanized Troop Command found the tank to be an overall improvement. They ordered the conversion of thirty of these new upgraded Carul de Luptă R35 vehicles.

Production of the Vanatorul de Care R35

The 45 mm 20Ks were refurbished by the Tîrgoviște branch of the army arsenal while the new mantlets were cast and finished by the Concordia factory of Ploiești. The mantlets were important since they would cover up the gaping hole caused by the extension of the R35 turrets for the new guns. The integration of the new mantlets and 45 mm 20K guns onto the R35s took place at the Leonida factory under Colonel Ghiulai’s supervision.
Thirty pieces were converted and assigned to the 2nd Armored Regiment in June, 1944. Their moniker was officially changed from Carul de Luptă R35 to “Vânătorul de Care R35” (which translates to “Tank Hunter R35”). However, it does seem like the designation was rarely used during World War II, but widely used in modern times to easily distinguish the regular R35 from the converted R35. Unfortunately, it is often unclear whether contemporary documents are referring to the Carul de Luptă R35 or the Vânătorul de Care R35, unless it is explicitly stated, or the document refers to deliveries of the ammunition. The ammunition deliveries show what type of ammunition was being delivered to which tank. If 37 mm shells were being delivered to R35s, it is very likely that it was referring to Carul de Luptă R35 tanks. If 45 mm shells were being delivered to R35s, then it is likely referring to Vânătorul de Care R35 tanks.
The Mechanized Troop Command authorized the conversion of more R35s. Conversions promptly began at the Leonida factory, but the process was halted due to Romania’s defection to the Allied side in August 1944. This event, in turn, caused Romania to practically become an occupied country by the Soviets. The Soviets dictated what was allowed and not allowed to be manufactured and the Vânătorul de Care R35 was not on their list.

Vânătorul de Care R35’s characteristics

Firepower

While the Vânătorul de Care R35 was considered obsolete, an argument can be made that the upgrade was necessary in the end. The 37 mm SA18 (the Renault FT was one of the first adopters of this gun) is said to have struggled against lightly armored vehicles, let alone middle to late World War II tanks the Vânătorul de Care R35 might’ve fought. It could have been faced with T-34-85s, late Panzer IVs, Turan IIs or Panthers. The R35’s original armament was already considered obsolete by the French by 1926. The sole reason why R35s were equipped with 37 mm Puteaux Model 1918s was to do with financial reasons and the availability of these guns. While it may lack in the anti-tank department, it is still able to perform the infantry support role.
The Vânătorul de Care R35’s 45 mm 20K gun model depends on what variant of BT-7 or T-26 it came from. There was probably no single variant that it used. It may be reasonable to assume that it carried over the Septilici gun sight from the prototype, but this hasn’t been verified. The gun was able to depress a healthy -8 and elevate to +25. The Vanatorul de Care R35 only carried thirty-five 45 mm rounds. The 45 mm 20K model 1938, with an unspecified armor-piercing round, could penetrate 57 mm (2.24 in) of armor at 90 degrees from 100 meters according to one Soviet penetration test. This meant that it could now tackle opponents with light armor such as Toldis, T-60s, and T-70s with greater ease, but it would still struggle against mediums such as Turans, T-34s, and late Panzer IVs.
The 45 mm 20K gun can be clearly seen. This photograph was taken from inside the only known Vânătorul de Care R35 turret
The 45 mm 20K gun can be clearly seen. This photograph was taken from inside the only known Vânătorul de Care R35 turret.
Unfortunately for the Romanians, the Vânătorul de Care R35 seems to have lacked the means to effectively combat infantry. It had no secondary weaponry at all and it theoretically exclusively used armor-piercing ammunition. Granted, the sole purpose of the Vânătorul de Care R35 was to combat armored vehicles, but by 1944 and 1945 the effectiveness of the 45 mm 20K was most likely negligible. This limited the roles the Vânătorul de Care R35 could perform.

Armor

Overall, the armor was mostly the same as any R35 with the exception of the mantlet. The tank was protected with 40 mm (1.57 in) of armor on the front, sides of the hull and turret, turret rear and cupola. The thickness of the top of the tank was 25 mm (0.98 in). The rear hull was 32 mm (1.26 in), and the bottom hull was 10 mm (0.39 in). Unfortunately, there is currently no data on the thickness of the mantlet, however, the mantlet was made up of two layers of cast armor. After scrutinizing the interior part of the two-piece mantlet from the photographs of the remaining turret, some estimates place the thickness of the internal mantlet to be around 10 mm (0.79 in).
The only known remnant of the Vânătorul de Care R35. The mantlet has the illusion of being thick, but it has a shape similar to the top of a shoe box. However, the mantlet would be thicker if it had the exterior mantlet.
The only known remnant of the Vânătorul de Care R35. The mantlet has the illusion of being thick, but it has a shape similar to the top of a shoe box. However, the mantlet would be thicker if it had the exterior mantlet.
The only known remnant of the Vânătorul de Care R35. The mantlet has the illusion of being thick, but it has a shape similar to the top of a shoe box. However, the mantlet would be thicker if it had the exterior mantlet.
The only known remnant of the Vânătorul de Care R35. The mantlet has the illusion of being thick, but it has a shape similar to the top of a shoe box. However, the mantlet would be thicker if it had the exterior mantlet.
While the measured thickness seems acceptable against at least some lower caliber guns, in practice, the armor was 10-15% less effective than what was measured. The French were known to produce weak cast armor and the R35 was no exception. The cast armor proved to be less effective than rolled armor according to the French. In June of 1937, the French conducted test firing against an R35 with a German 3.7cm Pak 36 and a French 25 mm (0.98 in) gun (possibly referring to the Hotchkiss 25 mm anti-tank gun). Fourteen of the eighteen shells from the Pak 36 and thirteen of the twenty-two shells from the 25mm French gun penetrated the R35. Lastly, it is not known if the cast mantlet from the Vânătorul de Care R35 suffered the same issue. All in all, the armor was generally insufficient against tanks and anti-tank guns by 1944 and 1945.

