Romanian frigates at the turn of the century. Part one

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Romanian frigates at the turn of the century. Part one
Romanian frigates at the turn of the century. Part one

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Dear Readers! This series of publications can be considered a continuation of a series of articles devoted to the fate of the Romanian Marasti-class destroyers, as it contains information about the successors of the traditions of the Romanian naval forces. Either fortunately, or unfortunately, a lot of material has accumulated, and it simply does not fit into the third part.

A series of articles on Romanian destroyers of the Mărăşti class begins HERE.


A story about the Romanian Marasti-class destroyers, participants in the First and Second World Wars, would be incomplete without mentioning their successors and continuers of traditions. One of them is the frigate Mărăşeşti, the pearl of the Romanian Black Sea Fleet, as the Romanians proudly call it. It is the largest military ship ever designed and built in Romania.

Military historians claim that the initiator of the construction of the ship was the "genius of the Carpathians" himself - the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party Nicolae Ceausescu.

And the impetus for the creation of this ship was the operation "Danube": on August 21, 1968, the entry of the Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia began, which put an end to the reforms of the Prague Spring. Romania refused to participate in this action.

It is worth noting that the Romanian dictator pursued a fairly independent policy: he not only refused to participate in Operation Danube, but also condemned the entry of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia. In addition, he continued diplomatic relations with Israel after the six-day war in 1967, established and maintained diplomatic and economic relations with the FRG, and so on.

After the military action in Czechoslovakia, Comrade Ceausescu analyzed the situation and concluded that in order to avoid a repetition of the Czechoslovak scenario, it should build up its military power already on the territory of Romania. In particular, he stated that Romania does not have a worthy navy capable of withstanding a possible landing of Soviet troops on the Romanian coast. And urgently ordered to develop and approved a program for the development of the armed forces.

One of the points of the document provided for a plan for the construction of naval forces. Among other things, it was planned to develop, build and in the period from 1995 to 2000. put into operation 5 large anti-submarine cruisers with powerful anti-ship and anti-aircraft weapons. According to the program, the new warships were supposed to be at the modern level of technical capabilities and be a new stage in shipbuilding.

The development of a series of ships was entrusted to the specialized design institute from the city of Galati “ICeProNav” (Institutul de Cercetare și Proiectare pentru construcții Navale). Engineer C. Stanciu was appointed as the project manager, and the project was assigned the code “999”, therefore in some sources this ship appears as “the cruiser of the Icepronav-999 project”. The construction of the ships was entrusted to the shipyard in the city of Mangalia, which in March 1980 was divided into 2 parts by government decree No. 64/5.

For one part, the old name was left: “Şantierul Naval Mangalia” (Mangalia shipyard), or abbreviated “U. M. 02029”, and continued to build civil ships on it. Another part of the shipyard was named “Şantierul Naval 2 Mai” (2 May shipyard) and it was urgently redesigned for military needs.


The dots on the Google map mark:

1) Mangalia shipyard; 2) 2 May shipyard; 3) the bridge that connects the city of Mangalia with the commune of May 2; 4) the city of Mangalia; 5) commune (settlement) May 2

In an interview with Ziua de Constanța, Eugen Lucian Tudor, engineer and general manager of the Mangalia military shipyard (2004-2006) recalled:

“… The ship was the fruit of cooperation between specialists from both shipyards: its hull was laid down and built in dry dock at the civil shipyard named after May 2, and was completed and equipped with us …

… It was planned to adapt it for reception and accommodation with all the comfort of the married couple Nicholas and Elena Ceausescu, heads of other states and the mighty of this world during their visits (nava de protocol cu cabine prezidentiale).

VIP cabins were equipped and refurbished several times, even their location on the ship changed.

Even the officers' wardroom inspired respect: 10 meters wide and lined with massive wooden semi-chairs, and the walls were decorated with wood paneling and tapestries.

A huge amount of money was invested in the ship …"

But this is by no means an isolated case: for example, in 2013, the Russian company Marine Integrated Systems equipped several VIP cabins for the new command of the aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Gorshkov. This was part of the modernization and pre-sale preparation of the ship for its transfer to the Indian Navy.

Reference. To this day, the ship has preserved and maintained 2 VIP cabins, and each consists of two rooms: an office and a bedroom. They say that they prepared very carefully for the visits of VIP guests, for example, wooden steps were installed in front of each door that could be battened down and they were covered with rugs so that none of them tripped over any coamings. For the same reason, any low sills were covered with the same rugs.

