The Russian BM-21 rocket launcher, also known as the “Grad,” is an iconic 122mm 40-barrel self-propelled rocket artillery system that originated in the former Soviet Union. Since its introduction into the Soviet Army Artillery Corps in 1964, it has played a vital role in various military operations. This article explores the history, technical specifications, and global impact of the BM-21 rocket launcher, shedding light on its significance as one of the world’s deadliest multiple rocket launchers (MBRL).
Introduction to the BM-21 Rocket Launcher
The BM-21 rocket launcher is a powerful and highly mobile artillery system designed to provide devastating firepower on the battlefield. It was primarily developed to destroy enemy tactical nuclear weapons, engage enemy artillery units, and enhance the firepower of regiment artillery groups. The BM-21 is typically deployed 2-6 kilometers behind enemy lines, with 14-18 kilometers of suppression depth.
Development and Deployment
Originating in the 1960s, the BM-21 rocket launcher quickly became essential to the Soviet Army’s motorized infantry and tank divisions. Its effectiveness led to widespread adoption by Southeast Asian and former Warsaw Pact countries. The BM-21’s deployment in various regions worldwide has significantly influenced rocket launchers’ development.
Key Features and Performance
The BM-21 rocket launcher gained fame for its advanced capabilities and devastating performance. Over 2,000 units of this system have been produced and successfully sold to more than 50 countries worldwide. Since its introduction in 1964, the BM-21 has remained a staple frontline artillery system in the former Soviet army. Each motorized division is equipped with one battalion comprising 18 guns. The system initially utilized the Ural-375 truck chassis but later transitioned to a 4×4 wheeled off-road vehicle, offering enhanced mobility.
The BM-21’s remarkable firepower lies in its ability to launch 40 rockets in just 18 seconds, allowing an entire battalion to unleash 720 rockets or chemical bombs in a single salvo. With a total weight of 48 tons, the BM-21 surpasses the salvo capacity of all barrel artillery systems in the U.S. Army’s divisions. Even today, the BM-21 remains a standard artillery equipment choice for numerous countries worldwide.
The BM-21 rocket launcher’s technical specifications contribute to its effectiveness on the battlefield. The system’s chassis and speed have evolved over time. Initially, the Ural-375 truck served as the chassis, capable of reaching a maximum speed of 70 kilometers per hour. Subsequently, the system transitioned to a more agile 4×4 wheeled off-road vehicle, enabling a maximum speed of 85 kilometers per hour.
Evolution: The BM-22 “Hurricane”
Following the success of the BM-21, the BM-22 rocket launcher, also known as the “Hurricane,” entered service in 1987. Primarily designed for artillery units above the division level, the BM-22 boasts a caliber of 300mm. The system employs a traditional layout, featuring 12 directional tubes—four on each side and four in the upper row. Its chassis, the MA3-543 8×8 truck, offers exceptional mobility. Weighing in at 43 tons, the “Hurricane” requires a crew of four members.
Equipped with an automatic loader, the “Hurricane” enables the rapid loading of rockets into the directional tubes from the MA3-7313 ammunition supply vehicle. With a maximum range of 70 kilometers, it was the longest-range rocket launcher in the world at the time of its introduction.
The system incorporates an automated fire control system with a ballistic computer system, radio transmission system, and automatic positioning system. Each rocket artillery battery is accompanied by a firing command vehicle, allowing for efficient target acquisition and firing coordination.
Influence on Global Rocket Launcher Development
The impact of Soviet rocket artillery extends beyond its own military. During World War II, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany developed their own rocket launchers under Soviet influence. Germany, for instance, developed the Sd.Kfz4 tracked 42mm self-propelled artillery equipped with rockets of various calibers.
The United Kingdom and the United States integrated rocket launchers onto M-4A1 medium tanks, creating composite weapons. The post-war era witnessed the continued development of rocket launchers in various countries, including the United States M-270 and Germany’s Lars. Even industrially underdeveloped nations like North Korea have established their own rocket launcher systems.
The BM-21 rocket launcher, also known as the “Grad,” remains a lethal and influential weapon system in the global military landscape. Its advanced capabilities, impressive production numbers, and significant deployment worldwide have solidified its reputation as one of the world’s deadliest multiple rocket launchers. The impact of Soviet rocket artillery development on other nations is evident through the subsequent advancements in rocket launcher technology across different countries.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How many rockets can the BM-21 rocket launcher launch in a salvo? The BM-21 rocket launcher can launch 40 rockets in just 18 seconds in a single salvo.
2. What is the maximum range of the BM-22 “Hurricane” rocket launcher? The BM-22 “Hurricane” rocket launcher has a maximum range of 70 kilometers, making it one of the longest-range rocket launchers in the world.
3. How many BM-21 rocket launcher units have been produced and sold worldwide? Over 2,000 units of the BM-21 rocket launcher have been produced and successfully sold to more than 50 countries.
4. Which countries have adopted the BM-21 rocket launcher? The BM-21 rocket launcher has been adopted by numerous countries worldwide, including those in Southeast Asia and the former Warsaw Pact.
5. What was the influence of Soviet rocket artillery on global rocket launcher development? Soviet rocket artillery greatly influenced the development of rocket launchers in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany, during and after World War II. The impact of Soviet rocket technology can be observed in the subsequent advancements and innovations in rocket launcher systems worldwide.