Categories
Cold War Romanian Armor Modern Romanian Armor

TAR-76

Socialist Republic of Romania/Romania (1977-2005)
Light Artillery Tractor – Around 100 Built

The TAR-76 (Tractor de Artilerie Românesc, Eng: Romanian Artillery Tractor) was a light Romanian artillery tractor meant for towing 122 mm, 152 mm howitzers and their crews, as well as 57 mm AA guns. It was based on recycled Soviet AT-L tractors and used the same running gear and powerpack, but had a larger cabin. Around 100 were produced through the 1970s and 1980s, however, due to the much cheaper operational cost, better reliability, and lower fuel consumption of domestically produced DAC-665T trucks, they were gradually retired after the fall of the Communist regime.

New Artillery

In 1948, the newly formed Romanian People’s Republic (RPR) began the reconstruction of its military. At the time, this consisted of whatever material was leftover from the war, of which the majority was damaged and non-functional. A report from 1950 unveiled that, in terms of artillery howitzers, from those functional to begin with, 55% were from before 1914. Thus, in 1949, with the budget for new armament purchases increased by 900%, and the signing of the “General Costescu” Accord on 4 June 1949, Romania would purchase a wide variety of modern Soviet artillery. Between 1949 and 1950, 84 ML-20 152 mm howitzers and 100 M-30 122 mm divisional howitzers were purchased. To tow the weapons, 22 Stalinets S-80 tractors and 135 ZiS-151 6×6 trucks were purchased, effectively doubling the number of available prime movers within the military. By 1952, another 50 M-30 122 mm howitzers were received. Lighter armament was towed by the 154 ZiS-150 trucks purchased in 1949. By 1957, the RPR had bought 35 AT-L light artillery tractors for towing S-60 57 mm AA guns and 37 AT-S 712 heavy artillery tractors for towing the 152 mm ML-20 howitzers.

Romanian AT-L light artillery tractors towing S-60 57 mm AA guns on 23 August parade, 1964.
Source: Life

It is important to highlight that, during this period, the RPR had just begun the mass industrialisation of a country that previously had no refined industry, and relied mostly on agriculture, raw material exports, and oil. Thus, an array of factories were built with the scope of producing military and automotive products. These factories were based in the halls of the few factories Romania had prior to the war, and whatever was left of them. It was not until after the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and Romanian leader Ceausescu’s strong criticism of it, that Romania focused heavily on industrial and military independence, leading to the creation of various domestically designed tanks, APCs, aircraft, helicopters, and ships, though most would be modifications of foreign patents, both of Soviet and Western origin.

Romanian AT-S 712 heavy artillery tractor towing a 152 mm M-20 mod.1937
Source: Cartula

Development

As such, at the beginning of the 1970s, the Institutul de Cercetare și Inginerie Tehnologică al Armatei din București (ICITA) (Eng: the Army Development and Technological Engineering Institute in Bucharest) drew up the specific design of a medium artillery tractor. When designing the vehicle, minimizing reliance on imports and use of existing systems was emphasized. Thus, the running gear and engine of the Soviet AT-L were recycled, but an entirely new larger cabin was added, as well as an all-metal flatbed. The 102nd Truck Maintenance Base (nowadays 102nd Maintenance Battalion) in Bucov was tasked with the initial production of said vehicles, yet the majority were built at the Mizil Mechanical Factory. The military received the first vehicles in 1977.

TAR-76 exhibited at the Military History Museum King Ferdinand I in Bucharest. The golden plate and the L-shaped arm holding it were welded on for the museum.
Source: Maquetland.com

Design

In contrast to popular belief that the TAR-76 was 100% a Romanian designed vehicle, it was actually built upon the chassis of the Soviet AT-L light artillery tractor. The entirety of the track and running gear ensemble remained unchanged. The cabin was lengthened and mounted directly over the engine and gearbox ensemble, splitting the cabin in half. The cabin could house 4 men, including the driver as well as their equipment and radio, and was constructed out of thin sheet metal. It had 2 hatches on the roof for observation and self-defense with the troop’s personal weapons. Each seat had an individual entry/exit door. In the flatbed, 8 soldiers could be carried or dozens of ammunition boxes. The pulling weight capacity was 7.6 tonnes, while the vehicle itself weighed 7.8 tonnes. As the AT-L chassis was used, it had 5 stamped steel roadwheels with rubber padding per side, sprung by torsion bars.

