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Morar Andrei

Armoured train in the Yougoslavian conflict?

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I found something that might look like an armoured train used in the '90s, during the conflicts from Yougoslavia. I don't know where this photo was done and whose train was. I honestly thought that armoured trains haven't beed used since World War 2. That also makes me question: are armoured trains yet used in modern combat? Or that one was an exception?

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Morar Andrei,

Below I have copied some info from a WIKI article on armoured trains.  Possibly this is the train mentioned in it.  The complete article can be found here; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armoured_train#Later_uses 

Later uses[edit]

220px-RT-23_ICBM_complex_in_Saint_Peters
 
A RT-23 Molodets in the Saint Petersburg railway museum

In the First Indochina War, the French Union used the armoured and armed train La Rafale as both a cargo-carrier and a mobile surveillance unit.[22][23] In February 1951 the first Rafale was in service on the Saigon-Nha Trang line, Vietnam[24][25] while from 1947 to May 1952 the second one which was escorted by onboard Cambodian troops of the BSPP (Brigade de Surveillance de Phnom Penh) was used on the Phnom Penh-Battambang line, Cambodia.[26] In 1953 both trains were attacked by the Viet-Minh guerrillas who destroyed or mined stone bridges when passing by.[27] Fulgencio Batista’s army operated an armoured train during the Cuban revolution though it was derailed and destroyed during the Battle of Santa Clara.

Facing the threat of Chinese cross-border raids during the Sino-Soviet split, the USSR developed armoured trains in the early 1970s to protect the Trans-Siberian Railway. According to different accounts, four or five trains were built. Every train included ten main battle tanks, two light amphibious tanks, several AA guns, as well as several armoured personnel carriers, supply vehicles and equipment for railway repairs. They were all mounted on open platforms or in special rail cars. Different parts of the train were protected with 5–20 mm thick armour. These trains were used by the Soviet Army to intimidate nationalist paramilitary units in 1990 during the early stages of the Nagorno-Karabakh War.[28][29]

Towards the end of the Cold War, both superpowers began to develop railway-based ICBMs mounted on armoured trains; the Soviets deployed the SS-24 missile in 1987, but budget costs and the changing international situation led to the cancellation of the programme, with all remaining railway-based missiles finally being deactivated in 2005.

An improvised armoured train named the "Krajina express" (Krajina ekspres) was used during the war in Croatia (part of the Yugoslav wars) of the early 1990s by the army of the Republic of Serbian Krajina (a self-proclaimed republic of Serbs living within Croatia that sought to remain in Yugoslavia). Composed of three fighting cars and three freight cars hooked to the front to protect it from mine blasts,[30] the train carried a M18 Hellcat with a 76mm cannon, a 40mm Bofors, a 20mm cannon, twin 57mm rocket launchers and a 120mm mortar, plus several machine guns of between 12.7 and 7.62 mm.[31] During the siege of Bihac in 1994, it was attacked on a few occasions with antitank rocket-propelled grenades and 76mm guns and hit by a 9K11 Malyutka missile, but the damage was minor, as most of the train was covered with thick sheets of rubber which caused the missile's warhead to explode too early to do any real damage.[30] The train was eventually destroyed by its own crew lest it fall into enemy hands during Operation Storm, the Croatian offensive which overran the Srpska Krajina. The Army of Republika Srpskaoperated a similar train that was ambushed and destroyed in October 1992 at the entrance to the town of Gradačac by Bosnian Muslim forces that included a T-55 tank. The wreckage was later converted into a museum.[32] The Croatian Army deployed a two-wagon armoured train built in Split with a shield composed of two plates, one 8mm and the other 6mm thick, with a 30-50mm gap filled with sand between them. The vehicle was armed with 12.7mm machine guns.[33]

One armoured train that remains in regular use is that of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, which the former received as a gift from the Soviet Union and the latter used heavily for state visits to China and Russia as he had a fear of flying.

Pro-Russian militants in the Donbass region of Ukraine were pictured operating a homemade armoured train in late 2015.[34]

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Thank you for information! The Krajina Express is the armoured train I was looking for. About the Hellcat turret, when I've seen the photo first time, I said like "is that not an American turret?", idea which qas confirmed in your answer. Thank you again! Armoured trains are mostly associated with the Great War and the coventional war in general. That's why it's very interesying to know they are still used in a form or another.

Andrei

 

Here is also a bit from its operation history and composition, iformation found on Wikipedia:

 

The main battle in which the train became involved was the siege of Bihać. The train's crew also performed in combat in the role of infantry.

The improvisation of weapons was a common feature of all parties involved in the conflict during the breakdown of Yugoslavia in 1991. As a result, both Serbs and Croats assembled a number of armored trains. The Army of Republika Srpska operated a train that was ambushed and destroyed in October 1992 near the town of Gradačac by Bosnian Muslimforces that included a T-55 tank. The wreckage was later converted into a monument. The Croatian Army deployed a two-wagon armored train built in Split with a shield composed of two plates, one 8mm and the other 6mm thick, with a 30–50mm gap filled with sand between them. The vehicle was armed with 12.7mm machine guns.

