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Weapons of World War Two

BM-13 Katyusha

BM-13 Katyusha

In March 1928, as consequence of studies carried by V. Artomiev and N. Tikomirov, it was produced in the Laboratories of Gas Dynamics of Leningrad a rocket projectile of caliber 82 millimeters, with more than satisfying stability on trajectory, and with a range from 5 to 6 kilometers. These positive results led to intensify the efforts of the several study groups which in that period carried out experiments about rocket propulsion, and in 1934 it was decided to unify the investigations of these groups under the direction of engineer Petropavlosky, who after his death would be succeeded by engineer Kostikov.

Finally, in 1938, from the base of former experiences, would be built frameworks initially defined as "rocket propelled mine launchers", from which finally would be derived the BM (Boievaia Mashina, Combat Machine). The acronym was followed by a number that indicated the model of the weapon. So we have the BM-8, BM-13 and later the BM-31. Substantially, the BM, which would be familiarly known as "Katyusha" (Little Katya) by the Russian soldiers and also by those who would suffer its deadly effects, consisted of a ramp of multiple rails (of variable number according to the type), installed on the rear space of a truck.

The rails served as guide for a certain number of rocket projectiles propelled by solid fuel, able to cover a trajectory of 4 to 8 kilometers. The truck, generally ZIS for the BM-8 and BM-13 (later would be used as well Studebaker supplied by the Americans) and GAZ for the BM-31, was one of three axes, with the driving cabin slightly armored and protected by some armored plates folded on the cabin top, which were placed over the windscreen before opening fire. In the last period of the war were used as well ramps installed on artillery tractors ZIS or light tanks T-60 and T-70.

The BM were used as medium caliber field artillery pieces, specially when it was required a strong saturation of fire. Among other things, besides the notable devastating effect of these also called "Stalin's organ", it has to be considered as well the psychological and moral effect that they caused on the enemy soldier, who in few seconds and without expecting it, saw dozens of ululating rockets falling upon his position, some of which carried, like the BM-13 illustrated in the picture, about 20 kilograms of explosive.

During the war, also the Americans and the Germans would make use of rocket propelled weapons. So the Wehrmacht would use them even before than the Red Army, and in many cases it would be a distinctly superior weapon, but they would be never used in mass numbers, and this way the effectiveness would be lost. Still nowadays, at so many years of distance, Russia, as formerly the Soviet Union and the countries of the Eastern Bloc, have in service self-propelled rocket launchers, heirs of those rudimentary but effective contraptions which the 15th July 1941 were heard for the first time in the battlefield.

Year: 1939

Truck: ZIS-6 of three axes

Weight: 7.2 tonnes

Length: 6.00 meters

Width: 2.80 meters

Height: 2.30 meters

Number of rails: 8 double

Number of projectiles: 16

Caliber: 132 millimeters

Weight of the projectile: 42.5 kilograms

Weight of the load: 20 kilograms

Range: About 8 kilometers

Ignition of the projectile: Electric

Reload time: 7-10 minutes

Duration of the salvo: 10 seconds

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