Front view of a TAR-76, without the nighttime masking light covers.
Source: Ebay

The engine was a 135 hp V-6 diesel D120 built at the Timpuri Noi factory in Bucharest. It had a fuel consumption of 80 l/100 km. In terms of steering, the driver had 2 tillers that would control the 2 multi disc clutch brakes. Maximum speed was close to 42 km/h. Fuel reserve was enough for 300 km.

TAR-76 towing an M-10 152 mm howitzer in a promotional video.
Source: Prague Military History Institute

Use and Retirement

Initially, the tractors were used to tow various guns purchased during the artillery restructure of the 1950s, from the heavy 152 mm M-20 and M-10 howitzers and A-19 122 mm howitzer to the 57 mm S-60 AA guns, effectively replacing the AT-L. However, with the beginning of the 1980s, Romania was developing its own field howitzers, the most common being a variant of the Soviet D-20 152 mm gun, the Ob. Md.1981, which the TAR-76 ended up towing after the older heavy howitzers were used for training and reserve purposes.

TAR-76 tractors towing Ob. Md.1981, 23rd August parade, 1984. Note the tricolor Romanian roundel on the door.
Source: Agerpres

In parallel with the development and production of the TAR-76, in the 1970s and 1980s, the Romanian military would purchase the ATS-59 and ATS-59G prime movers from the Soviet Union for towing heavy artillery. While the TAR-76 and ATS-59 would often work together and be used for the same roles, the ATS-59G inspired the development of a heavier Romanian artillery tractor. After just 3 years, the TAR-76 was taken out of production to make place for the TMA-79 (Tractor Mediu de Artilerie Eng: Medium Artillery Tractor) but it was delayed because of mechanical issues, and entered production in only 1984, as the TMA-83. Heavier and stronger, it offered a wider and more versatile platform, and it formed the base for various engineering vehicles, such as the MHS-125 crane and MST-802 trench digger.

Comparison of some artillery prime movers in Romanian service
Name AT-L TAR-76 ATS-59 DAC-665T
Type Light artillery tractor Light artillery tractor Medium artillery tractor 6×6 transport truck
Country of origin USSR Romania USSR Romania
Production (year) 1947-1967 1978-1981 1959-1967 1978-1990s
Service in Romania 1955-1970s 1978-2005 1960s-2005 1978-present
Mass (kg) 5,800 7,800 13,000 5,800
Engine (hp) 135 135 300 215
Fuel consumption (l/100km) 100 80 150-160 32
Range (km) 400 300-600 350 (500 with external fuel tanks) 800-1,000
Max. speed (km/h) 42 42 41 85
Pulling weight (kg) 6,000 7,600 14,000 5,000
Capacity (cabin + flatbed) 3+8 4+4 2+14 3+4 (8 in flatbed if configured)

Both Romanian artillery prime movers were rather unsuccessful. Despite moderate production numbers, they began retirement as soon as the Communist regime fell and military budgets were decimated. They were unreliable, slow, and had high fuel consumption. They were also considered underpowered, struggling to pull 152 mm howitzers over rough terrain or hills. Even their Soviet counterparts, ATS-59 and ATS-59G, while suffering from the same fundamental issues, were more refined and reliable. Instead, heavy artillery would get towed by the DAC 665T truck, much cheaper, refined, faster, and versatile. The Ob.Md.1981 152 mm howitzer, which is the most used field howitzer, is still towed by DAC 665T trucks to this day. In terms of tracked tractors, only a small number of ATS-59G still operate, towing the 152 mm Ob.Md.1985, which is too heavy to be towed by the DAC 665T.

DAC 665T 6×6 trucks pulling Ob.Md.1981 howitzers, belonging to the 15th Mechanized Brigade “Podu Înalt”, during an exercise in April 2022.
Source: 15th Mechanized Brigade Facebook

Most TAR-76s began to be retired after 1990, partly because large quantities of field artillery were taken out of service, but also because of the aforementioned issues. The last examples were retired in 2005. One vehicle was sent to the King Ferdinand I military museum in Bucharest, where it can be seen today. At least another 2 had been restored at Faur works and sent to Arsenal Park in Orastie. Several other tractors, unable to be scrapped due to their service life not being fully exploited, were donated by the military to several isolated communes for use during meteorological hardships, such as heavy snows. For example, the Mircea Vodă commune in Brăila county received 2 such tractors for snow removal and firefighting. The military still retained a handful of tractors. One is kept in pristine condition, alongside mechanical components and drawings, at the school for tank and auto officer training in Pitești. A TR-125 in running condition and a prototype MLVM are also kept here, amongst others.