Mobility, logistics, and reliability

The R35 was plagued with issues regarding mobility, logistics, and reliability. This was especially prevalent during the Romanian mountain trials on the 29th of May, 1939. The Carul de Luptă R35 overheated easily, had fragile rubber roadwheels, and the differentials deteriorated easily. The R35’s suspension was initially designed for cavalry purposes and performed to its zenith on flat ground, but performed worse on off-road and was considered unsuitable for uneven ground.
Fortunately for the Romanian Army, after the invasion of Odessa in October 1941, the 2nd Armored Regiment’s Carul de Luptă R35 tanks were sent back for repairs. Most of the parts used in the mending process were domestic. One important issue emphasized by the 1939 mountain trials of the Carul de Luptă R-35 was resolved by exchanging the rubber roadwheels with metal trimmed roadwheels along with new tracks designed by Constantin Ghiulai and manufactured by the Concordia Works which were said to be ten times as durable. New drive sprockets were manufactured by the Reşita factory and cylinder heads and drive shafts were cast by the Basarab Metallurgical Works from Bucharest and finished at the IAR factory from Brașov. Overall, some of these repairs might have improved reliability and carried over to the Vânătorul de Care R35.
The last remaining Carul de Luptă R35 at the National Military Museum at Bucharest received the upgrades as mentioned above. The roadwheels are metal trimmed and the tracks seem different. - Photograph source: Stan Lucian
The last remaining Carul de Luptă R35 at the National Military Museum at Bucharest received the upgrades as mentioned above. The roadwheels are metal trimmed and the tracks seem different. – Photograph source: Stan Lucian
The Vânătorul de Care R35 was stuck with the same 82-85 hp water-cooled Renault 447 4-cylinder, 2200 rpm petrol engine used on the regular R35. With a 82-85 hp engine (horsepower varies between sources) and the weight of 11.7 tons compared to the Carul de Luptă R35’s 11 tons, the theoretical power-to-weight ratio was reduced to 7-7.25 horsepower-per-ton and the speed to 20 km/h. Lastly, the Vânătorul de Care R35 was still a two-man tank. The commander also had to man and load the gun, while also directing the driver and possibly other tanks as well.

Carul de Luptă R35, 1941
Carul de Luptă R35, 1941
Prototype of the Vânătorul de Care R35, possibly referred to as the Carul de Luptă R35 Modern, 1943
Prototype of the Vânătorul de Care R35, possibly referred to as the Carul de Luptă R35 Modern, 1943
Vânătorul de Care R35, 1945.
Vânătorul de Care R35, 1945.
The 2nd Armored Regiment's possible conversion.
The 2nd Armored Regiment’s possible conversion.

Vanatorul de Care R35 in service

As stated earlier, the moniker, “Vânătorul de Care R35”, was not used very often, so it is often impossible to know whether documents are referring to a regular Carul de Luptă R35 or a Vânătorul de Care R35. From what is known, the 1st and 2nd Armored Regiment used the Vânătorul de Care R35 when the two units were combined in December 1st, 1944. The Vânătorul de Care was most likely initially painted in the standard khaki color with Michael I’s cross on the rear or the side of the turret, but later changed the cross to a five-pointed star in a white circle to avoid friendly fire from the Soviets after Romania switched sides. The Vânătorul de Care R35 fought alongside the Soviets in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Some skirmishes most likely have happened near the Hron River in modern-day Slovakia (where a Vânătorul de Care R35 turret remains) and they were last photographed in service patrolling or abandoned near destroyed Hungarian, German, and Soviet armored vehicles in Znojmo, Czechoslovakia in 1945.
Another angle of the same Vânătorul de Care R35 shown in the introductory paragraph in Znojmo Railway, 1945.
Another angle of the same Vânătorul de Care R35 shown in the introductory paragraph in Znojmo Railway, 1945.

Possible photographs of Vânătorul de Care R-35 prototypes?

The likely Vânătorul de Care R35 prototype

The photograph below is likely the prototype of the Vânătorul de Care R35. It shares common features such as the trunnions (mounting points for the mantlet or gun) being placed on the extension of the turret along with the gun obviously being the 45 mm 20K. This picture appears in primary sources such as “Armata Română şi Evoluţia Armei Tancuri. Documente. 1919-1945” and is referred to as the “Carul de Luptă R35 Modern”, a possible name given to the prototype. The elongated mantlet looks welded, though it is difficult to tell. There were only mentions of the mantlets being cast at the Leonida factory. Additionally, this is the only picture of this tank. There are no markings to suggest it is being used as a tank in service.
he elongated mantlet of this possible prototype above is clearly different to the Vânătorul de Care R35’s flat mantlet. Photograph source: Trupele Blindate din Armata Română 1919-1947
The elongated mantlet of this possible prototype above is clearly different to the Vânătorul de Care R35’s flat mantlet. Photograph source:
Trupele Blindate din Armata Română 1919-1947

The alleged Vânătorul de Care R35 prototype

On the internet, these photographs below are commonly cited as portraying the Vânătorul de Care R35 or its prototype. They came from a person named Dénes Bernád who has authored many books on the equipment of World War II. Most of these photos appeared in an edition of Trackstory by Edition du Barbotin about the R35 and the R40. Edition du Barbotin never confirmed the photographs to be related to the Vânătorul de Care R35, but they did say it’s most likely related to it.
However, there is a reasonable amount of evidence that this has no relations to the Vânătorul de Care R35 and may well be an upgunned prototype for the R35 from France or any other country. The trunnions are unchanged, remaining where they were on the regular R35 while the trunnions on the Vânătorul de Care R35 and its likely prototype were placed on the horizontal extension of the mantlet. So they’re most likely not related at all. There is currently no substantial evidence for this being related to the Vânătorul de Care R35. At best, it could be some sort of early mockup.
Notice how the trunnions are located at different positions than the trunnions on the VDC R35 and its likely prototype. The gun is also not stepped like the 45mm 20K. - Photograph source: Trackstory: Renault R35/R40
Notice how the trunnions are located at different positions than the trunnions on the VDC R35 and its likely prototype. The gun is also not stepped like the 45mm 20K. - Photograph source: Trackstory: Renault R35/R40
Notice how the trunnions are located at different positions than the trunnions on the VDC R35 and its likely prototype. The gun is also not stepped like the 45mm 20K. – Photograph source: Trackstory: Renault R35/R40

Photograph of the 2nd Armored Regiment’s R35/T-26?

There may be a single photograph of the 2nd Armored Regiment’s prototype. The recently discovered R35/T-26 (round turret version, not the similar conical turreted version, which is likely a German field conversion), may be this vehicle. In the only known photograph, two soldiers (of unknown nationality) are seen with the vehicle on a train. The vehicle appears to have a sort of camouflage on it, although the image is too unclear to tell for certain. While this vehicle may, indeed, be a second German field conversion, it is possible, due to the above information, that this vehicle is the 2nd Armored Regiment’s prototype.
The R35/T-26 appears as though it's being transported by rail with another T-26 as a companion
The R35/T-26 appears as though it’s being transported by rail with another T-26 as a companion.

Conclusion

The Vânătorul de Care R35 was not at all a vehicle that revolutionized tank designing doctrine nor was it built in large numbers to become relevant. It was a tank that reminds us how poorly equipped the Romanian Armed Forces were in World War II and how this tank probably would not have existed if the Germans had not directly and indirectly stifled agreements between the Czechs and Romanians. While Romania did receive the occasional batch of Panzer IVs or StuG IIIs, it was not sufficient. This lead Romania to develop its own anti-tank platforms from tanks they already had and captured.
It was not until late in the war that Germany started to somewhat value its allies and increase the cooperation after they showed themselves to be capable of developing impressive weaponry such as Romania’s Vânătorul de Care Mareșal tank destroyer prototypes. The Vânătorul de Care R35 was simply a natural outcome due to the scarce amount of effective armored vehicles Romania had in its arsenal.
Only one Carul de Luptă survives and now resides at the National Military Museum in Bucharest. The turret of a Vânătorul de Care R35 in poor condition is located in a village named Stary Tekov in the Levice district of Slovakia, in a place where they host reenactments for the Battle for the River Hron and show off some military equipment.

