Categories
WW2 Kingdom of Spain Prototypes

Blindado Romeo

Kingdom of Spain (1921-1922)
Armored Car – 1 or 2 built

In terms of armored vehicles resulting from both public and private ventures, the years following the Great War saw major developments. This was even true for those not embroiled in conflict, as was the case of the Kingdom of Spain. One of the vehicles to emerge from this period was the Blindado Romeo designed and funded by the Spanish journalist and parliamentarian Leopoldo Romeo in 1921. The vehicle was envisioned to be used in North Africa in the colonial war Spain was fighting and losing there.

Context – Disaster in the Rif

With the loss of its other overseas colonies in 1898, North Africa had become the focal point for Spanish military expeditions and it created the opportunity for career military officers to progress up the ranks. The initial expansion in the Rif area of Morocco, a mountainous region in the north along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, was slow and peaceful. However, by 1909, Rif tribesmen had begun to ambush Spanish rail workers and settlers. To stop the Rifians who operated over the vastness of the mostly inhabited Rif, the Spanish turned to the new weapon of war, the armored car. Just before the beginning of the war in Europe, Spain had been one of the pioneering states in the use of armored vehicles in military conflicts, with the use of the French-built Schneider-Brillié.

In the summer of 1921, General Manuel Fernández Silvestre, without first securing his rear, led his troops far into enemy-controlled territory until they arrived at the village of Annual. Here, on July 22nd, they met a superior force of Rif fighters under Abd el-Krim. Facing these odds, Silvestre then ordered a month-long retreat to Melilla, 120 km away, during which Silvestre’s forces were constantly ambushed and 14,000 men, including Silvestre (he allegedly committed suicide), died. Furthermore, 14,000 rifles, 1,000 machine guns, and 115 cannons were lost. Shortly afterwards, the Republic of the Rif was created.

Arming the Troops

Despite having a large land army, the Spanish forces in Morocco were not equipped to fight a modern war. The main aim was to acquire a number of the relatively new weapons of war – tanks. In the end, 10 machine gun armed Renault FTs and 6 Schneider CA-1s were bought from France and deployed to the Rif.

Additionally, a number of armored cars were developed in Spain to be sent to North Africa. These included the Blindado Landa and the far more successful series of Camiones Protegidos Modelo 1921.

A lesser-known armored car of this period was the Blindado Romeo. This vehicle was financed, designed and produced by Leopoldo Romeo y Sanz and was presented for the first time on August 22nd 1921.

Leopoldo Romeo proudly stands next to his invention outside the Madrid royal palace – source: Mundo Gráfico via Biblioteca Nacional de España

Who Was Leopoldo Romeo?

The history of Leopoldo Romeo, also known as ‘Juán de Aragón’, is as interesting as that of the vehicle he created. Born on November 15th 1870 in Zaragoza, he did a degree in Law, Philosophy and Humanities in his local university. He dedicated most of his life to journalism, becoming an editor at Ranocés shortly after leaving university. He then moved to El Evangelio before becoming chief editor at the prestigious La Correspondencia de España in 1902. He also served as Spanish correspondent for the French newspaper Le Temps and the British Daily Telegraph. For the latter, he covered the Second Hague Conference of 1907 and the Spanish war in Melilla before the outbreak of the Great War. Based on these experiences, he developed a moralistic, anti-militaristic approach which landed him in prison in Madrid in 1909. It is somewhat ironic that, eleven years later, he would design a vehicle of war.

Leopoldo Romeo, as photographed by the famous Danish photographer Christian Franzen – source: Wikipedia

Leopoldo Romeo was also a politician, first being elected as a member for Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands in 1905. At the time, his profession was listed as lawyer. In 1907, he returned to his main role as a journalist before returning to politics as a member for his native Zaragoza in 1910. He returned as a member of the Spanish Parliament in the 1914, 1916, 1918, 1919, 1920, and 1923 elections representing Belchite, in the province of Zaragoza. Initially an Independent Liberal, by the 1914 election, he was a representative of the Partido Liberal [Eng. Liberal Party], one of Spain’s two largest parties, which alternated power in a system known as ‘turnismo‘ [Eng. taking turns]. He was considered to be part of the most liberal wing of the party and had a great friendship with Álvaro Figueroa y Torres, the Conde de Romanones, leader of the Partido Liberal between 1913 and 1918 and Prime Minister of Spain in 1912. Due to his friendship with Romanones, Romeo was appointed as Civil Governor of Madrid, the capital. During his time in the role, he had to deal with workers’ movements in Madrid during a period known as ‘el trienio Bolchevique’ [Eng. the three Bolshevik years].

Romeo died of pneumonia on March 26th 1925, four years after his military invention and with the war in the Rif still ongoing.

Section of the El Sol newspaper announcing the death of Leopoldo Romeo on March 27th 1925 – source: El Sol via Biblioteca Nacional de España

Design

As with many Spanish armored wheeled designs of the time, the Blindado Romeo was not an armored car in the conventional sense, but rather an armored transport vehicle, most of its offensive power being offered by the infantry it carried. In its essence, the ‘Blindado’ (Spanish for ‘armored’) was a car with an armored cover meant to withstand enemy rifle fire.

Chassis and Engine

There is some confusion over the chassis of the vehicle. Spanish military authors Francisco Marín Gutiérrez and José Mª Mata Duaso, the only ones to have covered the Blindado Romeo, point towards a Spanish Landa Landaulette 1920 automobile as the basis for the chassis of the vehicle. They claim the vehicle had a gasoline 4 cylinder 15 hp engine. They also state that the vehicle had right-hand drive.

There is not much information about the vehicles produced by the Spanish manufacturer Landa, but, based on the available information, some of Marín Gutiérrez and Mata Duaso’s claims seem questionable. Landaulette is an alternative spelling of Landaulet, which is a car body style where the rear passengers are covered by a convertible top, a popular design at the time. Landaulette may just be the style of the car rather than the type or model, and Landa are known to have produced landaulets at that time. Landa had a limited number of chassis designs, but advertised itself as producing any car body style upon request.

Photographic evidence demonstrates that the vehicle had left-hand drive though. Up until 1921, Landa had produced a number of cars with 2 cylinder engines manufactured by the same company and producing a maximum of 9 hp. Curiously, these had right-hand drive. Although today Spain drives on the right, until 1924, the city of Madrid drove on the left. In 1921, Landa moved to using the more powerful American 4 cylinder 15/35 hp Lycoming engines, which were positioned at the front.

Regardless, even with a meager maximum of 7 mm of all-round armor, which would have probably added around 2 tonnes, the weight would have proven too much for a chassis designed for an automobile. Similarly, the engine would have been underpowered.

The 1921 Landa chassis model using a 4 cylinder 15 hp Lycoming engine. This was most likely the base of the Blindado Romeo – source: Autopasión18
Rear-side view of the Blindado Romeo with its creator, Leopoldo Romeo. This photo demonstrates that the vehicle had left hand drive. The photo also demonstrates how the foldable armored side plates worked – source: Mundo Gráfico via Biblioteca Nacional de España

Armor

One of the distinctive, though by no means unique, features of the vehicle was its armor. The armor itself was far from impressive, probably around 5 to 7 mm thick and made from chromium-nickel steel, more simply known as stainless steel, but considering the period and the opposition it would have faced, it was most likely sufficient. The entire vehicle was armored, including the wheels, with the tires being made from solid rubber. The sides of the vehicle though could be open like a parapet. At its maximum extension using both sides, this extended to 5 m in width.

The Blindado Romeo being demonstrated with both sets of foldable panels at their maximum extent of 5 m– source: Mundo Gráfico via Biblioteca Nacional de España

To remain in position, the armored parapets had to be fixed in position in several parts. On their furthest extents to the sides, they were fixed into the ground with a latch. There were four metallic bars (two on each side) that attached the folding doors to the body of the vehicle near the rear wheels.

The idea is that one of these vehicles could provide enough cover for a squad of infantry soldiers from their shins upwards. Using several, these could provide cover for bigger units of infantry or even artillery pieces. However, for several reasons, it was a flawed design for its intended purpose. To pick up the metal bars at the front of the vehicle, a crewmember or a soldier would have had to expose themselves to enemy fire. Whilst the armor protection was enough to withstand anything that would be found in the Rif, the sides and rear were vulnerable and the parapets could only be deployed statically. In spite of his awards and being an excellent journalist, Leopoldo Romeo had not understood what kind of war was being fought in the Rif. The Spanish had continuously lost to Abd el-Krim because his forces outmaneuvered them, thus a static vehicle would have been of very limited use in open warfare. Had the vehicle been intended for urban policing, which was something very common in Spain at the time, its design would have been of more use. Deploying the parapets, one vehicle could block a whole street. Even today’s riot control vehicles use a very similar system.

Side-view of the Blindado Romeo. The blue circles show the metal bars to hold open the parapet and the latch to fix it to the ground– source: Mundo Gráfico via Biblioteca Nacional de España with added modifications by author

Crew and Armament

The vehicle could have been operated by just one crew member, fulfilling the roles of driver and commander. Given the space at the front, it is likely that the vehicle would have had an actual commander in addition to the driver. The rear of the vehicle could have carried a maximum of four soldiers, who would have most likely sat on benches.

From the inside, the commander and driver had two slits in front of them and two each on the sides of the vehicle. These would have mainly been used to see their surroundings, but also probably to fire from, especially when the vehicle was static. The foldable parapet side armor had three slits for each panel, as did the rearmost side armor. The rear of the vehicle also had two slits. From the photographic evidence, it seems that these slits could have had a protective cover. This would suggest that the vehicle was also designed for the infantry complement to fire from the interior when in motion. Contemporary sources (Mundo Gráfico) suggest that inside the vehicle, two machine guns could have been carried. These would most likely have been Hotchkiss 7 mm light machine guns recalibrated to fire Spanish-made Mauser ammunition. Given the narrowness of the vehicle, operating two of these would have been difficult and uncomfortable. 

At the front of the vehicle, between the wheels, was a single headlamp. It was fixed at a very low position, meaning it would not have illuminated a great distance forward, but also that it would have been prone to being damaged or falling off when not driving on good roads, which were not common at all in the Rif.

Frontal view of the Blindado Romeo showing the majority of the vision and firing slits and also the headlamp between the wheels – source: Mundo Gráfico via Biblioteca Nacional de España

Service and Possible Inspiration

Save for the photographs of the vehicle during its presentation on August 22nd 1921 at the Palacio Real, very little is known of the vehicle. At the time of its presentation, the weekly illustrated magazine Mundo Gráfico claimed that a hundred could be built in three or four weeks. This claim is rather ridiculous, as Landa was never able to build many vehicles in the first place and Spain did not have the industrial base to produce that amount of armor, even if only 5 mm thick. Marín Gutiérrez and Mata Duaso suggest that this was a mistake and they meant months, not weeks, but this is still a very non-realistic number. Reading the article by Mundo Gráfico, they stated that ‘they supposed the Minister for War was aware of the vehicle, but that if he was not, they offered to provide him the information which they considered to be of interest and importance at a time when its soldiers were fighting with limited weaponry’.* It is speculation, but it is likely that Leopoldo Romero used his contacts in the liberal media to promote his vehicle and tried to gain a contract to equip the troops in the Rif.

*Original Spanish text: Suponemos que el Ministro de la Guerra tendrá conocimiento de tan importante obra; pero por si no lo tuviese, nos apresuramos a ofrecerle esta información, de interés y trascendencia en los momentos actuales en que nuestros soldados luchan con tan escasos elementos de guerra”.

The vehicle is only mentioned once again in an official telegram dating from November 27th, 1921, which stated that two Blindados Romeo had been received in Melilla on the boat A. Lázaro, which had departed from Málaga. This telegram raises the possibility of a second vehicle, indicating that the Blindado Romeo had some success or that Leopoldo Romeo commissioned a second vehicle. It could also well be the case that the telegram confused the vehicle with the very similar-looking Blindado Landa, which were also being shipped to Melilla in November 1921, though documents would suggest this predated the November 27th date.

On the topic of the Blindado Landa, Marín Gutiérrez and Mata Duaso have speculated that the Blindado Romeo was the source of inspiration for it. On inspection, this seems to be very probable, as the vehicle also used a Landa chassis, had a similar shape, including the shape of the cabin, and the presence of a metal bar behind the front wheel would suggest it also used a parapet.

The Blindado Landa, potentially inspired by the Blindado Romeo – source: Marín Gutiérrez and Mata Duaso, p. 17

Conclusion

The Blindado Romeo has had quite an unremarkable history, being ignored or forgotten even by Spanish armor military historians. Its design was flawed and would have been near useless in the Rif. In addition, the chassis, which was meant for an automobile, would not have been able to carry the weight of the armor on the rocky Rif roads and terrain and the engine was underpowered. In the end, the solution Spain would find would be Renault FT tanks and Camiones Protegidos Modelo 1921, armed with fully rotatable turrets. However, the Blindado Romeo also deserves some recognition as the first fully Spanish armored vehicle design, predating the Blindado Landa by a month or so. Its long-term legacy can perhaps be seen in the Blindados tipo ZIS and modelo B.C. of the Spanish Civil War and the Blindados Medio sobre Ruedas (BMR) and the Vehículos de Exploración de Caballería (VEC) which are part of the Ejército de Tierra to this day.

The Blindado Romeo. Illustrated by Yuvnashva Sharma.

Bibliography

Alicia Delgado, Dirección General de Tráfico ¿Por qué circulamos por la derecha? https://revista.dgt.es/es/motor/noticias/2020/07JULIO/0715-Conducir-derecha.shtml [accessed on 24/06/2021]

Anon. “El Automóvil Blindado ‘Romeo’”, Mundo Gráfico [Madrid], 24 August 1924

Anon. “Fallecimiento de Leopoldo Romeo”, El Heraldo de Madrid [Madrid], 27 March 1925, Third Edition

Anon. “Muerte de un Periodista Leopoldo Romeo”, El Sol [Madrid], 27 March 1925

Autopasión18, Historia Landa http://www.autopasion18.com/HISTORIA-LANDA.htm [accessed on 20/05/2021]

Congreso de los Diputados, Buscador Histórico, Leopoldo Romeo y Sanz https://www.congreso.es/web/guest/historico-diputados 

Francisco Marín Gutiérrez & José Mª Mata Duaso, Los Medios Blindados de Ruedas en España: Un Siglo de Historia (Vol. I) (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 2002)

Categories
WW2 Republican Spanish Armored Cars

Blindado tipo ZIS (UNL-35)

Second Spanish Republic (1936)
Armored Car – ~160 built

Rightly or wrongly, the armored cars produced by both sides during the Spanish Civil War – the ‘tiznaos’ – have often been mocked and ridiculed. This may stem from their rudimentary and improvised appearance, which is a reflection of what they were. As the war progressed and foreign material became harder to come by, the Republican forces started to manufacture better thought out vehicles which could be produced in series. The most widespread of these vehicles is the often mistakenly designated UNL-35, correctly known as Blindado tipo ZIS, Blindado tipo 3HC, or Blindado Ford Modelo 85.

Context – Spain divided

Spain’s tumultus political situation eventually reached boiling point in July 1936, when a group of conservative minded generals would rise up against the democratically elected government of the Second Spanish Republic. Whilst the coup was mainly a failure, both sides, which were influenced by set ideological grounds, would fight out a bloody civil war which still has consequences to this day.

The view that the Spanish Civil War was a conflict between two cohesive camps, Communism versus Fascism, is totally misguided though. In Catalonia, the anarchists of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo- Federación Anarquista Ibérica (CNT-FAI) [Eng. National Confederation of Labour-Iberian Anarchist Federation] had been instrumental in defeating the 1936 military coup and had since then been the powerbrokers in Catalonia. However, their methods did not match the centralized ambitions of the Republican Government, the Communist Party (PCE), and the Soviet military and its political advisors.

After the enormous losses suffered by the Republic during 1936, the first months of 1937 could, in contrast, be considered a relative success for them. At the turn of the year, the Republican forces defeated the last Nationalist attempts to fully surround Madrid from the north in the Battles of Corunna Road. Throughout February, Republican forces defeated the Nationalist and Italian Corpo Truppe Volontarie (C.T.V.) [Eng. Volunteer Corp Troops] at the Battle of the Jarama and then again a month later at the Battle of Guadalajara. However, Málaga was lost in February and in March, the Nationalists began the slow occupation of the North.

By this point, the Italian and German arms shipments to Franco’s Nationalist forces were tipping the balance in their favor. Of course, the Republic was also receiving armaments as well. Theirs were coming from the Soviet Union, and included T-26 and BT-5 tanks, and BA-6 and FAI armored cars. Whilst, in general, these proved to be superior to the Italian and German vehicles, not enough were available.

Politically, at this time, the situation in Republican Spain had changed. The initial revolutionary spirit had somewhat died out, and the makeshift and often disunited militias were being merged to form the Ejército Popular de la República (EPR) [Eng. People’s Army of the Republic]. Also, the factories which had independently been producing the makeshift ‘tiznaos’ – a name originating from the blackish color given by the iron and other metallic plating from the adjective tiznado (sooty) – were put under the centralized control of the Comisaría de Armamentos y Municiones [Eng: Commissariat of Arms and Ammunition] to help with the overall war effort on December 20th 1936. One of these was the Valencian shipyard of Unión Naval de Levante (UNL) [Eng. Naval Union of Levante], which was renamed Fábrica Nº22. UNL had already provided for the war effort with the construction and assembly of several ‘tiznaos’ for the Valencian columns which went to aid Madrid and its surroundings in the late summer and autumn of 1936. Among these were the two-turreted behemoths of the UNL-2.

A Soviet supplied BA-6 and the large UNL-2 assembled at Unión Naval de Levante during the defense of Madrid in 1936. This photo is testament to the disparities between the kinds of equipment available to the Republican forces – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 108

Development

At the beginning of 1937, under orders from the Comisaría de Armamentos y Municiones for the homologation of production, UNL had built 10 vehicles at its facilities in Valencia. Photographic evidence shows us that there were two different types of vehicle among them, a lighter armored car, which at a glance, looked similar to the Soviet FAI or BA-20, and a heavier vehicle, the ‘Goliat’. The lighter vehicles, sometimes known as UNL Prototipo II, had two cupolas very similar to the one on the FAI, which would later be substituted by a single less prominent one. Similar cupolas were on top of the driver and machine gunners positions, though these would later be removed. The fronts of the vehicle would also change to a wider less pronounced V-shape and the sponsons on each side would disappear altogether. These were the result of several months of experimentation with different designs until a satisfactory one was found. However, the serial production, overseen by Soviet Colonel Nicolai N. Alimov, would have a slightly different design taken from modified Soviet blueprints. As of February 12th 1937, four vehicles were ready to deliver to the front while the assembly of the other six was being completed. There was also a planned series of 150 vehicles for the lighter model. At this point, the project was christened ‘Trabajo nº 35’.

The four light armored cars produced by Unión Naval de Levante which were ready for delivery on February 12th 1937 pictured in front of the company’s factory – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 95
Close-up of one of the four light armored cars produced by Unión Naval de Levante which were ready for delivery on February 12th 1937. Note the FAI-like cupolas on the turret and top of the fighting compartment – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 95
The two Goliat heavy armored cars built by UNL. They were intended to carry a cannon in the turret, but here they are armed with a machine gun. Notice that the vehicle on the right is built on a British chassis, as the driver’s position is on the right hand side of the vehicle – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 97

Not much is known about what happened to the pre-series vehicles. However, photographical evidence exists of two of them parked inside a maintenance garage in Madrid (according to Artemio Mortera Pérez) at some point during the war, meaning that at least some of the pre-series vehicles were sent to Madrid to fight in the late spring and summer of 1937. In addition, some sources claim that in the south of Spain, the Nationalist used a captured pre-series vehicle. However, on close examination, the vehicle could be unrelated and is equipped with a FAI armored car turret.

Two photos showing the preseries Blindados in a workshop in what is thought to be Madrid – Source: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 99

Initially, General Motors Corporation (GMC) trucks were identified as being suitable for the chassis. In January 1937, UNL requested the Autonomous Catalan government, the Generalitat, to ‘send at least 100 of the GMC 1 ½ and 3 tons chassis’. The Generalitat had managed to get round the Non-Intervention Agreement and the USA’s resolution banning the export of arms to Spain by purchasing non-military vehicles, which they would then use as the chassis for military vehicles, after the acquisition of trucks from Chevrolet. It can be assumed that the GMC trucks were either the T-11 ½ ton powered by a Pontiac 200 60 hp engine or the 3 ton T-44 with the Buick 257 80.5 hp engine. Whatever was the case, these GMC trucks were never sent to Valencia. Instead, the first vehicles were built on the chassis of the venerable Soviet 4×2 ZIS-5 or other available vehicles, including some British vehicles which would have had right-hand drive. Later on, vehicles would be built on the elusive 1 ½ ton ‘Ford modelo 85’. This may not refer to a specific model of Ford, but to the 85 hp engine. Other vehicles are known to have used GAZ-AA chassis (the Soviet license build of the Ford Model AA) and Chevrolets. The 8 mm steel for the armor was provided by the Compañía Siderúrgica del Mediterráneo [Eng. Siderurgical Company of the Mediterranean], renamed Fábrica nº 15, under the command of A. Vorobiov, based in Sagunto, 30 km north of Valencia, and it is possible that final assembly for some vehicles took place there rather than at Fábrica nº 22.

