The Belarusian wheels.


Chinese nuclear strategic missiles of “Dong Feng” (“East Wind”)  series became mobile with the help of wheeled chassis, developed and manufactured in Belarus — at Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (hereinafter MWTP). Meanwhile, Russia refuses to purchase Belarusian chassis for its military equipment in favour of their own ones.

Belarusian authorities are deciding the destiny of one of the largest engineering companies in the country — MWTP. Not long ago, representatives of the Russian defence industry made a research on the possibility of buying it, considering the company as a “supporting member” in rearmament of the Russian army. In the spring of this year, First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko said that if necessary, MWTP could be quickly privatized in order to be sold to the Russian strategic investor at the end of 2012. The sale of this company, taking into consideration its strategic importance, could seriously support the Belarusian budget, just  like the sale of “Beltransgaz” in the autumn of 2011.

Since Soviet times the whole firepower of Russia has been “riding” Minsk chassis. MWTP produces platforms for missile complexes “Iskander”, “Topol-M” and “Yars”, MRLS “Uragan”, “Tornado”, “Grad”, “Smerch”, air defence systems “Osa-1T”, “Buk-2M”, “Tor-M2”, S-300 and S-400 “Triumph”, coastal missile systems “Bastion”, “Bal-E”, “Club-M” and many other units of ground mobile military equipment. The leading unit of Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant is MZKT-79221 (wheel arrangement — 16×16). It is designed for launchers and transport machines of Russian road-mobile strategic missile systems “Topol-M” and “Yars”, their transportation on all kinds of roads and explored area as well as for combat use.

However, in early September, it was reported that the Russian Defence Ministry plans to put weapons systems on the chassis of domestic production. Instead of MWTP, Bryansk Automobile Plant (BAZ), is planned to receive most orders for special wheel chassis (hereinafter SWC), especially for systems such as tactical missile complexes “Iskander” and multiple launch rocket systems (hereinafter MRL). In particular, it was reported by the “Izvestia” newspaper with reference to the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces.

At the same time it is intended to put all promising MRL complexes of “Tornado” series to the chassis of Russian Kamaz. According to the Russian General Staff, the visit of the Commander of the Land Forces, Colonel-General Vladimir Chirkina to the Bryansk automobile plant in mid-August was connected with this issue.

Then, when asked about the possibility of putting some weapon systems to Bryansk chassis instead of Belarusian ones, the commander in chief said: “Of course, there is a prospect, because the President and the Chairman of the Government are supporting the idea of us being independent in terms of both components and main base. There are some problems in Belarus, and we stop because we are dependent on them.”

Reference: JSC “Bryansk Automobile Plant” — a Russian company, a manufacturer of wheeled chassis and off-road tractors with carrying capacity from 14 to 40 tons for military and civil usage. It was founded in 1958 as a branch of the Moscow-based ZIL factory based on the Bezhitskiy steel plant. In 1959 the production of vehicles for the army was moved to BAZ from Moscow. In 1960 a special closed design engineering bureau and independent production was created on BAZ. In the mid-1960s the design engineering bureau of the plant began designing triax floating chassis with AWD. The result was a series of triax chassis with rear engine, which became the basis for SAM “Osa” and rocket complex “Tochka”. In 1971 the design engineering bureau of the plant began designing a new series of unified tetraaxial vehicle, named “Osnova”.  As a part of this development several models of floating and ground chassis, which became widespread, had been created.

Today, according to experts of the Independent Association of Mechanical Engineers, Belarusian chassis are about 15-20% more expensive than Russian ones. And new Bryansk chassis BAZ 6092 are lighter and more compact in comparison with Belarusian MWTP 7093, which now are carrying “Iskander” complexes. They have higher ground clearance and lower base area.

 “If the Russians want to use BAZ products, then they will do that. For sure they have their reasons. Of course, this will be bad for MWTP, — said Maj. Gen. Valery Frolov. — Of course, it is necessary to take every effort to save the orders for MWTP. But in any case, is not very good for the MWTP — in recent years the list of countries to which they sell their products has decreased from 46 to about 26. And I do not think that our government can do something in this situation. We are too dependent on Russia to make any terms here.”