Sidenote

Most of the information in the sections regarding the development of the Vânătorul de Care R35 is mostly based off “Third Axis, Fourth Ally” by Mark Axworthy, Cornel Scafeș, and Cristian Craciunoiu. However, primary sources such as “Armata Română Şi Evoluția Armei Tancuri. Documente (1919 – 1945)“ have contributed to the article and closely correlate with some of the information in “Third Axis, Fourth Ally”. Because of this, most of what is said in “Third Axis, Fourth Ally” is likely to be accurate. Additionally, Mark Axworthy claims to have used the Romanian Ministry of Defense’s archives as a major the source for his book.

Gallery

Two photographs of the same Vânătorul de Care R35 besides a plethora of destroyed tanks in Znojmo Railway, 1945.
Two photographs of the same Vânătorul de Care R35 besides a plethora of destroyed tanks in Znojmo Railway, 1945.
Two photographs of the same Vânătorul de Care R35 besides a plethora of destroyed tanks in Znojmo Railway, 1945.
Similar photographs of the same Vânătorul de Care R35 with an unidentified Romanian or Soviet soldier in Znojmo Railway, 1945.
Similar photographs of the same Vânătorul de Care R35 with an unidentified Romanian or Soviet soldier in Znojmo Railway, 1945.
Similar photographs of the same Vânătorul de Care R35 with an unidentified Romanian or Soviet soldier in Znojmo Railway, 1945.

Vânătorul de Care R35 specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 4.02 x 1.87 x 2.13 m (13.19 x 6.13 x 7.99 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 11.7 tons
Propulsion 82-85 hp water-cooled Renault 447 4-cylinder, 2200 rpm petrol engine
Suspension Rubber springs placed horizontally
Speed (road) 20 km/h (12.4 mph)
Armament 45 mm (1.77 in) 20K
Armor (cast steel) Hull & turret front and sides: 40 mm
Upper hull front: 43 mm
Turret rear: 40 mm
Hull rear: 32 mm
Turret & hull top: 25 mm
Hull bottom: 10 mm
Cupola: 40 mm
Driver’s hatch: 40 mm
Mantlet: Uknown
Total production 30 converted
  • Soviet penetration tests posted on Overlord’s blog
  • R35 article by Yuri Pasholok
  • R35 stats at tbof.us
  • “The Romanian Army and the Evolution of the Tank branch. Documents. 1919-1945” by Commander Doctor Marian Moşneagu, Doctor Lulian-Stelian Boţoghină, Professor Mariana-Daniela Manolescu, Doctor Leontin-Vasile Stoica, and Professor Mihai-Cosmin Şoitariu (Armata Română Şi Evoluția Armei Tancuri. Documente (1919 – 1945)
  • “Trupele Blindate din Armata Română 1919-1947” by Cornel Scafeș, Ioan Scafeș, and Horia Şerbănescu
  • “Third Axis, Fourth Ally” by Mark Axworthy, Cornel Scafeș, and Cristian Craciunoiu
Categories
Romanian WW2 Prototypes

T-26/37mm

Kingdom of Romania (1942) Light tank – Proposal only

Throughout World War II, the Kingdom of Romania captured various vehicles from their enemies, especially from the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front. These armored vehicles were either used in combat, used for training or scrapped for spare parts and material for the production of domestic armored vehicles.

Where these T-26s possibly came from

By 1942, Romania had already captured twenty-eight unspecified armored vehicles from the Soviet Union and ninety-one were being recovered. With ample amounts of armored vehicles being retrieved, a Commission of Captured Equipment was established. This commission was entrusted to sort out equipment coming from conquered territories and consisted of Iosif Nitescu, Lieutenant-Colonel Constantin Ghiulai, and other unnamed individuals.

Mr. Ghiulai was already developing the TACAM T-60 since late 1941 and would later commence development of the TACAM R-2 in December 1942. It is unclear if the Commission was also meant to get a closer study of the captured equipment  More equipment was being found in March 1942 in Transnistria and Bessarabia. Sixty men from the 2nd Armored Regiment were sent to gather these vehicles.
Soviet T-26B in Bessarabia, 1940.- Source: oldpicz.com
Soviet T-26B in Bessarabia, 1940.- Source: oldpicz.com
From the tanks they salvaged, the Commission of Captured Equipment intended to send some to the 2nd Armored Regiment, to cover the losses they had suffered. The Regiment needed 22 more tanks to reach its full strength of 73 vehicles.
Of the vehicles they had captured, the Romanians thought the T-26s would be a good option for the 2nd Armored Regiment. Five T-26As (early, twin turreted variant), four T-26Bs (mid variant with a single cylindrical turret) and eight T-26Cs (late variant with a single semi-conical turret) were available and in good order at the time. The T-26 was seen to be on par or even superior to their R-35s and R-2s (Romanian LT vz. 35).
The T-26 designations stated above (T-26A, T-26B, and T-26C) are Romanian/German designations and do not reflect the Soviet naming system.
Soviet T-26B (front) and T-26C (back) parading in the streets in Bessarabia, 1940.- Source: oldpicz.com
Soviet T-26C (front) and T-26B (back) parading in the streets in Bessarabia, 1940.- Source: oldpicz.com

T-26 Chassis Specification

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.55 m x 2.31 m x 2.30 m
(14ft 11in x 7ft 7in x 7ft 7in)
Total weight, battle ready 9.6 tons
Crew 3
Propulsion 4-cyl gas flat air cooled Armstrong-Siddeley, 90 bhp
Speed (road/off-road) 31/16 km/h (19.3/9.9 mph)
Range (road/off road) 240/140 km (150/87 mi)
Armor 6 to 15 mm (0.24-0.59 in)
Track width 28 cm (11 inches)
Track link length 12.5 cm (4.9 inches)

Interpretation of the T-26/37mm by David Bocquelet
Interpretation of the T-26/37mm by David Bocquelet

Modified T-26 proposal

On July 22, 1942, a proposal was suggested, it would exchange the armament of the captured T-26s, even though sufficient amount of ammunition for the 45mm 20K was available. A need to “unify” the guns used by the Romanian army was being felt. The proposal referred to a “Škoda” gun and a “ZB” machine gun. No specifics were given to what Škoda gun or ZB machine gun would’ve been used. At this time, Romania almost exclusively operated Škoda field guns, which were large caliber artillery guns. The only logical alternative is that they meant the 3.7 cm A3  gun which was also mounted on the R-2 tanks. The T-26 modification might’ve been a plan to salvage the 3.7 cm gun from destroyed R-2s. It’s also possible that the gun might’ve been part of a failed armament deal between Škoda or Germany and Romania being discussed around the time of this T-26 modification. However, there is no proof at all for this and it’s purely speculation.

