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Katyusha
Katyusha launcher rear.jpg
BM-13 Katyusha multiple rocket launcher, based on a ZIS-6 truck, Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Kiev, Ukraine (close-up).
Type Multiple rocket launcher
Place of origin  Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1939–present
Used by Soviet Union, Russian Federation, and others
Wars World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iran-Iraq war, 2006 Lebanon War
Production history
Variants BM-13, BM-8, BM-31, BM-14, BM-21, BM-24, BM-25, BM-27, BM-30

Katyusha multiple rocket launchers (Russian: Катюша) are a type of rocket artillery first built and fielded by the Soviet Union in World War II. Compared to other artillery, these multiple rocket launchers deliver a devastating amount of explosives to an area target quickly, but with lower accuracy and requiring a longer time to reload. They are fragile compared to artillery guns, but inexpensive and easy to produce. Katyushas of World War II, the first self-propelled artillery mass-produced by the Soviet Union,[1] were usually mounted on trucks. This mobility gave Katyushas (and other self-propelled artillery) another advantage: being able to deliver a large blow all at once, and then move before being located and attacked with counter-battery fire.

Katyusha weapons of World War II included the BM-13 launcher, light BM-8, and heavy BM-31. Today, the nickname is also applied to newer truck-mounted Soviet multiple rocket launchers—notably the common BM-21—and derivatives.

Contents

The nickname

Initially, the secrecy surrounding the launchers kept their military designation from being known by the soldiers who operated them. They were called by code names such as Kostikov Guns (after the head of the RNII), and finally classed as Guards Mortars.[2] The name BM-13 was only allowed into secret documents in 1942, and remained classified until after the war.[3]

Because they were marked with the letter K, for Voronezh Komintern Factory,[3] Red Army troops adopted a nickname from Mikhail Isakovsky's popular wartime song, "Katyusha", about a girl longing for her absent beloved, who is away performing military service.[4] '''Katyusha is the Russian equivalent of "Katie", an endearing diminutive form of the name Katherine: Yekaterina →Katya →Katyusha. German troops coined the sobriquet Stalin's organ (German: Stalinorgel), after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin for its visual resemblance to a church musical organ and alluding to the sound of the weapon's rockets. They are known by the same name in Sweden. [4]

The heavy BM-31 launcher was also referred to as Andryusha (Андрюша, “Andrew”, endearing diminutive).[5]

Katyushas of World War II

Katyusha rocket launchers were mounted on many platforms during World War II, including on trucks, artillery tractors, tanks, and armoured trains, as well as on naval and riverine vessels as assault support weapons.

The design was relatively simple, consisting of racks of parallel rails on which rockets were mounted, with a folding frame to raise the rails to launch position. Each truck had between 14 and 48 launchers. The 132-mm diameter M-13 rocket of the BM-13 system was 180 centimetres (70.9 in) long, 13.2 centimetres (5.2 in) in diameter and weighed 42 kilograms (92 lb). Initially, the caliber was 130 mm, but the caliber was changed (first the designation, and then the actual size), to avoid confusing them with regular artillery shells[3]. It was propelled by a solid nitrocellulose-based propellant of tubular shape, arranged in a steel-case rocket engine with a single central nozzle at the bottom end. The rocket was stabilised by cruciform fins of pressed sheet steel. The warhead, either fragmentation, high-explosive or shaped-charge, weighed around 22 kg (48 lb). The range of the rockets was about 5.4 kilometres (3.4 mi). Later, 82-mm diameter M-8 and 310-mm diameter M-31 rockets were also developed.

The weapon is less accurate than conventional artillery guns, but is extremely effective in saturation bombardment, and was particularly feared by German soldiers. A battery of four BM-13 launchers could fire a salvo in 7–10 seconds that delivered 4.35 tons of high explosives over a four-hectare (10 acres) impact zone.[2] With an efficient crew, the launchers could redeploy to a new location immediately after firing, denying the enemy the opportunity for counterbattery fire. Katyusha batteries were often massed in very large numbers to create a shock effect on enemy forces. The weapon's disadvantage was the long time it took to reload a launcher, in contrast to conventional guns which could sustain a continuous low rate of fire.