The right-hand side drive Blindado indicates that this particular vehicle, pictured in Teruel during Christmas 1937, is based on a British-made truck. This vehicle has taken some damage on the mudguards and headlight. Notice the second vehicle in the rear also has right-hand side drive – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), pp. 145

Apart from the technical problems related to it being an unprecedented endeavor, the biggest problems UNL had were bureaucratic. Shortly before his return to the USSR, on March 10th 1937, Colonel Semyon Krivoshein, the commander of the Soviet tank forces in the early stages of the Battle of Madrid, sent a report to Moscow. In that report, he stated that, whilst some vehicles may have been ready since February, because authorization for the stock-up of fuel had not been approved by the Ministry of War, delivery had been delayed by one month. Later that month, on the 23rd, G. Dimitrov sent another report to Moscow highlighting the delay in deployment of this new vehicle and how this was causing unrest among the mainly anarchist workforce at Fábrica nº 22. If the delays were caused by political differences between the Socialists and Communists with regards to the Anarchists is impossible to tell, but seeing how the situation would combust in Barcelona in May later that year, it is definitely within the realms of possibility. Dimitrov also highlighted that the vehicles, from a technical point of view, were splendid and could be very useful in combat. 

Name Controversies

The vehicle is often misnamed as the ‘UNL-35’, with ‘UNL’ standing for Unión Naval de Levante (which, at that point, was already renamed as Fábrica nº 22) and 35, which according to the military historian Artemio Mortera Perez, may result from the projects designation, ‘Trabajo nº 35’. However, according to the work of historians Josep María Mata Duaso and Francisco Marín Gutiérrez (Blindados Autóctonos en la Guerra Civil Española), this designation was never officially used during the war.

The vehicles had a variety of names and all related to the type of chassis used as the base. Thus, most vehicles were named ‘Blindado tipo ZIS’, in reference to the ZIS-5 truck chassis. An alternative was the Latin script for the Cyrillic name of the ZIS-5, ЗиС, thus becoming ‘Blindado tipo 3HC’. The ‘3HC’ designation was used in official documents of the Republican 3ª Compañía of the 2ª Brigada de Blindados dated July 24th 1938 during the fighting in Extremadura. Blindado simply means armored in English, whilst tipo is type. For those on Ford chassis, they were known as Blindado tipo Ford mod. 85 or a variation of that. Throughout the article, the vehicle will be referred to as Blindado tipo ZIS unless the exact chassis type is known. Some secondary sources use autoametralladora instead of blindado, or just autoametralladora. This term simply means machine gun vehicle.  

Design

External Appearance

As has been said, the Blindado tipo ZIS was heavily based on already existing Soviet designs, most notably the FAI and BA-20. As the engine compartment was at the front, there was a plate angled at around 20º at the front of the vehicle serving as the engine cover. It had two small doors to access the engine. The front bumper had the hand crank to start the engine. Each side of the armor covering the engine compartment had a two-part hatch to access the engine for repairs and maintenance. The wheels had unpuncturable solid rubber tires. 

Frontally, the slightly inclined top armor of the engine compartment turned upwards around 25º-30º to form a short plate with two openings: the one on the right was round and was for a machine gun, whilst the one on the left was a hinged plate to allow for better vision for the driver behind it. This hinged plate had a thin slit to allow vision through it at all times. Each side of the main structure had a prominent door which opened to the left. All four wheels were covered by straight flat armored mudguards, contrary to the curved ones on Soviet vehicles. The tires were Airsless. On top of the front two mudguards was a headlight or on the sides of the front, depending on the chassis used.. The rear of the vehicle had fittings for pioneer equipment. 

At the rear top of the vehicle was the short, nine-sided turret. The frontal plate was flat and had a hole in the center for a machine gun. The sides, which were the larger of the turret’s plates, had a small slit, which by its size would probably not have been for vision, but rather a fume evacuator. The top had a small dome at the rear which allowed the commander to stand upright inside the vehicle, and a circular hatch which opened to the front. Unless the turret machine gun operator was making use of the hatch, they would have had a hard time firing, as the frontal plate had no slit to see through. 

The riveted steel armor plate used was 8 mm thick all round and was produced by Compañía Siderúrgica del Mediterráneo, renamed as Fábrica nº 15

The Blindado tipo ZIS was nearly 4 m long, over 2 m high and just under 1 m wide. Vehicle weight is often estimated at 2.3 tonnes, though considering the weight of the original chassis, this figure may be a very low estimation. 

Whilst it is likely that the Blindado tipo ZIS’ weight would have allowed it to be carried on the back of a truck, its length means it had to be transported on a tank transporter. This Blindado tipo ZIS has just been captured by Nationalist forces north of the Ebro in March 1937 during the Aragón Offensive. Notice the ammunition trailer being towed – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 13

Armament

The Blindado tipo ZIS was armed with two Soviet machine guns. Initially, these were the gas-operated Degtyaryova Tankovy (DT) machine guns, the armored vehicle variant of the Degtyaryov machine gun. Due to shortages, the majority of models were armed with the older and heavier Maxim–Tokarev machine gun. Both fired the 7.62 mm rimmed (7.62 x 54R) cartridge. 

One of the machine guns was housed in the turret, whilst the second was placed on the right hand side of the frontal plate. In Blindados en España, author Javier de Mazarrasa speculates that each vehicle carried 1,500 ammunition rounds. However, due to the chaotic state of weapons procurement and distribution of the Spanish Republic, it is unlikely that there was a standard load. 

A Blindado tipo ZIS of the Escuadrón de Blindados [Eng. Armored Vehicles Squadron] of the Nationalist Ejército del Sur [Eng. Army of the South] (note the red-yellow Spanish flag on the front of the vehicle) with a third Maxim–Tokarev machine gun in an anti-aircraft mount on the turret. This is an odd arrangement, as, considering this photo was most likely taken in late 1938 or 1939 in the Andalucía theatre of operations, there would not have been much of a Republican aerial threat. Additionally, given the placement of the commander’s hatch on the turret, in this mount, the anti-aircraft machine gun would have been very difficult to operate – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 248

Interior

The frontal section of the vehicle housed the engine. Without evidence to the contrary, it should be presumed that the engine on board depended on the chassis used. When using the ZIS-5 truck as a basis, the engine would have been the 6 cylinder ZIS petrol engine capable of producing 73 hp at 2,300 rpm with a maximum torque of 279 Nm at 1,200 rpm. It can be estimated that the Blindado tipo ZIS would have had a speed of possibly as fast 60 km/h. The original ZIS-5 truck had a 60 l fuel tank. It is unknown what fuel capacity the Blindado tipo ZIS would have had, and an assumption would be that whatever its capacity, it would have been placed behind the engine. The transmission on the ZIS-5 built vehicles would have been mechanical and produced by ZIS, with four forward gears and one reverse. 

The crew compartment occupied the rear half of the vehicle. The front left position was for the driver, whilst the front right position was for the hull machine gunner. Behind them was the position of the turret machine gunner, who, it can be assumed, also fulfilled the role of commander. It is unlikely that any radio equipment was carried. 

The Blindado tipo ZIS and its competitors

In a way, the Blindado tipo ZIS was a step forward in regards to the Soviet light machine gun armored cars, such as the FAI and the BA-20. The Blindado tipo ZIS had sturdier armor, its wheels were more effectively protected, and it had superior firepower with the inclusion of two machine guns. Additionally, the Blindado tipo ZIS was built on a sturdier, more reliable and more advanced platform than the FAI, which used an older truck chassis, and the BA-20, which used a car chassis. 

The Blindado tipo ZIS’ main shortcomings were the same for the rest of these relatively large, weakly armed and armored interwar armored cars, that is, that its armor was ineffective against anything which packed more of a punch than a machine gun and that its armament could only effectively deal with infantry, cannon and machine gun emplacements, and soft-skin vehicles. 

However, when it was first introduced in May 1937, the Blindado tipo ZIS was superior to any light machine gun armored car in the Republic’s arsenal and also that of the Nationalist forces, with the elderly Great War era Italian 1ZM being its closest competitor, though the gap was significant, even if, on paper, the Italian vehicle had thicker armor and was more potently armed. 

Production

As of September 1937, a total of 130 vehicles had been completed, with another 30 to be manufactured before the end of the year. By February 1938, production at Fábrica nº 22 switched to the heavier cannon-armed Blindado Modelo B.C.. It is not known with certainty how many vehicles were built between September 1937 and February 1938, but the number may be around 50 based on Fábrica nº 22’s estimates. 

A selection of stills from Roman Karmen and Boris Makasséiev’s documentary for Studio Moscow showing the production of the Blindado inside the Unión Naval de Levante factory. The recording confirms that a selection of different chassis were used during the serial production – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 99

In the spring of 1938, the Nationalist advance on Valencia and Castellón meant that Fábrica nº 22 was to be moved further south. By July-August, the factory began work in Elda and Petrel, in Alicante, though it is not clear if by this point they were still building Blindado tipo ZIS.

Another collection of stills from Karmen and Makasséiev’s documentary showing a number of Blindados leaving the Unión Naval de Levante factory. This event was marked with a political rally – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 101

Service

Barcelona May 1937

Unsurprisingly for anyone who has studied the Spanish Civil War, the debut of the Blindado tipo ZIS would be an internal security matter. Tensions within the Republic intensified over the winter of 1936-37 and, in April, there would be altercations between government forces and anarchist militias for the control of road control posts and custom houses. On May 2nd, a telephone conversation between the President of the Republic, Manuel Azaña, and Lluis Compayns, President of the Generalitat, was cut by an anarchist phone operator. Anarchists had controlled the telephone exchange since the summer of 1936 and their handling was considered to be detrimental to the war effort. 

On May 3rd, a force of police officers was sent to take over the telephone exchange in Barcelona. The anarchists resisted and soon, barricades would be raised all over the city – a civil war within a civil war. On the one side were the government and Catalan forces, and on the other the CNT-FAI, the Trotskyist Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM) [Eng. Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification] and other revolutionary far-left forces. Whilst fighting on the streets of Barcelona continued, the central Republican government decided to send troops from Madrid and Valencia to end the violence and regain control of the crucial region of Catalonia. Lieutenant Colonel Emilio Torres was put in charge of the 4.ª División which arrived in Barcelona on May 7th and consisted of 5,000 assault guards and at least 6 Blindados tipo ZIS. By this point, the May Events were almost over, but some vehicles may have taken part in the clean-up operations the following day. Hundreds had died in less than a week and the political consequences were monumental. Shortly afterward, the POUM leadership would be arrested and disappear, the CNT-FAI was weakened, and the PCE, backed by Moscow, rose to prominence. The Blindados tipo ZIS sent to Barcelona would be taken over by the newly formed Ejército del Este [Eng. Army of the East].

At least six Blindados tipo ZIS on Avenida Marqués de l’Armentera in Barcelona, circa May 7th 1937. These were sent as part of a column to restore order in the Catalan capital during the May Events – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 83
A close-up photo of the lead vehicle in the above photo showing some of the Blindado tipo ZIS’ features in great detail – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), p. 83

Córdoba, Madrid, Segovia and Huesca Offensive

It is possible that some Blindados tipo ZIS were sent to the Ejército Sur and may have seen combat on the Frente de Córdoba [English: Cordoba Front]. Others may have been sent to Madrid to replenish the losses suffered during the battles of Jarama and Guadalajara and could have seen action in the combats around Casa de Campo in May, though how many were used or during which particular actions are unknown at this time. It is also possible that Blindados tipo ZIS were used during the Republican offensive around Segovia in late May and early June 1937. 

A Blindado tipo ZIS somewhere in Madrid, Castilla La Mancha or Andalucía. Notice that the camouflage is meant to resemble the vast areas of olive groves in these regions and that even the tire sidewalls have been painted – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 176

At the beginning of the second week of June 1937, the Nationalist forces began their siege of the defensive perimeter surrounding Bilbao. As the northern Republican region had been cut-off from the onset of the war, the only way of aiding it would be by conducting attacks elsewhere with the aim of drawing out troops and resources.  General Sebastián Pozas Perea was put in charge of the Ejército del Este, and on June 12th ordered his forces to attack the city of Huesca with the intention of capturing it. Pozas’ forces were divided into two groupings each split into two columns. Coordination and communication between the different columns proved troublesome. 

The 4th column under the command of Major Enrique Oubiña Fernández-Cid was composed of the 123ª Brigada Mixta, an engineering company, and 5 armored cars. It is unclear what these may have been, though based on the fact that the Blindados tipo ZIS which had been sent to Catalonia in May were then aggregated to the Ejército del Este, they could well have been those and photographic evidence goes a long way to back this. Nevertheless, the testimony of Avelí Artís would suggest that the vehicles in question may be the ‘tiznao’ Torras. A mix of these two types of vehicles is also a possibility. 

On June 10th, the southern grouping left Huerrios to attack Chimillas at 05:30, with the support of T-26s and Blindados tipo ZIS. The attack was repulsed and a second attack with more armor in the afternoon or evening also failed. The next three days saw lower intensity confrontations before a final major push on the 14th, which, having captured some of the objectives, ran out of momentum and soon lost all gained territory. The offensive had failed.

On June 15th, an abandoned Blindado tipo ZIS was pictured at Chimillas whilst it was being towed to the Nationalist lines. The vehicle seemed in good shape, so it must have had a mechanical failure. It is unknown if the vehicle was lost on the 15th or in the days prior and that only when the fighting calmed down did they bother to recover it. The Nationalists would end up capturing and making use of many Blindados tipo ZIS. 

Three pictures of the Blindado tipo ZIS captured by the Nationalist at Chimillas. Notice that the machine guns have been removed to avoid capture and that the left-hand headlight has fallen off from its fitting – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), pp. 87-88

Battle of Brunete

In mid-May 1937, Francisco Largo Caballero’s government would fall and give way to the premiership of Juan Negrín López, who was much closer to the PCE and Moscow. In an effort to gain credibility on the world stage and to try to convince France that the Republic could win the war, along with the need to delay the Nationalist advance in the north on Santander, a major offensive was set in motion. After much discussion over where to launch the offensive, through Soviet pressure, the area around the town of Brunete, west of Madrid, was chosen. The Battle of Brunete would be one of the biggest of the war and saw a large deployment of armor. 

Map showing the deployment and advances of Republican (red) and Nationalist (blue) armored vehicles at the Battle of Brunete. Whilst any exact actions of the Blindado tipo ZIS are unknown, the map gives some indications as to where they may have fought – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 198

Republican forces in the Ejército de Maniobra [Eng. Maneuver Army] had ‘150 tanks and 50 armored vehicles’ (Mortera Pérez, 2009, p. 193). It is almost impossible to identify exactly what vehicles these would be, but certainly, some Blindados tipo ZIS were used. The 50 armored vehicles were divided into five groups of ten and were part of the attack on the towns of Brunete and Quijorna that began on the night of July 5th. Over the next few days, Republican forces would advance but fail to properly break the Nationalist line. Armor, according to Enrique Líster, commander of the Republican 11.ª División, was used disastrously, with vehicles being used as mobile artillery pieces in support of infantry. Most vehicles did not even reach the enemy lines and were lost in the open. By July 11th, the Republican offensive was at a standstill and armor losses were major. With reinforcements from the north, the Nationalists launched a counteroffensive on July 18th, which also soon ran out of steam. A new offensive with much more limited objectives was able to recapture Brunete for the Nationalists between July 24th and 26th. The battle was inconclusive, as the Republicans had captured some territory and slowed down the Nationalist advance on Santander, but, overall, they had failed to achieve an overwhelming victory and had much higher casualties and losses, especially regarding aircraft, than the Nationalists. The limitations of the tactical usage of armored vehicles as mobile artillery and infantry support were especially highlighted in Brunete. 

One of the many destroyed Republican vehicles at the Battle of Brunete, this knocked-out Blindado tipo ZIS is inspected by Nationalist forces. Note the red star painted on the left mudguard. Also note the KhPZ Komintern artillery tractor in the background of the first picture – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 202

Zaragoza Offensive and Battle of Teruel

It is likely that the Blindados tipo ZIS saw action during the August-September 1937 Zaragoza Offensive, but there are no known testimonies or photographs. However, their involvement in the Battle of Teruel, popularly known as ‘the Spanish Stalingrad’, is well documented. 

After the loss of Asturias, the last Republican position in the north, and in the hope of preventing the planned Nationalist offensive on Guadalajara and Madrid, the Republican military authorities planned an attack on the city of Teruel. To do so, they amassed a significant force, the Ejército de Levante, which was expected to easily topple the weak Nationalist forces at the Frente de Aragón. 

Blindado tipo ZIS at the Frente de Teruel in December 1937. Notice that the machine guns have been covered in a protective coat to shield them from the frigid temperatures – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), pp. 139
Two Blindados tipo ZIS in one of the many villages near Teruel in December 1937 – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), pp. 140

Republican forces were divided into 3 columns: north, center, and south. The central column, or the XX Cuerpo de Ejército [Eng. XX Army Corp], was under the command of Colonel Ledopoldo Menéndez López and was composed of the 40.ª and 68.ª infantry divisions, a regiment of ‘heavy’ tanks made up of a depleted force of Soviet BT-5s, two artillery groups, and an armored cavalry squadron with a dozen Blindado tipos ZIS. Starting from Mora de Rubielos, the offensive would begin on the night of December 15th with elements of the central column reaching the towns outside Teruel on the 17th and the outskirts of the city itself the following day. On the 19th, Republican forces would break through most of the Nationalist defensive perimeter in Teruel but the resistance was proving to be much tougher than expected. On that same day, Nationalist General Francisco Franco decided to send reinforcements to the besieged city. 

On December 22nd, the 40.ª Division, supported by Blindados tipo ZIS, broke into the center of Teruel and would take part in bloody street-to-street combat for the whole evening. 

Rear shot of a Blindado tipo ZIS inside Teruel on December 22nd 1937 – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), pp. 142

Further shots of a Blindado in Teruel after it was captured by Republican forces on December 22nd, 1937. This particular vehicle was not on a ZIS chassis, as it has right-hand side drive, indicating it was based on a British-made truck – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), pp. 145

After the capture of Teruel by Republican forces and before the impending Nationalist counterattack, French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson recorded a Blindado tipo ZIS for his pro-Republican film documentary Victoire de la vie, which provides many images of the vehicle. The Hungarian photographer Endre Ernő Friedmann, aka ‘Robert Capa’, was also present in Teruel at this time. This may be the reason why there are so many surviving pictures of the Blindado tipo ZIS in Republican service for the Battle of Teruel. Most other pictures of the Blindado tipo ZIS in other theatres of the conflict are in Nationalist service or showing them knocked-out or being towed to Nationalist lines. 

Stills from Henri Cartier-Bresson’s pro-Republican film documentary Victoire de la vie show a Blindado tipo ZIS running through the streets of Teruel. Despite the sub-zero temperatures, the side doors and engine hatches are open, perhaps indicating that the Blindados tipo ZIS suffered from engine overheating. These stills also provide us some indication as to what color schemes and camouflage would have been used. A dark olive green color similar to the Soviet 3B would have been the base, with a lighter green being the secondary color and the shapes on the turret, rear of the vehicle, and behind the door, could have been a shade of brown – source: Mortera Pérez (2011), pp. 146

By December 29th, there were enough reinforcements for the Nationalists to carry out their counterattack. By the 31st, they advanced to the outskirts of Teruel themselves and the units originally assigned to the central column began to abandon the city they had fought so hard to occupy before the situation was controlled and they returned to their positions at the end of the day, with the Blindados tipo ZIS occupying the center of the city. 

The front would stabilize for two and a half weeks until the Nationalists launched a major attack on January 17th, 1938, which was followed by Republican counterattacks the next two days and a major attack on the 25th. These would fail at a very high cost in tanks and personnel, and by the end of the month and beginning of February, the Nationalists had the initiative again. With the situation nearing criticality, Republican forces planned a major attack on the small town of Vivel del Río, north of Teruel, roughly halfway to Zaragoza. The attack of February 15th was able to count on three infantry divisions, three T-26 tank companies, and the Blindado tipo ZIS company, and was initially successful before receiving a Nationalist counterattack. However, this attack was poorly timed, as it took a considerable force away from Teruel, which the Nationalists were about to attack and try to re-occupy. Once the attack on Teruel proper began, some of the forces employed on the attack on Vivel del Río, alongside reinforcements, were dispatched south. These consisted of three infantry brigades, three T-26 tank companies, one BT-5 tank company and 2 Blindado tipo ZIS sections. The advance through the rocky and hilly countryside north of Teruel was met with fierce resistance from Nationalist anti-tank cannons, aircraft, and their own tanks, captured T-26s and Panzer Is. These actions on February 21st saw the loss of four T-26s and three BT-5s. Teruel would fall back into Nationalist hands between February 22nd and 23rd, bringing the battle to an end. 

The Aragón Offensive and the Rush to the Sea

With momentum on their side and the majority of units already in the region, the Nationalists decided to abandon plans to strike Madrid and attack the tired and depleted forces in Aragón. The attack began on March 9th, with the Nationalists capturing town after town over the following few days and the Republican defenders, many young and inexperienced, retreating in disarray. Among the Republican reinforcements were a number of Blindados tipo ZIS. The Blindados tipo ZIS fought on the front north of the River Ebro. 