The first wagon train was made of a General Motors diesel locomotive (JŽ 664-013) and two cars by local railroad workers at Knin. The cars were initially protected with sandbags. The first operational mission took place in the area between Gračac and Stikada.The usual tactic was to appear suddenly in a pre-established point of the railway, fire its guns and withdraw quickly. The 20-member crew was occasionally re-supplied by small trucks. Following the improvement of the protection with the addition of armor plates, the train provided fire support on the railroad between Knin and Drniš. It was later sent to Lika, where the wagon formation became involved in the battles around Sveti Rok. It is believed that at this time, near the end of 1991, the train was dubbed "Krajina Express". In 1992 "Krajina Express" joined the fighting for the airport of Zemunik, near Zadar. When the train was not suitable for combat operations, the crew fought in the infantry role, like in the course of Operation Corridor. By the end of 1992, the unit became incorporated to the 75 Motorized Brigade, part of the 7th Army Corps of Serb Krajina. Two members of the crew were killed by Croatian artillery while fighting on foot during Operation Maslenica, in January 1993. The train provided support during the struggle for Škabrnja, where the unit was involved in an attempt to destroy an ammunition dump in Zadar by pushing a wagon loaded with 3,650 kg of explosives and five tons of shrapnel through the Benkovac to Zadar railway line. The detonator would be a land mine attached to the wagon's bumper. The plan was to let the wagon roll down from the village of Nadin towards the target in the outskirts of Zadar. The results of this mission, if any, remain unknown. In the last days of May 1993, the train was to be involved in Operation маслинова гранчица (Olive branch), a Serb attempt to break into the Croatian defenses along the Adriatic coast south of Zadar that was eventually called off. In September, "Krajina Express" was part of the Serb counterattack in the battle of Medak pocket. One of the last and best documented actions of "Krajina Express" were a number of fire support missions along the Una river during the siege of Bihać, on 1 December 1994. The train drew fire from Bosnian troops on Ribicka Glavica hill. The unit was attacked with antitank rocket-propelled grenades and 76mm guns and returned fire with its own 76mm weapon and with a barrage of 57mm rockets. Later on the day, one wagon was hit by a 9K11 Malyutkamissile, which pierced the armor shield, but the rubber protection deflected or absorbed the blast. One crew member was wounded by shrapnel. A second missile missed the wagons by 200 yards and hit a derelict building. One source claims that the missile struck the wagon mounting the rocket launcher, while another says that the hit disabled one of the antiaircraft cannons. In the last months of war, the train activity was hampered by the deteriorating military situation in Krajina. At the time of Operation Storm "Krajina Express" was sent to Lika. When its crew realised that the collapse of the Republic of Krajina was unavoidable, they destroyed the train by derailing it into a ravine.

The two-wagon train was originally armed with a WWII German 20mm gun and two 9K11 Malyutka missile launchers; a Bofors 40mm gun was added later. A pair of M-53 7.9mm light machine guns were mounted to defend the blind spots. The 40mm cannon was removed in 1992 and replaced by a Soviet-designed 76mm gun mounted on the rear wagon. The convoy was enlarged with a third wagon mounting two 20mm cannons. Two Zastava M84 machine guns and a twin 57mm multiple rocket were also added in 1992. The following year marked the definitive configuration of the armored train, when the 76mm gun was supplanted by an American M18 Hellcat tank destroyer. There was an open wagon with two 120mm mortars, but their operational use was limited. The end of the war in Croatia frustrated plans of mounting an 88mm flak gun.

The sandbags which provided the first shield to the wagons were replaced by a 25mm thick armor plate. The roofs remained open and were covered with tarpaulins. On the sides the wagons were wrapped in canvas and rubber sheets, the in between space filled with gravel. This improvised laminated protection proved effective in combat when it dissipated the blast of an antitank missile.

During the siege of Bihac three additional wagons were hooked ahead off the formation, in order to trigger any mines planted on the railway. One of the wagons carried tools and materials for railroad repairs if needed.

 

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My question is the next one: where did they get the Hellcat turret from? I don't know if such tanks have been used in Eastern Europe.

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Morar Andrei,

From Wiki again re your question.

Post war[edit]

After World War II, many M18s were sold to other countries. These were rebuilt and refurbished by Brown & Root in northern Italy in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and bear data plates that indicate those rebuilds. One of the users was Yugoslavia, which kept them in reserve until the early 1990s. A number of these vehicles were later used by the Military of Serbian Krajina and Army of Republika Srpska during the Yugoslav wars. One example was used on an armored train named the "Krajina express" (Krajina Ekspres).[30]

The Military of the Republic of China also operated several M18s until their chassis and hulls were worn out, at which point the turrets were salvaged and installed onto surplus hulls of M42 Duster anti-aircraft vehicles to produce Type 64 light tanks.

The Greek Army received 127 M18s from 1952 till 1954. Initially these were organized in three Tank Destroyer Regiments numbered 397, 398 and 399. In 1959 the Tank Destroyer Regiments were reorganized in three Tank Destroyer Battalions with the same numbers. Most of the M18s were retired in the end of 60s but a few of them remained in service till the middle 70s for training. [31] The hulls of the M18s were dismantled and the turrets were used as gun emplacements in the northern borders of Greece and the Aegean islands.[32]One M18 is preserved in the Greek Army Tank Museum.[33]

The Venezuelan military still operates M18s, with 75 still in reserve service. An unknown number of these vehicles were modernized by a Yugoslavian firm in 1991.

An M18 is on display at the Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. M18 Hellcat "Amaz N Grace" is on loan to the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage, New York, from the US Military Museum.

Regards,

Gordon

 

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