The sound of the rocket launching also was unique in that the constant "woosh" sound that came from the firing of the rockets could be used for psychological warfare. The rocket's devastating destruction also helped to lower the morale of the German army.

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Development

BM-31-12 on ZIS-12 at the Museum on Sapun Mountain, Sevastopol, Ukraine

In June 1938, the Soviet Jet Propulsion Research Institute (RNII) in Leningrad was authorized by the Main Artillery Directorate (GAU) to develop a multiple rocket launcher for the RS-132 aircraft rocket (RS for Reaktivnyy Snaryad, 'rocket-powered shell'). I. Gvay led a design team in Chelyabinsk, Russia, which built several prototype launchers firing the modified 132mm M-132 rockets over the sides of ZiS-5 trucks. These proved unstable, and V.N. Galkovskiy proposed mounting the launch rails longitudinally. In August 1939, the result was the BM-13 (BM stands for Boyevaya Mashina, 'combat vehicle' for M-13 rockets).[1]

The first large-scale testing of the rocket launchers took place at the end of 1938, when 233 rounds of various types were used. A salvo of rockets could completely straddle a target at a range of 5,500 metres (3.4 mi). But the artillery branch was not fond of the Katyusha, because it took up to 50 minutes to load and fire 24 rounds, while a conventional howitzer could fire 95 to 150 rounds in the same time.[citation needed] Testing with various rockets was conducted through 1940, and the BM-13-16 with launch rails for sixteen rockets was authorized for production. Only forty launchers were built before Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.[4]

After their success in the first month of the war, mass production was ordered and the development of other models proceeded. The Katyushas were inexpensive and could be manufactured in light industrial installations which did not have the heavy equipment to build conventional artillery gun barrels.[2] By the end of 1942, 3,237 Katyusha launchers of all types had been built, and by the end of the war total production reached about 10,000.[6]

Postwar Katyusha on a ZiL-151 truck

The truck-mounted Katyushas were installed on ZiS-6 6×4 trucks, as well as the two-axle ZiS-5 and ZiS-5V. In 1941, a small number of BM-13 launchers were mounted on STZ-5 artillery tractors. A few were also tried on KV tank chassis as the KV-1K, but this was a needless waste of heavy armour. Starting in 1942, they were also mounted on various British, Canadian and U.S. Lend-Lease trucks, in which case they were sometimes referred to as BM-13S. The cross-country performance of the Studebaker US6 2-1/2 ton truck was so good that it became the GAU's standard mounting in 1943, designated BM-13N (Normalizovanniy, 'standardized'), and more than 1,800 of this model were manufactured by the end of World War II.[7] After World War II, BM-13s were based on Soviet-built ZiL-151 trucks.

The 82mm BM-8 was approved in August 1941, and deployed as the BM-8-36 on truck beds and BM-8-24 on T-40 and T-60 light tank chassis. Later these were also installed on GAZ-67 jeeps as the BM-8-8, and on the larger Studebaker trucks as the BM-8-48.[2] In 1942, the team of scientists Leonid Shvarts, Moisei Komissarchik and engineer Yakov Shor would receive the Stalin prize for the development of the BM-8-48.[8][9]

Based on the M-13, the M-30 rocket was developed in 1942. Its bulbous warhead required it to be fired from a frame, called the M-30-4, instead of a launch rail. In 1944 it became the basis for the BM-31-12 truck-mounted launcher.[2]

Variants

A list of some implementations of the Katyusha follows:[10]