But no comfort could compensate for the bouts of seasickness to which Comrade was exposed. Ceausescu, and therefore he only visited the ship a few times.

In April 1981, the publication of the Romanian Communist Party, Scînteia (Iskra), announced that in the presence of Comrade Ceausescu, a solemn ceremony of laying the cruiser Muntenia had taken place. This news caused a worldwide resonance, and many Western naval experts at first questioned it, and then, when the information was confirmed, they asked the question: "Why would Romania, with its relatively short coastline, need such a huge ship?"

Indeed, why? After all, the anti-submarine cruiser is designed for long-distance cruises, while the development program of the Romanian Navy provided for the creation of ships only to protect the Black Sea. Or maybe the secretary general of the Romanian Communist Party was secretive, and his plans extended further?


The construction of this ship severely crippled the Romanian economy, so the construction of the remaining 4 cruisers had to be abandoned.

In order to reduce the total cost of the ship and the cost of its maintenance, as well as somehow compensate for the costs of its construction, not gas turbine engines, as in most ships of this class, but diesel engines were used as a power plant. Their use led to a decrease in the estimated maximum speed of the cruiser.

By the way, the total power of the engines is such that their energy would be enough to provide electricity to such a large city as Constanta.


The cruiser "Muntenia" on the stocks. The year is unknown, but obviously after 2001, since the launchers for the Termit anti-ship missiles are already placed below, and the tail number F 111 is visible

They say that the Romanian secretary general himself classified the ship as a light cruiser-helicopter carrier, he also gave the ship a name, and naturally, he baptized the ship.

* The helicopter light cruiser (aka “escort cruiser” or “anti-submarine cruiser”) was originally called “Muntenia”. Muntenia is a historical region in Romania, between the Danube (east and south), Olt (west) and the Carpathians.

The ceremonial launching and baptism took place in June 1985.

The launching of the ship was not without curiosities: after a solemn meeting, according to an old maritime tradition, Comrade Ceausescu (according to other sources - his wife, Elena) smashed a bottle of champagne on the side of the ship and cut the ribbon, but forgot to hand the captain the naval flag.

Then another unpleasant thing happened: because of its height, the ship was physically unable to pass under the bridge that connects the city of Mangalia with the commune of May 2, behind which, in fact, the shipyard is located.

Therefore, during the ceremony, the cruiser remained in the water area of the shipyard, and after the mast and radio antennas were dismantled, in this form they held it under the bridge, assembled everything back, and only after that the ship was taken out into the open sea without any fanfare.

Another date is also called: August 2, 1985. This may be the difference in the time it took to dismantle and re-install the mast, equipment and antennas.

During my searches, several times I came across the fact that quite official sources call different dates, regarding the same event related to the ship. Therefore, my story may be inaccurate or contain "tales" and speculation.

In 1985, the Muntenia cruiser underwent sea trials in the Black Sea, after which she was introduced to the Romanian Navy as a flagship.

But it took several more years, during which the cruiser was gradually equipped with equipment and re-equipped. For example, the P-15 “Termit” anti-ship missile systems had to beg from the USSR for several more years. Finally, in 1988, the P-21 arrived from the USSR: a simplified export version of the P-15U "Termit" * and they were installed on the flagship.

* In the navy, it was pronounced as "Peh fifteen ear".


Cruiser Muntenia, 1985. Pay attention to the location of the launcher with "Termites" and six-barrel AK-630 launchers

In the period from 1985 to 2004 - the flagship of the Romanian Navy, until the frigate "Regele Ferdinand" entered the Romanian Navy.

It was a very impressive and well-equipped ship. His arsenal made it possible to deal with all types of threats: the defeat of air, surface and underwater targets. A heating and water desalination plant was installed on the ship, and to fight for its survivability there was an automated fire extinguishing system that removed oxygen on several floors (fire suppression). If one of the engines failed, the ship could continue to move on the remaining ones, while the specialists repaired the faulty engine on the spot. In case of failure of the GKP, the ship also had a reserve command post (ZKP). Every time the cruiser Muntenia went to sea, a combat alert was announced on ships of the fleets of other naval powers.

Excerpt from All the World's Fighting Ships, 1947-1995, published by Conway.

Romanian frigates at the turn of the century. Part one
Romanian frigates at the turn of the century. Part one

The main characteristics of the anti-submarine cruiser "Muntenia".