A TAR-76 from Arsenal Park used for tourist rides. Note the hatches in the roof.
Source: Nebuloasa.info

Conclusion

Despite the unreliability of the mechanical components, high fuel consumption, and slow speed, the TAR-76 was a legitimately good way to revamp and recycle obsolete AT-L tractors. The Romanian defense industry was still in its infancy, and the TAR-76 was the first domestically produced (or rather, converted) artillery tractor. It served as a basis for the more advanced TMA-83, but which suffered from similar problems. In turn, the entire class of tracked artillery tractors has become obsolete when faced with the considerable improvements of military trucks, like the DAC 665T.

Special thanks to Lt. (r) Aurel Chiriac

Sources

Artileria Romana in date si Imagini – Col. conf. Univ. Dr. Adrian Stroea, Lt. Col. Gheorghe Băjenaru
Tractorul Mijlociu de Artilerie Românesc – Major Eng. Eugen Petre
(PDF) Contribuții la istoria dotării cu armament a armatei române între 1944 și 1959 | Sămușan Alin Bogdan – Academia.edu
(DOC) Evoluția dotării cu automobile a armatei române între 1948 și 1957 | Sămușan Alin Bogdan – Academia.edu
(PDF) Motorizarea tracțiunii în armata română între 1948 și 1957 | Sămușan Alin Bogdan – Academia.edu
Adaptare: Gospodarul îşi face iarna car şi vara, tanchetă | adevarul.ro
ROM – TAR-76 (tracked artillery tractor) : Other – not yet classified (valka.cz)
Tun-obuzier cal. 152 mm (arsenal.ro)
Tractor ATS-59 | Encyclopedia of Military Equipment (war-book.ru)
SAGETILE DACIEI (2) – Romania Military (rumaniamilitary.ro)

TAR-76 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.10 – 2.20 – 2.50 m
Total Weight, Battle Ready 7.8 tonnes
Crew 8 (4 in the cabin, including driver, 4 on flatbed)
Propulsion 135 hp diesel D120 V-6
Speed 42 km/h
Suspension Torsion bar, 5 wheels per side
Total Production Ca. 100
Categories
Cold War Romanian Armor Modern Romanian Armor

4K51 Rubezh in Romanian Service

Socialist Republic of Romania/Romania (1987-2024)
Anti-Ship Coastal Defense Missile System – 4 Purchased

While Romania’s topography consists mainly of great plains crossed by the Carpathian mountain chain, Romania has an opening to the Black Sea stretching over 245 km. For centuries, this opening has proved crucial for the local population, offering a great trading route with nearby territories, and a connection with the Danube river. When the Romanian Communist Party started its wide scale industrialisation program in the 1960s, the opening to the Black Sea would become even more important, and would require serious defending, both via the sea, but also directly from land. The last piece of equipment purchased by the Socialist Republic of Romania for this role was the 4K51 Rubezh, a Soviet mobile coastal anti-ship missile system, that could provide cheap and fast defense against naval threats.

4K51 Rubezh launching a missile at Capu Midia in 2010.
Source: MApN via Ștefan Ciocan

Background, the P-15 Termit in Romania

The Romanian re-armament plan of the 1960s consisted of purchasing a variety of modern Soviet equipment, most notably rockets and missiles. Such weapons became exponentially more important, offering immense destruction power, with short travel times and long ranges, with relative safety for the firing vehicle. One of these systems was the P-15 anti-ship missile, initially intended for ship-to-ship use.

In March of 1961, a delegation of the Romanian military was sent to Moscow to discuss the terms of the Warsaw treaty, as well as rearmament of the Romanian military. During this period, the acquisition of 6 Project 205 (Osa-class missile boats) for the Romanian Navy was decided, to be received in the period of 1962 and 1965. These ships were equipped with 4x P-15 Termit missiles each, and formed a brand new naval battalion. The new unit would be named the 133rd Vedete (Missile boat) battalion. A total of 5 Osa-class boats were imported in 1964, with several produced locally later on, the boats receiving the designation of NPR, Navă Purtătoare de Rachete (rocket carrying ship). The P-15 would be transported on land by SR-114 Bucegi trucks. The Romanian Frigate Mărășești also uses 4 P-15 launchers, with 2 launch tubes each.