Caliber (mm) Tubes Weapon name Chassis
82 mm 8 BM-8-8 Willys MB Jeep
82 mm 24 BM-8-24 T-40 light tank, T-60 light tank
82 mm 48 BM-8-48 ZiS-6 truck, Studebaker US6 U3 truck
132 mm 16 BM-13-16 International K7 "Inter" truck, International M-5-5-318 truck, Fordson WO8T truck, Ford/Marmon-Herrington HH6-COE4 truck, Chevrolet G-7117 truck, Studebaker US6 U3 truck, GMC CCKW-352M-13 truck
300 mm 12 BM-31-12 Studebaker US6 U3 truck

Combat history

BM-13 battery fire, during the Battle of Berlin, April 1945, with metal blast covers pulled over the windshields

The multiple rocket launchers were top secret in the beginning of World War II. A special unit of the NKVD secret police was raised to operate them.[2] On July 7, 1941, an experimental artillery battery of seven launchers was first used in battle at Orsha in Belarus, under the command of Captain Ivan Flyorov, destroying a station with several supply trains, and causing massive German Army casualties. Following the success, the Red Army organized new Guards Mortar batteries for the support of infantry divisions. A battery's complement was standardized at four launchers. They remained under NKVD control until German Nebelwerfer rocket launchers became common later in the war.[6]

A battery of BM-31 multiple rocket launchers in operation

On August 8, 1941, Stalin ordered the formation of eight Special Guards Mortar regiments under the direct control of the General Headquarters Reserve (Stavka-VGK). Each regiment comprised three battalions of three batteries, totalling 36 BM-13 or BM-8 launchers. Independent Guards Mortar battalions were also formed, comprising 36 launchers in three batteries of twelve. By the end of 1941, there were eight regiments, 35 independent battalions, and two independent batteries in service, holding a total of 554 launchers.[11]

In June 1942 Heavy Guards Mortar battalions were formed around the new M-30 static rocket launch frames, consisting of 96 launchers in three batteries. In July, a battalion of BM-13s was added to the establishment of a tank corps.[12] In 1944, the BM-31 was used in Motorized Heavy Guards Mortar battalions of 48 launchers. In 1943, Guards Mortar brigades, and later divisions, were formed equipped with static launchers.[11]

By the end of 1942, 57 regiments were in service—together with the smaller independent battalions, this was the equivalent of 216 batteries: 21% BM-8 light launchers, 56% BM-13, and 23% M-30 heavy launchers. By the end of the war, the equivalent of 518 batteries were in service.[11]

Katyushas since World War II

Russian forces use BM-27 rocket launchers during the Second Chechen War

The success and economy of multiple rocket launchers (MRL) have led them to continue to be developed. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union fielded several models of Katyushas, notably the BM-21 launchers fitting the stereotypical Katyusha mould, and the larger BM-27. Advances in artillery munitions have been applied to some Katyusha-type multiple launch rocket systems, including bomblet submunitions, remotely-deployed land mines, and chemical warheads.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia inherited most of its military arsenal including the Katyusha rockets. In recent history, they have been used by Russian forces during the First and Second Chechen Wars and by Armenian and Azerbaijani forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Georgian government forces are reported to have used BM-21 or similar rocket artillery in fighting in the 2008 South Ossetia war.[13]

Katyushas were exported to Afghanistan, Angola, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, East Germany, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Poland, Syria, and Vietnam. They were also built in Czechoslovakia[14], People's Republic of China, North Korea, and Iran.[citation needed]

Katyushas also saw action in the Korean War, used by the Chinese People's Volunteer Army against the South and United Nations forces. Soviet BM-13s were known to have been imported to China before the Sino-Soviet split and were operational in the People's Liberation Army.

