Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute
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TsAGI CENTENARY IN THE HISTORY: The Katyusha rocket launcher

10 July 2018

The Katyusha multiple rocket launcher (BM-13) became one of the symbols of the Soviet army during the Second World War. It firs saw action in July 1941.

The first battery, equipped with seven BM-13 launchers and 600 missiles M-13, entered the battle at the Berezina River. Katusha rained down a hail of explosive shelling on the attacking German troops. The breaking missiles fragments wounded and confused fighters, and the thundering explosions completed the frightening picture. A battery of four BM-13 launchers could fire a salvo making its power roughly equivalent to that of 72 conventional artillery guns.

After their success in the first month of the war, Katyusha mass production was ordered. New multiple rocket launchers started to arrive for the army to use in 1942. They were widely used for protection of USSR territory and during the Berlin attack. During the War years more than 10 thousand launchers and more than 12 million missiles were produced for the Soviet army.

The BM-13 launcher was developed by the Reaction-Engine Scientific Research Institute (RNII). The first large-scale testing of the new weapon was held in 1938. After removing a number of shortcomings in 1940 the system was given limited release. The RNII development remained secret until mass production.

Scientists of the Zhukovsky Central AeroHydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) contributed significantly to the Katyusha’s improvement. In particular, due to the Institute’s research and recommendations, excessive shell dispersion was limited and the weapon’s lethality was enhanced. During the War TsAGI performed a wide range of scientific research activities to improve many pieces of military equipment and ammunition for the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The Red Army loved Katyusha for its ease of use, simple design and inexpensive manufacturing. It consisted of racks of parallel rails on which rockets were mounted, with a folding frame to raise the rails to launch position to shoot the missiles. The crew consisted of 5-7 people.

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