Among the first reinforcements for the Republican forces were the Blindados tipo ZIS aggregated to the 16.ª División – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 13

The offensive cut through the Republican defense like a knife through butter and, by the end of March and beginning of April 1937, Nationalist forces began capturing towns in Catalonia. The advancing forces captured a multitude of Republican vehicles, which they quickly pressed into service, including a number of Blindados tipo ZIS. One of these may have been captured by the Corpo Truppe Volontarie (C.T.V.) in very early April in Gandesa, but the company’s reports are far from conclusive.

A knocked-out Blindado tipo ZIS (see the prominent hole in the rear of the hull, most likely caused by an anti-tank cannon) with Nationalist soldiers posing on it. Notice the soldier inside the vehicle posing through the hole – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 14

At this point, what seemed the logical step for the Nationalist forces was to press on with the attack on Barcelona, but Franco, fearful that this attack would encourage France to join the war on the Republican side, surprised his generals by ordering them to turn south and advance on Castellón and Valencia, the Republican capital. By mid-April, the Republican forces were offering no resistance and on the 15th, Nationalist troops reached the Mediterranean coast, cutting the Republican territory in two. 

Two shots of abandoned Blindados tipo ZIS encountered by Nationalist forces during the Aragón Offensive. As per usual, the machine guns were removed to avoid their capture. The presence of many other vehicles could suggest that the Blindados tipo ZIS were moved from where they were found by Nationalist forces to a depot of captured vehicles – Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 24

Balaguer Offensive

Whilst the Nationalist troops advanced on Castellón and to counter the territorial losses over the previous months, Republican command planned an offensive on the Nationalist positions along the River Segre and Lleida. The initial main objective was to capture the bridges over the Segre at Tremp and Balaguer. Whilst the Republican offensive on the Segre has often been forgotten in historical accounts of the Spanish Civil War, the Republican forces for this attack were larger in number than those at Brunete or Teruel and included around 150 armored vehicles, including some Blindados tipo ZIS. The offensive began on May 22nd, but due to poor tactics, Republican forces were unable to fully defeat the stretched and vulnerable Nationalist forces. On the 24th, Republican forces captured Tremp, though Nationalist forces would try to retake it. On the 26th, the Republicans made one last attempt to capture Balaguer and lost some armor on the road between Bellcaire and La Rápita. Overall, short of capturing some territory, the offensive was a failure with a high cost in men and materiel. 

A knocked out Blindado tipo ZIS on the Bellcaire-La Rápita road at the end of May 1938 – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 54

Levante Offensive

As soon as the Aragón Offensive was over, Franco launched his offensive south on Castellón and Valencia, which would soon become known as the Levante Offensive. The defense presented by the newly reformed Republican Grupo de Ejércitos de la Región Central (G.E.R.C.) [English: Army Groups of the Central Region] proved to be superior to what was anticipated, and by April 25th, the second day of the offensive, Nationalist forces were halted. The Nationalists pushed on, but had to stop every couple of days, as the rocky and mountainous terrain favored the defenders, who had dug well-defended trenches along the route. 

By the beginning of June, the Nationalist advance had overcome the rocky and mountainous terrain and had their eyes set on Castellón de la Plana. Defending Castellón was the Agrupación Toral, with 8 BT-5s, 14 T-26s, and 34 other armored vehicles, among which were a number of Blindados tipo ZIS. This grouping saw action towards the end of May and the beginning of June around the town of Ares del Maestre. During the first two weeks of June, they continued to see action as they fell back on Castellón, potentially engaging enemy forces on the 10th near La Pelechaneta and La Barona. On June 11th, a force of 17 Republican armored vehicles, most likely including some Blindados tipo ZIS, tried to attack Nationalist forces between Villafamés and La Pobla Tornesa, which had captured a number of Republican artillery pieces. Whilst the attack was unsuccessful and was repulsed with anti-tank cannon fire, the Nationalist forces were forced to destroy the captured equipment. By June 12th, Nationalist forces began to occupy parts of Castellón, which was defended by a contingent that included around 30 armored vehicles. Castellón would fall to Nationalist forces on June 14th, though Republican armor would try to recapture it with an offensive on Villarreal, a town just south of Castellón. 

Knocked out Blindados tipo ZIS outside Castellón, June 1938 – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 40

Once Castellón had fallen, Nationalist command set course on the offensive’s prime objective, the Republic’s capital, Valencia. The advance, which was launched from the south of Teruel through very rocky and mountainous terrain, was halted several times by repeated Republican counterattacks with armor. Towards mid-July, Nationalist forces reached the last major defensive position before Valencia, the XYZ Line. Between July 18th and 23rd, Nationalist forces failed in their repeated attempts to break the defensive line, suffering many casualties. However, by the 24th, with news of a major Republican offensive on the Ebro, troops were pulled out to counter this new major threat. Valencia had been saved. 

Two Blindados captured by the Nationalists during their advance on Valencia. The lack of camouflage and the fitting behind the engine hatch may suggest that these were later models not on a ZIS chassis, which had been sent straight from the factories in Valencia or Alicante – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 46

Andalucía and Extremadura Summer 1938

The southern front in Andalucía had remained quiet after the first year of the war and the capture of Málaga by Nationalist forces in early 1937. Nevertheless, in the late spring-early summer of 1938, a Nationalist offensive was launched to close a defensive pocket in the province of Córdoba. Given the relative lack of importance of this front, the armor available for either side was second-rate, with the Nationalists mainly using captured equipment and the Republican forces relying on Blindados tipo ZIS aggregated to the 2.ª Brigada de Ingenios Blindados.

Two Republican Blindados tipo ZIS advance through a mountain road in Andalucía in 1938 – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 236

Throughout June 1938, the Nationalist forces broke the front and advanced, securing several objectives. At the end of June, Republican reinforcements were sent from other fronts to mount a counterattack. The fighting would extend for another few weeks, but without any major breakthroughs. 

After some weeks with no major fighting, on July 20th, 1938, the Nationalists launched an offensive to capture the La Serena pocket near Badajoz. Between July 23rd and 24th, with the Nationalist capture of the towns of Castuera and Campanario, the Republican 37.ª División was almost completely enveloped. There was also the 3ª Compañía of the 2.ª Brigada de Ingenios Blindados equipped with at least 10 Blindados tipo ZIS in the same pocket. Fearing they would be totally surrounded, they requested permission to retreat to Puebla de Alcocer, but this was rejected by Major De Blas, who instead ordered them to attack, threatening to shoot the company’s commander for insubordination. The attack was an absolute disaster, with the 1st and 3rd sections of the 3ª Compañía losing nine Blindados tipo ZIS, which were either knocked out or abandoned, and 12 crew members. The one surviving Blindado tipo ZIS of the 3ª Compañía, No. 27, had been previously sent away for repairs and thus survived the bloodbath. 

Battle of the Ebro and the Catalan Offensive

There is scant information regarding the deployment and usage of Blindados tipo ZIS during the Ebro Offensive of the summer of 1938. Even so, given the high number of these vehicles present in the subsequent Catalan Offensive, they were undoubtedly present, even if only used in reserve. The Ebro Offensive was meant to be a massive Republican assault across the River Ebro, an ‘all-or-nothing’ scenario with which Juan Negrín, the President of the Republican Government, hoped to convince France and Britain to intervene as a prelude to the imminent European conflict with Hitler’s Germany. Whilst initially successful, logistical issues and a ferocious Nationalist defense halted the offensive in early August. The Nationalists counterattacked throughout the following two months and pushed back to the original lines before the battle in mid-November 1937. The remaining Republican forces were tired, ill-equipped, and lacked experience. Furthermore, the results of the Munich Accords in late September sealed the fate of the Republic by putting an end to any hope of French or British intervention. 

With the momentum from the Battle of the Ebro, Franco set his sights on Barcelona. On December 23rd, 1938, the Nationalist offensive on Catalonia began with the crossing of the Segre River. Initially, the weather and a courageous Republican defense held up the advance, but by the end of the first week of January 1939, the Republican line began to crumble. With the materiel losses in the Aragón and Ebro offensives, the 1.ª División de Ingenios Blindados of the Republican forces of the Grupo de Ejércitos de la Región Oriental (GERO) [Eng. Army Groups of the Eastern Region] consisted of a limited number of armored vehicles. According to Ramón Salas, author of Historia del Ejército Popular de la República, these consisted of 63 autoametralladoras (Blindados tipo ZIS and domestically produced machine gun-armed armored cars from Catalan factories, such as the Torras or Hispano-Suiza 3TS), 27 autoametralladoras-cañón (Blindados B.C. and possibly BA-6s) and 90 carros de combate (T-26s and BT-5s). A more conservative estimate from J. M. Martínez Bande (La Campaña de Cataluña) places the number at 40 tanques (T-26s and BT-5s) and 80 blindados (Blindados tipo ZIS, Blindados B.C. and other armored cars). Given the chaotic state the Republic was in, very little is known of the use of their forces in Catalonia at this time. 

The Republican crew of a Blindado tipo ZIS – missing the frontal machine gun – surrendering during the early weeks of the Catalan Offensive – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 103

Following the breaking of the front in early to mid-January 1939, Republican forces, seriously lacking ammunition and equipment and very low on morale, were unable to offer any kind of resistance, and Nationalist forces spent the following month occupying the whole of Catalonia. On January 15th, a Nationalist dispatch stated that, up to that point of the campaign, 33 tanks and 11 armored cars had been captured, including without doubt a number of Blindados tipo ZIS. Over the following weeks, more vehicles would be captured. 

Nationalist troops encounter an abandoned Blindado tipo ZIS on the side of a road somewhere in Catalonia January-February 1939 – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 119

On January 14th, Tarragona fell, sending the whole of the region into chaos. As a result, civilians and military personnel headed north towards the French border to escape Franco’s forces. A week and a half later, on the 25th, the Nationalist forces began occupying the surrounding areas of Barcelona, marching into the semi-abandoned city the following day, encountering no resistance. 

A sabotaged Blindado tipo ZIS abandoned during the flight from Barcelona to prevent it from falling into Nationalist hands. The remains of the vehicle are pictured outside the Gran Garage Universal on the corner of Albareda and Carreras streets. Notice the other sabotaged cars behind the Blindado – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 123

On the night of January 27th, 1939, France opened the border with Spain, allowing thousands of Republican refugees, civilians, and military personnel, to cross into France. Among these were the remaining armored vehicles in Catalonia, most numerous of which were the Blindados tipo ZIS and Blindados B.C.. All the vehicles that crossed the border were interned by French authorities. It is estimated that at least 22 Blindados tipo ZIS crossed into France in late January early February 1939. Due to the massive bottleneck to enter France, many vehicles were abandoned and captured by the pursuing Nationalists. On February 8th, Figueres, the last major town before the French border, fell, with Nationalist troops reaching the border two days later. On the 11th, Llivia, a Catalan town surrounded entirely by France, was taken by Franco’s forces, putting an end to the Catalonia Offensive.  

The defeated. Two Republican soldiers, with a Blindado tipo ZIS in the background, head towards the French border. Note that the Blindado has its turret facing backward in the sign of surrender – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 125
A column of 3 Blindados tipo ZIS and a Blindado Modelo B.C. (bringing up the rear) on La Junquera road, awaiting authorization to enter French territory – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 128
A Blindado with its turret facing backward shortly after crossing the border into France. Notice that this vehicle had the right-hand drive and was thus built on a British truck chassis – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 128

Battle of Valsequillo/Peñarroya

On the morning of January 5th, 1939, whilst Catalonia was falling, the Republic launched its last offensive of the war in the Peñarroya sector in Córdoba. A large army of soldiers and armored vehicles (including Blindados tipo ZIS) was assembled for this operation, and after three days, 500 km2 of territory, the most extensive of the war, had been captured. After a few days, the Nationalist defense and the downpour of rain slowed the Republican offensive to a halt. On January 24th, after hurrying in numerous reinforcements, the Nationalists counterattacked, making use of a number of Blindados tipo ZIS of the Escuadrón de Blindados of the Ejército del Sur. The counterattack finished on February 4th, with the Nationalists pushing back to almost the original frontline at the beginning of the battle and destroying or capturing many Republican vehicles. 

By the final stages of the war, the Nationalists had as much Republican armor as the Republic itself. Here, a T-26 tows a Blindado tipo ZIS which has fallen off the road. These vehicles were most likely reinforcements from the Escuadrón de Blindados of the Ejército del Sur to counter the Republican offensive in Córdoba in January 1939 – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 244

The Blindado tipo ZIS in Nationalist service

Throughout the war, the Nationalists made good use of captured Republican vehicles, with the Blindado tipo ZIS no exception. The first Blindados tipo ZIS captured were taken at Chimillas (Huesca) in June 1937, with potentially more falling at Brunete and Teruel later that year. Whilst some were used in the Aragón front, as with many of the second-rate captured equipment, they were sent south to Sevilla. Sevilla was the major repair and workshop facility for the Nationalists during the war. The armor used by the Nationalist Ejército del Sur in the Andalucía front was mainly captured equipment. These saw service at the Battle of Valsequillo/Peñarroya and during the final offensive. 

Towards the end of the war, the Agrupación de Carros de Combate [Eng. Fighting Vehicles Grouping] of the Ejército Sur under the command of Miguel Cabanellas Torres was mainly composed of Blindados tipo ZIS. The grouping was composed of two groups with three squadrons each. Two squadrons were ‘light’, with 8 Blindados ZIS and 2 FAIs each. The other squadron of each group was ‘heavy’, with 8 BA-6s and 2 FAIs. This was a total of 32 Blindados tipo ZIS in the Agrupación. This unit took part in the military victory parades in Sevilla (April 17th 1939) and Valencia (May 5th 1939). 

Whilst unconfirmed, it can be assumed that the Blindados tipo ZIS continued to be used to different degrees by Franco’s forces after victory in the civil war. The most likely destination would have been the Spanish protectorate in Morocco or even Spanish (Equatorial) Guinea for colonial duty. The ones that remained would have been scrapped when more modern American equipment started arriving in the mid-50s. 

A Blindado tipo ZIS which has been captured by Nationalist forces and has been assigned to Escuadrón de Autoametralladoras-cañón de Caballería [Eng. Cavalry Squadron of gun-armed Armored cars] of the Ejército del Sur. Notice that the forward-facing DT machine gun has been removed and the position sealed, the red-yellow flag painted on the front of the turret, and what seems to be a black and white aerial identification marking, though it is impossible to tell if it is a Cross of Saint Andrew. The vehicle seems to be towing a trailer or cannon. Some sources have misidentified this as a second rear wheel and incorrectly state that the vehicle is a Blindado B.C. – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 219
Three Blindados tipo ZIS of the Escuadrón de Blindados of the Nationalist Ejército del Sur. In the rear, still on its transport wheels, a T-26. The vehicle furthest to the left is an unidentified vehicle. Artemio Mortera Pérez has speculated that it is an early pre-standardization Blindado tipo ZIS, though it could also be a completely unrelated vehicle. The turret is almost certainly a FAI turret, and it is currently unknown if the vehicle was designed like that or if the chassis and the turret were mated by the Nationalists – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 240

A congregation of all the vehicles (minus the Panzer Is) of the Agrupación de Carros de Combate of the Ejército del Sur at the Estadio de la Exposición (modern day Estadio Benito Villamarín) before the victory parade in Seville on April 17th 1939. Pictured are 4 FAIs, 8 BA-6s, 15 (though most likely 16) Blindados tipo ZIS and a large number of T-26s. Additionally, the vehicles at the back of the second picture are most probably more Blindados tipo ZIS. All of these vehicles were of course captured, a testament to the Nationalists’ reliance on captured materiel, especially at the least important fronts – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 253
A group of requetes (Carlist militias) pose alongside a captured Blidado tipo ZIS of the Ejército Sur. Note the black St. Andrew’s cross painted on a white background on top of the vehicle – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 257
Blindados tipo ZIS and B.C. in what seems as a post-Civil War parade. Notice the darker colors of the vehicle’s camouflage and the white on the tires which are not present in Civil War eras photos. Additionally, the vehicles have number plates and unit or regimental markings on the side of the turret and behind the door – source: Defensa

Blindado tipo ZIS of the Corpo Truppe Volontarie (C.T.V.)

During their push through Aragón, Catalonia and Castellón throughout 1938 and the early parts of 1939, the C.T.V. came across plentiful abandoned or knocked out Republican armor. As the Nationalist forces they were fighting alongside, they did not waste any chance to incorporate these vehicles into the Raggruppamento Carristi [English. Tank Grouping]. This was done out of sheer necessity, too. The Lancia 1ZMs were not just a few in number but also unreliable. Designed during the Great War, by the mid-30s, they were showing their obsolescence and performed poorly. Their main shortcoming was their limited off-road driving, which, with the lackluster road network in Spain, was a major problem. For reconnaissance duties, the C.T.V. used captured BA-6s, Blindados tipo ZIS, and Blindados B.C.. These were put together in an armored car grouping attached to the Raggruppamento Carristi and saw service on the Aragón, Levante and Catalan offensives and possibly at the Battle of the Ebro. It is known that one BA-6 was transported to Italy for tests, but the most likely outcome for the rest of the C.T.V.’s captured armor, including the Blindados tipo ZIS, was that they were passed on to Franco’s forces. 

A Blindado tipo ZIS of the C.T.V. during the Catalonia Offensive, circa January 1939 – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 111
A Blindado tipo ZIS – followed by a Blindado B.C. – belonging to a C.T.V. column in Catalonia in January or February 1939 – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 116
A C.T.V. column during a stop in a village in Catalonia during either the Aragón or Catalonia offensive. Pictured are two Blindados tipo ZIS, a Blindado B.C., a Lancia 1ZM and a Lancia 1Z with two turrets – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 116

From the frying pan into the fire – The Ford in French service

With the flight from Catalonia in early 1939, many vehicles crossed the border into France and were subsequently interned, among them, several Blindados tipo ZIS. 

Twenty-two of these, which may have been all the vehicles seized, were given to the Ministère des Colonies [Eng: Ministry of Colonies] in April 1939, suggesting the blindado may have been considered for colonial service. In French sources, the vehicle is referred to as ‘Ford’, regardless of what chassis was used. There is photographic evidence that at least one of the vehicles that crossed the border into France in late January 1939 was built on a British chassis, as it had right-hand drive. What happened to the vehicles later is unclear, with reports of some having been used in the campaign of France and later captured and pressed into service with the Wehrmacht, though no photographic evidence appears to support such suggestions. These claims may be confusing the Blindado tipo ZIS with the Blindado B.C., which was used in combat by France and then used by Germany on the Eastern Front. All known photos of Blindados tipo ZIS in France show them in storage, suggesting they were never sent to the colonies. 

At least five ‘Fords’ in French storage, 1939 – Source: Vauvillier, p. 116

Replicas

No Blindados tipo ZIS survived the conflict, but some replicas have been made since. One with a running engine sits at the Museo de los Medios Acorazados (MUMA) [Eng. Museum of Armored Vehicles] at the El Goloso military base, north of Madrid. Housed in the Spanish Civil War section, it sits between a T-26 in Nationalist colors and an Opel Blitz truck. 

At least two (though possibly just the one) other replicas exist which are used for military reenactments, exhibitions and films. However, one, possibly yet another replica, is currently listed for sale on Milanuncios (a popular website for online classified advertisements in Spain). 

A collection of pictures of the Blindado tipo ZIS replicas as posted on the Atrezzo website, a company specialised in providing historical vehicles and weapons for films, TV shows, adverts, etcetera – source: Soldier Satrazzo

Conclusion

All things considered, the Blindado tipo ZIS was a remarkable achievement for the inexperienced and often disjoint Republican workforce. Whilst the design and production of the vehicle would have been impossible without Soviet assistance, the armored car was a considerable improvement on what was available. Its widespread use on almost all fronts by Republican, Nationalists, and C.T.V. forces is testament to the vehicle. However, Spain’s most produced armored vehicle until the AMX-30E in the 1970s and the Pegaso 3560 Blindado Medio sobre Ruedas (BMR) in the 1980s is little known in the wider AFV community. Its role in the Spanish Civil War is often overshadowed by Soviet, Italian, and German vehicles and even the heavier Blindado modelo B.C. which went on to see service during the Second World War in French and German hands. 

