The Russian “hurricane” serving both Ukraine and Russia: the BM-27 Uragan – The BM-27 Uragan is just one example of the many artillery systems that were used during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Despite its age, the system has seen significant use at various stages of war by Ukraine and Russia, adding to its long history of service.
What is the BM-27 Uragan?
Known alternatively by its Russian designation as 9P140, the Russian BM-27 Uragan (which is the Russian word for hurricane) is produced by Russian NPO Splav, which also produces the other Russian Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) . The Uragan system consists of sixteen 220 mm rocket tubes mounted on a ZiL-135 8 × 8 wheel “transport-loading” vehicle. In its base form, the Uragan has a range of 35 to 40 kilometers and can launch high explosive and fragmentation rockets designed to deliver a variety of mine types.
Development of the Uragan
Development of the Uragan began at the height of the Cold War to create a replacement for the aging BM-21 Grad MLRS. The Uragan and Grad can trace their “legacy” back to the Soviet Union’s BM-13 Katyusha MLRS, famous during World War II, which German troops dubbed “Stalin’s organ”. Full-scale development on the Uragan was launched in 1969, and the first prototype of the model was built in 1972. In 1975, the BM-27 was accepted into Soviet service, which later saw the system inherited by many post-Soviet armies , including those of Russia and Ukraine.
Given the age of the Uragan, Russia and Ukraine have been working hard to modernize their BM-27 fleets. Known as the BM-27M, the upgraded version of the Uragan includes improvements to the range of the system (which would now reach up to 120 kilometers according to Russian sources), the ability to fire 300 mm rockets in addition to the default 220 mm, improved navigation technology and a more powerful engine at the interior of the “transport-loading” vehicle . Ukraine has also tried to modernize its collection of Uragans, which also includes improvements to the range of systems and digitization of its fire control systems.
Service during the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Employed by both the Russian and Ukrainian armed forces, the BM-27 Uragan has even potentially seen service with Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass from the first months of fighting between Ukrainian forces and the aforementioned separatists as well as elements of the Russian Army in 2014. Russian Uragans played an important role in the ongoing artillery war in Moscow in the Donbass and were used to strike civilian targets behind Ukrainian lines. According to the open-source intelligence blog Oryx, which has a continuing number of confirmed Russian equipment losses, Russia has lost eighteen examples of the BM-27 Uragan in Ukraine, which were either destroyed by Ukrainian forces or captured. On the other hand, while it is not inconceivable that Ukraine may have lost examples of its Uragans in combat, no such losses have been reported.
Despite the long service history of BM-27 Uragans in Russian and Soviet service, the system will likely remain in the Russian arsenal for years to come due to Moscow’s extensive modernization of the system. While Ukraine is forced to rely on any artillery systems it can maintain or get its hands on to offset Russia’s raw numerical advantage in artillery, it is likely to phase out its use of the Uragan after active fighting between Russia and Ukraine, as Soviet artillery ammunition is becoming increasingly difficult to to acquire how time passes.
Either way, Uragan will continue to play an active role on both sides of the Russian invasion of Ukraine for the remainder of the conflict.
Wesley Culp is a researcher at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He writes regularly on Russian and Eurasian leadership and national security topics and has been published in The Hill as well as the Diplomatic Courier. It can be found on Twitter @WesleyJCulp.