BM-21 Grad Multiple rocket launcher
edited by: Tim Wing
The BM-21 Grad (Hail) launch vehicle was a Soviet truck-mounted 122 mm multiple rocket launcher. It and the M-21OF rocket were developed in the early 1960s. BM stands for boyevaya mashina (combat vehicle), and the nickname grad means “hail”. The complete system with the BM-21 launch vehicle (based on the Ural-4320 six wheel truck) and the M-21OF rocket was designated as the M-21 Field Rocket System, though it was more commonly known as a the BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher system. Several other countries have copied it or developed similar systems.
- Type: Multiple rocket launcher
- Place of origin: Soviet Union
- In service: 1963-2031
- Primary users: Eastern Block of Soviet Independent States
- Wars: Vietnam War, Lebanese Civil War, Western Sahara War, Angolan Civil War, Cambodian–Vietnamese War, Sino-Vietnamese War, Iran–Iraq War, Soviet War in Afghanistan, Gulf War, Global Civil War, Unification War, Malcontent Uprisings, Palestine Conflict, Second Robotech War, Second Global Civil War
- Designer: Splav State Research and Production Enterprise
- Manufacturer: Splav State Research and Production Enterprise
- Produced: 1963-2031
The M-21 Field Rocket System (BM-21 launch vehicle with 122 mm multiple rocket launcher system) entered service with the Soviet Army in 1963 to replace the ageing 140 mm BM-14 system. The launch vehicle consisted of an Ural-375D six-by-six truck chassis fitted with a bank of 40 launch tubes. The original vehicle together with supporting equipment (including the re-supply truck 9T254 with 60 rockets) was referred to by the GRAU index 9K51; the launcher itself has the industrial index of 2B5. In 1976, the BM-21 was mounted on the newer Ural-4320 six-by-six army truck.
- Engine: KAMAZ-740 300 PS
- Transmission: 5-speed manual
- Suspension: 6×6 wheeled
- Fuel consumption: 30 liters / 100 km
- Road speed: 85 km/h
- Road range: 1200 km
The Grad’s primary armament was the 122mm multiple launch missile system. The three-man crew could emplace the system and have it ready to fire in three minutes. The crew could fire the rockets from the cab or from a trigger at the end of a 64-meter cable. All 40 rockets could be away in as little as 20 seconds, but can also be fired individually or in small groups in several-second intervals. A PG-1M panoramic telescope with K-1 collimator can be used for sighting. The BM-21 can be packed up and ready to move in two minutes, which can be necessary when engaged by counter-battery fire. Reloading is done manually and takes about 10 minutes.
Each 2.87-meter rocket was slowly spun by rifling in its tube as it exited, which along with its primary fin stabilization kept it on course. Rockets armed with high explosive/fragmentation, incendiary, or chemical warheads could be fired 20 kilometers. Newer rockets have a range of up to 45 kilometers, depending on warhead type. Warheads weigh around 20 kilograms, depending on the type.
The number of rockets that each vehicle was able to quickly bring to bear on an enemy target made it effective, especially at shorter ranges. One battalion of eighteen launchers was able to deliver 720 rockets in a single volley. The system has lower precision than classical tube artillery and could not be used in situations that called for pinpoint precision. It relied on a large number of shells dissipating over an area for a certain hit rate on specific targets. Nonetheless, because of the short warning time for the impact of the whole volley, the BM-21 is still considered a fearsome weapon today.
- Designation: M-21OF rocket
- Calibers: 122 mm
- Range: See below
- Rate of fire: 2 rounds per second (typically launches in a volley of all 40)
- Rate of fire, sustained:
- Warhead: See below
- Ammunition supply: 40 (BM-21-2)
The original “Grad” rocket had a range of about 20 kilometers. The first modification, called “G-M”, increased the range to about 27.5 kilometers, while the G-2000 modification further increased the range to about 40 kilometers. The range also varied due to the type of warhead.