The 4K51 Rubezh missile system was purchased in 1988 brand-new from the USSR, as Romania completely lacked a designated mobile coastal defense missile system, with only conventional artillery systems and the SA-N-2 Volhov stationary missile systems, which the Romanian military claims could also be used against naval targets. Just 4 systems were purchased and were delivered by March 1988. Interesting to note is that the systems have not undergone any sort of modification, either in the Soviet Union or Romania, and thus, all writing and information inside the vehicles are in Russian, in Cyrillic writing.

SR-114 Bucegi trucks of the Naval Forces transporting P-15 Termit missiles.
Colorized by Smaragd123

4K51 missile system

In the 1960s, the Soviets were analyzing their existing coastal-defense systems, the 4K87 Sopka and the 4K44B Redut. The Sopka was already obsolete, while the Redut, despite its supersonic cruise speed and long range, had a long fire preparation time and was simply too large. Additionally, it was not allowed for export. Thus, development started at the Raduga design bureau in 1970, with the Moscow Design Bureau of Mechanical Engineering designing the missile launcher, named 3S51 with KT-161 launch containers. The Design Bureau of the Minsk Automotive plant would undertake the necessary modifications for the chassis, based on their own 8×8 MAZ-543M truck. The 23-tonne truck used a 38.8 liter V-12 D12A-525A diesel, delivering 525 hp with 38,8 l and consuming 80 liters / 100 km (2.94 miles / gallon). It had an automatic gearbox and reached a top speed of circa 60 km/h. Fuel reserve was sufficient for 630 km.

The system consisted of 4 main components. The truck itself had the driver’s cab at the front, which was small in size in order to be able to fit the engine to the right. Behind was the telescopic radar. Behind it was the main control and firing cabin, which housed the crew of 6 men and all the FCS equipment and turbocharged power supply. Lastly, the two launching pods were mounted at the back, with a full 360° range. The launching of the missiles could only be done in a 110° range adjacent to the chassis, and the lowest elevation being 20°. Two lids, on both sides of the launcher tube, were opened automatically prior to launching.

The ZC51 Harpoon telescopic radar ensured the independence of the system, not requiring an external radar, though an extra long-range radar could be used (something Romania did not order for the Rubezh). The Harpoon radar had a range of 100 km and scanned the surface of the water level over this area. In tandem with the mobile 3S51 launchers, they ensured that the system was ready to fire in just 5 minutes, and could drive off even faster.

Testing of the vehicle began in late 1974, at the 141st independent Artillery Division, for which the 1267th Independent Coastal Missile Division was formed at the Black Sea. Firing tests were held at Cape Fiolent, in Crimea. A total of 23 launches were built between 1975 and 1977. It was adopted in service with the Soviet Navy on the 22nd October, 1978, after Decree from the Council of the Ministers of the USSR No. 853-875.

In the 1980s, a modernization was made, using an enlarged MAZ-543M truck. The launching system was named 3P51M.

4K51 Rubezh prior to a missile launch at MILREX 2007 at Capu Midia, with its Harpoon radar extended and tube 2 ready for launch. Note the 4-tone camouflage pattern.
Source: Bogdan Dinu

P-15M (P-21 & P-22)

The missile used on the 4K51 was the P-15M, which was an excessively modernized variant of the P-15 missile. It featured a trapezoidal wing, which was folded during transport in the vehicle, and would lock open after launch. Its empenagge consisted of a small vertical stabilizer and two horizontal stabilizers. Its propellant consisted of a two-stage rocket engine. The first engine was used at the initial launch and to reach the designated cruise altitude. Once it ran out of fuel, the cruise engine would start operating. The fuel used was the usual solid-state TG-02, in tandem with AK-20K nitric acid based oxidiser. The cruise engine was tasked with reaching a speed of 320 m/s (1,150 km/h) and maintaining it until it reached the target. During navigation, the rocket used an APR-25 autopilot, radio-based altimeter, navigational system and homing radar. The total range was thus increased to 80 km, at maximum cruise altitude of 250 m, but between 50 and 100 m above sea-level was recommended. It had a mass of 2,573 kg, out of which 513 kg was the conventional warhead. It was 6.565 m long, a wingspan of 2.4 m and a diameter of 0.76 meters. Each launcher had 2 different target acquisition systems, one with an active radar, while the other had a thermal infrared system. These missiles were sold internationally as the P-21 and P-22 respectively. The 2 target acquisition types offered crews flexibility in regards to what missile to launch, taking into consideration the target. Alternatively, firing both missiles ensured a higher chance of a hit, especially if the enemy vessel tried to jam the systems.

