During the 1960s, the Yugoslavian Navy (Jugoslovenska Ratna Mornarica) became interested in Soviet anti-ship missiles for installation on its ships. Based on experiences with these weapon systems, nearly two decades later, the Yugoslavian Navy acquired 10 4K51 ‘Rubezh’ coastal defense systems from the Soviet Union. These vehicles and their service in Yugoslavia are generally unknown and very poorly documented, even though they would see use for nearly three decades until finally being phased out of service in 2007.
The story of how the Yugoslav Navy got its first 4K51 Rubezh vehicles is actually related to the acquisition of 10 Project 205-type missile boats between 1965 and 1969. The armament of these vessels consisted of four 2.5 tonne Soviet P-15 ‘Termit’ anti-ship guided missiles. These carried a 454 kg hollow charge warhead out to a range of 40 kilometres. Additional Soviet naval missile launchers of this type would be purchased from 1976 to 1988 for the needs of Yugoslav Navy. They were mounted on ships like the Rade Končar-class.
Following the experience gained while operating those Soviet anti-ship missiles, the Yugoslav Navy military officials were becoming interested in acquiring a land-based system armed with the same missile. One reason was to supplement the firepower of the coastal artillery, which was mostly based on older Second World War artillery and anti-aircraft guns, such as the German 88 mm Flak. For this reason, in the late 1970s, a purchase agreement for 10 4K51 Rubezh vehicles was signed with the Soviets.
As these vehicles began to arrive, they received a five-digit designation. Somewhat confusingly, these five-digit designations were not given as the vehicles arrived, but instead by their year of production. For example, the vehicle that was built in 1978 was marked as 22764, while the ones built-in 1979 were 22761, 22762, and 22763. Vehicles built in 1980 were marked as 22765, 22766, and 22768. The one produced in 1981 was 22767, and the last two vehicles built in 1983 were marked as 22759 and 22760.
These vehicles were kept under high secrecy by the Yugoslavian Navy for some time. For these reasons, their use and pictures of them from this period are quite difficult to find. Their first public appearance was during the last Yugoslavian People Army parade held in Belgrade in 1985.
The last JNA (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija) Parade in Belgrade 1985.
The Soviet 4K51 Rubezh
During the late 1960s, the Soviets had the coastal mobile missile system “Redut”. It was basically an 8×8 wheeled chassis armed with one P-35 anti-ship guided missile which carried a 1,000 kg warhead and had a maximum operational range of 450 km. This vehicle was intended to destroy enemy ships at long ranges. However, the Soviet Navy wanted a new missile system that would be capable of engaging enemy ships at closer ranges, but also be able to carry at least two missiles. The new armament of this new vehicle consisted of two P-15M ‘Termit’ tactical anti-ship missiles. The large 8×8 MAZ-543 truck chassis was chosen as the carrier of the system. This new vehicle received the 4K51 Rubezh designation. The 4K51 was adopted into service by the Soviet Navy in late 1970s. Despite being newly designed, it saw use with many Communist countries around the world (Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Cuba, etc.), including the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
In Yugoslav service, the 4K51 Rubezh was generally known as BROM, Baterija Raketa Obala-More (English: Missile Battery Coast-Sea). This was actually the name given to the unit which operated these vehicles. Why this designation was used instead of the original one is unfortunately not mentioned in the sources.
The BROMs were intended to be used as a “deterrence of aggression”, as described by the Yugoslavian Navy. Their role was to act as a defense screen against any possible enemy invasion of the Adriatic coast.
The basic unit equipped with these vehicles was the Missile Battery. This battery consisted of only one vehicle, with two batteries forming a Missile Squadron, numbered from 201 to 205. These were then distributed to the islands and coastlines of the Adriatic sea in modern-day Croatia and Montenegro. The 201st was positioned on the isle of Mali Lošinj, 202nd on Visu, 203rd at Lastovu, and the last, the 204th, on Radovićima. The vehicles from the 205th Missile Squadron were stationed at Duvilama and were used for crew training and, if needed, as replacements.
The BROM was divided into a few different sections, which included the chassis, the command control cabin, and the rear positioned missile launcher.
The BROM was built using a modified chassis of the MAZ-543 (and the slightly improved MAZ-543M) 8×8 wheel truck. This vehicle had been developed by MAZ in the early 1960s and entered mass production in 1965. It was powered by a forward mounted 525 [email protected],100 rpm D12A-525A 38.9 liter V12 diesel engine. Despite its large size, the MAZ-543 had excellent off-road capabilities. It could reach a maximum speed of 60 to 65 km/h and 25-30 km/h cross-country. The operational range was some 625 to 635 km.