The ZB machine gun is most likely the Czechoslovakian 7.92mm ZB-53 machine gun which would be mounted on some Maresal tank destroyers prototypes and proposed for the Vânătorul de Care R-35. This 7.92mm ZB-53 machine gun was supposed to replace the T-26’s coaxial 7.62 mm DT machine gun.
This proposal never materialized. The efforts of converting these vehicles, getting them into service and keeping them properly maintained were probably seen as too big for the small number of obsolete tanks it would have added to the Romanian tank force. The T-26s were sent to various Romanian units, where they were used for training. Later on, they were scrapped and their armor was used in the construction of the TACAM T-60 or TACAM R-2, while the guns were used for the Vânătorul de Care R-35 conversions.
The designation used in this article, “T-26/37mm”, is a fabricated designation since no historical alternative exists.

Possible implications

The smaller 3.7 cm A3 would have most likely had less destructive effect on its targets and its HE shells would have been of limited use against infantry and fortifications. However, the 3.7 cm shells were significantly smaller than the 45 mm ones, allowing more ammo to be carried. It is unknown if the mantlet would have required any kind of alterations.
Another theoretical advantage is the possible reduction of the reloading time of the main gun. Since the 3.7 cm A3’s shells are relatively small and weigh less compared to the 20K’s 45 mm shells, reloading the main gun would be easier and faster by comparison.
The 3.7 cm A3 with the 3,7cm Pzgr(t) umg APCBC shell could penetrate 37 mm of steel angled at 60 degrees from horizontal. According to one Soviet penetration test, the 45 mm 20K Model 1948 with an unspecified AP shell penetrates 43 mm of armor while angled at 60 degrees and 57 mm of armor at 90 degrees.

Other examples

Two T-34s were captured by Romania from the Soviets. One weighing 26 tons and the other weighing 33 tons (possibly referring to the T-34E STZ variant). It was proposed that an unnamed 120 mm and 150 mm gun were to be mounted on a different turret on the two T-34s. The proposal was later scrapped due to Romania’s inability to produce the necessary parts to handle the recoil of these large guns.
The Romanians modified the remaining R-35s with the T-26’s 45mm 20K. This conversion was named the Vânătorul de Care R35. These R35s received a modified mantlet and were used in the later stages of the war by the Romanian Army before and after they defected to the Allies.
Captured Romanian T-26C with painted aerial identification emblems.- Source: beutepanzer.ru
Captured Romanian T-26C with painted aerial identification emblems.- Source: beutepanzer.ru
Soviet penetration tests posted on Overlord’s blog
“The Romanian Army and the Evolution of the Tank branch. Documents. 1919-1945” by Commander Doctor Marian Moşneagu, Doctor Lulian-Stelian Boţoghină, Professor Mariana-Daniela Manolescu, Doctor Leontin-Vasile Stoica, and Professor Mihai-Cosmin Şoitariu (Armata Română Şi Evoluția Armei Tancuri. Documente (1919 – 1945))
“Czechoslovak Armoured Fighting Vehicles 1918-1945” by H.C. Doyle and C.K. Kliment
“Third Axis, Fourth Ally” by Mark Axworthy, Cornel Scafeș, and Cristian Craciunoiu

Categories
WW2 Soviet Prototypes

T-45

Soviet Union USSR (1942) Light tank – 1 prototype built

Introduction

Excellent frontal view of the T-45 - Credit: warspot.ru
Excellent frontal view of the T-45 – Credit: warspot.ru
The T-45 was a Soviet WWII light tank project, meant as a stop-gap measure until the T-70 could enter production. It was based on the lesser T-60, but with a new gun, turret and engine. While the T-45 didn’t have any glaring deficiencies and was superior to the T-60, it was nevertheless inferior to the T-70 in a number of aspects. However, there was no competition between the two, and the order to switch to T-70 production reduced the T-45 to a footnote in AFV history.

Background history

The NKTP found that Factory #37, based in Sverdlovsk, Ukraine, was unable to completely master T-70 production. This was an apparent issue from March 9, 1942 to late August, 1942. Another issue became apparent. Engines became a problem at Factory #37. They lacked GAZ-202 engines for their T-60s. The Gorky Automobile Plant (now known as GAZ) sent less engines than what was needed in the 1st quarter of 1942. This, in turn, delayed T-60 production. This sparked the theoretical idea of adding a ZIS-5 and/or ZIS-16 engine to T-60s produced by Factory #37.
Factory #37’s design bureau, headed by N.A. Popov, was tasked with designing the new vehicle. The design bureau was mostly made up of engineers who worked for Department #22 until their evacuation to Sverdlovsk. Department #22 worked on many tank projects and N.A. Popov, who also evacuated to Sverdlovsk, was the senior designer of the T-40 amphibious light tank.
The ZIS-16 (which came from a bus of the same name) was chosen as the new engine. The ZIS-16 engine received a new designation as the ZIS-60 for the tank version. This modified T-60 had an engine compartment which was easier to access, was less noisy, and had a top speed of 40.5 km/h which is one 1 km/h gained from the T-60 with the GAZ-202 engine installed. However, the engine had cooling problems. It also had modified final drives and a redesigned exhaust system. 5 of these new T-60s were ordered.
Factory #37’s military engineer 1st class, S.A.A. Afonin, mentioned this to the NKTP (People’s Commissariat of Tank Industry) during a meeting on May 14, 1942. He also conveyed the idea of adding a 45mm gun and increasing the armor to 35mm, which started the idea of the T-45. To Factory #37’s disappointment, these modifications and proposals were seen negatively by the NKTP.  With this combination, this T-60 variant was still inferior to the T-70 in terms of armor, engine power, and mobility. Since this would increase the weight of the vehicle, the engine, transmission, and suspension would suffer from further stress. The NKTP would not recommend this T-60 variant.
By the end of the meeting, Factory #37 was told to perform a trial of 200 km. After this task was completed, the results were to be sent to the Main Directorate of Armored Forces (GABTU) for evaluation. In the meantime, no more prototypes were allowed to be constructed.
It seems like Factory #37 started from scratch during or shortly after the meeting. This time they would actually install the 45mm gun, a new turret, and increase the armor thickness of the hull. This became known as the T-45.
T-45 prototype sitting in the yard of Factory #37 in 1942 - Credits: warspot.ru
T-45 prototype sitting in the yard of Factory #37 in 1942 – Credits: warspot.ru
S.A. Ginzburg, lead designer of the T-50 light tank and deputy director of the NKTP, joined the factory’s design team around April, 1942. Ginzburg sought to produce a light SPG based on the T-60 chassis, which matched the Factory #37’s goal. However, the T-45 was mostly complete by then.

Motivation behind the T-45

Upon the T-70s entry into mass-production, the Gorky Automobile Plant would have to produce twice as many engines GAZ-202 engines, as the new light tank used two of them. However, the factory was already having problems supplying them, and this in turn caused delay to the delivery of the tanks to the Red Army.
The T-70 required 1440 new types of parts, the creation of 545 new dies (basically a stamping tool), 825 new devices and 2300 new tools to start production. The T-45 required 224 new parts, 104 new dies, 175 new devices, and 255 tools. However, the T-45 borrowed 132 parts. 85 dies. 149 devices, and 433 tools from the T-70.
This meant that tank production wouldn’t be significantly disturbed by the introduction of the vehicle, which was superior to the T-60 on which it was based. The T-45 offered superior weaponry, and armor compared to the T-60, and it would have used an engine that was easier to obtain, as the factory which produced it was closer.