Pre-production Blindado, sometimes known as UNL II, as pictured outside the Unión Naval de Levante factory and in a Madrid workshop
Blindado armed with Maxim machine guns as pictured outside Fábrica N22 where it was built
Blindado with camouflage pattern as seen in Barcelona, Chimillas and Castellón between May 1937 and 1938. This was the main camouflage scheme on Republican Blindados
Blindado as seen at the Battle of Brunete in July 1937
Rare Republican camouflage pattern believed to have been used somewhere in Madrid, Castilla La Mancha or Andalucía. The camouflage was meant to resemble the vast areas of olive groves in these regions
Blindado of the Escuadrón de Blindados of the Nationalist Ejército del Sur during the victory parade in Sevilla on April 17th 1939
A Nationalist Blindado based on the one in a picture with Carlist requetes. All illustrations by Pavel ‘Carpaticus’ Alexe

Blindado tipo ZIS specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 3.87 x 1.90 x 2.39 m
Total weight, battle ready 2.3 tonnes
Crew 3 (commander, gunner, driver)
Propulsion 6 cylinder ZIS engine 73 hp
Speed (road) 55 km/h
Range 230 km
Armament 2 x DT 7.62 mm machine gun (or Maxim–Tokarev machine guns)
Armor 8 mm
Total production ~160

Bibliography

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española Teatro de Operaciones de Andalucía y Centro 36/39 (Valladolid: Alcañiz Fresno’s editores, 2009)

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española Teatro de Operaciones de Aragón, Cataluña Y Levante 36/39 Parte I (Valladolid: Alcañiz Fresno’s editores, 2011)

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española Teatro de Operaciones de Aragón, Cataluña Y Levante 36/39 Parte II (Valladolid: Alcañiz Fresno’s editores, 2011)

Carlos A. Pérez, “Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil”, El Miliciano No. 4 and 5 (1995 and 1996)

C. Albert, Carros de Combate y Vehículos Blindados de la Guerra 1936-1939 (Barcelona: Borras Ediciones, 1980)

Francisco Marín Gutiérrez & José María Mata Duaso, Los Medios Blindados de Ruedas en España. Un Siglo de Historia (Vol. I) (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 2002)

François Vauvillier, Tout les Blindés de l’Armée Française 1914-1940 (Paris: Histoire & Collections, 2014)

Javier de Mazarrasa, Blindados es España 1ª Parte: La Guerra Civil 1936-1939 (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1991)

Josep María Mata Duaso & Francisco Martín Gutierrez, Blindados Autóctonos en la Guerra Civil Española (Galland Books, 2008)

Videos and Other Pictures

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHpywYtX40w

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Byss0-aE8AM

Blindado tipo ZIS destined for the Ejército de Andalucía of the Ejército Popular de la República on board a flat truck – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 183
Blindado tipo ZIS with its crew somewhere in Andalucía – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 183
Austrian International Brigadiers under the command of Sepp Mittermaier posing in front of their Blindados tipo ZIS – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 225
A column of at least six Blindados tipo ZIS in Andalucía in 1938 – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 236
Blindados tipo ZIS knocked out outside of Castellón in June 1938 – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 41
Condor Legion personnel inspect a knocked out Blindado tipo ZIS as the approach Castellón, June 1938 – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 42
Several captured Blindados tipo ZIS now fighting for the nationalist cause mounted on flat trucks – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 247
Captured Blindados tipo ZIS and BA-6s at Las Quemadas (Córdoba), the group’s headquarters – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 253
Several Blindados tipo ZIS of the Escuadrón de Blindados of the Nationalist Ejército del Sur during the victory parade in Sevilla on April 17th 1939. Note that a red-yellow Spanish flag has been painted across the front – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 241
A Blindado tipo ZIS captured by the Nationalist being prepared to be put on a flat truck to be transported elsewhere – source: Mortera Pérez (2009), p. 247
Blurry picture of a Blindado tipo ZIS being used by the C.T.V. in the Mediterranean town of Benicarló in mid-April 1937 – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 28
The rear of two Blindados tipo ZIS of the C.T.V. during a military parade celebrating the second year of the Nationalist uprising in the Plaza del Castillo in Pamplona (Navarra), October 31st 1938 – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 86
C.T.V. servicing an abandoned Blindado tipo ZIS to join its ranks alongside the two Lancia 1ZMs – source: Mortera Pérez (2011a), p. 119
A very rare camouflage on this C.T.V. Blindado. Note the white tires. Also note the text: “Flechas Negra! Agredir Para Vencer” [Eng. Black Arrows! Attack To Win”] – source: DogsWar
Categories
Cold War Argentinian Armor

Vehículo de Combate Lanza Cohetes (VCLC)

Argentina Argentina (1986-1990’s)
Self Propelled Multiple Launch Rocket System – 1 prototype

From as early as Medieval China, rocket artillery has been a recurring feature on the battlefield. Throughout WWII, rocket artillery was used with devastating effect, both in regards to the damage it did and its psychological effect. This conflict also saw rocket artillery mounted on mobile platforms, including armored ones, such as the M4 Sherman ‘Calliope’ or ‘Tulip’. It was during the Cold War that these armored vehicles, or Self Propelled (SP) Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRSs), would see their ‘golden age’. Not wanting to miss out, Argentina developed its own system based on the Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM), which would become the Vehículo de Combate Lanza Cohetes (VCLC).

The Vehículo de Combate Lanza Cohetes (VCLC) – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 50

Context and Development

After the introduction of the TAM and the Vehículo de Combate de Transporte de Personal (VCTP) in the early ’80s, the Argentinian military authorities, Estado Mayor General del Ejército (EMGE), began to plan a family of vehicles based on the common chassis, among which were a command vehicle (VCPC), mortar carrying vehicle (VCTM), self-propelled artillery (VCA) and a tank recovery vehicle (VCRT). These vehicles were mostly converted by Tanque Argentino Mediano Sociedad Estatal (TAMSE), the state-owned company in charge of procurement, assembly, modifications, and exports of all TAM family vehicles. A later development would be the VCLC.

In 1986, EMGE set out requirements for an SP MLRS, something lacking in the Argentinian forces at that point. Israel Military Industries (IMI) offered to provide two different variants, one armed with the LAR-160, which had just been adopted by the Israeli Defense Forces, and one with the MAR-350, which had just been developed as a heavier alternative to the LAR-160. There were also discussions, not necessarily with IMI, to have the new MLRS vehicle armed with Argentinian produced systems, such as the 105 mm SLAM Pampero.

The VCLC being presented to the public – source: Sigal Fogliani, p. 115

Design

Chassis

At its core, the VCLC was a TAM that had had its turret removed. In its place was a rotating structure to place the rockets. The frontal plate was at a pronounced 75º angle and the sides and rear plates were positioned at 32º. At the front of the tank, on each side, were headlights. Behind these, also on each side, were wing mirrors. On each side of the front-middle section of the hull were a set of 4 Wegmann 76 mm smoke grenade launchers.

The VCLC’s armor was made of electrically welded nickel-chromium-molybdenum steel. The front plate was 50 mm thick and the sides and rear 35 mm. This provided protection from small arms fire and shell splinters.

As with all TAM family vehicles, the VCLC was equipped with an NBC protection system which would have allowed the crew to operate in a contaminated area for up to 8 hours. The NBC system fed the main and driver’s compartments with filtered air that could absorb solid or gaseous elements from poisonous or radioactive substances. The vehicle would have been able to operate in very harsh temperatures, from as low as -35ºC to as high as 42ºC, which would have been ideal for the varied terrain in Argentina. There was also an automatic fire extinguishing system which could also have been manually triggered from the interior or exterior.

Like the TAM, the VCLC retained the suspension and running gear of the West German Marder 1, a torsion bar-type suspension with six rubber-tired paired road wheels and three return rollers on each side. The first, second, fifth, and sixth road wheel stations had hydraulic shock dampers, a legacy of the Marder 1 design.

The tracks were of a Vickers system, each track consisting of 91 links with rubber tank treads. These could have been substituted by snow cleats if required.

Interior

The interior of the VCLC was divided into two main sections, with the frontal section being further subdivided into two sub-sections. The bigger of these sub-sections, occupying 2/3 of the frontal space, housed the engine, whilst the smaller one was for the driver and driving mechanisms. There was a hatch above the driver’s position and three episcopes. The whole section of the frontal hull covering the engine could be opened for engine maintenance.

The engine on the VCRT was the MTU MB 833 Ka 500 diesel engine, a six-cylinder rated at 537 kilowatts (720 hp) at 36.67 revolutions per second or 2,200-2,400 revolutions per minute. This gave the vehicle a power-to-weight ratio of 16.5 kilowatts per tonne or 22.5 hp per tonne.

The engine was kept cool by two fans at the rear powered by a 33 hp engine of their own.

The gearbox on the VCLC was the HSWL 204 automatic planetary gearbox with torque converter and four forward/four reverse gear ratios. The first three were epicyclic gear trains (also known as planetary gears) and the fourth was a clutch disc.

The maximum road speed was 75 km/h forwards and backward. Off-road or cross-country speed was limited to 40 km/h. The VCRT carried 680 liters of fuel for a maximum range of 520 km.

Among other performance indicators, the VCRT could overcome 60% gradients, 30% side slopes, 1 m tall obstacles, and 2.9 m trenches. It was capable of fording 1.5 m deep water without preparation, increased to 2 m with preparation.

The bigger rear section was where the rest of the crew, a commander and gunner, carried out their duties. Communications were by means of the VHF SEL SEM-180 and SEM-190 systems and the SEL SEM-170 radio-receptor, as on all TAM family vehicles.

Turret

One of the new features on the VCLC was the rotating structure, or turret, placed where the TAM’s turret would have been. The front of this structure had two hatches, for the commander and gunner, alongside a hatch on each side, and a circular hatch on the top. Inside the turret were the hydraulic system and firing mechanisms, including the ballistic computer. Unfortunately, there are no details as to what these would have been.

Rocket Systems

The only VCLC prototype was armed with a pair of the Israeli LAR-160 (Light Artillery Rocket) modified for 18 rocket Launch Pod Containers (LPCs) for medium armored vehicles, unlike the regular 13 rocket LPC on trucks. In Argentinian service, this was known as the CAL-160, or Cohete Argentino Ligero.

The VCLC’s LAR mainly fired the Mk. II rocket, which weighed 110 kg and had a 46 kg warhead which was either HE-COFRAM or a cluster warhead containing 104 CL-3022-S4 AP/AM submunitions. The range was around 30 km. It is unclear if there was also the option to use the Mk. I rockets, which Venezuela was adapting to use on their own MRLS based on the AMX-13 at the time.

Elevation and traverse of the launchers were performed by an electrohydraulic system, which was backed up by a manual system.

A VCLC having one of its sets of LPCs being loaded on with the help of a crane truck – source: Sigal & Fogliani, p. 115

Another option considered by the Argentinian-IMI partnership was the MAR-350 (Medium Artillery Rocket), or CAM-350 (Cohete Argentino Mediano), which had only just received its first firing test in 1988 and was essentially a heavier LAR-160.

This heavier piece of rocket artillery was a pair of two LPCs. Each rocket was 6.2 m long, 970 mm wide and weighed over 800 kg. Unfortunately, there are no reliable details on its range nor its munition type.

Drawing of the VCLC armed with the MAR-350. Note that, unlike the prototype, the drawing shows the VCLC armed with the FN MAG 60-40 – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 50

Another possibility that may have been considered was equipping the VCLC with an indigenous Argentinian rocket, such as the SLAM Pampero (Sistema de Lanzacohetes de Artillería Múltiple). The SLAM Pampeo had been developed in Argentina by Instituto de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas de las Fuerzas Armadas (CITEFA) in the early 1980’s and is still in service in very small numbers. This 105 mm rocket launcher system is composed of a pair of 8 LPCs. These are still in service on Unimog 416 trucks, though they are being replaced by the CP-30.

A proposed VCLC model armed with an unknown caliber rocket system – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 50

Death of the Project

With IMI’s collaboration, one prototype armed with the LAR-160 was built on a TAM chassis and presented to journalists in June 1989. Tests were deemed a success, but, as is quite often the case with Argentinian military developments, budget cuts at the turn of the decade led to the project’s cancellation. What is more, the LAR-160 or MAR-350 were not the rockets in Argentina’s arsenal, so they would have all had to be imported, including the system and the ammunition.

The VCLC during firing tests – source Sigal Fogliani, p. 115

Since then, Argentina has continued to rely on truck-based systems, such as the Unimog 416 with the SLAM Pampero and, since 2012, the CP-30 mounted on the Fiat 697N or Iveco Trakker. However, these developments have also been limited by budgetary constraints.

The only VCLC was thoroughly tested, used for parades, and, finally, at some point in the ’90s or early 2000s, transported to the headquarters of Champion SA, at the former TAMSE factory.

The only VCLC at Champion SA – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 51

Side Note – The Vehículo de Combate Lanza Misiles (VCLM)

Another contemporary development to the VCLC was the Vehículo de Combate Lanza Misiles (VCLM), a self-propelled Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) launcher. This TAM variant was meant to fire Roland missiles from presumably two tubes. Another option was to fire Halcón missiles to be developed in Argentina, but neither project properly materialized.

Conclusion

The VCLC is another fine example of the adaptability of the TAM platform which the Argentinians have sought to exploit. The VCLC’s biggest drawback was probably the lack of suitable Argentinian produced rocket systems and the over-reliance on Israeli technology. Regardless, the dire financial state of Argentina at the beginning of the 1990s doomed the project in spite of its merit.

The SLAM Pampero mounted on a Unimog 416 truck. Until 2012, these were the main SP MLRS in the Ejército Argentino – source: Weapons Systems
Vehículo de Combate Lanza Cohetes (VCLC) illustration produced by Pablo Javier Gómez

Bibliography

Javier de Mazarrasa, La Familia Acorazada TAM (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1996)
Juan Carlos Cicalesi & Santiago Rivas,  Ejército Argentino: Vehicles of the Modern Argentine Army (Erlangen: Tankograd Publishing, 2012)
Juan Carlos Cicalesi & Santiago Rivas, TAM The Argentine Tanque Argentino Mediano – History, Technology, Variants (Erlangen: Tankograd Publishing, 2012)
Ricardo Sigal Fagliani, Blindados Argentinos de Uruguay y Paraguay (Ayer y Hoy Ediciones, 1997)

VCPC specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.83 x 3.29 x 3.05 m
Total weight 32 tonnes
Crew 3 (commander, driver and gunner)
Propulsion MTU-MB 833 Ka-500 6-cyl diesel, 720 hp
Maximum speed 75 kmh
Range 590 km without external fuel tanks
Armament Main – LAR-160
Armor Front hull – 50 mm
Side hull – 35 mm
Rear hull – 35 mm
Categories
Cold War Argentinian Armor

Vehículo de Combate Recuperador Tanques (VCRT)

Argentina Argentina (mid-1980’s – early 2000’s (?))
Armored Recovery Vehicle – 1 prototype

Since the introduction of the Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM) and Vehículo de Combate Transporte de Personal (VCTP) in the early 80’s, the Argentinian forces have modified their vehicles to create a family of armored vehicles based on a common chassis, including Self-Propelled Guns or mortar-carrying vehicles. One of the least successful conversions was the long and ultimately fruitless attempt to build an armored recovery vehicle: the Vehículo de Combate Recuperador Tanques (VCRT)

Context – Pull

In the study of military vehicles, logistic and engineering vehicles are often underrepresented in favor of ‘flashier’ vehicles armed with cannons. However, their role is fundamental. One of the challenges any army or force faces when introducing a new tank is how to properly assist it in logistic and engineering duties. One solution is to assist these vehicles with recovery vehicles based on the same chassis. For example, after the USA introduced the M103 heavy tank, it found that none of its recovery vehicles were able to deal with the over 60 tons of weight of the M103, thus the chassis was modified to create the Heavy Recovery Vehicle M51. A similar story took place with the British Conqueror and the Conqueror ARV.

After the introduction of the TAM in the early 80’s, Argentina was faced with the same conundrum, as it did not have vehicles capable of performing as recovery vehicles. At that point, Argentina had 4 M31 Tank Recovery Vehicles based on the M3 Lee chassis and 2 or 3 M578 light recovery vehicles. In 1981, Argentina received 2 Greif armored recovery vehicles based on the SK-105 Kürassier chassis, to complement the near 100 of these light tanks/tank destroyers the nation received between 1981 and 1982. However, all these were light recovery vehicles which were in too small numbers or unable to support the TAM’s 30 tonnes.

According to historian Sigal Fofliani, the VCRT’s origin comes from the different plans to build an armored recovery variant for the Leopard 1. One of the unsuccessful bids was that of MAG Germany Automotive GmbH. It found a second life when TAMSE (Tanque Argentino Mediano Sociedad Estatal), the company in charge of the procurement and development of TAM related vehicles, was looking for options for a TAM-based recovery vehicle and bought their plans to adapt to the TAM. The plans were given to ASTARSA (Astilleros Argentinos Río de La Plata S.A.), a company whose core business was building and repairing ships and locomotives. ASTARSA was presumably given the task on the basis of their know-how in cranes in shipyards. No exact dates are given in the literature, but sources from 1984 already mention the progress being made on what would become the VCRT.

With the lack of proper armored recovery vehicles in the Ejército Argentino, TAMs have often had to perform these duties themselves – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 17
The VCRT prototype. Note the two external fuel tanks which were then removed – source: Sigal & Fofliani, p. 115

Design

Chassis

In its basic components, the VCRT was a turretless TAM, which in itself is basically a German Marder IFV. What made it different was the recovery equipment. The frontal plate was at a pronounced 75º angle and the sides and rear plates were positioned at 32º. At the front of the tank, on each side, were headlights. Behind these, also on each side, were wing mirrors. On each side of the front-middle section of the hull were a set of 4 Wegman 77 mm smoke grenade launchers.

The second half of the vehicle received some modifications. The left half had a raised superstructure in which the crew operated. On top of the structure was the commander’s cupola with seven episcopes. On the cupola was the VCRT’s only armament, a 7.62 mm FN MAG 60-40 machine gun. The 7.62 × 51 NATO-standard ammunition the machine gun fired had a muzzle velocity of 840 m/sec and a firing range of around 1,200 m. Additional weaponry consisted of the crew’s personal weapons and 9 hand grenades.

Although not designed for combat, the VCRT’s armor was made of electrically welded nickel-chromium-molybdenum steel. The front plate was 50 mm thick and the sides and rear 35 mm. This provided more than adequate protection from small arms fire including machine guns and shell splinters.

As with all TAM family vehicles, the VCRT was equipped with an NBC protection system which would have allowed the crew to transverse in a contaminated area for up to 8 hours. The NBC system fed the main and driver’s compartments with filtered air that could absorb solid or gaseous elements from poisonous or radioactive substances. The vehicle would have been able to operate in very harsh temperatures, from as low as -35ºC to as high as 42ºC, which would have been ideal for the varied terrain in Argentina. There was also an automatic fire extinguishing system which could also have been manually triggered from the interior or exterior.

Again, as the TAM, the VCRT retained the suspension and running gear of the West German Marder 1, a torsion bar-type suspension with six rubber-tired paired road wheels and three return rollers on each side. The first, second, fifth, and sixth road wheel stations had hydraulic shock dampers, a legacy of the Marder 1 design.

The tracks were of a Vickers system, each track consisting of 91 links with rubber tank treads. These could have been substituted by snow cleats if required.

Side view of the VCRT – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 54

Interior

The interior of the VCRT was divided into two main sections, with the frontal section being further sub-divided into two sub-sections. The bigger of these sub-sections, occupying 2/3 of the frontal space, housed the engine, whilst the smaller one was for the driver and driving mechanisms. There was a hatch above the driver’s position and three episcopes. The whole section of the frontal hull covering the engine could be opened for engine maintenance.

The engine on the VCRT was the MTU MB 833 Ka 500 diesel engine, a six-cylinder rated at 537 kilowatts (720 hp) at 36.67 revolutions per second or 2,200-2,400 revolutions per minute. This gave the vehicle a power-to-weight ratio of 16.5 kilowatts per tonne or 22.5 hp per tonne. This was the second-worst power-to-weight ratio in TAM family vehicles, only beaten by the heavier Vehículo de Combate de Artillería (VCA), as the VCRT weighed 32 tonnes, whilst the TAM weighed 30.5 tonnes.

The engine was kept cool by two fans at the rear powered by a 33 hp engine of their own.

Presumably, inside the VCRT was also an auxiliary engine for the crane and winches, though there is no information available on this.

The maximum road speed was 75 km/h forwards and backward. Off-road or cross-country speed was limited to 40 km/h. The VCRT carried 680 liters of fuel for a maximum range of 520 km. This was supplemented with a 200-liter fuel tank on the opposite side of the crane.

Among other performance indicators, the VCRT could overcome 60% gradients, 30% side slopes, 1 m tall obstacles, and 2.9 m trenches. It was capable of fording 1.5 m deep water without preparation, increased to 2 m with preparation.

The bigger rear section was where the rest of the crew, a commander and two engineers, carried out their duties. Given that the rear door for entry and exit of the TAM was taken out to equip the dozer blade, entry and exit happened through the hatch at the top of the vehicle. Communications were by means of the VHF SEL SEM-180 and SEM-190 systems and the SEL SEM-170 radio-receptor, as on all TAM family vehicles.

Recovery Equipment

Crane: The main feature of a recovery vehicle is the crane. In the VCRT, it was 5.5 m long and had a lifting capacity of 20-22.5 tonnes. It was positioned on the right-hand side of the vehicle in a 180º rotating platform and could elevate to an angle of 70º. The hook on the crane was kept in a lock at the front of the chassis during travel or in a static position.

Frontal view of a VCRT showing the crane in lock position. Note the main winch on the right on the superstructure – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 54

Dozer blade: Positioned at the rear of the vehicle was the dozer blade, which was 820 mm high and 3.12 m wide or 3.65 m with extensions. The main purpose of the dozer blade was to keep the VCRT in place and stable when it was using the crane or the winch, but it could also be used to clear paths and dig shallow entrenchments.

