Jun 24, 2022
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Why even unguided missiles “Smerch” and “Tornado” demonstrate phenomenal accuracy

In the photo: work at the firing position of the Smerch multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) crews to destroy critical military infrastructure facilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In the photo: work on the firing position of the Smerch multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) crews to destroy critical military infrastructure facilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. (Photo: Press Service of the RF Ministry of Defense/TASS)

According to the press service of the Russian defense department in the Donetsk direction, “as part of the counter-battery fight, seven platoons of the 9K51 Grad MLRS, supported by an artillery platoon, were defeated.” A few days earlier, the strike of the 9K58 Smerch unit successfully “utilized” another batch of weapons, military equipment and ammunition, which arrived at the supply depots of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Donbass. And these are just a few examples of the daily “work” of Russian MLRS during a special military operation.

Considering multiple launch rocket systems in the context of the ongoing special military operation to denazify and demilitarize Ukraine, it makes sense to pay attention to the Smerch MLRS and its evolutionary continuation of the Tornado-S MLRS. And we will try not to use the hackneyed phrase about the absence of foreign analogues. Great weapons, and Russian multiple rocket launchers are definitely great weapons, copied yesterday and will be copied tomorrow. How successful? In my opinion, not really, but this is a topic for another material.

Ruthless perfection

Much to the surprise of the United States of America, the last century saw the recognition of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as the world leader in the design and manufacture of multiple launch rocket systems. The military-industrial complex of the “lord of the globe” boasting of the presence of “the most advanced technologies” was unable to create a more or less worthy response to the Russian descendants of the legendary Katyusha.

Moreover, American engineering thought has formed a belief that, in our opinion, is ridiculous that the flight range of unguided rockets fired from jet systems should not exceed forty kilometers. Because with an increase in this, in their opinion, a critical indicator, a “process of projectile dispersion” allegedly occurs in unacceptable values. And they sincerely do not understand why the Smerch MLRS at ranges of up to seventy kilometers shows the maximum accuracy.

It should be noted that in order to successfully solve the problem of firing accuracy, an impressive number of fundamentally new technical solutions have been implemented in the design of the 9K58 Smerch system. An unguided rocket, having received special gas-dynamic rudders, became self-correcting. The result of a salvo of the Smerch MLRS, which fires twelve unguided rockets within 38 seconds, is the defeat of an area of ​​sixty-seven hectares. What is especially important, with a consistently high hit accuracy. After a minute of preparation, a unit or a single launcher is able to quickly change position, minimizing the risk of being hit by an enemy retaliatory strike.

The key element of any MLRS is a projectile, which, under a certain assumption, can be considered an analogue of its artillery “colleague”. Given the more serious level of problems delivered to the enemy and the inability of traditional weapons to effectively deal with him. A missile fired from a MLRS has little concern for protective measures such as smoke screens or electronic countermeasures. Moreover, at the final stage of the flight path, the MLRS rocket, even for high-tech means of detecting air targets, is no more informative than its artillery “brother”.

The Americans have already tried to create a missile capable of intercepting large-caliber projectiles. The principle of target detection was based on the concept of Doppler disturbance caused by a flying “blank”. The result of this project was a missile capable of intercepting a 406-millimeter artillery shell with a 70% probability. And it would be possible to loudly, in the traditional style of apologists for the sect of witnesses of the superiority of American weapons, announce this to the world, if not for one “but”. The cost of one “wonder rocket” turned out to be slightly less than $1 million, while the price of the projectile that became its target. did not exceed the “ridiculous” $ 18 thousand. And despite the well-known passion of the Pentagon to throw billions of greenbacks on obviously failed projects, like the F-35 unable to fly supersonic or the Zumwalt “golden iron”, the project was safely forgotten.

The above information is more than indicative of the obvious relevance of multiple launch rocket systems that exists today. This type of weaponry, widely used in all conflicts and local wars in the recent history of the world, has practically proved its combat effectiveness. And he continues to prove it during the Russian military special operation in Ukraine.

Here are just a few illustrations of the above. On April 21, the press service of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation released video footage showing the strike of the Russian 9K58 Smerch MLRS on a camouflaged airfield, which, according to the intelligence of the Russian Armed Forces, has become a platform for the concentration of military equipment, ammunition and materiel in the interests of large groups of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

“Tornados”, in accordance with the given coordinates, delivered a powerful blow, promptly changed combat positions and struck again. All designated targets were destroyed, and the “exceptional, jewelry accuracy of the work of Russian missilemen” was confirmed by fresh data obtained using reconnaissance UAVs.

MLRS 9K58 “Smerch” were used against the positions of one of the nationalist battalions in the Kharkiv region. During the liberation of Mariupol, Smerchi acted as one of the most convincing arguments, forcing the neo-Nazis at Azovstal to lay down their arms and surrender.

9K515 “Tornado-S” – the reincarnation of the MLRS “Smerch”

Since the end of 2016, the combat units of the Russian Armed Forces began to enter service with a new generation of multiple launch rocket systems – 9K515 Tornado-S, which, in fact, are a deeply modernized version of the famous Smerch. The system, equipped with a fundamentally new FCS that provides excellent firing accuracy, and GLONASS satellite navigation, is designed to engage group targets at the depth of operational formation: manpower, armored, lightly armored and unarmored military equipment, anti-aircraft systems, aircraft and helicopters at airfields, tactical missiles at firing positions, communication centers, command posts, military-industrial and critical infrastructure facilities.

The key difference from the basic version was the possibility of introducing an individual flight program for each ammunition. The modernized complex includes:

– 9A54 – combat vehicle;

– 9T255 – transport-loading vehicle;

– 9F757 – arsenal equipment;

– rockets with various warheads;

– guided missiles, the warheads of which contain fragmentation and cumulative fragmentation warheads.

The equipment of the 9A54 combat vehicle includes an automated guidance and fire control system, on-board control and communications equipment, as well as a system for coordinating ground equipment for consumers of satellite navigation systems. Their presence provides not only automated reception and transmission of information protected from unauthorized access, display on the scoreboard and subsequent storage of the received data, autonomous topographic reference, orientation and navigation activities (with display of the location of the combat vehicle on an electronic map), but also automatic guidance of the package launch guides without leaving the calculation of the BM cabin.

In addition, an autonomous system is included in the equipment of the 9A54 combat vehicle, which allows you to adjust the flight path of a rocket projectile in terms of yaw and pitch angles. The twisting of the ammunition around its axis on the launch rail, in combination with the empennage blades opened during the flight, provide the Tornado-S rocket projectile with a high level of stabilization, and, as a result, high hitting accuracy. Even when firing in one salvo, the dispersion rate of projectiles does not exceed 0.3% of the range to the target, which today is about 120, and in the future can increase to 200 kilometers.

It is noteworthy that one of the ways to provide target designation can be a 9M534 rocket, or rather an unmanned aerial vehicle located in it.

As a summary. Further evolution of multiple launch rocket systems is inevitable. Anticipating the raid of supporters of the exceptional prospects of high-precision weapons, I note that the good old MLRS has one decisive advantage over modern operational-tactical systems, whether it be the American MGM-140A ATACMS or the Russian Iskander-M – the incomparably low cost of ammunition.

And despite the fact that the 9K58 Smerch MLRS is considered the most powerful and effective today, a rational replacement is already being prepared for it.

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