Fighting Vehicle Rocket Artillery Bm-13, The Ussr

  • Years of issue – 1941 – 1945
  • In total, more than 11,000 units were produced.
  • Caliber – 132 mm
  • Weight in firing position – 6800 kg
  • Calculation – 4 people
  • Travel speed – up to 40 km / h
  • Rate of fire – 16 shots in 7 – 10 seconds
  • The greatest firing range – 8740 m
  • Direct shot range – 850 m
  • Shooting angles:
  • Horizontal – 20 °
  • Vertical – + 4 ° + 45 °

The Soviet Union was the leader in creating the most advanced multiple launch rocket systems, which successfully combined the great power of volleys with high mobility and maneuverability.

The development of 82mm and 132mm rockets began in the Soviet Union in 1930. After the Air Force adopted 82-mm air-to-air missiles RS-82 (in 1937) and 132-mm air-to-ground missiles RS-132 (in 1938), GAU delivered these missiles to the developer – Reactive research institute (renamed in NII-3), to create a reactive field multiple launch rocket system for RS-132 projectiles.

In February 1938, NII-3 under the leadership of A.G. Kostikova began work on the creation of means for salvo fire or firing bursts of rockets. Already in August, engineer I.I. Gwai presented a project of an autonomous field complex, which included a mechanized installation with launchers and an aiming system mounted on a ZIS-5 car, and a set of rockets with chemical (initially) or high-explosive fragmentation (in the final versions, adopted for service) warheads.He substantiated not only the design of the installation, but also the tactics of its use: the charged installation secretly takes a combat position, the preparation time for firing is 3-4 minutes, the duration of the volley is several seconds. Immediately after firing, the installation immediately leaves the position and becomes invulnerable to the enemy’s retaliatory fire strike. Thus, the result is a maneuverable, high-speed combat vehicle capable of conducting single, group and salvo fire. In this case, the main disadvantage inherent in firing single rocket shots – increased dispersion of shells at the target – was compensated for by the use of multiple launch rocket launchers.

By the summer of 1939, NII-3 had developed a new 132-mm high-explosive fragmentation projectile, which received the official name “M-13”. Compared to the aircraft RS-132, it had a longer flight range and a much more powerful warhead weighing 4.9 kg, as well as a higher accuracy of fire. By November 1939, a multiple launch rocket system was created at NII-3, which received the designation “Combat vehicle 13” (BM-13).

BM-13 consisted of rockets, launchers, fire control devices and vehicles. The launcher was mounted on the chassis of a ZIS-6 off-road truck and was a 16-charge launcher, in which 8 paired groove-type guides were placed along the axis of the vehicle, and firing was conducted through the driver’s cab.

The stability of the vehicle was increased by the introduction of support jacks. The installation was loaded from the breech, that is, from the rear end of the guides, which made it possible to accelerate loading. The installation had swivel and lifting mechanisms of the simplest design. For accurate guidance of the launcher in the horizontal plane, an artillery sight and a panorama from a 122-mm howitzer of the 1938 model were adapted. The cockpit windows were covered with armored folding shields. Opposite the seat of the commander of the combat vehicle, a fire control panel was mounted on the front panel, from which wires went to a special battery and to each guide. The volley of the installation consisted of 16 shells that could be fired in 7-10 seconds. The flight range of the M-13 rocket (weighing 42 kg) reached 8470 m.

The time to transfer the launcher from traveling to combat position was
2-3 minutes. The vertical firing angle was in the range from 4 ° to 45 °, and the horizontal firing angle was 20 °. The design of the launcher allowed its movement in a charged state at a fairly high speed (up to 40 km / h) and rapid deployment at a firing position, which contributed to the delivery of surprise attacks on the enemy.

On June 21, 1941, a decision was made on the urgent deployment of the serial production of M-13 rockets and the BM-13 launcher, as well as the formation of missile military units. Due to the fact that the BM-13 did not pass military tests, it was decided to form the 1st separate experimental battery, and send it to the front in order to comprehensively test the combat effectiveness of the new weapon.

Battery formation began on June 28, 1941. Seven BM-13 experimental launchers were transferred to the armament of the battery, as well as one 122-mm howitzer of the 1938 model of the year as a sighting weapon (later they were abandoned). The commander was appointed a student of the F.E. Dzerzhinsky captain I.A. Flerov.

On July 4, Flerov’s battery became part of the 20th Army of the Western Front, which held defenses along the river. Dnieper near Orsha. On the night of July 14, German units captured Orsha. The situation for our troops in this direction was very difficult, it was necessary to delay the enemy offensive at least for a day in order to organize a defense on a new line. Many German echelons with troops, equipment, ammunition and fuel have accumulated at the Orsha station. On July 14, Flerov’s battery deployed at a firing position 5-6 kilometers away and fired the first salvo simultaneously from all BM-13 launchers.As a result of a powerful fire strike simultaneously with 112 high-explosive fragmentation and incendiary missiles, a raging sea of ​​fire spread over the station. The combat effectiveness of the new weapon exceeded all expectations: the enemy’s losses in manpower and equipment were very high. The psychological impact of missile weapons on the enemy was also enormous.