Rearview of the VCRT showing the dozer blade. Note the main winch to the left – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 54

Winch and auxiliary winch: The winch, placed on the left of the superstructure, had 91 m long and 33 mm diameter cable with a 30.6-tonne towing capacity, the weight of a TAM, at a rate of 16 m per minute. The auxiliary winch, placed on the right of the hull, beneath the crane had a 200 m and 7 mm diameter cable, with 1.5 tonnes of towing capacity at a rate of 80 m per minute.

Trouble

ASTARSA finished a prototype at an undetermined point of time after 1984. Nevertheless, it was not successful. While the reasons seem to be clear, the time-frame is less so. It would appear that the Ejército Argentino was not too impressed with the VCRT’s performance, especially the lack of stability when using the crane, so did not adopt it. When this happened is unclear though. In Blindados Argentinos de Uruguay y Paraguay, published in 1997, Sigal Fogliani claims that following its untimely demise, the VCRT was left abandoned. However, Juan Carlos Cicalesi & Santiago Rivas, in TAM, published in 2012, claim that the VCRT made its first public appearance on May 25th, 1999 during a military parade in Buenos Aires. A combination of these stories may be true, and that after the VCRT’s failure it was abandoned, only to be put back into service for military parades or further trials. The last photos of the VCRT see it static in a park, presumably in Buenos Aires. The vehicle is covered in leaf-litter and has an information board and display lights on its side, indicating that it is probably out of service. These photos bare the inscriptions “CAP MARTIN DE TOURS”, the vehicle’s name, and “B ARS 602”, the unit it belonged to: Batallón de Arsenales 602 , a maintenance battalion based at Boulogne Sur Mer, the former headquarters of TAMSE.

Despite its shortcomings, the VCRT was even considered for export. In 1988, Ecuador was looking for a new tank and the TAM was considered. The deal was going to be for the purchase of 75 vehicles (TAM, VCTP and VCRT) for $108 million, but fell through, according to Sigal Fagliani, because of the threatened closure of TAMSE. In the end, Ecuador did not purchase any tanks.

According to Cicalesi and Rivas, the first public appearance of the VCRT on May 25th, 1999 in Buenos Aires – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 53
Side view of the current state of the VCRT, presumably in a park in Buenos Aires? – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 53

Side Note – The Vehículo de Combate Lanza Puentes (VCLP)

Another TAM family variant is the VCLP, a bridge laying vehicle. Not much is known about this proposed variant, but it was presumably also thought about in the ’80s. Whatever was the case, no vehicle was ever built. Before then, the Ejército Argentino used pontoon bridges and a small number of the very light AMX-13 PDP (Poseur De Pont) Modèle 51. As with the VCRT and armored recovery vehicles, Argentina does not have a modern bridge laying vehicle.

Conclusion

In short, the VCRT was a failure. Several Argentinian prototypes and projects, including a number of TAM-based ones, have failed because of budgetary reasons rather than because they lacked merit. This was not the case with the VCRT, it simply did not fulfill the requirements. Since Argentina has continued to face the problem of a lack of a proper armored recovery vehicle. Instead, a variety of truck-based cranes have been used, such as the light-duty crane equipped Mercedes Benz 1114 or the heavier Fiat 697. Whilst in peacetime, this may not be seen as much of an issue, if Argentina was to become involved in a war with any of its neighbors, the lack of such specialized vehicles may have negative consequences.

Fiat 697 crane truck servicing two Vehículos de Combate Transporte de Personal (VCTP) during UN operations in Croatia – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 32
Vehículo de Combate Recuperador de Tanques (VCRT) EA 436196 illustration produced by Pablo Javier Gomez

Bibliography

Javier de Mazarrasa, La Familia Acorazada TAM (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1996)
Juan Carlos Cicalesi & Santiago Rivas, Ejército Argentino: Vehicles of the Modern Argentine Army (Erlangen: Tankograd Publishing, 2012)
Juan Carlos Cicalesi & Santiago Rivas, TAM The Argentine Tanque Argentino Mediano – History, Technology, Variants (Erlangen: Tankograd Publishing, 2012)
Luís María Maíz, “Nuevos Integrantes de la Familia TAM”, Revista Defensa No. 74 (June 1984)
Ricardo Sigal Fagliani, Blindados Argentinos de Uruguay y Paraguay (Ayer y Hoy Ediciones, 1997)

VCRT specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.93 x 3.29 x 3.3 m
Total weight 32 tonnes
Crew 4 (Commander, driver and 2 engineers)
Propulsion MTU-MB 833 Ka-500 6-cyl diesel, 720 hp
Maximum speed 75 kmh
Range 590 km without external fuel tanks
Armament Main – 7.62 mm NATO FN MAG 60-40
Armor Front hull – 50 mm
Side hull – 35 mm
Rear hull – 35 mm
Categories
WW2 Kingdom of Spain Prototypes

Prototipo Trubia

Kingdom of Spain (1925-1926)
Light tank – 1 prototype

Spain has mainly depended on foreign technology for its tank forces but there have always been enthusiastic engineers, military commanders and policy-makers who have wanted to break the mould and create indigenous designs. The first of these initiatives would take place in 1925 in the northern town of Trubia, Asturias.

Note – given that the tank’s lack of official designation, it will be referred to as Trubia Prototype.

What Spain Learnt in Morocco

As a result of German, French, and British colonial competition, Spain was granted extensive control over North Morocco in addition to its already existing enclaves following the Algeciras Conference of 1906. In 1912, after signing a treaty with France, the Spanish protectorate in Morocco was formed, with an area of 20,948 km² around the Rif. This increased presence in Morocco and the loss of most other colonies gave wings to the group of military commanders known as ‘Africanistas’ (those with a vocation for Africa) and military and private operations were carried out in the area.

Map showing Spanish and French possessions in Morocco in 1912 – source: Rafael Moreno (2013), p. 35

Spain avoided the slaughter of the Great War (1914-1918) by remaining neutral, but following a series of incidents, the Riffian Abd el-Krim led an insurgency that would evolve into the Rif War (1911-27). In 1921, Spain suffered the ‘Disaster at Annual’, their most infamous military defeat ever, and at the hands of a numerically inferior force with less modern equipment, and as a result, the Rif Republic was created, factors which in part led to the successful coup in Spain led by Miguel Primo de Rivera and his dictatorship. Soon afterward, in 1924, France intervened on Spain’s behalf and after the amphibious landings at Alhucemas (North Morocco) in 1925 with Spain using its Renault FT’s in the first amphibious tank landing in combat, the war was all but won. In these campaigns, Spain used its Renault FTs and Schneider CA-1s bought from France in addition to Spanish-made armored cars.

Map of the front line as it was in 1921 – source: Rafael Moreno (2013), p. 36

Tank usage during the Rif War had a mixed result. Whilst some clear tactical advantages were gained with them, poor strategy and the lack of experience of the crews hindered their effectiveness.

In addition, it was felt that Spain should develop their own tank program, not only to improve tank capabilities with newer models but also to not have to rely on foreign imports for their armed forces.

The Three Amigos

At the end of the Eighteenth Century, in the northern town of Trubia (Asturias), a weapons factory was established. The factory grew to prominence during the mid-Nineteenth Century and provided ammunition and artillery pieces to the Spanish Army and exported around the world.

In 1925, three men would come to the factory to put in motion their ideas to build an indigenous tank design for the Spanish Army. These men would be Commander Victor Landesa Domenech (an artillery officer attached to the factory), Captain Carlos Ruíz de Toledo (a Commander in charge of the Batería de Carros de Asalto de Artillería [Eng. Artillery Tank Battery] during its first engagements during the Rif War) and the factory’s Chief Engineer, Rogelio Areces. Ruíz de Toledo would be appointed to the Trubia arms factory where he convinced the factory director, Victor Pérez Vidal, to authorize the construction of a tank. Pérez Vidal approved this venture and granted the three men an old workshop (Taller de Escarpa) probably in disuse, for them to build their tank.

The three men would work together to come up with a tank design. Given the lack of tank technology information available, they based their design on what they deemed the best tank in the Spanish Army’s arsenal, the Renault FT. The project, which was to be led by Landesa Domenech, was a private venture paid for out of their own pockets without state supervision or finance.

Design

The only known photo of the Trubia prototype, which, in this instance, is going over a brick wall. Date and location unknown. Note the overlapping turrets, frontal nose ‘ram’ and general resemblance to the Renault FT – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 6

Given the circumstances, the vehicle strongly resembled the Renault FT, but there were some key differences.

The undercarriage was a direct copy of the FT, featuring a large front drive sprocket and smaller track idler at more or less the same height.

The Renault FT’s armor was slightly improved on and consisted of overall hull armor 18 mm thick. The sheets used were made from oil heated chromium-nickel steel. The construction and riveting of these proved problematic given the absolute lack of experience.

The turret was one of the most interesting and distinguishing features. Lessons learned in North Africa had shown that the Renault FT was extremely vulnerable when its main machine gun jammed, as there was no other weaponry to defend itself with. Therefore, Landesa Domenech and his team decided to equip the tank with a second machine gun in the turret. Their solution resulted in two overlapping turrets moving independently and each armed with a Hotchkiss 7 mm machine gun (either M1909, M1914 or M1922). As a consequence of the additional machine gun, it is possible that an additional crew-member was added to fill the gunner role, though as they would have been incredibly cramped inside this is unlikely, the commander probably having responsibility over the two guns.

The frontal plate had two distinguishing features. The first was a small semi-circular plate attached to an elongated nose of the tank which acted as a ram to cut through obstacles, such as walls and barbed wire. The second is a small box-like extension to the upper frontal hull which had a vision slit for the driver. In front of this box was a hinged two-part door for the driver to access and exit the tank. It is not known from photographic evidence if the iconic rear tail of the FT remained in the Trubia prototype, but given that it was used on the Trubia production series, it can be assumed that it was. A rear tail was used to improve trench crossing capabilities by facilitating balance.

One of the main improvements desired by Landesa Domenech’s teams was to enhance the FT’s poor speed, range, and performance by installing a better engine. As no significantly better engine was available, a 4 cylinder Hispano-Suiza 40/50 (40-50 hp) engine was used, one already fitted in the Army’s Hispano-Suiza trucks.

Testing and a Royal Visit

Once the vehicle was finished, at some point in 1925, it was transferred to the Escuela Central de Tiro in the southern Madrid neighborhood of Carabanchel. There, it was tested, and apparently, the results were satisfactory. Consequently, a budget was set for the creation of a tank producing workshop at the Trubia factory, and a commission led by Areces and Ruíz de Toledo was established to travel Europe and investigate tank technological innovations they could utilize for an improved serial version of the prototype.

The prototype was taken back to Asturias where it was displayed at the Feria de Muestras (a technology fair) in Gijón, where it would be viewed by the Principe de Asturias (title for the heir to the Spanish throne) Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg. Shortly after the fair it was dismantled.

Impact

The commission led by Areces and Ruíz de Toledo would travel around Europe and in Germany, would buy powerful new engines and the ‘Orion’ suspension. These would be used on an improved version of the prototype officially named Carro Ligero de Combate para Infantería Modelo Trubia 75 H.P., Tipo Rápido, Serie A, more commonly known as Modelo Trubia Serie A. Four of these would be built and would go on to serve until the Spanish Civil War and influence multiple other Spanish designed vehicles.

The first Trubia Serie A receiving finishing touches at the Trubia factory – source: Artemio Mortera Pérez (2007), p. 7

Conclusion

The Trubia prototype showed the way towards a domestically-built tank, though as would later be found out, it was not to be. However, this was a monumental step in the history of Spanish armor and its legacy should not be forgotten.

What the Prototipo Trubia may have looked like with a prototype grey coat of paint. Illustration produced by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon

Bibliography

Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Carros de Combate “Trubia” (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1993)
Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española. Teatro de Operaciones del Norte 36/37 (Valladolid: AF Editores, 2007)
Chus Neira, “El primer tanque español salió de la Fábrica de Trubia hace 90 años” La Nueva España [Spain], 30 March 2017 (https://www.lne.es/oviedo/2017/03/30/primer-tanque-espanol-salio-fabrica/2081455.html#)
Rafael Moreno, Master of Military Studies Research Paper “Annual 1921: The Reasons for a Disaster” (2013)

Prototipo Trubia specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5 x 2 x 0.6 m (16.40 x 6.56 x 1.97 ft)
Total weight 7,840 kg
Crew 2 (commander/gunner and driver)
Propulsion 4 cylinder Hispano-Suiza 40/50 (40-50 hp)
Armament 2 Hotchkiss 7 mm machine gun
Armor 18 mm
Categories
Cold War Argentinian Armor

Vehículo de Combate Puesto de Comando (VCPC)

Argentina Argentina (1982-present)
Armored Command Vehicle – 9 built

With the introduction of the Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM) and the Vehículo de Combate Transporte de Personal (VCTP) in the early 80’s and the infrastructure to produce more vehicles using the same technology, Argentina was in a unique position to produce a family of vehicles based on the same chassis. After a mortar carrying vehicle and plans for a Self-Propelled Gun, the next step was a command vehicle to coordinate the units of the Ejército Argentino: the Vehículo de Combate Puesto de Comando (VCPC).

Context – The Vehículo de Combate de Transporte de Personal (VCTP)

Whilst working on the TAM for Argentina, Thyssen-Henschel delivered another vehicle, effectively just a modified Marder 1 IFV, known as the Vehículo de Combate Transporte de Personal (VCTP). The VCTP’s role was dual: Armored Personnel Carrier and Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Armed with a 20 mm autocannon in a fully rotatable turret and two machine guns, the VCTP had considerable firepower and carried a contingent of 10 infantry. Initially, these vehicles would have also been used as command vehicles by reducing the offensive capabilities. However, to be effectively used as a command vehicle, there had to be an increase in logistic and communication capabilities.

The VCTP ploughing through the Argentinian Pampa – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 65

The first plans to adapt the common TAM family chassis into a command vehicle were drawn in 1982, and production began in 1984. Only 9 would be built in addition to 2 VCCDF (Vehículo de Combate Centro Director de Fuego) and 4 VCCDT (Vehículo de Combate Centro Director de Tiro) artillery fire control variants.

Design

External Appearance and Armor

The VCPC is essentially a turretless VCTP with a command cupola. The frontal plate is at a pronounced 75º angle and the sides and rear plates are positioned at 32º. At the front of the tank, on each side, are headlights. Behind these, also on each side, are wing mirrors. On each side of the front-middle section of the hull are a set of 4 Wegmann 76 mm smoke launchers. On the left of the frontal section is an antenna for the radio equipment. The VCPC carries several pieces of pioneer equipment on the sides of the hull and on top of the frontal chassis.

When static, for added camouflage, the VCPC can deploy a camouflage net held by two poles placed on the top of the vehicle. There are several hatches on the vehicle: one on top of the driver’s position on the front left; one behind this position; a command cupola on the right towards the middle of the vehicle with 1 episcope; and a large hatch in the middle rear, which consists of two outwards opening doors. Armament consists of a single 7.62 mm FN MAG 60-40 machine gun placed in the commander’s cupola. The 7.62 × 51 NATO-standard ammunition for the machine gun fired has a muzzle velocity of 840 m/sec and a firing range of around 1,200 m. Additional weaponry consists of the crew’s personal weapons and 9 hand grenades.

A VCPC acting as a command post. Notice that only one of the poles for the camouflage net has been employed. Note the radio antenna at the forefront – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 52

Although not meant for combat, the VCPC’s armor is made of electrically welded nickel-chromium-molybdenum steel. The front plate is 50 mm thick and the sides and rear 35 mm.

Additionally, the VCPC is equipped with an NBC protection system allowing the crew to operate in a contaminated area for up to 8 hours. The NBC system feeds the main and driver’s compartments with filtered air that can absorb solid or gaseous elements from poisonous or radioactive substances. The vehicle is able to operate in very harsh temperatures, from as low as -35ºC to as high as 42ºC, ideal for the varied terrain in Argentina. There is also an automatic fire extinguishing system which can also be manually triggered from the interior or exterior.

Suspension and Undercarriage

The VCPC retained the suspension and running gear of the Marder 1, a torsion bar-type suspension with six rubber-tired paired road wheels and three return rollers on each side. The first, second, fifth, and sixth road wheel stations have hydraulic shock dampers, a legacy of the Marder 1 design.

The tracks are of a Vickers system, each track consisting of 91 links with rubber tank treads. These can be substituted with snow cleats if required.

Interior

The interior of the VCPC is divided into two main sections, with the frontal section being further sub-divided into two sub-sections. The bigger of these sub-sections, occupying 2/3 of the frontal space, houses the engine, whilst the smaller one is for the driver and driving mechanisms. There is a hatch above the driver’s position and three episcopes, and another one behind for another of the crew members or one of the passengers with 1 episcope. The whole section of the frontal hull covering the engine can be opened for engine maintenance.

The bigger rear section occupies the central and rear part of the vehicle and is where command operations are carried out. It is divided in two compartments by a metal screen: a smaller one for the VCPC’s commander; and a larger one for the passengers. In the middle of this larger section is a map table with seats on both sides.

The interior of the VCPC. Notice the map table in the center – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 52

In addition to the VHF SEL SEM-180 and SEM-190 systems and the SEL SEM-170 radio-receptor on all TAM family vehicles, for command duties, the VCPC has an SEL UHF and SEL unique multi-band radio systems provided by Fabricaciones Militares with Israeli aid. The UHF radio has a 4,000 km range and was allegedly used to communicate with an Argentinian base in the Antarctic from a VCPC based in Buenos Aires. The multi-band radio system is used to communicate with airborne units, such as planes and helicopters, allowing modern cross-branch cooperation and communication.

The crew is either 3 or 4: driver, commander, and up to two radio operators. Additionally, 6 regimental staff are carried. An improved air conditioning system not seen in other TAM family vehicles was incorporated on the VCPC.

Engine and Performance

The engine on the VCPC is the MTU MB 833 Ka 500 diesel engine, a six-cylinder rated at 537 kilowatts (720 hp) at 36.67 revolutions per second or 2,200-2,400 revolutions per minute. This, alongside a weight of under 25 tonnes compared to the VCTP’s 28.2 tonnes, gives the vehicle a power-to-weight ratio of 21.2 kilowatts per tonne or 28.8 hp per tonne.

The engine is kept cool by two ventilators at its rear powered by a 33 hp engine of their own.

The gearbox on the VCPC is the HSWL 204 automatic planetary gearbox with torque converter and four forward/four reverse gear ratios. The first three are epicyclic gear trains (also known as planetary gears) and the fourth is a clutch disc.

The maximum road speed is 75 km/h forwards and backward. Off-road or cross-country speed is limited to 40 km/h. The VCPC carries 650 liters of fuel for a maximum range of 590 km. This can be supplemented with 200-liter fuel tanks on each side of the hull for a total of 1,050 liters extending the maximum operating range to 840 km. However, these are not often added to the VCPC.

Among other performance indicators, the VCPC can overcome 60% gradients, 30% side slopes, 1 m tall obstacles, and 2.9 m trenches. It is capable of fording 1.5 m deep water without preparation, increased to 2 m with preparation.

Organization and Service

Each of the Regimentos de Infantería Mecanizados (RI Mec) [Eng. Mechanized Infantry Regiments] equipped with TAM family vehicles has a VCPC leading it. In the RI Mecs that are not equipped with TAM family vehicles, this role is carried out by M577A2. The regiments have two companies, each with three sections. Each section has four VCTPs plus an additional one for section command (total of five). The regiment’s headquarter section has the aforementioned VCPC, a VCTP for the second in command, and four Vehículos de Combate Transporte Mortero (VCTM) for fire support. The VCPC of each RI Mec has the role of coordinating the regiment’s infantry, VCTPs and VCTMs during operations with the regiment’s commander and headquarters staff being on board. The advanced radio and communications equipment on board allows for constant communication and coordination with other regiments and units.

There are almost no details for the VCPC’s service, but they may have seen action in 1989 during the attack on La Tablada barrack in Buenos Aires province. In this incident, the left-wing Movimiento Todos por la Patria (MTP) [Eng. All for the Fatherland Movement], which was heavily inspired by the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, took over the La Tablada barracks of the Regimiento de Infantería Mecanizado 3 on January 23rd. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the reasons behind this attack, but during the subsequent court hearings, MTP members claimed that they were attempting to prevent another carapintada military coup, of which there had already been three between April 1987 and December 1988. Others would claim that the attack on the barracks was a failed attempt to instigate a popular uprising. To quell the revolt, the VCTPs and infantry of the Regimiento de Infantería Mecanizado 7 «Coronel Conde» were sent to La Tablada, thus it is easy to assume that there would have been one VCPC among them. In the end, after several hours of fighting, MTP was defeated after losing 32 fighters.

A VCPC leading forces during Ejercicio Reconquista in July 2006 – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 52

Variants – The VCCDF (Vehículo de Combate Centro Director de Fuego) and VCCDT (Vehículo de Combate Centro Director de Tiro)

Two almost identical vehicles derived from the VCPC were built for artillery fire control in the mid-90’s. The main difference between them and the VCPC comes down to their roles; whereas the VCCDF is used by artillery groups, the VCCDT is used at battery level. An easy way to identify them is by looking at the top of the vehicle. The VCPC has two antennas and the VCCDF and the VCCDT have four. They were built in small numbers: there are 2 VCCDFs and 4 VCCDTs.