Protection

Compared to the T-60, the T-45’s hull armor was mostly the same with the exception of the sloping of the upper front plate, that had 25mm of armor instead of 15mm. If it was ever needed, the flat front plate could be up-armored from 35mm to 45mm. The increase of armor made the protection almost on par with the T-70. The armor thickness of the side of the T-45’s turret was 35mm. The driver’s hatch now swiveled to the side in a similar fashion to the Panther’s cupola. The T-45’s side plates was also riveted opposed to being welded (it is highly likely that this would’ve changed during production).
The T-45's 45 mm gun can be easily seen when the hatch is open - Credits: warspot.ru
The T-45’s 45 mm gun can be easily seen when the hatch is open – Credits: warspot.ru

Firepower

The T-45 was armed with a 45mm 20K Model 1938 and a coaxial DT machine gun. This setup was very common among Soviet light tanks, as well as on the T-70.
The first trials were held on May 20th, 1942. The firepower was tested. The T-45 achieved 7-8 shells per minute when standing still and 3 shells per minute when on the move. The turret tended to sink inside the hull due to its weight. Despite the sinking turret, it allegedly managed to hit all 25 of its shells at the target at an unknown range.
The TMPF sight was planned to be replaced with the standard TOP 45mm sight.

T-45
Illustration of the T-45

Mobility

The T-45 received the inferior, but common ZIS-5 engine (the engine already traveled 12,000 km) which was ripped from a truck. The ZIS-16 engine was in short supply as they only had one left. Unfortunately, the top speed decreased to 37.2 km/h. It also received final drives and steering clutches from the T-70. New, strengthened torsion bars were added alleviate the added weight (weight 7 tonnes).
Driving trials were performed for seven days, from the 6th to the 13th of June. In total, it traveled 1505 km; 189 km on asphalt roads, 805 km on gravel, 410 km on rubble, and 110 km on dirt roads. The trials revealed several defects, such as the cooling fans malfunctioning twice, the engine working at high RPMs (which increases the chances of it breaking down), tires occasionally slipping off the wheel, and the track links breaking several times. The quality of the track links reflected on Factory #183, which manufactured them, and not Factory #37. The trials were successful otherwise with the exception of a few complaints that were listed earlier, especially given the old ZIS-5 engine that already had 12,000 km on it.
Upon successful termination of the trials and if the GABTU gave its blessing, the Miass factory, based in Miass, Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia, would’ve produced the T-45’s ZIS-5 engine along with the transmission. The ZIS-16 engine would probably replaced the ZIS-5 once it’s production would have been properly set-up. However, since the T-45 was never placed into service, production of the engine and the transmission never occurred.
The T-45's riveted side armor is clearly seen - Credits: warspot.ru
The T-45’s riveted side armor is clearly seen – Credits: warspot.ru

Conclusion

The data of the trial was sent to GABTU by the end of June, 1942. This data included both the T-45 and the T-60 with the ZIS-16 engine.
Factory #37 already struggled at producing T-60s. 321 semi-completed T-60s were produced in June, but only 109 were fully complete in June. The rest lacked tracks and armaments. The goal at the factory was supposed to be 200 complete T-60s.
Central Command’s new rule named #1958ss “Regarding T-34 and T-70 Tank Production” forced Factory #37 to cancel all T-60 production and to switch to the T-70.  Prior to this, Factory #37 only built 10 T-60s in July. After they switched, scarcity of parts became more and more obvious. This sealed the fate of the T-45 project.
The T-45 didn’t suffer from any condemning defects and some of the characteristics were largely on par with the T-70.
Whatever small advantages the T-45 could bring to the table could not convince the Soviet command to add yet another light tank into service. This would have complicated both maintenance and production in a moment when the Soviets needed as many tanks as possible as fast as possible.
Ultimately, the T-45 was born and quietly faded in the shadow of the T-70, without having a chance of proving itself.’
The remaining prototype was sent into battle where it was most likely destroyed.

Sources

“T-60 and Related Vehicles” by Yuri Pasholok
Article on the T-45 by Yuri Pasholok
Special thanks for Yuri Pasholok for helping us out and to Nikita Nikitenko for translating!

T-45 specifications

Dimensions 4.12 x 2.34 x 1.8 m (14’24” x 7’68” x 5’9” ft)
Total weight, battle ready 7 tons
Crew 2 (driver and commander)
Propulsion 73-76 hp ZIS-5 engine or 85mm ZIS-16 engine (theoretical)
Suspension torsion bar
Speed (road)  37.2 km/h (23 mph)
Armament 45mm 20K Model 1938
Armor 25mm upper sloped plate
35mm or 45mm (theoretical) flat front plate
35mm turret side
Total production 1 prototype

T-45 schematic - Credits: Dmitry Shuvalov
T-45 schematic – Credits: Dmitry Shuvalov
Pilot standing beside the T-45 - Credits: warspot.ru
Pilot standing beside the T-45 – Credits: warspot.ru
ww2 soviet armour
ww2 Soviet Tanks Poster

Categories
Modern US Improvised AFVs

Marvin Heemeyer's Armored Bulldozer

USA (2004)
Improvised Fighting Vehicle – 1 built

A one-man rampage

In 2004, the resort town of Granby, Colorado was terrorized by a man named Marvin John Heemeyer. A costly amount of property and vehicles were destroyed by a single man and his retrofitted Komatsu D355A bulldozer. Heemeyer’s bulldozer (also known as the Killdozer) was an engineering marvel for a single man and managed to take explosives and armor piercing ammunition. Not much is known about the man, but he claimed to be influenced by God. He recorded himself prior to the rampage explaining his motives and his targets. However, even though the recordings were released to the news reporters, they were never fully released to the public. Only bits and pieces can be found online.Heemeye's Killdozer at the end of its rampage
Heemeye’s Killdozer at the end of its rampage

Backstory

Marvin John Heemeyer (born in South Dakota, October 28,1951), a successful welder, owned two muffler shops named “Mountain View Muffler” in Granby and nearby Boulder, Colorado. He was known by the town for fighting civil issues such as a failed proposal to bring gambling to Grand Lake, Colorado (where he lived) in 1994.
The town of Granby allowed a cement plant to be located near Heemeyer’s muffler shop in 2000. This angered him over the noise, dust and the limited access to his shop it could create. Heemeyer tried to convince Cody Docheff, the project’s operator, to sell his property, but ultimately failed.
In 2001, the town sided with the concrete plant. Heemeyer countered this with a lawsuit which failed again.
In 2003, he found himself involved in another conflict with the town concerning whether he should be connected to the town’s sewage system. Heemeyer was not part of the system. He was forced to pay the $2500 fine and wrote a check which he enclosed the note with “cowards” written on it.
He plotted his revenge. This involved his Komatsu D355A bulldozer. He had originally purchased it to construct roads to his shops. In March of 2003,, Heemeyer deeded his house to a friend and lived in his shop. He then sold off both of his shops and the building that housed his bulldozer.
However, he kept 185 square miles (479 square kilometers) of closed off land with a building where the bulldozer was moved to in December the same year. For six months, he used his welding skills to armor up his bulldozer so he could use it for his revenge.

