Categories
Cold War Romanian Armor Modern Romanian others

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
Cold War Romanian Armor Modern Romanian others

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.