Both vehicles are used in the armored artillery groups Grupo de Artillería Blindado 9 and Grupo de Artillería Blindado 11 «Coronel Juan Bautista Thorne», both of which are equipped with the TAM-based Vehículo de Combate Artillería (VCA). GA Bl 9 is based in Chubut province in the middle of the Patagonian plateau, whilst GA Bl 11 is based in the town of Comandante Luis Piedrabuena, Santa Cruz province, the southernmost point of Patagonia. Each GA consists of two batteries of 4 VCAs. Additionally, each battery has a VCCDT to command operations at battery level, whilst there is a single VCCDF per GA to command the operations of the whole group.

A battery of the Grupo de Artillería Blindado 11 «Coronel Juan Bautista Thorne», showing 4 VCAs, a VCCDT and a VCCDF – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 44
A VCCDF unloading from a tank transporter. Notice the VCA in the background – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 49
A VCCDT followed by a VCCDF which a part of a battery of the Grupo de Artillería Blindado 11 «Coronel Juan Bautista Thorne» – Cicalsei & Rivas, p. 49

Conclusion

The VCPC is proof of the flexibility demonstrated by the Ejército Argentino in procuring new equipment. It is a simple yet effective conversion on tested and trusted technology to fulfill new roles without reducing the number of TAMs and VCTPs already in service. There is no reason the VCPC will go out of service soon, even if the TAM, VCTP or VCA are substituted for more modern equipment.

Vehículo de Combate Puesto de Comando (VCPC), EA 435196, ‘KELLER’ illustration produced by Pablo Javier Gomez

Bibliography

Javier de Mazarrasa, La Familia Acorazada TAM (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1996)
Juan Carlos Cicalesi & Santiago Rivas, TAM The Argentine Tanque Argentino Mediano – History, Technology, Variants (Erlangen: Tankograd Publishing, 2012)
Ricardo Sigal Fagliani, Blindados Argentinos de Uruguay y Paraguay (Ayer y Hoy Ediciones, 1997)

VCPC specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.83 x 3.29 x 2.03 m
Total weight 25 tonnes
Crew 3-4 (driver, commander and one or two operators) + 6 regimental staff
Propulsion MTU-MB 833 Ka-500 6-cyl diesel, 720 hp
Maximum speed 75 km/h
Range 590 km without external fuel tanks
Armament Main – 7.62 mm NATO FN MAG 60-40
Armor Front hull – 50 mm
Side hull – 35 mm
Rear hull – 35 mm
Categories
Cold War Argentinian Armor

Vehículo de Combate Amunicionador (VCAmun)

Argentina Argentina (2002-present)
Ammunition Supply Vehicle – 2 built

One of the biggest problems with Self Propelled Guns (SPGs) is that they can only carry a limited amount of their precious and delicate ammunition, so other vehicles have to be tasked with supplying it to the SPGs. Argentina did exactly that at the beginning of the current millennium when they converted the Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM) chassis into the Vehículo de Combate Amunicionador (VCAmun) to supply the Vehículo de Combate de Artillería (VCA).

A TAM with side skirts on a trailer. The TAM was the basis for the VCAmun – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 10

Context – Never a Failure, Always a Lesson

The origins of the VCAmun lay in the failures of another project, the Vehículo de Combate Ambulancia (VCAmb). In 2001, Comando de Arsenales, which had taken over from TAMSE (Tanque Argentino Mediano Sociedad Estatal) as the company in charge of the tank assembly facilities in Boulogne sur Mer, built a mock-up for a chassis to go on a TAM running gear and fulfill the role of combat ambulance. Whilst this vehicle had some potential, it did not get past the mock-up stage and was rejected. However, the lessons learned were not lost. The following year, Comando de Arsenales presented a new vehicle that used the same chassis for the purpose of resupplying the VCAs which had entered service in 1997 with ammunition. The main difference is that instead of medical equipment, the VCAmun had a conveyor belt to feed the ammunition into the VCA’s turret. Two were built by Comando de Arsenales and the plan was to build at least 16 more to supply and assist every single VCA attached to an armored artillery group.

The VCAmb mock-up in the warehouse of Comando de Arsenales – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 10

Design

External Appearance and Armor

Given that the VCAmun is based on the TAM, it shares many of its characteristics and, by extension, also with the Marder 1 IFV the TAM is based on. The frontal plate is at a pronounced 75º angle and the front half of the sides are positioned at 32º. The second half of the vehicle has a tall superstructure instead of the turret, tall enough to house the 155 mm ammunition the VCAmun carries. At the front of the tank, on each side, are headlights. Behind these, also on each side, are wing mirrors. On each side of the front-middle section of the hull are a set of 4 Wegmann 76 mm smoke launchers. On the sides of the VCAmun’s superstructure, the crew’s backpacks are carried, along with towing equipment.

Given that the VCAmun is based on the TAM, the armor is made of electrically welded nickel-chromium-molybdenum steel. The front plate is 50 mm thick and the sides and rear 35 mm. There are no details for the superstructure’s armor, but an informed assumption would put it at 35 mm.

It can also be supposed that, additionally, the VCAmun is equipped with the same NBC protection system as the TAM, which allows the crew to stay or pass through a contaminated area for up to 8 hours, but not operate in it. The NBC system feeds the main and driver’s compartment with filtered air that can absorb solid or gaseous elements from poisonous or radioactive substances. The vehicle is able to operate in very harsh temperatures, from as low as -35ºC to as high as 42ºC. There is also an automatic fire extinguishing system that can be triggered from the interior or exterior.

On the top of the superstructure is the only armament the VCAmun carries, a 7.62 mm FN MAG 60-40 machine gun on the commander’s cupola. The 7.62×51 NATO-standard bullets the machine guns fire have a muzzle velocity of 840 m/sec and a firing range of around 1,200 m. The crew also carry their personal weapons and presumably between 8 or 9 hand grenades.

A VCAmun of the Grupo de Artillería Blindado 11 «Coronel Juan Bautista Thorne». Note that the crew’s backpacks are kept outside the vehicle – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 47

Suspension and Undercarriage

The VCAmun retained the suspension and running gear of the Marder 1, a torsion bar-type suspension with six rubber-tired paired roadwheels and three return rollers on each side. The tracks are of a Vickers system, each track consisting of 91 links with rubber tank treads. These can be substituted by snow cleats if required.

Interior

The interior of the VCAmun is divided into two main sections, with the frontal section being further sub-divided into two sub-sections. The bigger of these sub-sections, occupying 2/3 of the space, houses the engine, whilst the smaller one is for the driver and driving mechanisms to his left. There is a hatch above the driver’s position and three episcopes, and the whole section of the frontal hull covering the engine can be opened for engine maintenance.

The engine on the VCAmun is the MTU MB 833 Ka 500 diesel engine, a six-cylinder rated at 537 kilowatts (720 hp) at 36.67 revolutions per second or 2,200-2,400 revolutions per minute which is used on all TAM family vehicles. The engine is kept cool by two ventilators at its rear powered by a 33 hp engine of their own.

The gearbox on the VCAmun is the HSWL 204 automatic planetary gearbox with a torque converter and four forward/four reverse gear ratios. The first three are epicyclic gear trains (also known as planetary gears) and the fourth is a clutch disc. Again, this gearbox is used on all TAM family vehicles.

The rear section carries the ammunition, 80 rounds of 155 mm ammunition of the different types the VCA fires. These are supplied to the VCA by means of a 3 m-long conveyor belt which is powered by a 24 V electrical engine. The conveyor belt exits the VCAmun through the rear door, originally designed for entry/exit of the crew on the TAM, and enters the VCA through a rectangular hatch at the top rear of the turret. A total of 28 rounds, the VCA’s capacity, can be supplied in only two minutes. This process is carried out by two of the VCAmun’s crew and the two loaders on the VCA. The total crew consists of four: driver, commander, and two ammunition porters.

It can be assumed that communications are by means of VHF SEL SEM-180 and SEM-190 systems and an SEL SEM-170 radio-receptor, as this is used on most other TAM family vehicles.

Two photos of a VCAmun resupplying a VCA. Note the conveyor belt – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, pp. 44 and 48

Service

Despite its merits, the VCAmun is yet another lost opportunity in a long list of Argentinian military projects terminated too early because of budgetary constraints or lack of interest. Only two vehicles were built and serve the armored artillery groups equipped with VCAs stationed in the southern part of the country. These are the Grupo de Artillería Blindado 9 and the Grupo de Artillería Blindado 11 «Coronel Juan Bautista Thorne». GA Bl 9 is based in Chubut province in the middle of the Patagonian plateau, whilst GA Bl 11 is based in the town of Comandante Luis Piedrabuena, Santa Cruz province, the southernmost point of Patagonia. The VCAmuns carry out their tasks alongside modified M548A1s.

A VCAmun at full speed across the open vast Patagonian meseta – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 48

Conclusion

The VCAmun has fulfilled the role it was initially set out to do, supply the VCA with ammunition. Unfortunately, financial and administrative issues have meant only two have been built. It is unlikely any more will ever be constructed but the remaining two will probably serve in the Ejército Argentino for as long as the VCA does.

Vehículo de Combate Amunicionador (VCAmun) EA 437903 of the Ejército Argentino illustrated by Pablo Javier Gómez

Bibliography

Javier de Mazarrasa, La Familia Acorazada TAM (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1996)
Juan Carlos Cicalesi & Santiago Rivas, TAM The Argentine Tanque Argentino Mediano – History, Technology, Variants (Erlangen: Tankograd Publishing, 2012)
Marcelo Javier Rivera, El Tanque Argentino Mediano – TAM, Universidad Federal de Juiz de Fora, 2008
Ricardo Sigal Fagliani, Blindados Argentinos de Uruguay y Paraguay (Ayer y Hoy Ediciones, 1997)

VCAmun specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.75 x 3.29 x 2.74 m
Total weight, battle-ready 30 tonnes
Crew 4 (driver, commander and 2 ammunition porters)
Propulsion MTU-MB 833 Ka-500 6-cyl diesel, 720 hp (540 kW)
Maximum speed 75 kmh? (47 mph) on road
Suspensions Torsion bar
Range (Fuel) 520 km
Armament 7.62 mm NATO FN MAG 60-40
Armor Front hull – 50 mm
Side hull – 35 mm
Rear hull – 35 mm
Categories
Cold War Argentinian Armor

Vehículo de Combate de Transporte de Personal (VCTP)

Argentina (1976 – present)
Infantry Fighting Vehicle/Armored Personnel Carrier – around 124-216 built

Whilst the Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM) has become the most celebrated armored vehicle of the Argentine Armed Forces, the Vehículo de Combate de Transporte de Personal (VCTP) has, perhaps unfairly, not achieved such fame. Despite the fact that the development of both vehicles took place at the same time, much information regarding the history of the VCTP is hard to come by. This is quite surprising given that the VCTP is the only vehicle of the TAM family to have seen service outside of Argentina.

Context – Plan Europa

Argentina had remained neutral during most of WWII. Although it declared war on Germany and Japan in March 1945, the country had previously held strong sympathies towards Germany. On June 4th, 1943, a coup took place which, in time, gave rise to Colonel Juan Domingo Perón, the most divisive character in Argentinian history, becoming the country’s president in 1946.

In military terms, Argentina had a large army for its region. Taking advantage of the end of WWII and the availability of a large stock of surplus and extremely cheap US and British armored vehicles, Argentina became a considerable military power in the zone. Between 1946 and 1949, Argentina purchased or acquired at least 250 Universal Carriers, around 360-400 Shermans (M4A4’s and Firefly tanks), 18 Crusader II, Gun Tractor Mk I, 6 M7 Priests and 320 M-series Half-tracks.

By the mid-1960s, these vehicles were becoming obsolete and a plan to replace them was put into action. Led by General Eduardo J. Uriburu, the intention of this project was to modernize and diversify Argentina’s armored vehicles with the purchase of European vehicles. The ultimate goal, however, was to avoid dependence on any foreign power to provide armored vehicles. As set out by the Estado Mayor General del Ejército (EMGE), the plan would be to not only acquire the vehicles but also the authorization to produce them under license in Argentina. Before the end of the decade, the purchase of 80 AMX-13’s armed with a 105 mm gun, 180 AMX VCI Armored Personnel Carriers, 14 AMX-155 F3 and 2 AMX-13 PDP (Poseur De Pont) Modèle 51’s from France and around 60 or 80 Mowag Grenadiers and possibly a number of Mowag Roland from Switzerland was agreed. Additionally, 60 Mowag Rolands and 40 AMX-13’s were assembled under license in Argentina.

The main purpose was to find a modern and adequate replacement for the Sherman Firefly as the main battle tank for the Argentinian armed forces. In 1973, EMGE set out the requirements for a medium tank to equip Argentinian forces from the 1980s onwards.

The Tanque Argentino Mediano, the VCTP’s tank cousin, which since 1979 has been Argentina’s main battle tank – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 27

Enter Thyssen-Henschel

The company which met EMGE’s requirements for a new tank was the West German Thyssen-Henschel. This would be an agreement for co-production and technology-sharing with Argentine engineers collaborating from the very beginning.

At some point, once Thyssen-Henschel had got involved, the West German company decided to also produce an Infantry Fighting Vehicle/Armored Personnel Carrier which would become the VCTP. It was built with the purpose of mechanizing the infantry whilst also being able to provide fire support.

It was agreed by both parties that, for ease of production, speed of development, and presumably cost, it was best to base the new vehicles on pre-existing and tested technology. To that end, the Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicle, which equipped the West German Army, was chosen as the basis for the new vehicles. In essence, the VCTP is an up-gunned and higher troop capacity Marder.

Thyssen-Henschel finished the first VCTP in 1977.

Trials

The VCTP was tested at the Thyssen-Henschel facilities along with two TAMs before being sent to Argentina for further testing and evaluation under the supervision of EMGE. The vehicle was shown to the public for the first time on May 25th 1977. Thyssen-Henschel built another prototype and improved it with more expensive equipment. This vehicle, the TH-302, was intended for the export market, but unfortunately for the West German company, it was unable to find any additional customers. It is very important to establish that, like the TH-301 and the TAM, the TH-302 was not a prototype for the VCTP, but rather a development of the prototype by Thyssen-Henschel.
Over the next 2 years, the VCTP and TAM drove almost 10,000 km over all the types of terrain and in all the climates found in Argentina. For context, Argentina has very varied geography: mountainous and very high peaks in the west, arid deserts across the middle of the country, wetlands in the northeast and polar tundra in the south.

The TAM and VCTP prototypes during trials – source: Mazarrasa, p. 14

The tests were deemed very satisfactory and, during the trials, EMGE ordered the construction (though this was most likely more of an assembly job) of 4 more prototypes (2 TAM and 2 VCTP) in the General San Martín and Río Tinto factories to carry out more tests and evaluate the factory’s capacities before producing the serial version. One of the main changes from the prototype to the serial production version was the reduction of the crew from 3 to 2, with the vehicle’s commander giving way to an extra infantry trooper. Additionally, the rear weapons station was changed.

The VCTP prototype. Note the different weapons platform at the rear to that of the serial production vehicle – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 62

Towards Serial Production

EMGE wanted to produce, or at least assemble, the new vehicles in Argentina. So, a whole new infrastructure had to be created, incorporating state-run enterprises and also private companies. Although the industrial development Argentina put into motion was mainly for the purpose of assembling and producing elements of the TAM, due to the nature of the VCTP, which used the same components and was based on the same chassis, these were also essential in the production of the VCTP. For example, the General San Martín factory built the hulls for the VCTP and TAM, and Río Tercero was put in charge of building the turrets and armament. The Argentinian Company Bator Cocchis SA produced the torsion bars and rubber pads. However, many components were still manufactured in West Germany or other countries, with several different companies working on different elements, including:

– Motoren- und Turbinen-Union (MTU) GmbH – engine
– Renk – transmission
– Diehl – tracks
– Standard Elektrik Lorenz – communications
– Carl Zeiss – optics
– Tensa
– Bertolina
– Pescarmone and Fiat – some elements of the undercarriage

In all, according to Mazarrasa and Sigal Fagliani, by 1983, 70% of all TAM components were being produced in Argentina, so it can be estimated that a similar percentage was also applicable to the VCTP.

In March 1980, with the objective of having one company that would coordinate the whole program, Tanque Argentino Mediano Sociedad del Estado (TAMSE) was created. TAMSE was established as the main contractor of the TAM and VCTP and given the task of overseeing the final assembly, delivery integration of the tanks into the army, trials, homogenization of the optics and armament and potential exports.

TAMSE was given a 9,600 km2 covered assembly plant in Boulogne sur Mer, just outside Buenos Aires. The installations at Boulogne sur Mer also housed two warehouses to stock vehicle components, offices, laboratories for quality control evaluation, engine test benches, a pit for trials and a shooting range.

Production had begun beforehand in April 1979, with most components coming from West Germany and assembly taking place in already existing factories. The initial order was for 200 TAM and 312 VCTP, though this would not initially be fulfilled.

Numbers Built?

One of the hardest facts to establish about the VCTP is the exact number built, as there are widely differing figures. In his book La Familia Acorazada TAM, Spanish author Javier de Mazarrasa states that, in 1995, as many as 216 VCTPs and Vehículos de Combate Puesto de Comando (VCPC) had been built. A much more conservative estimate is given by Juan Carlos Cicalesi and Santiago Rivas in TAM (published in 2012), who state that only 124 were built, in addition to 9 VCPCs.

A veteran of the wars in Yugoslavia. Note the remnants of UN whitewash paint on the wheels – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 62

Design

External Appearance and Armor

As stated previously, externally, in appearance and design, the VCTP is very similar to the Marder IFV. The frontal plate is at a pronounced 75º angle and the sides and rear plates are positioned at 32º. At the front of the tank, on each side, are headlights. Behind these, also on each side, are wing mirrors. On each side of the front-middle section of the hull are a set of 4 Wegman 77 mm smoke launchers.

In the center of the vehicle is the turret. On the front of the right-hand side of the turret is a small hatch to dispense used cartridges. On top of the turret are two hatches, one for an infantry commander and the vehicle’s gunner.

The VCTP’s armor is made out of electrically welded nickel-chromium-molybdenum steel. The front plate is 50 mm thick and the sides and rear 35 mm. Turret armor is 35 mm at the front.
Additionally, the VCTP is equipped with an NBC protection system allowing the crew to operate in a contaminated area for up to 8 hours. The NBC system feeds the main and driver’s compartments with filtered air that can absorb solid or gaseous elements from poisonous or radioactive substances. The vehicle is able to operate in very harsh temperatures, from as low as -35ºC to as much as 42ºC, ideal for the varied terrain in Argentina. There is also an automatic fire extinguishing system which can also be manually triggered from the interior or exterior.

Armament

The VCTP has a variety of armaments. Its main gun is located in the fully rotating turret and consists of a Rheinmetall Mk 20 Rh-202 20 mm autocannon, which has a total length of 2,612 mm (2,002 mm barrel length) and a weight of 75 kg. The gun’s depression is -11º, whilst its elevation is +60º. Effective firing range is deemed at 2,000 m, though maximum firing range far exceeds this. The Mk 20 Rh-202 fires 880 rounds a minute, which can be increased to 1,030 rounds a minute on quick-fire mode.

Some sources (Sigal Fagliani) suggest that Argentina encountered issues with Rheinmetall regarding a weapons embargo and turned to the Swiss Oerlikon KAD 20 mm autocannon, the new name of the Hispano-Suiza HS.820 following Oerlikon’s purchase of Hispano-Suiza, as the main weapon for the VCTP. Regardless, the Oerlikon KAD and the Rh-202 could fire the same projectiles.
A total of 1,000 cartridges of two types of ammunition for the main gun are carried in the VCTP: the High Explosive DM81 and the Armor-Piercing DM63. These are placed in ammunition clips with 325 DM81 cartridges and 75 DM63 cartridges.

Name DM81 DM63
Muzzle Velocity (m/s) 1,045 1,150
Weight (g) 120 108

The fire control system for the main gun on the VCTP is hydraulic. The gunner has a Zeiss PERI-Z11A1 sight with ×4 magnification and an LRP-2100 panoramic periscope.

Secondary armament consists of two 7.62 mm FN MAG 60-40 machine guns, one placed on top of the turret and a second-placed in a TPA-1 remote-controlled weapon station at the rear of the vehicle. The 7.62 × 51 NATO-standard ammunition for the machine guns has a muzzle velocity of 840 m/sec and a firing range of around 1,200 m. A total of 5,000 rounds are carried inside. Additional weaponry for the crew includes their personal weapons and 9 hand grenades.

Suspension and Undercarriage

The VCTP retained the suspension and running gear of the Marder 1, a torsion bar-type suspension with six rubber-tired paired road wheels and three return rollers on each side. The first, second, fifth, and sixth road wheel stations have hydraulic shock dampers.
The tracks are of a Vickers system, each track consisting of 91 links with rubber tank treads. These can be substituted by snow cleats if required.

Interior

The interior of the VCTP is divided into two main sections, with the frontal section being further sub-divided into two subsections. The bigger of these subsections, occupying 2/3 of the frontal space, houses the engine, whilst the smaller one is for the driver and driving mechanisms. There is a hatch above the driver’s position and three episcopes, and another one behind for one of the passengers. The whole section of the frontal hull covering the engine can be opened for engine maintenance.