Mobility

The default 49 ton Komatsu D355A bulldozer is powered by a 410 hp (305 kw) engine. It had a top road speed of 7.45 mph (12 km/h) and a horsepower per ton of 8.36. Heemeyer’s armored version brought the weight up to 61 tons. This most likely slowed the bulldozer somewhat and decreased the horsepower per ton to 6.7.

Armament

The bulldozer was armed with a .50 (12.7mm) Barret M82 semi-automatic rifle at the rear, 5.56mm FN FNC semi-automatic assault rifle at the front, and a .223 (5.7mm) Ruger Mini-14 at the right. His two side arms were a .357 (9.1mm) Magnum revolver and 9mm Kel-Tec P-11. These weapons were fired from small firing ports inside the cabin.

One of the Killdozer's weapons, a Barret M82 rifle
One of the Killdozer’s weapons, a Barret M82 rifle

Protection

The armor consisted of two half inch (12.7mm) steel plates with concrete in the middle and bonded plexiglas which gave it the same benefits of composite armor. This proved very effective against small-arms fire, armor piercing ammunition and grenades.
The cameras which allowed Heemeyer to see his surroundings were connected to three monitors and protected by three inch (76.2mm) bulletproof plastic. The armored Komatsu D355A bulldozer also had a sophisticated air filtration system and air conditioning system.

Rampage

On June 4, 2004, Heemeyer greased up his bulldozer to make it harder for people to climb on top before he bolted himself shut inside. He smashed through the building that housed his bulldozer and proceeded to his first target which was unsurprisingly the cement plant near his former business.
While this factory was being destroyed, the owner, Cody Docheff, drove one of his own construction vehicles to try and stop the destruction. Heemeyer saw this and quickly charged towards Docheff’s vehicle. Docheff regretted his decision. His vehicle was not big enough to stop the bulldozer so he tried to make his escape by driving away. Heemeyer rammed the rear of Docheff’s vehicle.
The armored bulldozer preparing to rip through a building
The armored bulldozer preparing to rip through a building
During his rampage, he managed to destroy a local bank, his former business, hardware store, the town hall, the police department building, the home of Granby’s deceased former mayor, the town’s library, local newspaper office, former judge’s home, and an enormous amount of cars. He spent a few minutes trying to ignite the Independent Propane Company’s storage tanks by firing at them with his .50 cal rifle. Luckily, they did not explode or catch fire.

Killdozer
Marvin Heemeyer’s armored bulldozer reconstitution by D Bocquelet

Fate

After being sealed by an industrial loader inside a group of buildings, Heemeyer in his armored Komatsu bulldozer tried to escape by ramming through buildings. The chaos stopped when the bulldozer collapsed inside a store’s basement.
Police officers charged towards the bulldozer but it was covered with grease which made it tougher for them to get on top of the machine. Colorado’s governor considered using the Apache’s Hellfire missiles from the Colorado National Guard to destroy the vehicle, but it was already bogged down inside a basement. Heemeyer committed suicide with his .357 (9.1mm) Magnum revolver. His armored bulldozer was stuck. He could see no way out and he did not want to go to jail.

Conclusion

Fortunately, there were no civilian or police deaths, however, Heemeyer had caused seven million dollars of damage to buildings and vehicles. It is said that killing civilians wasn’t his intentions, but his tape recordings say otherwise. Heemeyer’s recordings were released by the police department to news stations, however, only bits and pieces can be found online. It took twelve hours with a blowtorch to enter into the cabin of the armored bulldozer to retrieve his dead body.
The town hall after the rampage This truck was one of the many vehicular victims of Heeymer's rampage
The incident left 7 million dollars worth of damage.
Heemeyer is seen by most as just a terrorist, but some see him as a patriotic American for standing up to the government. C4, grenades, and more than 200 bullets were used against the bulldozer and had little to no effect. A few people in Granby proposed a yearly celebration of the incident to generate tourism. The idea was rejected, and the armored bulldozer was scrapped.
Luckily, insurance and state aid came to help the ravaged town of Granby and it quickly got back onto its feet. After Heemeyer’s rampage, it received the reputation as the “Killdozer”. Funny enough, this isn’t the first kind of attack in Colorado. In 1998, a man named Tom Leask conducted an attack with a government owned front end loader in Alma, Colorado. He managed to destroy the town’s post office, town hall, fire department, and water department until he was taken into custody.

Similar Vehicles

Armored bulldozers are nothing new and are present in many conflicts as professionally manufactured or improvised combat vehicles. This bulldozer is particularly interesting due to how well it protected him from C4, grenades, and armor piercing ammunition. Plus, it only took one expert welder to make this impressive contraption.
The Israeli Defense Forces has different armored versions of the D9 Caterpillar with slat armor and a protected cabin; other examples include the British Centaur bulldozer, Japanese Type 75 bulldozer, American D7G Caterpillar bulldozer, armored bulldozer used by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces in Sri Lanka against the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), and dozens of other bulldozers.

An article by Joshua Martinez

Links

Suburban Legends: True Tales of Murder, Mayhem, and Minivans
The Colorado Mountain Companion
Oddballs
Komatsu D355A-1 specifications
News article about the event

Killdozer specifications

Dimensions TBA m (TBA)
Total weight, battle ready 61 tons
Crew 1
Propulsion Komatsu SA6D155-4A, 410 hp
Armament .50 (12.7 mm) Barret M82 semi-automatic rifle
5.56 mm (0.22 in) FN FNC semi-automatic assault rifle
.223 (5.7 mm) Ruger Mini-14
Armor Plexiglass, Concrete, .5 inch (12.7 mm) steel plates

Video

Gallery

a-the-dozer-1024x871
A good shot of the bulldozer after the destruction spree
Various shots of the KilldozerVarious shots of the KilldozerVarious shots of the Killdozer

Categories
modern Russian armor

BMPT Terminator

Russia (2002)
Heavy Infantry Fighting Vehicle – 15-20 built


BMPT Terminator being showcased at an expo.

Philosophy of a Russian heavy IFV

The BMPT Terminator (the name “Terminator” is not an official designation, but used by the designers for publicity reasons) is a support combat vehicle which is mainly meant to be used in urban areas. It is, quite obviously, based off the T-72 without the iconic hemispherical turret, which is exchanged for an unmanned platform with a single machine gun, four anti-tank missiles and dual 30 mm (1.18 in) auto-cannons. The hull has a superstructure built onto to it, which allows for more space for the crew.
Since tanks aren’t really suited for use in urban areas, this is a great alternative to the regular MBT, because it possesses a rapid enough rate of fire to react to any enemy vehicles in its surrounding and the four missiles are excellent when fighting against heavily armored targets. However, this vehicle is not a tank substitute, as it cannot perform as well in non-urban areas. While it is still lethal against other softer targets, it is unsuited to the extreme ranges that tanks battle at. Another advantage that the BMPT has over regular tanks is the elevation and depression. The gun is able to elevate and depress enough to hit at any targets, like building tops and other tall structures.