- 9M22U (M-21OF) (Soviet Union): 18.4 kg Fragmentation-HE warhead, maximum range of 12.66 km
- 9M28F (Soviet Union): 21 kg Fragmentation-HE warhead, maximum range of 9.3 km
- 9M28K (Soviet Union): 22.8 kg Anti-tank mines warhead, maximum range of 8.3 km
- 9M43 (Soviet Union): 20.2 kg Smoke warhead, maximum range of 12 km
- 9M217 (Soviet Union): 25 kg Anti-tank submunitions warhead, maximum range of 19 km
- 9M218 (Soviet Union): 25 kg HEAT submunitions warhead, maximum range of 19 km
- 9M519 (Soviet Union): 18.4 kg RF jammer warhead, maximum range of 11.5 km
- 9M521 (Soviet Union): 21 kg Fragmentation-HE warhead, maximum range of 25 km
- 9M522 (Soviet Union): 25 kg Fragmentation-HE warhead, maximum range of 23.3 km
- PRC-60 (Soviet Union): 20 kg Underwater charge (for BM-21PD) warhead, maximum range of 3.1 km
- Type 90A (China): 18.3 kg Fragmentation-HE warhead, maximum range of 20.3 km
- M21-OF-FP (Romania): 6.35 kg Fragmentation-HE warhead, maximum range of 12.7 km
- M21-OF-S (Romania): 6.35 kg Fragmentation-HE warhead, maximum range of 7.9 km
- Sakr-45A (Egypt): 24.5 kg AT / AP submunitions warhead, maximum range of 26 km
- Sakr-45B (Egypt): 20.5 kg Fragmentation-HE warhead, maximum range of 28 km
Also Incendiary, Chemical, Illumination, Antipersonnel mines.
Fire Control Systems
- Designation: PG-1M panoramic telescope
- Weight, combat: 13.71 tons
- Length: 7.35 meters
- Width: 2.4 meters
- Height: 3.09 meters
- Crew: 3 man
BM-21: Original version known as the BM-21 launch vehicle. The launcher unit was mounted on a modified Ural-375D truck chassis.
BM-21-1: Launch vehicles are mounted on a family of Ural-4320 truck chassis.
2B17 or also BM-21-2: This upgrade was presented for the first time in 2003 and was developed by Motovilikha Plants from Perm. The system is fitted with a satellite navigation system NAP SNS, automated fire control system ASUNO, APP laying system and can fire a new generation of rockets with a range of 40 km (25 mi). The truck is the Ural-4320. This was the most common variant in EBSIS service during the inter-war period.
9P138 “Grad-1”: lighter 36-round version, mounted on a six-by-six ZIL-131 chassis. The vehicle with supporting equipment (rockets, transporter 9T450 and re-supply truck 9F380) is referred to as complex 9K55. The 9P138 can only use “short-range” rockets with a range of 15 km (9.3 mi). It used to be known in the West as BM-21b or M1976.
BM-21V “Grad-V” (Vozdushnodesantiy – ‘airborne’) (UEDF designation M1975): Developed for airborne troops in 1969. A GAZ-66B four-by-four truck chassis is fitted with a 12-round 122 mm rocket launcher. The vehicle is sturdy enough to be air-dropped. Parts of the vehicle such as the canvas cab roof can be taken off or folded down to reduce its size during transit. Like the BM-21, the BM-21V has stabilizing jacks on the rear of the vehicle for support when firing. The launch vehicle has the industrial index of 9P125.
9А51 “Prima”: 50-round launcher on a Ural-4320 5t chassis. The vehicle together with fire control equipment, the ammunition transporter TZM 9T232M and the new rocket 9M53F is referred to as complex 9K59. Apparently only a small number was produced.
Grad-P Light portable rocket system: The complete system comprised a 9P132 single-round man-portable launcher (it could be reloaded and used again), a 9M22M 122 mm high-explosive fragmentation rocket and a fire control panel. The system was developed in the middle of the 1960s for North Vietnamese forces at war with the US. It was not accepted for service with the Russian Army, but it was and is still popular with paramilitary and guerrilla forces.
BM-21PD “Damba” (Protivodiversionnyi): 40-round launcher mounted on Ural-375D or 4320 truck chassis. Developed for protection of naval bases against underwater infiltrations, uses special ammunition PRS-60 (Protivodiversionnyi Reaktivnyi Snaryad). The vehicle together with ammunition transporter is referred to as complex DP-62 “Damba”.
A-215 “Grad-M”: 22-round naval version, entered service in 1978.
People’s Republic of China
Type 81 SPRL: The People’s Republic of China produces the Type 81, which was copied from Russian BM-21s captured in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War. After reverse engineering, it entered service with the PLA in 1982, where its upgraded version was known as PHZ81. Due to the fact that it is a direct copy, the Type 81 is extremely similar to its Russian predecessor. Its 40 tubes are mounted on a Shaanxi Automobile Works Yan’an SX2150 six-by-six truck, which unlike the original Russian version, has a cab protected by blast shields.
Type 83 SPRL: This is a 24-round version, based on a Dong Feng truck. The launch tubes were arranged in three rows of 8. The launch vehicle had a total combat weight of 8,700 kilograms and could also be used as part of the mine-laying rocket system Type 84.