The driver’s position inside the VCTP – source: Wikipedia Commons

The bigger rear section occupies the central and rear part of the tank and is where the 10 infantry (1 commander and 9 troopers) the VCTP carries sit. Bizarrely, the infantry platoon commander also acts as the vehicle’s commander and usually sits in the turret, where there are seven episcopes and one periscope to observe the vehicle’s surroundings. The infantrymen are seated on a central bench back-to-back with five on each side. Furthermore, they can provide fire from inside the vehicle through the three hatches placed on each side of the hull. One of the infantry also has the task of operating the TPA-1 remote-controlled weapon station at the rear. This role is assisted by four periscopes and 3 episcopes, crucial to know where and what to fire at.

At the rear of the vehicle, there is a small door for the crew and infantry to enter and exit and to replenish ammunition and other things the VCTP may need.

Infantry exiting the rear of the VCTP prototype – source: Top Gun
The VCTP prototype with its crew of 3 (changed to 2 in the serial production vehicle) and 9 infantry passengers (later increased to 10) – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 62

Communications are by means of VHF SEL SEM-180 and SEM-190 systems and a SEL SEM-170 radio-receptor.

Engine and Performance

The engine on the VCTP is the MTU MB 833 Ka 500 diesel engine, a six-cylinder rated at 537 kilowatts (720 hp) at 36.67 revolutions per second or 2,200-2,400 revolutions per minute. This gives the vehicle a power-to-weight ratio of 17.6 kilowatts per tonne or 24 hp per tonne.

The engine is kept cool by two fans at its rear powered by a 33 hp engine of their own.

The gearbox on the VCTP is the HSWL 204 automatic planetary gearbox with torque converter and four forward/four reverse gear ratios. The first three are epicyclic gear trains (also known as planetary gears) and the fourth is a clutch disc.

The maximum road speed is 75 km/h forwards and backward. Off-road or cross-country speed is limited to 40 km/h. The VCTP carries 650 liters of fuel for a maximum range of 590 km. This can be supplemented with two 200 liter tanks for a total of 1,050 liters which extends the maximum operating range to 840 km. However, these are not often added on the VCTP. Other capacity fuel tanks have also been used.

Among other performance indicators, the VCTP can overcome 60% gradients, 30% side slopes, 1 m tall obstacles and 2.9 m trenches. When it comes to fording, it is capable of fording 1.5 m deep waters without preparation, increased to 2 m with preparation.

Operational Service

When production began in April 1979, it was expected that 200 TAM and 312 VCTP would be completed by April 1985, when the project was expected to terminate. However, economic difficulties meant that production was stopped at 150 TAM and 100 VCTP in 1983. Additionally, 70 unfinished vehicles were left in the factory. The first serial production vehicles left the factory in 1980.

Having built the facilities and invested a considerable amount of money but with production terminated, it was decided to try to seek success in exporting both types of vehicles. However, several deals with Arab and Latin American countries fell through and, to date, no vehicle has been exported. In the meantime, the Ejército Argentino incorporated 20 TAMs and 26 VCTPs which had been built for export to Peru.

The VCTP would see its combat debut in January 1989 during the attack on La Tablada barrack in Buenos Aires province. In this incident, the left-wing Movimiento Todos por la Patria (MTP) [Eng. All for the Fatherland Movement], which was heavily inspired by the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, took over the La Tablada barracks of the Regimiento de Infantería Mecanizado 3 on January 23rd, 1989. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the reasons behind this attack, but during the subsequent court hearings, MTP members claimed that they were attempting to prevent another ‘carapintada’ military coup, of which there had already been three between April 1987 and December 1988. Others would claim that the attack on the barracks was a failed attempt to instigate a popular uprising. To quell the revolt, the VCTPs and infantry of the Regimiento de Infantería Mecanizado 7 «Coronel Conde» were sent to La Tablada. In the end, after several hours of fighting, MTP was defeated after losing 32 fighters.

Two VCTPs belonging to Regimiento de Infantería Mecanizado 7 «Coronel Conde» which intervened during the assault on La Tablada barracks in January 1989 – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 60

Extract of a video showing a VCTP and infantry advancing on La Tablada barracks in January 1989

The VCTP would also see some action during one of the ‘carapintada’ military coups which shook Argentina between 1987 and 1990. In the last of this series of coups (December 3rd, 1990), rebellious forces under Captain Gustavo Breide Obeid took over a series of military installations, among them TAMSE. The officer who took the factory, Colonel Jorge Alberto Romero Mundani, ordered 9 or 10 TAM in the factory to head to Buenos Aires. On route, the tanks ran over a group of civilians, killing 5 of them before heading off to Mercedes. Seeing that the attempted coup was heading for failure, Romero Mundani committed suicide, one of 8 military casualties of the failed coup.

In 1992, 15 VCTPs were sent to Yugoslavia as part of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR). The vehicles were painted in UN white and departed Argentina on March 24th, 1992 on the ship ARA Cabo de Hornos, arriving in Bar, in modern-day Montenegro, in May. Within Yugoslavia, they were sent as part of the Batellón Argentino to Western Slavonia, on Croatia’s northern border with Bosnia. En route to Slavonia, when the contingent was outside Osijek, two VCTPs were shelled by enemy forces resulting in the deaths of some civilians. In October 1982, VCTPs were deployed to prevent Croat militias from attacking Serb civilians. Most of the actions in late 1992 involved controlling the large groups of refugees. No exact details are known of the exact role the VCTP’s played, but starting in January 1993, the Batellón Argentino and other UNPROFOR units in the sector were kept busy during the Croat Operation Maslenica to retake territory in northern Dalmatia and Lika from Krajina Serb forces.

Unfortunately, not much more is known about their actions in the crumbling former Yugoslavia, but they finished their service and returned to Argentina in 1995 when UNPROFOR was ended and replaced by three different missions.

The 15 VCTPs which were sent to Yugoslavia undergoing maintenance – source: Wikipedia Commons
One of the VCTPs sent to Yugoslavia representing the Batellón Argentino of UNPROFOR – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 62

Since then (as of April 2020), the VCTP has served alongside the M113 as the main armored personnel carrier of the Ejército Argentino. In 2008, a small number of VCTPs were refurbished by Comando de Arsenales in the former TAMSE installations at Boulogne sur Mer.

As of 2019, there was a plan to modernize the VCTP by bringing some of its components up to date, including its hydraulic, electronic and optic systems, fire control system and ballistic computer. Exact details are unknown and neither is how many, if any, have been modernized.

A VCTP post-2008 refurbishment at Comando de Arsenales – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 61

Organization

The VCTP equips the Regimentos de Infantería Mecanizada of the Ejército Argentino, in other words, the mechanized infantry regiments. Those regiments equipped with VCTPs, such as the Regimiento de Infantería Mecanizado 7 «Coronel Conde», have two companies each divided into three sections, with 4 VCTPs per section and an additional one for the company commander. This is a total of 29 VCTPs per regiment. Additionally, each regiment is led by a VCPC and is accompanied by 4 Vehículos de Combate Transporte Mortero. Other mechanized infantry regiments use M113’s under the same organization.

A column of VCTPs led by a VCPC. Note the overhead hatches for the infantry inside to fire from – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 59

Export Failure

As with the TAM, once production of the VCTP was terminated two years early, EMGE unsuccessfully attempted to export the vehicles. Their intention was to try to make TAMSE financially viable to recoup the heavy investment in its set-up and infrastructure.

In mid-1983, Peru made an effort to purchase 100 TAMSE vehicles (TAM and VCTP). However, financial reasons meant that they canceled the order and stuck with vehicles already in service. The 20 TAM and 26 VCTP already built for this delivery were transferred to the Argentinian Army.

In 1984, Panama ordered 60 vehicles, again, divided between TAMs and VCTPs. However, this would not materialize. It is possible that the sources about this are incorrect, and that the tanks for Panama were actually for Iran.

The closest Argentina got to selling a TAMSE vehicle was to Ecuador in 1988-89. Ecuador was looking for a tank for its armed forces and had a competition between different tanks to inform and determine their decision. The TAM’s competitors were the Austrian SK-105, the American Stingray, and the French AMX-13. The TAM was the comfortable winner, scoring 950/1000 points. The deal was going to be for the purchase of 75 vehicles (TAMs, VCTPs and VCRTs) for US$108 million. It fell through, according to Sigal Fagliani, because of the threatened closure of TAMSE. In the end, Ecuador did not purchase any tanks.

Variants

Since its inception, the VCTP has played a variety of roles in the Argentinian Army. Mainly due to financial constraints, purpose-built or modified vehicles for those roles have been unavailable.

Ambulance

Originally, several VCTPs had their turrets removed, thus becoming Vehículo de Combate Ambulancia (VCA). In 2001, there was an effort to create a purpose-built ambulance vehicle, the VCAmb, but after only one wooden mock-up, the project was canceled. As a consequence, the VCTP continued to be used in this role, either without its turret or just without the main armament. It is possible only the driver is retained, as the gunner is no longer needed. In addition, in its ambulance configuration, the VCTP, or VCA, carries two medics and medical equipment. The vehicle carries 4 people on stretchers, two on stretchers and four sitting down, or eight sitting down.

A VCTP in ambulance configuration during Ejercicio Reconquista 2006. Note the main armament has been removed and a big red cross has been painted on the turret – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 61

Mine Clearing

All vehicles in the TAM family, more often than not, the VCTM, can carry an Israeli-built RKM mine-roller for mine-clearing duties.

Engineering

A small number of VCTPs have been repurposed as engineering vehicles by having their turrets and TPA-1 rear weapons platforms removed. The interior has been reconditioned so as to act as a small workshop. Additionally, a ladder has been added on the left-hand side of the hull.

Derivatives, the TAM family

One of the most distinguishing factors of the TAM family is how flexible a platform it is, having spawned several derivatives, including recovery vehicles, self-propelled guns and mortar carriers. Whilst this flexibility was not one of the initial requirements set by EMGE, it was very much appreciated and was in line with the initial wishes of the Argentinian military authorities, to reduce or limit the reliance on foreign vehicles. Several of the vehicles belonging to the TAM family seem to be direct derivatives or variants of the VCTP itself.

VCTM (Vehículo de Combate Transporte Mortero)

Produced from 1980’s onwards, it was the first TAM family vehicle to have been designed in Argentina. Eliminating the turret of a VCTP, it carries a 120 mm Brandt MO-120-RT mortar which fires through the hole where the turret once stood. 36 VCTMs have been built and are still in service.

Two VCTM firing during a military exercise – source: Thai Military and Asian Region

VCPC (Vehículo de Combate Puesto de Comando)

A variant of the VCTP developed in 1982, the VCPC is a command vehicle that substitutes the turret of the VCTP for a hatch for the commander. It has additional radio and communications systems and a map table in the middle of the vehicle. Only 9 have been built.

Entering service in 1982, the VCPC has served as a command vehicle – source: Taringa

VCCDF (Vehículo de Combate Centro Director de Fuego) and TAM VCCDT (Vehículo de Combate Centro Director de Tiro)

Two identical vehicles derived from the VCTP were built for artillery fire control in the mid-’90s. The difference between them comes down to their roles; whereas the VCCDF is used by artillery groups, the VCCDT is used at the battery level. They were built in small numbers, there are 2 VCCDFs and 4 VCCDTs.

Conclusion

The VCTP has played an important role in the Ejército Argentino since it first entered service at the beginning of the 1980s. It has also been the only TAM family vehicle to have seen service outside of Argentina given its role as part of the Batellón Argentino in Yugoslavia. However, whilst not as urgently as the TAM, the VCTP should soon be replaced with more modern equipment, as it is heavily based on the 1960’s technology. The chances of this happening are slim, as there is no imminent threat to Argentina where the VCTPs age would show, and the limited budget will probably be used on finding an alternative to the TAM. As such, it is likely that the VCTP will continue to see service with Argentina for the foreseeable future.

A VCTP plowing through the Argentinian Pampa. Whilst mostly based on 1960’s technology, short of some minor modernizations, the VCTP is still going to provide support for the Argentinian infantry for the foreseeable future – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 65
VCTP in two-tone green camouflage – illustrated by David Bocquelet
VCTP in a rare green-pink camouflage pattern – illustrated by David Bocquelet
VCTP call sign 313, serial number EA 434036, ‘MTE LONGDON’ in traditional sand-green camouflage with open rear entry door – illustrated by Pablo Javier Gómez
VCTP in UN livery as part of UNPROFOR in Slavonia, Croatia 1992-1995 – illustrated by David Bocquelet
Another view of a UN VCTP, this time with external fuel tanks, a UN and Argentinian flag at the rear and one painted on the hull – illustrated by Pablo Javier Gomez

Bibliography

Anon., “Advierten que Panamá podría embargar la fragata Libertad,” Clarín, 09 September 1999

Anon., Military Vehicle Forecast, TH 300 (TAM – Tanque Argentino Mediano) and TH 301 [archived report]

Guillermo Axel Dapía, El Desarrollo de la industria de blindados en Argentina y Brasil: un estudio comparado de integración económico-militar, Thesis, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 2008

Javier de Mazarrasa, La Familia Acorazada TAM (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1996)

Juan Carlos Cicalesi & Santiago Rivas, TAM The Argentine Tanque Argentino Mediano – History, Technology, Variants (Erlangen: Tankograd Publishing, 2012)

Marcelo Javier Rivera, El Tanque Argentino Mediano – TAM, Universidad Federal de Juiz de Fora, 2008

Michael Scheibert, SPz Marder und seine Varianten (Friedberg: Podszun-Pallas-Verlag GmbH, 1987)

Ricardo Sigal Fagliani, Blindados Argentinos de Uruguay y Paraguay (Ayer y Hoy Ediciones, 1997)

VCTP Specifications

Dimensions (L/w/h) 6.83 x 3.29 x 2.68 m
Total weight, battle ready 28.2 tonnes
Crew 2 (driver and gunner) + 10 infantry (1 commander and 9 troopers)
Propulsion MTU-MB 833 Ka-500 6-cylinder diesel, 720 hp
Range 590 km without external fuel tanks
Armament Main – 20 mm Rheinmetall Mk 20 Rh-202 / Oerlikon KAD
Secondary – 2 x 7.62 mm NATO FN MAG 60-40 (one on top of turret, one in TPA-1 weapon platform in rear)
Armor Front hull – 50 mm
Side hull – 35 mm
Rear hull – 35 mm
Turret – 35 mm
Categories
Cold War Argentinian Armor

Vehículo de Combate Transporte Mortero (VCTM)

Argentina Argentina (1980-present)
Mortar Carrying Armored Vehicle – 36-50 built

As early as the Great War, the British Army experimented with mounting a mortar between the rear horns of a Mark IV Tadpole. Placing a mortar on an armored vehicle has the advantages of the extra protection offered by the armor and the mobility of the platform. These vehicles became more common in the Cold War era and continue to be used by modern militaries. Among the many nations around the world developing their own mortar-carrying armored vehicles is Argentina. Using the development of the Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM) and Vehículo de Combate de Transporte de Personal (VCTP) carried out by Thyssen-Henschel, the Argentinians designed their own vehicle, the Vehículo de Combate Transporte Mortero (VCTM).

The VCTM during a military exercise – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 56

The Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM) and Vehículo de Combate de Transporte de Personal (VCTP)

In the 1970s, Argentina set up an ambitious program to find an adequate replacement for its aging fleet of WWII vintage armored vehicles. After several previous programs, including the up-gunning of its Shermans to ‘Repotenciado’ standard and purchasing French AMX-13s, including the licensed production of a small number of them, Argentina reached an agreement with the West German company, Thyssen-Henschel. Thyssen-Henschel then proceeded to develop a tank, the TAM, and an Infantry Fighting Vehicle/Armored Personnel Carrier, the VCTP, based on tried and tested components on a Marder 1 IFV chassis. Whilst the technology and many of the components would be produced in West Germany, assembly would take place in Argentina, along with the construction of armament, turrets and hulls.

In March 1980, with the objective of having a single company that would coordinate the whole program, Tanque Argentino Mediano Sociedad del Estado (TAMSE) was created. TAMSE was established as the main contractor of the TAM and VCTP and was given the task of overseeing the final assembly, delivery and integration of the tanks into the army, trials, homogenization of the optics and armament and potential exports.


The TAM (left) and the VCTP (right) – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 21 and 61

TAMSE was given a 9,600 km2 covered assembly plant in Boulogne sur Mer, just outside Buenos Aires. This installation also housed two warehouses to stock vehicle components, offices, laboratories for quality control evaluation, engine test benches, a pit for trials and a shooting range.

Even at this early stage, it was decided to use these facilities and acquired technologies and know-how to develop a family of armored vehicles based on this common chassis and components, easing production and familiarity. The first of the Argentinian produced vehicles, soon to be known as the TAM family, was a mortar carrying vehicle, the VCTM. With the design dating from 1980, the VCTM is essentially a turretless VCTP which carries a large 120 mm mortar. It is not known exactly when the project began, however, it originated with an order from Jefatura III del Comando del Ejército [Eng. Army Headquarters]. 2,000 blueprints were produced by the engineering department, apparently without foreign assistance. Nevertheless, Michael Scheibert, author of SPz Marder und seine Varianten, states that the VCTM was also a Thyssen-Henschel design. Sigal Fagliani, who adamantly defends this as the first TAM Argentinian project, gives the figure of 30 months between the production of the first prototype and the serial production vehicles. Unfortunately, most of the relevant authors do not provide dates.

Design

External Appearance and Armor

Externally, in appearance and design, the VCTM is very similar to the VCTP, and thus, the Marder IFV. The frontal plate is at a pronounced 75º angle and the sides and rear plates are positioned at 32º. At the front of the tank, on each side, are headlights. Behind these, also on each side, are wing mirrors. On each side of the front-middle section of the hull is a set of 4 Wegman 77 mm smoke launchers. In the center of the vehicle is a large hatch for the mortar to fire. This hatch consists of three sections, one opening to the front and two opening to the sides.

The VCTM’s armor is made out of electrically welded nickel-chromium-molybdenum steel. The front plate is 50 mm thick and the sides and rear 35 mm.

Additionally, the VCTM is equipped with an NBC protection system allowing the crew to operate in a contaminated area for up to 8 hours, although they cannot fire without losing NBC protection. The NBC system feeds the main and driver’s compartment with filtered air that can absorb solid or gaseous elements from poisonous or radioactive substances. The vehicle is able to operate in very harsh temperatures, from as low as -35ºC to as much as 42ºC. There is also an automatic fire extinguishing system that can be triggered from the interior or exterior.

All vehicles in the TAM family, though more often than not, the VCTM, can carry an Israeli-built RKM mine-roller for mine-clearing duties on a fitting placed on the front of the hull. Mortar vehicles are not often used in these duties, but Argentina seems to have. However, if Argentina were to ever actually enter any real conflict, it may be unlikely that the VCTMs continue to carry out these duties.

A VCTM carrying an RKM mine-roller during a test on a minefield – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 57

Armament

The VCTM carries a French 120 mm Brandt AM-50 mortar as its main armament, which is 1,746 mm long and weighs 242 kg. It has a maximum elevation of 85º but is limited to 17º horizontal traverse, meaning that to fire at different angles, the VCTM has to move. The aiming optic is an AOP-1. These figures are those given by Mazarrasa, whilst Sigal Fagliani produces different data. To start with, Sigal Fogliani denominates the mortar as LR and claims ‘it is completely constructed by Dirección General de Fabricaciones Militares’. The dimensions and weight provided by Sigal Fogliani are a tube length of the mortar of 1.5 m weighing 44 kg, with an additional 22.5 kg from the mount, 35.6 kg from the base plate, and 1.3 kg from the aiming optics. Sigal Fogliani also assesses that the mortar is on top of a rotating base which allows it to fire at 360º with an elevation of between 45º and 80º. Sigal Fogliani’s claims are spurious as he designates the mortar wrongly and mentions that there are only two crew members operating the mortar. All photographic evidence points towards 5 mortar operators. Regardless, the AM-50 fires between 8 and 12 rounds a minute. A total of 49 rounds are carried inside the VCTM behind the mortar stored in 7×7 racks. There are four ammunition types:

  • PEPA-LP (Projectile Empané à Propulsion Aditionale-Longue Portée): a long-range rocket-assisted high explosive shell weighing 13.4 kg, with a range of 9,500 m and an initial firing velocity of 240 m/sec.
  • M44: a high explosive shell weighing 13 kg and limited to a 6,650 m range.
  • M62: a smoke round also weighing 13 kg.
  • M62ED: an illuminating shell weighing 13 kg.
Fire! By pulling a long lanyard, the mortar operator is firing the 120 mm Brandt AM-50 mortar inside the VCTM – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 58
Photo showing the ammunition racks inside the VCTM. Also note the episcopes for the remote-controlled weapon station – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 58

Secondary armament consists of a 7.62 mm FN MAG 60-40 machine gun placed in a TPA-1 remote-controlled weapon station at the rear of the vehicle. The 7.62×51 NATO-standard bullets the machine guns fire have a muzzle velocity of 840 m/sec and a firing range of around 1,200 m. Additional weaponry for the crew includes their personal weapons, an 88.9 mm Instalaza M65 rocket launcher, and 9 hand grenades.