The main armament of the BROM consisted of two P-15M Termit missiles. These included the P-20 and P-21 sub-versions of the P-15M. The difference was that the P-20 was guided using radar, while the P-21 was guided using an infra-red signal. The BROM’s missiles had a length of 6.56 m, a diameter of 78 cm and a wingspan of 2.5 m. Their initial launch mass was some 2,523 kg.
During launch, the missiles were powered by a smaller auxiliary solid fuel rocket engine which had a thrust of 10 tons. After only 1.3 seconds, this auxiliary engine would be cast-off. The main engine of the P-15M missiles would begin to work half a second after launch. At the same time, two smaller wings would open. The main engine was fueled by a mix of TG-02 liquid fuel in combination with AK-20K nitric acid. The P-15M missiles could reach a maximum speed of 1,100 km/h (0.9 Mach). This speed could be achieved at a sea height of 25 to 50 m or 250 m over hard soil. The warhead consisted of 513 kg of explosives. The Soviets could also arm these missiles with a 15 kiloton nuclear warhead. The Yugoslavians did not have nuclear warheads. The missiles could be launched one after another, at an interval of between seven to nine seconds.
The maximum firing range of BROM missiles was about 80 km. This could be slightly increased up to 90 km with a reduced probability of hitting the target. The minimum operational range of these missiles depended on the altitude at which the BROM was located during firing. For example, at an altitude of 150 m, the minimum range was about 8 km. At 600 m, it was 18 km and at 800 m it was 22 km. Ideally, in order to achieve the best possible chance of hitting enemy targets, the BROM had to be as close to the coast as possible. If that was not the case for various reasons, the maximum distance from the coast had to be less than 19 km. The P-15M missiles could hit enemy targets with a speed of up to 80 knots and with a wind speed of 20 m/s.
Both missiles were stored in the large fully enclosed missile launcher bay (KT-161), which was placed to the rear of the vehicle. It consisted of two fully enclosed, pentagonal shaped launch bays. Inside of each of them, a ‘U’ shaped missile ramp was placed. In front and to the back of the launchers, four pyramid shaped cap covers were placed. During firing, these would be opened, moving to the top of the missile launcher compartment. In addition, there were several smaller inspection hatches across the launcher compartment. The firing missile point was actually located to the rear of the vehicle. When the vehicle was combat ready, depending on the combat situation, the missile launcher compartment could be rotated 110° either to the left or right side. The maximum elevation of this missile launcher was 20°. The dimension of the missile launcher bay length was 7 m, while the width was 1.8 m.
When reaching the designated area of deployment, the BROM needed some 2 to 5 minute to be combat ready. It depended on the experience training of the crew, but also on the geographical characteristics of the terrain.
Command control cabin
The command control cabin was located behind the front driver’s cabin. Four crew members were needed to effectively operate the missile system. They were tasked with operating a number of different systems, including pre-launch preparation, inspection of missile control systems, missile firing control, vehicle inclination measurement systems, communication equipment, etc.
For acquiring targets, the 3Ts-25 Harpun type radar was used. It was located above the command control room. When preparing for action, the radar antenna would be raised to a height of some 7.3 m with the help of a hydraulic arm. The maximum effective range of this radar was around 100 km when the vehicle was at an altitude of some 600 m. The BROM was fully capable of finding and firing at targets on its own. Depending on the combat situation, it could be linked to other external radar units.
Power to the command control cabin was provided by a 100 hp strong turbo gas engine. In addition, there were two 32 kW direct and one 22 kW alternating current generators. As a backup power source, there was an additional direct current generator. With these, the BROM could effectively work on its own power up to a maximum of two hours.
The BROM had a crew of five which consisted of the commander, the driver, who was also the launcher operator, the electrician, the radar operator and the radar technician. The precise crew positions inside the command control cabin are not mentioned in the sources.
Service during the Yugoslav Wars
During 1991, the disintegration of Yugoslavia was becoming a reality. In order to avoid losing the BROM vehicles, the Yugoslav Navy began an evacuation. The 201st and 205th Missile Squadrons were evacuated to Boka Kotorska (Montenegro) at the end of 1991. The 202nd and 203rd were evacuated during May 1992. The remaining 204th had been stationed in Montenegro prior to the war. One vehicle (22762) could not be recovered, as it was awaiting repairs at Šibenik at the time of the outbreak of the war and was captured by Croatian Forces. Luckily for the Yugoslavian Navy, its vital electronic components and weapons were not present when it was captured. Its electronic components were also relocated to Montenegro and served as spare parts for the remaining vehicles. The precise fate of the Croatian captured vehicle is sadly not clear. Once all nine vehicles were relocated to Montenegro, these protected the newly created Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s (Savezna Republika Jugoslavija) coastline from an anticipated NATO intervention that was expected to occur during summer of 1992, but which never came.