Early developments

Before the Terminator, two earlier prototypes were placed in competition for the BMPT requirements. These were the Object 781 and the Object 782, both made by Chelyabinsk and lead by V.L. Vershinsky. The main reason these two vehicles were ordered was the performance of IFVs in the Soviet War in Afghanistan. IFVs such as the BMP-1 and the BMD series proved to struggle against infantry when faced with portable anti-tank weapons, such as the well-known RPG series. Another downfall of the BMP-1 was the lack of elevation (the BMP-2 fixed this problem) which allowed the enemy to take a major advantage when engaging it from above. The Object 781 and the Object 782 were based off the T-72B, with major modifications.
Object 781 Object 782
Object 781 and Object 782 stored at the Kubinka Tank Museum
The Object 781 was dual turreted, each turret having a 30mm 2A72 (basically a simpler 30mm 2A42, which is seen on Soviet/Russian helicopters and IFVs) with a PKT 7.62mm machine gun as a companion. It also mounted an anti-tank missile system of an unknown type (most likely the 9M133 Konkurs). Its competitor was the Object 782; it had an actual turret, as opposed to the two unmanned turrets of the Object 781, with a very similar hull. The profile was smaller and it was armed with a 100mm 2A70 low recoil gun and a 30mm 2A72 auto-cannon which were directly connected to each other (similar system and weapons on the BMP-3). It was also armed with two 40mm grenade launchers (one on the hull and the other on the turret). The Object 781 won and was probably considered for mass-production, but the break-up of the Soviet Union ruined that prospect.
Object 787
Object 787 at the Kubinka Tank Museum
About five years later, another prototype was made and built by Chelyabinsk; this prototype was based off the T-72AV. This project was built because of tank performance in Chechnya (which was abysmal). The project kept the turret but removed the big 125mm main gun for a pair of 30mm 2A72 auto-cannons and six unguided rockets on each side. It also added extra structure at the back, in order for the armament to work properly and shield it from flanking fire. This tank was praised by many of the designers and some military officials. Unfortunately, work on the project was canceled because it was being advertised on radio and on television. Everyone who was working on the project was accused of “giving away Russia’s secrets” (keep in mind that Russia was in chaos during the 90’s). While they weren’t allowed to work on this vehicle, in particular, this did not stop the urge for an armored fighting vehicle with missiles, auto-cannons, and lots of armor.
Original BMPT model with one 30mm autocannon and older ATGMs. Final BMPT prototype design presumably being tested.
The BMPT Terminator prototypes
In the early 2000’s, work started on a new project called the Object 199, with the name “Ramka” attached to it. The Object 199 is the tank that came to be known as the BMPT Terminator. It was shown to the public in 2001 as a mock-up and the real project was unveiled to the masses in 2002. The early design was armed with a single 30mm 2A42 and four 9M133 “Kornet” ATGMs with two AG-17 grenade launchers and one 7.62mm PKTM as secondary armaments. Further development accompanied the 30mm auto-cannon with another 30mm auto-cannon and replaced the 9M133 “Kornet” ATGMs with  9M120 “Ataka” ATGMs.

Design of the BMPT

Armament
Instead of the 30mm 2A72 seen on the first 3 prototypes, the BMPT was equipped with the more complex 30mm 2A42 autocannon (effective range of 4000 meters). This auto-cannon is stabilized on two planes and has a rate of fire ranging from as low as 200 rounds per minute to 800 rounds per minute, with both having -5° and +45° and 360° of turret rotation. The BMPT’s second primary armament is the 130mm 9M120 “Ataka-T” anti-tank missile (industrial code is B07S1), with claims from the manufacturer that it can penetrate 800 mm (2’7”) of homogeneous armor with ERA with its HEAT ammunition (good enough for the side or rear of any modern tank). There are four of these anti-tank missiles, with two of them being placed vertically on both sides of the 30mm auto-cannons. This anti-tank missile is guided by a semi-automatic laser beam with flexible elevation angles (-10°/+25°). The missile has a flight velocity of 550 m/s with a maximum range of 5800 meters; it is controlled by the VIAM.461112.001 ground control equipment inside the BMPT. Since this is not a 9M120F variant (anti-personnel variant), it does not have the ability to carry anti-personnel missiles or not supposed to.
BMPT_turret_at_Engineering_Technologies_2012
A closeup of all the BMPT’s weapons except for the two 30mm grenade launchers
One of the BMPT’s secondary armament is one 7.62 PKTM machine gun that is situated between the two autocannons, with an aiming range of 1500 meters, muzzle velocity of 850 m/s, and a theoretical rate of fire of 700-800 rounds per minute. This machine gun has the same elevation and depression as the 30mm auto-cannons since it’s fixed on the same oscillating platform with the 30mm auto-cannons. The BMPT’s second secondary armament are two 30mm AG-17D grenade launchers. These grenade launchers are placed at the front of the tank on the far side of each other. They have the ability to fire 400 rounds per minute with a low muzzle velocity of 185 m/s and are able to kill a person up to 7+ meter radius from 1700 meters away. The grenade launchers on the right have 5° to the left and 27° to the right and the grenade launchers on the left have 27° on the left and 5° on the right with horizontal stabilization. Both of the grenade launchers have -5.5° depression and +20° elevation (no vertical stabilization). The BMPT is truly a killing machine with nine weapons (four different weapons) at the BMPT’s disposal
Mobility
The BMPT is powered by a V-92S2 (2000 rpm, V12, 4-stroke, multi-fuel, liquid cooling, and turbocharger) engine that churns out about 1000 hp. Combined with the weight (48 tonnes, 53 short tons, and 47 long tons) of the BMPT, it has a power-to-weight ratio of 20-21 hp/t, with a range of 550 km and a speed of 60 km/h on hard roads. The gearbox has seven forward gears and one reverse gear. The BMPT’s suspension is a torsion bar suspension (like most tanks designed from the 50’s and onwards) with shock absorbers, six rubber-lined road wheels, one front idler wheel, one rear drive sprocket, and three return rollers on each side. Ground clearance is 406mm and it’s able to ford water as deep as 1.8 meters with preparations and 1.2 meters without preparations. It is also able to climb over obstacles up to 0.85 meters at 30 degrees and able to cross trenches of 2.6-2.8 meters wide.
Protection
Since the armor is based on the T-72, it will most likely have the same armor as the T-90 or a modernized T-72. It also has Relikt ERA, which is said to be stronger than Kontakt-5. The side skirts are covered with soft material armor, cage/slat armor at the rear, and hard panels made of different materials. The crew is NBC protected from nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, as the acronym suggests. It also has an automatic fire extinguisher and System 903A smoke grenade launchers to conceal itself when spotted by the enemy or against guided weapons using infrared.