Suspension and Undercarriage

The VCTM retained the suspension and running gear of the Marder 1, a torsion bar-type suspension with six rubber-tired paired roadwheels and three return rollers on each side. The first, second, fifth, and sixth road wheel stations have hydraulic shock dampers to absorb a significant part of the stress created by firing the mortar.

The tracks are of a Vickers system, each track consisting of 91 links with rubber tank treads. These can be substituted with snow cleats if required.

Interior

The interior of the VCTM is divided into two main sections with the frontal section being further sub-divided into two subsections. The bigger of these subsections, occupying 2/3 of the space, houses the engine, whilst the smaller one is for the driver and driving mechanisms to his left. There is a hatch above the driver’s position and three episcopes, a hatch, and a periscope for the vehicle’s commander, and the whole section of the frontal hull covering the engine can be opened for engine maintenance.

The central area is open-topped and houses the large mortar. This area is also occupied by four of the five mortar operators, with the other one, the aimer, positioned behind them with a hatch of his own. Behind the mortar are the ammunition racks. One of the mortar’s operators is also in charge of operating the TPA-1 remote-controlled weapon station and has 2 episcopes to assist in those duties.

Communications are by means of VHF SEL SEM-180 and SEM-190 systems and an SEL SEM-170 radio-receptor.

The rear of a VCTM showing the ramp for entry and exit from the vehicle and two additional fuel tanks – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 58
Six of the seven crew members aboard a VCTM. Note the numerous VCTPs in the background – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 55

Engine and Performance

The engine on the VCTM is the MTU MB 833 Ka 500 diesel engine, a six-cylinder rated at 537 kilowatts (720 hp) at 36.67 revolutions per second or 2,200-2,400 revolutions per minute and with a power-to-weight ratio of 17.6 kilowatts per tonne or 24 hp per tonne.

The engine is kept cool by two ventilators at its rear powered by a 33 hp engine of their own.

The gearbox on the VCTM is the HSWL 204 automatic planetary gearbox with torque converter and four forward/four reverse gear ratios. The first three are epicyclic gear trains (also known as planetary gears) and the fourth is a clutch disc.

The maximum road speed is 75 km/h forwards and backward. Off-road or cross-country speed is limited to 40 km/h. The maximum range is limited to 590 km, but it can be increased by 350 km to 840 km with the additional 200 l fuel tanks. The fuel capacity inside the tank is a meager 650 l, but with the addition of two 200 l fuel tanks on the back of the tank, this can be extended to over 1,000 l. However, these are not usually added to the VCTM. Fuel tanks with other capacities have also been used.

Among other performance indicators, the VCTM can overcome 60% gradients, 30% side slopes, 1 m tall obstacles, and 2.9 m trenches. When it comes to fording, it is capable of fording 1.5 m-deep waters without preparation, increased to 2 m with preparation.

Service

Not much is known about the service of the VCTMs, but it can be assumed that, as with the TAM and VCTP, they were used during several of the attempted coups that rocked Argentina in the late 1980s and early ’90s, the ‘carapintada’ military coups. In the last of this series of coups (December 3rd 1990), rebellious forces under Captain Gustavo Breide Obeid took over a series of military installations, among them TAMSE. The officer who took the factory, Colonel Jorge Alberto Romero Mundani, ordered 9 or 10 TAM in the factory to head to Buenos Aires. On route, the tanks ran over a group of civilians, killing 5 of them before heading off to Mercedes. Seeing that the attempted coup was heading for failure, Romero Mundani committed suicide, one of 8 military casualties of the failed coup. Some sources (Cicalesi & Rivas) claim that Romero Mundani was actually commanding a VCTM.


Video showing a number of TAMs, a VCTP, and a VCTM at the front of the TAMSE installations during the 1990 ‘carapintada’ coup. The officer commanding the VCTM which appears mid-way through the video may well be Romero Mundani – source: DiFilm on YouTube

There is a slight divergence in the sources over the numbers built, with Cicalesi & Rivas putting the number at 36 and Mazarrasa at 50. Notwithstanding, each of the mechanized infantry regiments equipped with VCTMs have them in groups of 4 to provide fire support to infantry units. In other mechanized infantry regiments without VCTMs, this duty is carried out by the M106 mortar carrier, which instead of the usual 107 mm mortar, has a 120 mm mortar.

A column of VCTMs during operations – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 55

Conclusion

Whilst experiencing a not too noteworthy career, the VCTM provided a valuable lesson to the Argentinian military authorities, and that was that they could apply their newly acquired technology to produce their own vehicles with a commonality of mechanisms and pieces for different roles. This not only supposed an easier retraining of crews and more common and faster production of replacement parts but eliminated reliance on foreign military hardware. However, as with other vehicles of the TAM family, the resources have not always been there to domestically sustain the production of these specialized vehicles, thus vehicles have to be imported to make up the numbers.

VCTM, call number 132, ‘CARAPANGUE’, with its ramp open
VCTM with RMK mine-roller. Both illustrations produced by Pablo Javier Gomez

Bibliography

Anon., Military Vehicle Forecast, TH 300 (TAM – Tanque Argentino Mediano) and TH 301 [archived report] Javier de Mazarrasa, La Familia Acorazada TAM (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1996)
Juan Carlos Cicalesi & Santiago Rivas, TAM The Argentine Tanque Argentino Mediano – History, Technology, Variants (Erlangen: Tankograd Publishing, 2012)
Marcelo Javier Rivera, El Tanque Argentino Mediano – TAM (Universidad Federal de Juiz de Fora, 2008)
Michael Scheibert, SPz Marder und seine Varianten (Friedberg: Podszun-Pallas-Verlag GmbH, 1987)
Ricardo Sigal Fagliani, Blindados Argentinos de Uruguay y Paraguay (Ayer y Hoy Ediciones, 1997)

VCTM specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.83 x 3.29 x 2.59 m
Total weight, battle ready 26 tonnes
Crew 7 (driver, commander and 5 gun servants)
Propulsion MTU-MB 833 Ka-500 6-cyl diesel, 720 hp
Maximum speed 75 kmh
Range 590 km without external fuel tanks
Armament 120 mm Brandt AM-50 mortar
7.62 mm NATO FN MAG 60-40 in TPA-1 weapon platform in rear
Armor Front hull – 50 mm
Side hull – 35 mm
Rear hull – 35 mm
Categories
Cold War Argentinian Armor

Vehículo de Combate Artillería (VCA)

Argentina Argentina (1983-present)
Self Propelled Artillery – 20 Built

The Vehículo de Combate Artillería (VCA) is an elongated Tanque Argentino Mediano (TAM) chassis that carries a large OTO Melara turret housing a powerful 155 mm gun. This has allowed the Ejército Argentino (Eng: Argentinian Army) to have its heaviest artillery piece on a mobile and tested platform that is able to cover the vast areas of terrain in the potentially conflictive southern tip of the country.

Context – Lessons from War

The late ’70s and early ’80s were a period of great international instability for Argentina. In 1978, Argentina’s long-standing border dispute with Chile over the strategic Picton, Lennox, and Nueva islands off the southern tip of the continent almost got violent. An eleventh-hour papal mediation halted Operation Soberanía, the Argentinian invasion of Chile, in its tracks. Four years later, in 1982, Argentinian forces landed on the Falkland Island/Las Islas Malvinas to claim them from the British. After a short war, The British ejected the Argentine forces from the islands.

The area of operations for both confrontations was the southern part of the country, a large, flat sparsely populated area. Border disputes with Chile would not be fully solved for another decade and the ultimate goal of successive Argentinian governments was to take over Las Malvinas. Argentina had found that it lacked the capacity to transport large-caliber weaponry over such long distances. Argentina did have some vehicles capable of playing this role: a small number of AMX-13-based Canon de 155 mm Mle F3 Automoteur, but these were in limited numbers and were very limited due to their small size. The solution would be to put such heavy weaponry on a mobile platform. With the introduction of the TAM and VCTP in the early ’80s, it seemed that the platform would be available if adapted.

A Canon de 155 mm Mle F3 Automoteur in Argentinian service – Sigal Fogliani, p. 47
The Tanque Argentino Mediano – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 27

Development

The exact details behind the VCA’s development are unclear. According to Mazarrasa (La Familia Acorazada TAM), in 1983, Tanque Argentino Mediano Sociedad del Estado (TAMSE), the company which had been set up in March 1980 to coordinate the development and assembly of the TAM program, began thinking about adapting a TAM to mount a heavy 155 mm gun. A first prototype appeared in 1984, but delays meant that an initial serial production for 25 vehicles would not begin until 1990.

Cicalesi and Rivas (TAM) on the other hand, propose that the VCA’s development began as an offshoot of the abandoned Tanque Argentino Pesado (TAP) project. The TAP was to be a heavier version of the TAM with a stretched chassis and a 120 mm gun. Once the TAP project was canceled, the elongated chassis was used on the VCA instead. Cicalesi and Rivas also suggest that the VCA was not presented to the public until July 9th, 1989, when a prototype took part in a military parade to celebrate the nation’s independence day. According to these authors, only 20 vehicles were built.

Assembly took place at the TAMSE facilities in Boulogne sur Mer. It is worth noting that some early sources refer to it as VCCñ, or Vehículo de Combate Cañón.

The TAP, according to Cicalesi and Rivas, the starting point for the VCA – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 11
The first public appearance of the VCA, Buenos Aires, July 9th, 1989. Note that this first vehicle had a sand camouflage scheme not adopted in service – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 47
A recently assembled VCA in the TAMSE facilities in Boulogne sur Mer – source: Sigal Fogliani, p. 113

Design

External Appearance and Armor

The most distinguishable aspect of the VCA in respect to the TAM is its large size. Whereas the TAM’s chassis is 6.75 m long, the VCA was elongated by 860 mm to take the larger turret, gun and ammunition. As with the TAM it was based on, and by extension, the Marder 1, the frontal plate is at a pronounced 75º angle and the sides and rear plates are positioned at 32º. At the front of the tank, on each side, are headlights. Behind these, also on each side, are wing mirrors.

The VCA’s armor is made out of electrically welded nickel-chromium-molybdenum steel. The front plate is 50 mm thick and the sides and rear 35 mm.

As with all vehicles of the TAM family, the VCA is equipped with an NBC protection system allowing the crew to operate in a contaminated area for up to 8 hours, although they cannot fire without losing NBC protection. The NBC system feeds the main and driver’s compartment with filtered air that can absorb solid or gaseous elements from poisonous or radioactive substances. The vehicle is able to operate in very harsh temperatures, from as low as -35ºC to as high as 42ºC. There is also an automatic fire extinguishing system that can be triggered from the interior or exterior.

Turret

One of the biggest changes for the VCA was the much larger turret, which could hold a 155 mm gun. The turret was of the Palmaria type developed by the Italian company OTO-Melara. A private venture purely for export, OTO-Melara began development of the turret in 1977 to mount on the OF-40 platform. Argentina took delivery of the last of 25 Palmaria turrets in 1986. The turret is made of duralumin of an unspecified thickness and weighs 12 tonnes. The turret’s drives are hydraulic with manual backup and are operated by a Siemens System 300S Programmable logic controller (PLC).

On the top-right of the turret is a circular hatch for the commander with eight episcopes and a machine gun mount. The top-left side has the gun optics. The left side of the turret has a large hatch/door which opens backward, whereas, on the opposite side, a smaller door/hatch opens to the front. These hatches/doors serve as entrances/exits for the VCA’s crew. Behind the smaller door, there is a rectangular hatch that serves to load the VCA’s ammunition. At the rear, there is a smoke evacuator and two baskets to carry the crew’s equipment. On each side of the frontal cheeks of the turret are a set of 4 Wegman 77 mm smoke launchers.

The large OTO-Melara Palmaria turret during tests in Italy – source: Mazarrasa, p. 46

Armament and Gun Optics

The main armament on the VCA is the 155 mm howitzer also developed by OTO-Melara. The gun has a monobloc tube with a double-baffle muzzle brake and a fume extractor. The gun depression is -5º and the elevation +70º, whilst it can fire 360º horizontally in a fully rotatable turret.

Ammunition capacity consists of 28 shells, 23 of which are in the rear part of the turret and 5 in the hull according to Mazarresa, or 30 shells, 23 in the turret and 7 in the hull according to Cicalesi and Rivas, and are of a variety of NATO-standard types produced by Simmel Difesa:

Name P-3 P-3BB P-3RAP
Type High Explosive High Explosive hollow-base High Explosive Rocket Assisted Projectile
Explosive charge 11.7 kg Over 11.7 kg 8 kg
Total Weight 43.2 kg Over 43.2 kg ?
Range 24 km 24.6 km 30 km
Name P-4 ILUM P-5
Type Illumination Smoke
Operating Inside the shell is a flare ‘package’ which burns for 65 seconds descending at 5 m/s with a non-flammable parachute illumination and 1,600 diameter circle Inside the shell are four smoke canisters weighing 7.9 kg each which burn for 2.5 minutes providing a smokescreen 200 m long, 50 m wide, 10-15 m deep at a distance of 150 m from the point of impact

According to Cicalesi and Rivas, Argentina has developed its own rounds of ammunition, too.

Most sources do not mention the automatic loader originally designed by OTO-Melara being retained on the VCA. Four rounds per minute can be fired, but the sustained rate of fire is just one per minute. However, Sigal Fogliani does mention an automatic loading system with three modes: a round every 15 seconds for 3 minutes; 1 round a minute for an hour; and 1 round every 3 minutes. He also notes a round every 30 seconds for when the process is done manually.

The 155 mm howitzer is aimed using an Aeritalia P170 thermal sight with two settings (x1 and x8 magnification) or an Aeritalia P164 during nighttime. To correctly establish the angle to fire, a Aeritalia P186 goniometer with one setting (x4) is used.

Secondary armament consists of a 7.62 mm FN MAG 60-40 machine gun placed on the commander’s cupola at the top of the turret. The 7.62 × 51 NATO-standard bullets the machine guns fire have a muzzle velocity of 840 m/sec and a firing range of around 1,200 m. Additional weaponry for the crew includes their personal weapons and 8 hand grenades.

The VCA, Argentina’s heaviest armored vehicle – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 45

Suspension and Undercarriage

The VCA had a modified suspension to that of the TAM. Two torsion bars were added, totaling fourteen for the suspension with seven rubber-tired paired road wheels and four return rollers on each side. All except for the fourth road wheel station have hydraulic shock dampers which were also features present on the Marder 1, the vehicle the TAM was based on. On the VCA, they have the important role of absorbing the VCA’s firing recoil force of 55 tonnes.

The tracks are of a Vickers system, each track consisting of 102 links with rubber tank treads. These can be substituted by snow cleats if required.

A VCA crosses an M4T6 pontoon bridge during a training operation in Patagonia – Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 46

Interior

The interior of the VCA is divided into two main sections, with the frontal section being further sub-divided into two sub-sections. The bigger of these sub-sections, occupying ⅔ of the space, houses the engine, whilst the smaller one is for the driver and driving mechanisms to the left. There is a hatch above the driver’s position and three episcopes, and the whole section of the frontal hull covering the engine can be opened for engine maintenance.

The central and rear sections contain the fighting compartment and the turret where the other four crew members are: the commander, sat in a foldable chair to the right of the gun breech; the gunner, in the same position as the commander but to the left; and two loaders sat behind the commander and gunner.

The rear of the vehicle has a door for the crew to enter and exit and resupply the vehicle. In the hull, there is an auxiliary engine which provides energy for the turret’s rotation and the gun, meaning the VCA can fire even if its main engine is off or non-operational.

Communications are by means of VHF SEL SEM-180 and SEM-190 systems, and a SEL SEM-170 receiver.

Engine and Performance

The engine on the VCA is the German-built MTU MB 833 Ka 500 diesel engine. This six-cylinder engine is rated at 537 kilowatts (720 hp) at 2,200-2,400 revolutions per minute. This engine is used on all TAM family vehicles, with a power-to-weight ratio of 13.3 kilowatts per tonne of 18 hp per tonne.

The engine is kept cool by two ventilators at its rear powered by a 33 hp engine of their own.

The gearbox on the VCA is the HSWL 204 automatic planetary gearbox with torque converter and four forward/four reverse gear ratios. The first three are epicyclic gear trains (also known as planetary gears) and the fourth is a clutch disc.

The maximum road speed is 55 km/h forwards and backward. Off-road or cross-country speed is limited to 40 km/h. The maximum range is limited to 520 km, but it can be increased by 350 km with additional 200-liter fuel tanks, though these are hardly ever used. The fuel capacity inside the tank is 873 liters, more than in other TAM family vehicles, and the fuel consumption is 1.7 liters per km.

Among other performance indicators, the VCA can overcome 60% gradients, 30% side slopes, 1 m tall obstacles, and cross 2.9 m wide trenches. When it comes to fording, it is capable of fording 1.5 m-deep waters without preparation, increased to 2 m with preparation.

Despite the fact it has more fuel capacity than other TAM vehicles, the VCA still needs some help getting places. Pictured, a VCA being carried by an Iveco Euro Trakker truck – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 46

Organization

The VCAs of the Ejército Argentino equip two units of the armored artillery groups, the Grupo de Artillería Blindado 9 and the Grupo de Artillería Blindado 11 «Coronel Juan Bautista Thorne». GA Bl 9 is based in Chubut province in the middle of the Patagonian plateau, whilst GA Bl 11 is based in the town of Comandante Luis Piedrabuena, Santa Cruz province, the southernmost point of Patagonia. Each GA consists of two batteries of 4 VCAs. Additionally, each battery has a Vehículo de Combate Centro Director de Tiro (VCCDT) to command operations at battery level, whilst there is a single Vehículo de Combate Centro Director de Fuego (VCCDF) per GA to command the operations of the whole group. Originally, the plan was to equip each battery with 4 VCAmun to carry and supply the VCA with ammunition. However, after 2 VCAmuns entered service in 2002, no more of these vehicles have been built. Thus, the VCAs are supplied by modified M548A1s.

A battery of the Grupo de Artillería Blindado 11 «Coronel Juan Bautista Thorne», showing 4 VCAs, a VCCDT and a VCCDF – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 44


Two photos showing a VCA being resupplied from a VCAmun during a training exercise. Note the open hatch in the picture to the right – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, pp. 44 and 48

Service

After a long development process, the VCA was first presented to the public in a military parade celebrating Argentina’s independence day on July 9th, 1989. Serial production took some time, and in May 1997, the first of 20 VCAs equipped their designated armored artillery groups stationed in the southern part of Argentina. They have not been engaged in any action since they were brought into service.

Two VCAs operating in the vast open Patagonian meseta – source: Cicalesi & Rivas, p. 45

Modernization

Despite only entering service in 1997, the VCA has already been subject to some modifications. In November 2014, a single VCA of the GA Bl 11 was modernized with a more advanced gun optic. In October 2016, 18 VCAs were transferred to Boulogne sur Mer, the former headquarters of TAMSE, for more widespread modifications. The older turret hydraulic drive was replaced with a Siemens System 300S PLC and a new LCD Touch Screen replaced the older touch sensors.

Conclusion

The VCA has proved to be a successful development for the Argentinian forces, far surpassing the older Canon de 155 mm Mle F3 Automoteur in range and self-sufficiency. It is unlikely that enough will be built to fully equip the remaining armored artillery groups of the Ejército Argentino, but they will undoubtedly continue in service for many decades, providing Argentina with a match to the M109s of its most important regional rivals, Brazil and Chile.

Illustration of the VCA number EA 437290 call sign “SUIPACHA” by Pablo Javier Gomez

Sources

Anon., Desarrollo y Defensa, Concluyeron los trabajos de modernización en los primeros VCA Palmaria, (28 October 2016) [accessed 24/04/2020]

Anon., GRUPO DE ARTILLERIA BLINDADO 9 RESEÑA HISTORICA [sic], (17 May 2008)  [accessed 24/04/2020]

Anon., Grupo de Artillería Blindado 11 “Coronel Juan Bautista Thorne” Reseña Histórica de la Unidad, (23 May 2016) [accessed 24/04/2020]

Javier de Mazarrasa, La Familia Acorazada TAM (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1996)

Juan Carlos Cicalesi & Santiago Rivas, TAM The Argentine Tanque Argentino Mediano – History, Technology, Variants (Erlangen: Tankograd Publishing, 2012)

Luís María Maíz, “Nuevos Integrantes de la Familia TAM”, Revista Defensa, No. 74 (June 1984)

Marcelo Javier Rivera, El Tanque Argentino Mediano – TAM, Universidad Federal de Juiz de Fora, 2008

Ricardo Sigal Fagliani, Blindados Argentinos de Uruguay y Paraguay (Ayer y Hoy Ediciones, 1997)

Specifications

Dimensions 7.69 without gun x 3.29 x 2.85 m
Total weight, battle ready 40 tonnes
Crew 5 (commander, driver, 2 x loader and gunner)
Propulsion MTU-MB 833 Ka-500 6-cyl diesel, 720 hp
Speed 55 km/h
Operational range 520 km
Primary Armament 155 mm OTO-Malera howitzer
Secondary Armament 7.62 mm NATO FN MAG 60-40
Armor Front hull – 50 mm
Side hull – 35 mm
Rear hull – 35 mm
Turret – Aluminium