* Missile destroyer - destroyer with guided missile weapons, (abbreviated destroyer URO).

All weapons and radio equipment of the cruiser "Muntenia" were either Soviet-made or manufactured under license.

The ship's armament and technical equipment was criticized: it would have been enough for the Tarantula-class missile corvettes, but not for the flagship.

Armament of the cruiser "Muntenia"

To defeat surface targets, the Muntenia cruiser was equipped with missile armament, which consisted of 8 paired P-21 rocket launchers (a simplified export version of the P-15U “Termit” (4x2).

For air defense, as well as for hitting naval targets, it had artillery on board, which consisted of two paired 76, 2-mm AK-726 ship mounts mounted on a common gun carriage (2x2).

Another means of self-defense of the ship, as well as for hitting air targets at an oblique range and light surface targets, it was equipped with 8 six-barreled automatic shipborne artillery mounts AK-630 *.

Torpedo armament consisted of two built 533-mm torpedo tubes TTA-53 TTA (2x3) on rotating platforms, which were used to launch torpedoes (53-65K) and lay mines.

To destroy enemy submarines and attacking torpedoes, the cruiser was armed with 5-barrel bomb launchers: two RBU-1200 Uragan rocket launchers.

Mysterious weapon

As part of the ship's air defense cruiser, the presence of short-range MANPADS is also mentioned, and they are mounted on two quadruple beam launchers: 2 quadruple SA-N-5 "Grail" SAM launchers. In the foreign press, such weapons are also attributed to the Project 12322 Zubr small amphibious assault ships. I decided that there was a typo in the source, and we are talking about a naval modification of the Osa air defense missile system: Osa-MA. But I searched and found something to confirm their words. Apparently, we are talking about launchers of the MTU-4 type (quadruple marine column unit). MTU-4 is a simple pedestal unit, on which four pipes with 9K-32M Strela-2M MANPADS are fixed. There were 2 modifications: MTU-4S and MTU-4US. The latter were distinguished by the presence of some light guides that displayed information about the targets on the operator's display. These launchers were produced in the GDR under license and under the designation “FASTA-4M”. Then, in the course of their modernization, they began to be labeled FAM-14 or more likely SAM-14 (surface-to-air missile).


MANPADS Strela-2M on a quadruple launcher type MTU-4 (according to NATO classification SA-N-5 Grail: Grail)


MANPADS Strela-2M on a quadruple launcher type MTU-4 (according to NATO classification SA-N-5 Grail: Grail)

And in Poland, the 23-mm Slingshot (ZU-23-2M Wróbel) was modernized: behind the seats for the calculation, two pipes were installed with 9K-32M Strela-2M MANPADS. There were both "land" and naval versions. According to the magazine The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems, there were launchers for 9K34 Strela-3 MANPADS (NATO designation SA-N-8). Launchers, after simple changes, could be completed with MANPADS of the Igla family.


* Some sources mention the presence on the Muntenia cruiser of paired six-barreled AO-18 assault rifles of 30 mm caliber (apparently alluding to the AK-630M1-2 “Roy” complex. I disagree with this opinion: the “Roy” complex passed the first tests in the summer of 89- year on the R-44 missile boat of project 2066 from the Black Sea Fleet, and in the winter of the same 1989, a coup had already taken place in Romania.

And this artillery installation was offered for export only since 1993.

Aviation group of the cruiser "Muntenia"

It is generally accepted that helicopters are the main weapon of a helicopter carrier. On board the cruiser Muntenia, it was supposed to place an aviation group of up to three helicopters: 2x IAR-316B Alouette III and / or 1x IAR 330 Puma. These machines were produced in Romania by the aircraft company Industria Aeronautică Română (IAR) under license from Aerospatiale-France (now Eurocopter France). The dimensions of the flight deck provided takeoff and landing of one helicopter, and the hangar could accommodate up to three helicopters with folded blades. Whether these helicopters were placed on the deck of a cruiser during the time of Ceausescu or not is an open question: I could not find information. The earliest mention that I could find is from the NATO Strong Resolve exercise, which took place in 1998.


Landing of IAR-316B Alouette III on the deck of the frigate Marasesti. 1998, NATO exercise "Strong Resolve"


IAR-316B Alouette III helicopter pilots and technical staff

on the frigate Marasesti. 1998 NATO exercise "Strong Resolve"

And whether the Romanian helicopters were really suitable for military operations at sea is a question for specialists with a narrow military focus.