Israel captured BM-24 MRLs during the Six-Day War (1967), used them in two battalions during the Yom Kippur War (1973) and the 1982 Lebanon War, and later developed the MAR-240 launcher for the same rockets, based on a Sherman tank chassis. During the 2006 Lebanon War, Hezbollah fired between 3,970 and 4,228 rockets, from light truck-mounts and single-rail man-portable launchers. About 95% of these were 122 mm (4.8 in) Syrian-manufactured Katyusha artillery rockets, which carried warheads up to 30 kg (66 lb) and had a range of up to 30 km (19 mi).[15][16].[15][17][18] Hamas has launched 122-mm “Grad-type Katyusha” rockets from the Gaza Strip against several cities in Israel,[19] although they are not reported to have truck-mounted launchers.

Katyushas were also allegedly used by the Rwandan Patriotic Front during its 1990 invasion of Rwanda, through the 1994 genocide. They were effective in battle, but translated into much anti-Tutsi sentiment in the local media.[20]

It was reported that BM-21 launchers were used against American forces during 2003 invasion of Iraq. They have also been used in the Afghanistan and Iraq insurgencies. In Iraq, according to Associated Press and Agence France-Presse reports, Katyusha rockets were fired at the Green Zone late March 2008.[21][22]

See also


Notes

  1. ^ a b Zaloga, p 150.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Zaloga, p 154.
  3. ^ a b c Viktor Suvorov (1982), Inside the Soviet Army, p 207. Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-02-615500-1.
  4. ^ a b c Zaloga, p 153.
  5. ^ Gordon L. Rottman (2007), FUBAR (F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition): Soldier Slang of World War II, p 279, Osprey, ISBN 1846031753.
  6. ^ a b Zaloga, pp 154–55.
  7. ^ Zaloga, pp 153–54.
  8. ^ Rachel Bayvel, “Tales of ‘Tank City’. Rachel Bayvel Celebrates the Soviet Jews Who Produced Weapons for Allied Victory”. Jewish Quarterly no. 198, summer 2005. Retrieved on 2008-09-30.
  9. ^ Yosif Kremenetsky (1999), “Inzhenerno-tekhnicheskaya deyatel’nost’ yevreyev v SSSR (Engineering-technical activities of Jews in the USSR)”, Yevrey pri bol’shevistskom stroye (Jews in the Bolshevist order), Minneapolis. Retrieved on 2008-09-30.
  10. ^ Porter, pp 158–65.
  11. ^ a b c Zaloga, p 155.
  12. ^ Zaloga, p 147.
  13. ^ "Georgia pounds breakaway capital". Reuters. 2008-08-08. http://uk.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUKL73791220080807. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  14. ^ The RM-51 and RM-70 models.
  15. ^ a b "Hizballah's Rocket Campaign Against Northern Israel: A Preliminary Report". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 2006-08-31. http://www.jcpa.org/brief/brief006-10.htm. Retrieved 2006-09-14. 
  16. ^ "Hezbollah's rocket force". BBC News Online. 2006-07-18. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5187974.stm. Retrieved 2006-09-14. 
  17. ^ "Mideast War, by the numbers". Guardian / Associated Press. 2006-08-18. http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6022211,00.html. Retrieved 2006-08-25. 
  18. ^ "The war in numbers". Jane's Defence Weekly. August 23, 2006. 
  19. ^ "Iranian made rocket strikes Ashkelon - Ashkelon". Jeruselum Post. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1210668639052&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  20. ^ "RTLM Tape 0084". SurplusKnowledge. http://surplusknowledge.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=81:rtlm-tape-0084&catid=36:rtlm-tapes&Itemid=93. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  21. ^ "Baghdad Green Zone hit by rockets". Agence France-Presse. 2008-03-26. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/03/26/2199070.htm. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  22. ^ "Front Row for Green Zone Mortar Salvos". Associated Press. 2008-03-25. http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=4525164. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 

References

  • Zaloga, Steven J.; James Grandsen (1984). Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War Two. London: Arms and Armour Press. pp. 150–54. ISBN 0-85368-606-8. 
  • Porter, David (2009). The Essential Vehicle Identification Guide: Soviet Tanks Units 1939-45. London: Amber Books. pp. 158–165. ISBN 978-906626-21-1. 

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