It is obvious that without Russian military orders MWTP can quickly turn from a successful enterprise into a bankrupt. That is why now Belarusian manufacturer is trying to work with another effective consumer — China.

At the end of the summer, the Western media, dealing with defence field (Jane’s Defence Weekly, reported that on July 24 the Chinese People’s Liberation Army successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (hereinafter ICBM) of mobile system “Dong Feng-41” (DF-41). Dong Feng-41 is an analogue of Russian mobile complexes “Topol” and “Yars”. The range of DF-41 missile is from 10 to 14 thousand km, while, according to various sources, it is able to carry 10 or 12 nuclear warheads of individual guidance. The missile is capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to Moscow or Washington. The latter is the reason , why the news about the test of DF-41 seriously worry the U.S. military.

In their opinion, this missile was a result of the modernization of the DF-31 missiles. Development of DF-31 began in the mid-1980s. TTX DF-31 is one of the most important military secrets in China. This is a three-stage solid rocket 13 m long, with a diameter of 2.25 m and a launch weight of 42 tons. ICBM’s equipped with an inertial guidance system with celestial navigation. According to various estimates, its accuracy (CEP — circular error probable) is from 100 m to 1 km, but is accessed by most experts as the 300 meters, which is rather good. The range of DF-31 is up to 7 thousand km.

ICBM can be equipped with a nuclear warhead weighing up to 1 Mt, or three independently targetable warheads, with a capacity of 20-150 kiloton. It terms of its throw-weight the missile is like Russian ICBM “Topol” and “Topol-M” (about 1.2 tons). It is believed that in the mobile ground-based mode DF-31 can be launched in 15-30 minutes (driving out of the garage, reaching the starting position, lifting the transport and launch container and launching ICBM). The Chinese have used in this missile so-called cold (mortar) start, like in “Topol” (the missile is launched to a height of 30 meters through the steam generator pressure and the subsequent start of the first stage of an ICBM).

Chinese engineers had a task to provide a mobile missile launch from ground moving systems like Russian ICBM “Topol”. Then the difficulty was to create a significant production of reliable wheeled chassis, suitable for transporting and launching of ballistic missiles of intercontinental range.

The Chinese vehicles were not suitable, and as a result Chinese military leaders decided to use developments of the Soviet military industrial complex. And all Soviet missiles were put on the chassis designed and manufactured at Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant. At first six-axle all terrain wheeled chassis of Belarusian production MWTP-7916 were delivered to China. Earlier they were a base for mobile launchers of intermediate-range missiles SS-10 “Pioneer” (SS-20 by NATO classification). “Pioneers” were abolished in 1990 under the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range between the USSR and the USA. However wheeled chassis of “Pioneers” were allowed to be used for civilian purposes. That conversion chassis were used by the Chinese for their mobile missile systems DF-31.

At first it were chassis assembled in Minsk and delivered to China under the contract. Soon the Chinese realized that service, repair, parts and everything else can be done on their own industrial base, and not in Minsk. Then in 1998, in the city of Siogan (Hubei Province) Chinese-Belarusian JV “Sanjiang-Volat Special Vehicle Co., Ltd.” was established. Its specializes in production of multi wheeled tractors and various chassis, including the military ones, capacity of which is 20 tons or more. In particular, it is a special chassis WS51200 (wheel arrangement 8×8), with a total weight (curb weight + maximum machine load) of 122 tons, which is the largest one made in China. WS51200 is the analogue of MWTP-79221, which are produced in Minsk for Russian mobile missile systems “Topol-M” and “Yars”.

Chassis WS51200 (MWTP-79221) have been used to transport advanced version of DF-31 – the missiles “Dong Feng-31A” since 2006. This modernized version of the DF-31 has increased range (8 thousand km) and, in addition to warheads, is equipped with false targets.

And now MWTP-79221 will be carrying the latest Chinese nuclear missiles “Dong Feng-41”.

Denis Lavnikevich, specially for