An hour and a half later, Flerov’s battery fired a second volley, this time along the river crossing. Orshitsa, on the approaches to which a lot of equipment and manpower have accumulated. The results were no less impressive – the enemy’s crossing was disrupted, and he failed to build on his success in this direction. Subsequently, the Germans removed three echelons of the killed and wounded from this sector of the front. The exceptional efficiency of the actions of the battery of Captain Flerov and the seven more such batteries formed after it contributed to the rapid increase in the rate of production of jet weapons.

The multiple charges of the MLRS determined the possibility of simultaneously hitting targets in large areas, and the volley fire ensured surprise and a high effect of damaging and psychological impact on the enemy.

By the fall of 1941, the Red Army had 45 three-battery divisions (4 launchers per battery). In the army, BM-13 rocket launchers received the affectionate name “Katyusha”. Soon, the formation of rocket artillery regiments began, which received the official name “Guards mortar regiments of artillery of the reserve of the Supreme High Command.” They consisted of three BM-13 divisions and an anti-aircraft division (36 BM-13 and 12 37-mm anti-aircraft guns).The regiment’s salvo was 576 132-mm rockets, while enemy manpower and military equipment were destroyed over an area of ​​over 100 hectares. Since the production of BM-13 launchers was urgently deployed at several factories at once, with different production capabilities, changes were constantly made to them due to production technology.In addition, during the deployment of mass production, the design of the launcher was improved, including by replacing the “spark” -type guide used on the first samples with a “beam” -type guide. The troops simultaneously used up to ten varieties of BM-13, which made it difficult to train personnel and negatively affected the operation of military equipment. Therefore, in April 1943, a unified (normalized) BM-13N launcher was developed and put into service. Its creation made it possible to simplify the design of individual units and parts, improve the manufacturability of their production, and also reduce the cost. All units of the installation have become universal.

A new unit was introduced into the design of the launcher – a subframe, which made it possible to assemble the entire artillery part of the launcher (as a single unit) on it, and not on the chassis, as it was before. Once assembled, the artillery unit was easily mounted on the chassis of any vehicle. The mass of the artillery unit was reduced by 250 kg, and the cost by more than 20%, in addition, the combat and operational qualities of the installation were significantly increased. The introduction of the reservation of the gas tank, the gas line, the side and rear walls of the driver’s cabin increased the survivability of the launchers in battle. The firing sector has increased, the stability of the launcher in the stowed position has increased. Improved lifting and turning mechanisms have accelerated the aiming of the installation on the target.

Like the BM-13, the BM-13N combat vehicle could fire with M-13 rockets and the M-20 high-explosive rockets that entered service in June 1942. In addition, it significantly increased the tactical mobility of rocket artillery units, re-equipping BM-13N installations with a new chassis. The powerful American three-axle all-wheel drive cargo vehicle “Studebaker US” (6×6), supplied to the USSR under Lend-Lease, was now used as the main base for it. It had a high cross-country ability, a powerful engine, a range multiplier, a self-recovery winch and a high ground clearance.

In April 1944, new 132-mm rockets with improved accuracy M-13UK with a firing range of 7900 m appeared for the BM-13. The dispersion of
M-13UK shells decreased three times. With the introduction of these shells, the power of Soviet rocket artillery increased so much that instead of a regimental or brigade salvo, it was possible to confine itself to one divisional salvo, the power of which also increased. Reducing the dispersion of shells made it possible to fire at targets close to their troops. The latter circumstance was important, since the time interval between the impact of shells on the enemy before the attack of tanks and infantry and the attack itself was sharply reduced.

Rocket artillery units armed with BM-13 were mainly assigned tasks to defeat open manpower and fire weapons, reserves, artillery and mortar batteries of the enemy. The target was usually hit in one salvo. Depending on the size, nature and importance of the target, a volley was fired by a battery, battalion, regiment or brigade. The most important principles of the combat employment of rocket artillery during the war years were its concentration on the directions of the main strikes, as well as massive fire on especially important targets of the enemy’s defense. By the end of World War II, the Soviet rocket artillery consisted of 7 divisions, 11 separate brigades, 114 separate regiments, 38 separate divisions, in which there were more than 3,000 combat vehicles (not counting the launch frames).

The legendary Katyushas played an important role in the decisive battles to defeat Nazi Germany and its satellites, were successfully used in all types of hostilities, and participated in all major offensive and defensive operations.

The production of the BM-13 MLRS was carried out in 1941 – 1945 at dozens of factories in the European part of the country, including at the plant. Comintern (Voronezh), at the Compressor plant (Moscow), as well as at enterprises in Siberia, the Urals and Central Asia.

In total, during the war years, about 11,000 combat vehicles BM-8, BM-13, BM-31-12, more than 10,000 launchers for M-31 rockets, as well as more than 12 million rockets for them were manufactured.


The permanent exposition of the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War exhibits fragments of the launcher of the BM-13 “Katyusha” multiple launch rocket system from the 1st separate experimental battery of Captain IA Flerov.

On October 3, 1941, a difficult situation developed on the Western Front, Captain Flerov’s battery, along with other units of the Red Army, was surrounded in the Spas-Demyansk cauldron. The Germans tried to seize the battery, and on the night of October 7, near the village of Bogatyr in the Znamensk District (formerly Vyazemsky) of the Smolensk Region, it was ambushed. Captain I.A. Flerov blew himself up along with the head launcher, preventing the enemy from seizing the secret weapon.

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