Loading of a NPR with P-15M rockets. Note the folded wings.
Source: Flacăra

Organization

On 30th of November 1987, as per the General Staff, the 460th Coastal Rocket Battery was formed, part of the garrison at Mangalia. The unit received all 4 systems by March 1988. First firing exercises were held on 18th of May, 1989, at the Tuzla firing range. On 30th of July, 1990, the unit changed name into the 508th Coastal Rocket battalion, and in 2005 it was integrated into the 190th Naval Rocket battalion. Since 2017, the 585th C.B.R.N. defense company is integrated into the 508th Coastal Rocket battalion.

4K51 Rubezh in 2017, with new NATO 3-tone camouflage. Note the retracted Typhoon radar, in driving position.
Source: Unknown

Camouflage

After the original reception, these vehicles were painted in the standard dark green color and given a Romanian roundel on the door. During the 1990s, the vehicles were repainted in a 3-tone camouflage with light blue, light green and yellow over the base dark green coat, resulting in a flamboyant 4-tone camo. This was usual practice, as there was no camouflage norm set by the General Staff, so units would paint their vehicles with whatever paint was available, resulting in some interesting colors and patterns. Between 2007 and 2010, the vehicles were repainted again, this time in a 3-tone camo, with light green, yellow and brown. In 2017, with higher budgets to individual units and reorganization, the vehicles were painted to the standard NATO 3-tone camouflage with khaki, black, and brown.

Rubezh system with its radar extended and 3-tone yellow, brown, and light green camouflage.
Source: Ro Navy

Raytheon Replacement – NSM

There are rumors that, in the mid-2000s, the 4K51 and subsequent P-21 and P-22 missiles were to be taken out of service. Apparently, after a firing test, the missile destroyed the naval target on first hit, thus extending the service life of the missiles in Romania, both on the 4K51 but also for the ships that used it. Financial issues are the more probable reason behind this extension, but the Romanian Army loves its myths. After being in service with the Romanian Navy for over 30 years, the 4K51 system is showing its age. Even early in its life, the system was questioned for its relatively short range (not necessarily an issue for Romania’s moderately small coast) but, more importantly, interception of the missile and jamming of the guiding systems. Additionally, Romania’s stock of these missiles is getting smaller, to the point that firings of real rockets are not undertaken anymore.

Since 2017, the Ministry of Defense (MApN) has shown interest in replacing the 4K51 systems with the NSM, Naval Strike Missile, developed by Kongsberg Norway. A contract was signed in May 2021, worth €286 million. This consists of 4 mobile launcher systems, 1 mobile command & control center, 1 loading and transport vehicle, as well as all testing, logistical, maintenance and training aspects. The systems will be delivered in 2024.

The NSM is a light anti-ship missile, with a range of 185 km and weighing only 125 kg. It uses an infrared sensor to identify and guide itself to the target, which makes it hard to detect by radar and is classified as a ‘stealth’ missile that can be used all-weather.

Poland acquired the system in 2008, and the US adopted the system in 2018.

Missile P-15M NSM
Dimensions (length – wingspan) 6.565 – 2.4 m 3.96 – 1.36 m
Mass 2.573 kg 407 kg
Warhead mass 513 kg (conventional) 125 kg
Cruising Speed 320 m/s (1152 km/h) (716 mph) 240 – 326 m/s (864 – 1173 km/h)
Cruising altitude (above sea level) Recc. 50 – 100 m (max 250 m) Sea-skimming (< 50 m)
Range 80 km (50 miles) 185 km (115 miles)
Target acquisition and homing system Active radar (P-21) and thermal infrared (P-22) Infrared imager, passive sensors, GPS

 

Romanian 4K51 (left) and Polish NSM (right) based on a Jelcz truck at Sea Shield 21. The difference in size between the two missile launchers is very clear.
Source: MApN Facebook
Post-1989 4K51 system, painted in the 90s with a 4 tone camo-pattern, until 2010.
4K51 Rubezh in Romanian service with the 3-tone camo pattern from 2007 to 2017.
In 2017, all 4K51 systems were painted in the standard NATO 3-tone camouflage. All illustrations by Pavel Alexe.