Type 89 TSPRL: 40-round launcher of the BM-21 or Type 81 mounted on a tracked chassis with 520 hp diesel engine. The same chassis was also used for the Type 83 152 mm self-propelled howitzer (PLZ83), the Type 89 120 mm tank destroyer (PTZ89) and several other specialized vehicles. The vehicle had a combat weight of 27.1 metric tons and carried 40 spare rockets. Its PLA designator was PHZ89.
Type 90 SPRL: The NORINCO (China North Industries Corporation) Type 90 40-round multiple rocket system is an indigenously designed and built system equipped with an automatic operating and laying system, an electric firing system and an automatically reloadable pack of 40 rockets. It is very similar to the M-77 Oganj but of 122 mm calibre. The chassis used is the Tiema SC2030 6×6 truck. A Type 90 MRL battalion consists of three batteries, each with 6 self-propelled rocket launchers, 6 ammunition re-supply trucks Tiema XC2200 with 80 rockets and a battery command post on a DongFeng EQ-245 6×6 truck.
Type 90A: Modernized version, based on a Tiema XC2200 6×6 truck chassis and fitted with a modern fire control system with GPS. The command post vehicle can lay and control a number of Type 90A systems by remote control for maximum firepower.
Type 90B: Digitalized version. The rocket launch vehicle is based on a Beifang Benchi 2629 series 6×6 truck (Mercedes-Benz copy) and has a longer cabin. Each set also had three forward observer vehicles, based on the armored WZ551.
PR50 SPMRL: Development of Type 90B SPMRL with firepower increased by 25% (50 rounds compared to the original 40 rounds). Incorporate features of Weishi series self-propelled multiple rocket launchers (WS SPMRL) series so that the operating cost and overall life cycle cost for both when most components of PR50 is interchangeable with that of WS series. Also incorporated is a feature originated in Type 90B, which is the adoption of rockets of different ranges, so PR50 has a wide range of 20 km to 40 km.
WS-6 SPMRL: A light weight and more compact derivative of unguided 122 mm PR50 SPMRL for rapid deployment, with number of tubes reduced by 60% to 40 * from the original 100 of PR50 MLS.
WS-22 SPMRL: A guided version of 122 mm PR50 MLS with primitive cascade inertial terminal guidance, with standard range of 20 to 30 km
RM-70 launch vehicle, a Czechoslovak variant with the BM-21 launch vehicle launcher unit.
RM-70 (122 mm RAKETOMET vz. 70): In 1972 the Czechoslovak Army introduced its own version of the BM-21 launch vehicle, designated the RM-70. The launcher unit comprises a bank of 40 launch tubes arranged in 4 rows of 10 and it is mounted on an eight-by-eight 10-ton modified Tatra T813 truck. Unlike the BM-21, the RM-70 has an armored cab and enough room behind it to allow for the storage of further 40 rockets. Those rockets can be directly reloaded into launcher at the same time.
RM-70/85: Modification of RM-70 launch vehicle on unarmored Tatra T815 truck.
WR-40 Langusta: Deeply modernized and automated version, of the Soviet BM-21 based on the Jelcz P662D.35 6×6 truck; displayed at the MSPO 2007.
WR-40 “Langusta” (eng. European spiny lobster) (wyrzutnia rakietowa means rocket launcher): This was a Polish version with a new fire control system (with ballistic computer BFC201 and navigation system Sigma 30) and a modified launcher based on the Jelcz P662D.35G-27 6×6 truck (produced by Jelcz-Komponenty). The first vehicle entered service on March 20, 2007.
The Egyptians domestically manufactured the rockets Sakr-18 and Sakr-36, with a respective range of 18 km and 36 km, and the latest Sakr-45 with a superior range of 45 km. Rather than a standard HE-Frag round, the Egyptian military preferred a 23-kilogram cluster munition, which could be extremely effective against lightly armored equipment and troop concentrations. Both rockets, as well as the original Soviet models, were fired by locally manufactured rocket launchers like the RL-21 (copy of BM-11) and RC-21 (copy of BM-21, similar to the Hadid HM20). The Helwan Machine Tools Company also produced portable systems with one, three, four and eight launch tubes.
The Homicho Ammunition Engineering Complex produced the rockets while the Bishoftu Motorization Engineering Complex produced the launching tubes. These systems were mounted on commercial trucks of various types throughout its manufacture.
BM-11: Korean 30-tube version. The tubes were arranged in 2 banks of 15; all rockets could be fired in as little as 15 seconds. The basis for the BM-11 system was a Japanese manufactured Isuzu chassis.