Active service

While the BMPT is not in Russian service since it is based on old Soviet tank designs, it is being used and bought by Kazakhstan and Algeria. Kazakhstan even went further by signing an agreement with UralVagonZavod in September of 2013 to co-produce the BMPT. Kazakhstan is providing decommissioned T-72s while Russia, specifically UralVagonZavod, will provide modules and spare parts with which Kazakhstan will assemble these tanks in their nation. This is a great way for UralVagonZavod to make a profit and for Kazakhstan to revive their old Soviet-era T-72s to current standards.
Peru also expressed interest to UralVagonZavod during Peru’s SITDEF (Salón Internacional De Tecnología Para La Defensa Y Prevención De Desastres Naturales) expo in 2015, with an interest to upgrade their aging T-55s with BMPT turrets and other possible modifications to the hull. However, these T-55s may be replaced or at most accompanied by Russian T-90s, Spanish Leopard 2A4s, or Dutch Leopard 2A6s. In addition, various Israeli companies and the Peruvian Desarrollos Industriales Casanave, with the association of the Ukrainian Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau, have also offered upgrades for the Peruvian T-55s.
Kazakhstani BMPTs being used during a parade. Algerian BMPT that is being trialed in Algeria.
BMPTs in Kazakhstani or Algerian service.

BMPT-72 Terminator-2 (2013)

This support combat vehicle was first revealed at the Russian Arms Expo (RAE) at Nizhny Tagil, Russia in 2013. The Terminator 2 is being sold as an armor upgrade package, rather than an actual tank, with two engines available. The two engines are the V-84MS (840 hp, 2000 rpm, V12, 4-stroke, multi-fuel, liquid cooling, and gear driven centrifugal type supercharger) and the V-92S2 (1000 hp, 2000 rpm, V12, 4-stroke, multi-fuel, liquid cooling, and turbocharger). These upgrades removed the two frontal 30mm grenade launchers; this reduced the crew from five to three, but also lightened the load from 48 tonnes to 44 tonnes.
The armament of the BMPT-72 Terminator 2 is the same (except for the removal of the two 30mm grenade launchers), however, the armament is better protected and the structural support of the four ATGMs is enhanced and positioned horizontally instead of vertically. The FCS has also gotten an upgrade with a new multi-channel gunner’s sight that is equipped with a thermal channel, night vision, laser range finder, laser guidance system for missiles, and independent 2-plane stabilization of field of view with a sighting range of 5000 meters. The BMPT-72 received a new digital ballistic computer with weather and topographical support and the armament is stabilized on two axes with electromechanical traversing and elevating drives. Lastly, improved NBC protection is provided for the crew.
BMPT-72 Terminator 2 showcased at an expo
BMPT-72 Terminator 2 unveiled at RAE 2013

BMPT-72 Terminator 2 in service

While the Terminator 2 isn’t in service as far as we know, Azerbaijan held an arms expo named ADEX (Azerbaijan Defense Exhibition) in 2014, which allowed arms dealers to show off their weapons to the armed forces of Azerbaijan. Since Azerbaijan has territorial issues with Armenia about the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the small Caucasian nation is looking for potent weapons in case things get heated again between the two countries. During the expo, Azerbaijan had stated that they’re interested in the Ka-52 attack/scout helicopter and the BMPT-72 Terminator 2 and numerous other weapons. In 2013, various unspecified Persian Gulf nations also expressed interest in the Terminator 2 during the Russian Arms Expo (RAE).
The Russian Federation has however refused the second iteration of the BMPT as well. The reasoning is that since the T-15 Armata exists, there is no reason to adopt the Terminator 2, with possibly less armor and no infantry carrying capacity. Lastly, during India’s DEFEXPO in 2014, UralVagonZavod proposed two upgrades to India’s obsolete T-72s. UVZ (UralVagonZavod) proposed the BMPT-72 package on India’s T-72s, which would extend their service life. They also proposed an Arena-E APS upgrade on Indian T-72s. Active Protection Systems fire a small projectile at cumulative and explosive missiles from portable/non-portable anti-tank weapons such as RPGs, Kornet, Konkurs, TOW, etc, detonating them before impact.
An article by Joshua Martinez a.k.a. SovietTenkDestroyer

BMPT specifications

Dimensions 7.2 x3.37 x3.80 m (23x 11x 12 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 48 tonnes
Crew 5 (driver, gunner, commander, 2 operators)
Propulsion V12 multifuel V-92S2 diesel, 1,000 hp (736 kW), 20 hp/t, turbocharger
Suspension Torsion bars
Speed (road) 60 km/h (37 mph)
Range 550 km (340 mi)
Armament 2 x2A42 30mm autocannons
4 ×130 mm Ataka-T launchers
Coaxial 7.62mm PKTM
2x AG-17D grenade launchers
Armor See notes
Total production At least 15 built

 

BMPT-72 specifications

Dimensions 7.2 x3.33 x3.6 m (23x 10.92x 11.81 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 44 tonnes
Crew 3 (driver, gunner, commander)
Propulsion V12 multifuel V-84MS diesel, 840 hp (626 kW), 19 hp/t, supercharger
V12 multifuel V-92S2 diesel, 1,000 hp (736 kW), 20 hp/t, turbocharger
Suspension Torsion bars
Speed (road) 60 km/h (37 mph)
Range 500 km (310 mi)
Armament 2 x2A42 30mm autocannons
4 ×130 mm Ataka-T launchers
Coaxial 7.62mm PKTM
Armor See notes
Total production Couple built for exhibitions but generally unknown

Kazakh BMP-T
Kazakh BMP-T
Russian BMP-T demonstrator
Russian BMP-T demonstrator

Video: The Terminator in Action (live footage)

Gallery

BMPT-Kazakh-3
Kazakh BMPT in a parade, 2011.
BMPT_Missiles_closeup_at_Engineering_Technologies_2012
BMPT 9M120 Ataka ATGM launcher tubes closeup, Engineering Technology Day 2012
BMPT-Kazakh-2
BMPT Terminator at the Engineering Technologies days, 2012.

The Terminator as shown at Eurosatory, 2012.
Bmpt_REA_2009
BMPT at REA 2009



Links

More information about the autocannons
Armored Warfare presentation of the BMPT
The Terminator 2 featured on Sputnik News
Terminator 2 specifications from UralVagonZavod
More info about the BMPT on BTVT.Narod.ru
The BMPT predecessors presented by Armored Warfare
More info about the ATAKA missiles
More info about the ATAKA-T missiles
More info about the AG-17 rocket launchers
More info about the PKTM machine-gun
The V-92S engine on Army-Guide
The V-84MS engine on Army Guide
Announcement of the cancellation of the BMPT programme 
News about the Terminator/T-55 Peruvian hybrid
The ADEX expo as reported on Vice News
News about the Algerian testing of the BMPT (in Romanian)
The Russian-Kazakhstani cooperation on TASS.ru
More news about the same
The proposal of the Terminator/T-55 hybrid
More info about SITDEF 2015
Rumours about Gulf countries being interested in the Terminator 2
News about the official interest in the Terminator 2 in Azerbaijan
Information about the ammunition of the 30 mm autocannons