As the bombardment of Ukrainian population centers by Russian forces continues, here are the missile, rocket and artillery systems that are raining death and destruction on civilians. While the Russian military produces precision-guided weapons to hit targets, its doctrine dating back to World War II favors large quantities of cheap unguided munitions over a smaller number of platforms that can hit. targets precisely as advocated by the United States and NATO countries. The Russians have so many rigs because they are slow to retire and dismantle obsolete systems, preferring to keep them in inventory for Russian army reserve units or offer them for sale to Third World countries. .
It is one thing to use these weapons against military targets, but SOFREP has seen evidence of the use of these weapons in civilian areas. including the 220mm Uragan (Hurricane) and 300mm Smerch (Tornado) cluster rockets. We saw remains of casings from Uragan and Smerch type rocket shells like on the ground in Ukraine.
International human rights organizations are currently in Ukraine to assess the extent of their use by the Russians before the evidence of these crimes against humanity is forever erased by the advance (despite the valiant resistance of Ukrainian forces) of Putin’s army.
BM-21 GRAD, 9K51, NATO designation M9164
The BM-21 GRAD is probably the most widely used rocket artillery system in the world today, developed in 1963. In its most basic design, the BM-21 consists of forty 122 mm rockets on a rocket launcher. turntable mounted on the Ural-375D truck. The rockets have a range of about 2,000 km, and the BM-21 can fire them all in 20 seconds. They are unguided rockets intended to flood a wide area with incendiary, high explosive and fragmentation warheads. The aiming mechanism is manually operated, and the fuzes are also loaded by hand. Other versions include longer range rockets capable of reaching 30 km and 40 km respectively. This system is unarmored and after firing it must quickly leave the area to avoid counter-battery fire from a US 155 Howitzer or the US Army’s own HIMARS rocket system which fires the GMLRS rocket at precision guidance and has a range of 135 km.
BM-27, Uragan 9K57 NATO designation M1977
The Uragan “Hurricane” was a system developed at the end of the Cold War with longer-range rockets to keep it out of range of American counter-battery fire. As a result, it carries only 16 rockets compared to the BM-21, but they are 220 mm and reach 35 km. Like the BM-21 GRAD, these rockets are unguided and roughly aimed at hitting an area of terrain rather than a precise location.
This system is less mobile than the BM-21 but can sit further back behind the lines of engagement. It would be vulnerable to guided bombs and missiles from US aircraft or missiles fired by HIMARS. These units would be a prime target for Ukrainian planes, drones and their own guided missiles.
BM 9A52 Smerch, NATO designation M1983
The Smerch, “Tornado” was introduced in the 1980s in response to the American introduction of the MLRS or Multiple Launch Rocket System. Like other Soviet designs, the rocket system is based on a trainable platform on the 8-wheel drive MAZ-543 truck. The Smerch fires 12 unguided 300mm solid-fuel rockets that deliver bombs or explosive warheads at a range of 70-90 km. The Smerch is also an area effect weapon intended to flood a large area with explosives rather than precisely targeting a single target. The range of these rockets also allows it to be relatively immune to counter-battery fire from anything but modern US and NATO weapons. Like the Uragan above, this weapon would also be a prime target for the Ukrainian Air Force, drones and guided missiles.
TOS-1A BM-1 SOLTSEPEK “Scorching Sun/Sunburn“
The TOS-1 is based on the T-72 main battle tank without the gun and turret. It is not a flamethrower in the classic sense of a weapon dispensing a stream of flaming, flammable liquid, but a rocket launcher system for missiles fitted with thermobaric warheads that explode in a large fireball of heat , pressure wave and partial vacuum. Its unguided rockets sit on a turntable-like platform that allows 360-degree traversal and elevation of the 220mm rocket launcher to hit targets up to 6,000 meters away. This system was intended for service in an armored division with relative accuracy as an area effect weapon capable of ensuring the complete destruction of some 40,000 square meters of open terrain with thermobaric ammunition. The standard model fires 30 rockets in 6 seconds while the thermobaric model fires 24.
This type of ammunition consists of a thin tube of powder or liquid explosive that bursts above the ground creating a cloud which is then ignited. The resulting explosion from this combination of fuel and air consists of a huge ball of fire, intense heat and a pressure wave followed by a partial vacuum as all the oxygen in the cloud is consumed in an instant. Effects on nearby troops are almost always fatal or crippling with injuries such as blindness, deafness, severe burns, burst organs, and other types of internal bleeding. Firing in densely populated areas with tall buildings amplifies the destructive effect as the pressure wave bounces off the harder structures while collapsing the lighter ones.
If you have just logged on to SOFREP for the first time, click here to take advantage of a free 2-month trial subscription and be kept up to date with developments in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world.
If you enjoyed this article, consider supporting our veteran editorial by becoming a SOFREP subscriber. Click here to join SOFREP now for only $0.50/week.