During 1994, the BROM units were reorganized, placing them all into the 110th Coast Missile Brigade (Obalska Raketna Brigada). The Brigade was divided into two Squadrons, with the first having five and the second four vehicles. In 1996, the BROMs were used during the ‘Laser 21’ military exercise. During these exercises, older torpedo boats were used as target practise.
Due to international military sanctions, the acquisition of new spare parts for the BROM was impossible. While smaller repairs could be done by the Brigade’s own mechanics, major overhauls had to be completed at the repair institute in Banja Luka. Some six vehicles received a major overhaul during 1998, with two more in early 1999.
During the 1999 war against NATO
In 1999, the tense situation in Kosovo and Metohija between the Serbian and Albanian population worsened to the point that the international community felt the need to intervene. The government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia refused to allow foreign soldiers onto its territory. A war between Yugoslavia and NATO officially started on 24th March 1999. NATO Air Forces began bombing military targets like airfields, barracks and industrial centers, but civilian objectives were also targeted.
During this war, 8 BROM vehicles were fully operational. The ninth vehicle was under maintenance, awaiting repairs to its engine. These 8 were divided into two combat groups, with the task of preventing any possible NATO amphibious assault. One group was tasked with defending the Luštica Peninsula and its surroundings. The second group defended Petrovac-Bar. Some vehicles from this group were pulled back further inland.
Any reconnaissance and use of radar equipment had to be undertaken with great care due to NATO Air Supremacy. In general, the NATO ships that were patrolling in the Mediterranean did not come closer to 100 km from the Yugoslav shore. There was only one incident, when a NATO ship approached the shore accompanying a large non-military tanker. The crews of the BROM did not fire their missiles in order to avoid hitting the civilian ship. Despite its large size and huge NATO aerial advantage, no BROM vehicle was lost during the 1999 war.
In the years after the 1999 war, the condition of the technical equipment of the Yugoslav Army was generally poor due to a lack of funds. The BROMs were gradually becoming a hindrance, slowly losing their military importance. In early 2004, Serbian and Montenegrin Army officials decided to maintain only four such vehicles in operational use for the defense of the Adriatic coast. The remaining five were to be temporarily stored. These four were allocated to the 108th Coast Defence Brigade. To compensate for the reduced number of operational BROMs, the 108th Coast Defence Brigade was reinforced with towed artillery. Due to the limited budget and huge maintenance cost, seven of the vehicles were declared surplus equipment.
In March of 2004, it was decided to sell all BROM vehicles abroad if possible. A firm called Cofis Export was responsible for organizing this sale. Shortly after that, a contract was concluded with the Egyptian Navy, which bought five fully repaired and equipped vehicles. These were shipped to Egypt the following year. This shipment also contained a number of spare P-20 and P-21 rockets.
By 2006, the remaining two operational BROMs, in addition to the two vehicles that were stored at that time, were retired from service. This was done mainly due to huge financial cuts to the Army’s budget. That same year, Serbia and Montenegro split up, which essentially meant the end of the coastal defence forces, as Serbia no longer had a coast. In 2007, the remaining two operational vehicles were also sold to Egypt. Only two non-operational vehicles (22767 and 22768) were left, which were placed in storage at Lepetinima. If they will ever be put on display in a museum or scrapped is unknown.
The Yugoslavian Army was always interested in acquiring new and modern equipment. While not always successful, they did manage to acquire the advanced BROM system in the late 1970s. They were kept under great secrecy. Following the collapse of Yugoslavia, they remained in service with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. While this was an obscure and less known vehicle operated by the Yugoslavian Navy, it nonetheless served for a long amount of time, covering the Adriatic coast from potential invasion.
|Dimensions (L-W-H)||14.2 m, 2.97 m and 4.05 m|
|Total weight||40.1 tonnes|
|Crew||5 (Commander, driver/ launcher operator, electrician operator, radar operator and radar technician)|
|Propulsion||D12A-525A 520 hp engine|
|Speed (cross-country)||60-65 km/h, 25-30 km/h|
|Operational range||625-635 km|
|Armament||Two P-15M missile launchers|
- A. Radić (2014) Arsenal 86
- Bojan B. Dumitrijević (2010), Modernizacija i intervencija, Jugoslovenske oklopne jedinice 1945-2006, Institut za savremenu istoriju