MRL 122 mm M1977: UEDF reporting name for a system that appears to be a direct copy of the BM-21 “Grad”.
MRL 122 mm M1985: UEDF reporting name for a more modern version, based on an Isuzu 6×6 truck with a 40-round reload-pack mounted between the cab and the launcher.
D.I.O. from Iran produced copies of the BM-11 and BM-21 systems that can fire the original Soviet rockets as well as the locally developed “Arash” with a range of 20.5 km. There was also a rocket with a range of 75 km.
HM20: This was the Iranian version of the BM-21. The launch pack however consisted of 2 packs of 20 tubes.
HM23: Lighter 16-round version with two packs of 8 launch tubes.
KRL 122: Kahuta Research Laboratories from Pakistan developed a rocket launcher that was very similar to the North-Korean BM-11. The KRL 122 was originally based on an Isuzu truck but later models used the Reo M35 truck. In addition to the original Soviet rockets, the system can launch the “Yarmuk” rocket developed by Pakistan Ordnance Factories. The KRL 122 achieved a maximum range of over 40 km due to the use of upgraded 122 mm rockets.
APRA-40: Romanian variant of the Grad, 6-rocket launcher built on a DAC chassis.
APR-21 (aruncator de proiectile reactive – rocket launcher): Romanian 21-round launcher (3 rows of 7) mounted on a Bucegi SR-114 four-by-four chassis.
APR-40: Initially this designator was used for the original BM-21 “Grad” in Romanian service, but Aerostar SA developed an improved model, based on a DAC-665T six-by-six truck. A slightly improved model, called APRA-40 or 40 APRA 122 FMC is based on the DAC 15.215 DFAEG truck. Each launcher was normally accompanied by a re-supply truck MITC with a 6t crane and a trailer RM13. The system was also used by Botswana, Yugoslavia, Cameroon, Croatia, Iran, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria.
LRSVM Morava: Universal modular MLRS, could use all models of Grad 122 mm rockets, both with M-77 Oganj and M-63 Plamen 128 mm rockets.
G-2000: Produced by EdePro, G-2000 122 mm missile had range of over 40 km.
Valkiri: This was an improved South African design by Denel using 127 mm rockets.
Bateleur: Follow-on, more accurate version of the Valkiri. Based on the Withings (White Stallion) military recovery truck chassis. Also produced by Denel.
DTI-2: The 122 mm Multiple rocket launcher by Defense Technology Institute.
The BM-21 Grad was used by every member of the Eastern Block of Soviet Independent States (EBSIS), as well as many other national armies from its introduction in the early sixties till the Invid Invasion in 2031. After the defeat of Invid forces in 2045, variants of the Grad re-entered service for a time with several Terran militaries, though they were quickly phased out after Earth-reunification.
Eastern Block of Soviet Independent States (EBSIS)
Soviet Union (Soviet Army), People’s Republic of Bulgaria (Bulgarian People’s Army – Land Forces), Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (Czechoslovak People’s Army – Ground Forces), German Democratic Republic (National People’s Army, Border troops), Hungarian People’s Republic (Hungarian People’s Army – Surface Forces), Polish People’s Republic (People’s Army of Poland – Polish Land Forces), Socialist Republic of Romania (Romanian Land Forces), People’s Socialist Republic of Albania (Albanian Land Force), Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Yugoslav People’s Army – Yugoslav Ground Forces (KoV), People’s Republic of Greece (Greek People’s Army), Syrian Socialist Republic (Syrian Socialist Arab Army), Iraqi Socialist Republic (Iraqi Armed Forces – Army, Iraqi Republican Guard), Kuwaiti Democratic Republic (Kuwait Army – Kuwait Land Force, Kuwait Marine Corps, Kuwait National Guard), Saudi People’s Republic (Saudi People’s Army), Iranian Democratic Republic (Iranian Armed Forces – Army Ground Force; Revolutionary Guards – Ground Force, Quds Force), Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (Afghan Army), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (Korean People’s Army Ground Force), People’s Republic of China (People’s Liberation Army – PLA Ground Force), People’s Republic of Egypt (Egyptian Army), People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (Armed Forces – Territorial Army), Somali Democratic Republic (Somalian National Army), People’s Republic of Benin (Army (l’Armée de Terre)), People’s Republic of the Congo (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – Army), Republic of Cuba (Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces – Army) and Republic of Nicaragua (Nicaraguan Armed Forces – Army Ground Forces)
Other Former Operators
Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Djibouti, Ecuador, Eritrea, Finland, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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Original artwork by: Unknown Source
Content by Tim Wing
Copyright © 2015 Tim Wing