First generation IAR 330 Puma Naval sea-based helicopter


A modern version of the IAR 330 Puma Naval at the Marasesti frigate. Open House Day 13 August 2011

I will prepare a separate article about the Romanian helicopters IAR Alouette and IAR Puma, including the naval versions of the Puma Naval (IAR 330 Puma Naval). And below, for comparison, I give the number of air groups deployed on helicopter carriers of other naval powers.

French helicopter cruisers. The hangar of the Jeanne d'Arc cruiser could accommodate 8-10 helicopters, and the PH-75 project helicopter carrier was supposed to base 10 Super Frelon anti-submarine helicopters or 15 Puma transport and landing helicopters, or 25 Lynx multipurpose helicopters.

Helicopter cruisers in Italy. The hangar of the Andrea Doria-class cruiser could accommodate 3 Sea King helicopters or 4 AB-212 helicopters, and the Vittorio Veneto helicopter carrier could carry up to 6 Sea King helicopters or 9 AB-212 helicopters.

Conclusions of military experts. The Italian sailors came to the conclusion that the size of the air group of cruisers of the “Andrea Doria” class was insufficient for the effective fulfillment of their tasks. And in the USSR, the experience of operating the cruisers "Moscow" and "Leningrad" of project 1123 showed that even 14 Ka-25 helicopters are not enough to fulfill the assigned combat missions, and therefore in 1967 the Nevskoe Design Bureau began to develop project 1123.3.

Radio-electronic equipment of the cruiser "Muntenia"

To ensure navigation, the cruiser was equipped with the MR-312 "Nayada" navigation radar. For long-range observation, detection and identification of surface and low-flying targets, early warning of radar detection of your ship, issuing over-the-horizon control center to missile weapons, as well as receiving and processing information from external sources, a Harpoon-B target designation radar was installed on the cruiser. Also included in the radar armament was the general detection radar MR-302 "Rubka". The fire control of the AK-630 gun mounts was carried out using two autonomous radar systems PUS M-104 "Lynx", and the fire of the AK-726 turrets was aimed using the artillery radar MR-105 "Turel". To detect submarines, torpedoes and sea anchor mines and issue data to the control posts of anti-submarine weapons on the cruiser, the MG-332 "Titan-2" naval hydroacoustic search and target designation station was installed, and to detect submarines at a distance of up to 10-15 km under unfavorable hydroacoustic conditions (under the layer of a jump in the speed of sound) - towed GAS "Vega" MG-325.

In those years, Western experts were surprised by the fact that the ship of the "ocean escort" class (frigate, American obsolete.) Was not fully equipped with means of detecting underwater objects: despite the presence of deck helicopters on board and their capabilities (typical for escort cruisers even at that time), the ship was not equipped with a modem for anti-submarine systems (“She is not fitted with modem ASW systems”). *

Its seaworthiness also left much to be desired: the ship experienced stability problems even in calm waters, so it was removed from combat duty in June 1988 and was inactive.

But this did not mean that his inaction cost Romania nothing.

After the story with the Mistrals it is no longer a secret for anyone that the monthly costs of maintaining the ship are not cheap at all.

* From Conway Publishing Handbook. Perhaps the Romanians received and installed some systems later: remember the story with the delivery of the Termit complexes.

Down with the dictator

After the Romanian revolution of 1989, President Ion Iliescu and especially Prime Minister Petre Roman teased the public for a long time with a playful proposal: "Shouldn't we give the USSR the cruiser Muntenia?" If the USSR refused to accept an unnecessary and costly “pearl of the fleet” as a gift to the Romanian treasury, they simply offered to hand it over for scrap as a “product of the Cold War” or, more precisely, a “product of megalomania” (megalomania) of the Ceausescu era.

In the end, the first persons of the Romanian state played enough "advice with the people", and the cruiser "Muntenia" was left in service, but they decided to rebrand and give it a name befitting revolutionary trends. On May 2, 1990, she was reclassified as a destroyer and renamed “Timișoara”.

* Timisoara is the third largest city in Romania, the administrative center of Timis county in the west of the country and “the cradle of the Romanian revolution”. On December 16, 1989, with a popular rally in Timisoara, prompted by the decision of the authorities to evict pastor Laszlo Tekes, the revolution began, leading to the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu.

For me, it is so useless for a clergyman to participate in worldly affairs …

The author would like to thank Bongo and Professor for the advice.