4K51 Rubezh missile system in Romanian service specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 14.2 x 2.97 x 4 meters
Total Weight, Battle Ready 40+ tonnes
Crew 6
Propulsion D12A-525A diesel V-12 525 hp 38.8 l with 80 l/100 km consumption.
Speed 60 km/h
Armament 2x P-15M (P-21 & P-22) missiles, launched from the 3S51 with KT-161 launch containers.
Armor N/A
Total Purchasedn 4 launchers

Sources

Forțele Navale Române (navy.ro)
TiV No.5 2021
Rachetele armatei române şi criza vectorilor nucleari sovietici trimişi în Cuba (1960-1963) | Contributors – Petre Opriș
Rachete balistice sovietice în România (1961-1998) | Contributors – Petre Opriș
https://www.hotnews.ro/stiri-defense-23117440-armele-romaniei-care-sunt-rachetele-sistemele-artilerie-din-arsenalul-militarilor-romani.htm – Victor Cozmei
OFICIAL Armata cumpără sisteme mobile cu rachete anti-navă NSM din SUA. Când vor fi livrate primele sisteme care vor păzi coasta Mării Negre – HotNews.ro – Victor Cozmei
Dotări noi la Forţele Navale Române. Rachetiştii se inst (cugetliber.ro) – Andreea Perhaiță
NSM – Naval Strike Missile – Missile Systems – KONGSBERG – Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace

Categories
Modern Romanian Armor

Dacia Duster Army Technology Demonstrator

Romania (2010-2014)
Light Utility Vehicle – 3 Built (2 Machine Gun Cars, 1 Pick-up)

In 2013, a strange curiosity was shown at the Romanian 1st December parade, a matte green Dacia Duster with a remote control weapon station with a 7.62 mm machine gun on top, mounted on a tubular steel frame.

The Car

The vehicle at the 1st December parade was entirely based on the Dacia Duster, a light civilian Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) built by Dacia, a subsidiary of Renault Group. The company was first established in 1966 by the Romanian communist Government and the French company Renault to build, under license, the Renault 8 and later the Renault 12. After the fall of Communism in Romania in 1989, and with the Dacia suffering from poor privatisation, suffocated by the vastly superior foreign cars, the company was bought by Renault in September 1999.

While initially focusing on super cheap sedans, such as the Dacia SuperNova and Dacia Logan, in 2010, the company released the Dacia Duster at the Geneva Motor Show. Although rugged, filled with plastic, and rudimentary, it was met with appreciation in its home country and surrounding nations, with almost 70,000 units sold in 2010 alone. The name Dacia Duster had been previously used by the Romanian state to export the ARO 10 in the UK.

Dacia Duster at the Geneva Motor Show, 2010.

Army Dacia?

Romania had plenty of experience with SUVs prior to the Duster. The ARO factory had built the entire automotive park of the Romanian military, but also widely used by other state agencies, such as the Securitate and Miliție, and different enterprises. In the military, most were used in the way they were built out of the factory, but some featured extra armor or even weapons.

ARO 240 series with split screen and a 73 mm recoilless rifle.
Source: ARO Forum

The Army Dacia seen on 1st December parade in 2013 was a combined effort to revitalise the dead defence industry, but also replace the ageing ARO cars, that were still the majority of the unarmored cars in the Romanian Army.

The vehicle was met with raised eyebrows and big smiles. Some were laughing at the seemingly stupid look, while others realised what collaboration between Dacia and the military meant. It was based on the 2010 model year of the Duster with the Laureate trim level.
Source: Romaniaperoti.ro

It was named the Duster Army, specifically designed under a three year period by engineers from Renault Romania for the needs of the Romanian Army, and was tested at the UMB testing range Mihai Bravu, where civilian journalists were shown a firing test and a driving test. It was developed by RTR (Renault Technologie Roumanie), Romturingia, UMB (Uzina Mechanica București), Electro Bit, and specialists from the Ministry of Defence armaments department. The idea belonged to RTR, who built the car, Romturingia made the steel frame, and UMB the remote turret. Viorel Salan, head of the RTR at the time, said “With the prototype, we wanted to show what can be done”. The car was virtually a Technology Demonstrator. He then expanded with:

“If the army will be interested, we can sit down and produce it. We chose working with Romturingia, because we are talking about a vehicle built in small numbers with a special purpose, something that couldn’t’ve been done on the regular Duster’s production line.”

Despite the comical look of the car, it is filled with gadgets and possibilities for further upgrades. The roll cage is mounted externally to allow for more interior space, and to support the weight of the RCWS (Remote Controlled Weapon Station). There are 4 attaching points to the frame of the car which allow the addition of heavy equipment, such as a plow. On the rear, a tow hook is attached and to the front, a detachable Warn winch is mounted. Curiously, the winch and the Goodyear Wrangler HP 215/65 R16 tires, along with the 4 LED lights (2 on each side) are some of the only imported products, the engineers realising the importance of reviving and sustaining local industries, while also making the vehicle easier to market. The signal LED lights were imported from the US because of the international military vehicle signaling laws. In addition, there are two front mounted masked position lights, made for nighttime maneuvers. The car has a blackout system, switching off all external and interior lights, including the dashboard lights. The switch is mounted on an additional box, on top of the dashboard. A green vinyl wrap has been applied to the entirety of the car as a form of provisory camouflage. The Duster does not have any sort of external armor. According to Salan, metal armor would be too heavy, but kevlar armor can be mounted if desired. Yet there were steel armor plates along the belly of the car, one in the front, for the engine and gearbox, one for the gas tank and one for the rear differential.

The covered civilian headlights, along with the signal lights and night masked lights.
Source: Auto-bild.ro

Also above the dashboard is a switch for the 24 V system. The car runs on regular 12 V, but an additional 24 V battery has been added in the boot to suit military standards. In addition, on the left side of the boot, there is a transformer sending 220 V for two outlets.

A 34V outlet on what was once the window between the C and D pillars.
Source: Auto-bild.ro

Turret

The most peculiar part of the car was, of course, the machine gun turret. It was made at UMB, with a weight of 135 kg (300 pounds) and costs more than twice the price of the Duster. It is controlled remotely, from the inside, with the use of a joystick, similar to those used for gaming, through which the gun can be moved, aimed, and fired. An 11 inch screen is used for display. A special software shows how many bullets are left, and can also show the position of friendly, and enemy troops, just like in a first-person shooter. On this pilot model, the screen is mounted above the glovebox, in front of the right-hand passenger, and the joystick is on a mobile metal support.

The UMB RCWS, with a 7.62 mm machine gun.
Source: Auto-Bild.ro
The FCS of the Dacia Duster Army pilot model. Note the switchbox above the AC ports.
Source: Auto-bild.ro

All the additions to the base SUV altered the Dacia Duster’s driving style and capabilities. The 135 kg turret raises the center of gravity of the car, which can be felt in corners. The engine is a Diesel 1.5 dCi 110 hp with 4×4 drive. The extra equipment (excluding the turret) adds up 140 kg, for a total of 275 additional kilograms. This can be felt, even if on bumps the ride quality is good. Driving in a straight line, the Duster Army can reach 120 km/h (75 mph).

The Duster firing its 7.62 mm machine gun. Note the “probe” on the license plate, meaning it is just a prototype.
Source: Auto Industry News

Dacia Duster Army 2.0

A year later, at the 1st December parade, the Duster Army was back. This time, two 2014 model Dacia Dusters were shown. The first was very similar to the previous one, but with a new RCWS, equipped with a .50 cal. The exact turret is unkown, but it is also a Pro Optica produuct, similar to the Anubis RCWS. The second was a pickup mounting the Romanian Pro Optica Artemis Medium Range surveillance cameras. According to Pro Optica, features an color camera, uncooled thermal camera, “eye safe” laser rangefinder and the option to isntall a radar and laser target designator, all on an elevatable pan and tilt platform. Most notable is the very unorthodox camouflage pattern, consisting of small and intricate black, green, brown and beige color splashes. This was also a vinyl wrap and not painted/sprayed upon the body. Unfortunately, the Dacia Duster Army was never ordered, but it strengthened relationships between companies and was a good technology demonstrator for what can really be done with such a budget car.

The 2014 Duster to the left is very similar to the 2013 Army, but has a new FCWS. The pickup model has a 360° rotating turret with cameras for reconnaissance purposes. Note the white ARO in the background, still a common sight at the time.
Source: FotoStefan

Another variant of the Duster Army was shown at BSDA 2016, where a Duster pickup was shown with 4 ACF tracks and a Romanian Digital BIT DShK heavy machine gun RCWS on the platform, namely the AGIL 127 ERLG. This vehicle was also sold and marketed by Digital BIT. The ACF tracks are mechanically attached directly to the drivetrain of the car and requires little prior preparation, specifically 1 hour for 1 ma, according to ACF tracks. They allow the light 4 wheel drive car to cruise over muddy and snowy ground at high speeds, and a maximum speed on roads of 60 km/h. They decrease ground pressure by 15 times and increase the ground clearance to 210 mm. Dacia Dusters with ACF tracks have been tested by the ambulance services and Gendarmerie.

Dacia Duster pickup with DShK RCWS and 4 independent drive ACF tracks at BSDA in Bucharest. These tracks transform the regular axle drive into the track, and can steer the same way the wheeled car does.
Source: acftrack.com

Dacia Duster Army 3.0 Hoax, the Scorpion Trail

In December 2020, images were leaked by Dacia Duster Trails, a fan group website, allegedly showing the construction of a new special military Dacia Duster. Two versions were initially named, a troop transport variant, with heavy STANAG level 3 armor (out of kevlar and steel plates) and STANAG level 2 windows. This armor would be optional.

One of the photos leaked from the Dacia plant, allegedly showing a new military Duster.
Source: Rumaniamilitary

The second version would be for reconnaissance and scouting, featuring a drone launcher, carrying 2 attack drones, capable of firing AG7 warheads, and 3 surveillance drones, or only 4 surveillance drones. Alternatively, it could be equipped with a 81 mm mortar, supposedly capable of firing HEAT rounds up to 5.5 km. This version had only 2 seats (where the crew operating the equipment went is unclear), would be amphibious, and had a whopping STANAG level 3 to 4 protection.

Poster describing the incredibly fantastic Duster Scorpion Trail.
Source: Rumaniamilitary

Sadly, but naturally, this was a hoax. While never confirmed, it is clear that it was done by somebody unfamiliar with armored vehicles and military technology. The Dacia Duster, although robust as a civilian vehicle, was never meant to carry particularly heavy weights. So a Duster with any level of protection, a mortar or drones, and amphibious kit would be impossible. The strain on the suspension, chassis, engine, and transmission would be way too large. If these components were to be upgraded, the price would be too large, and would not justify the conversion when an already designed military vehicle could be bought.

A stock 2017 model Dacia Duster from the Romanian Military Police.
Source: MApN facebook

Conclusion

The Dacia Duster has entered the Romanian Military and has seen extensive use, albeit as a stock factory vehicle, with occasional upgrades for transport of goods and specific tasks, but never weapons. The Duster, despite being light, affordable and a great off-roader, is a car deemed underpowered by civilians. It is simply not a good platform for carrying heavy weights, thus making it impossible to add armor or close range weapons.

Dacia Duster TD based on the 2010 model. Illustration by Pavel Alexe, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Sources

Duster Army: chemat la oaste!


https://www.romaniaperoti.ro/stiri/stiri-auto/duster-army-noua-creatie-a-dacia-pentru-armata.html

Date tehnice si imagini cu noua Dacia Duster Army NATO -Versiunea militara a Daciei Duster 2014


https://www.auto-bild.ro/teste/dacia-duster-army-cu-duster-la-razboi-30488.html

Dacia Duster Army ar putea echipa forţele române. Anunţul a venit azi – GALERIE FOTO


https://www.car.info/en-se/dacia/duster/duster-2018-16489285/specs

Dacia Duster

ARTEMIS® Medium Range

Dacia Duster Technology Demonstrator specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.315 x 2.000 x 1.625 m
(14 x 6.5 x 5 feet)
Curb weight 1,670 kg
3681.72 lb
Crew 5 (driver, turret operator + 3 passengers)
Propulsion 1.5 dCi 110 hp with 4×4 drive
Speed 120 km/h in straight line
60 km/h with ACF tracks
Armament 7,62 mm / .50 cal / DShK 12,7 mm machine gun turrets
Total Production 2 SUV + 1 pickup
Categories
Cold War Romanian Armor Modern Romanian Armor

Obuzierul autopropulsat românesc, Model 1989

Socialist Republic of Romania/Romania (1987-1992)
Self-Propelled Howitzer – 42 Built

Model 1989 at the Mizil factory. Source: MFA

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

If It Ain’t Broke, Continue Fixing It…

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

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

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

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

Characteristics

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

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

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


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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Obuzierul autopropulsat românesc, Model 1989 specifications

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

Links & Resources

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

Categories
Modern Romanian Armor

MLI-84M Mortar Variant

 Romania (2015)
Mortar Carrier – None Built

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

Characteristics

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

Mobility

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

Firepower

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


The original MLI-84. Illustration by David Bocquelet

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

Protection

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

Conclusion

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

MLI-84M with 120mm CARDOM specifications

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

Links, Resources & Further Reading

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