Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Russian MLRS Katyusha is as powerful as it is beautiful

Russian made multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), the next to the world’s first legendary “Katyusha” is still the most powerful in the world. At the military exhibition MILEX-2007 held in Minsk, Belarus, a correspondent of Pravda.Ru spoke with the head of the foreign economic relations dept of the company “Splav”, the manufacturer of MLRS Gennady Ivanyuk.

Today Russia’s upgraded and the most powerful version of the multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) "Smerch" is delivered to India. The system delivered to India has specially designed rockets with the range of fire extended up to 90km. Basic version commissioned with the Russian Army has the range of 70km.

According to G. Ivanyuk G.V. other characteristics remained practically the same, except for the self-aiming elements for the defeat of armored targets. New rockets have absolutely new self-aiming elements which are much more efficient than those used on the first "Smerch".

Russian "Smerch" systems are delivered to India on the Czech made chassis. "Traditional" chassis is MAZ-543 made by Minsk Truck Plant. As of today the Russian Bryansk based plant arranged the production of practically all models of the wheeled tractors formerly made in Belarus. However, it is not so easy to replace one chassis with another, G. Ivanyuk says. Now certain cooperation has established. "Smerch" is installed on Tatra chassis because each customer requests what suits him best. It concerns maintenance and operation. In India, for example, Tatra has a well developed and widespread service network, which existed for a long time. Therefore India required specifically this chassis.

On the other hand, if Russian Armed Forces start buying new "Smerch" systems, they be will put on the Bryansk made vehicles. “Today we do not have Minsk made vehicle totally suitable for "Smerch". The one made in Bryansk completely corresponds to your requirements of the missiles’ manufacturer. At the same time the representative of the missiles’ manufacturer said that the requirements to the chassis are not a dogma. New developments appear.

We could not help asking somewhat naïve question about how the best Russian match foreign MLRS of similar class. “As a matter of fact "Smerch" is a unique system, which has no direct matches in the world, therefore it is not correct to speak about «similar class». Some military experts and pseudo historians try to compare "Smerch" with the western most advanced system ER-MLRS (Himars of Lockheed Martin), but this is a system of absolutely other caliber, 227mm, it ismorethe analogy of our "Uragan". But "Uragan" is eight years older, therefore those technical solutions which have been implemented in the western complex, really allowed to automate and make it quite interesting. "Uragan" is a very simple system. It is affordable, simple in operation, very endurable” – said Mr. Ivanyuk.

Answering the question of the perspectives of the procurements of MLRS for the Russian Army in present conditions, when defense budget is constantly growing Mr. Ivanyuk said that Russian Armed Forces have absolutely sufficient number of MRLS. “Military commanders can efficiently fulfill all tasks of up keeping the defense capabilities of the nation with the available MRLS. The only direction for the development in the near future is modernization of the available systems. For example, new rockets have been designed for "Grad". Existing rockets have the range of 40km. By the way, they constantly pass technical checks and now it is possible to say that many years ago technically very lucky rocket was designed for "Grad". Stored for 30 years and more they have the same characteristics as the brand new rockets. This is why «Grads» are very popular all over the world; they are commissioned with the armies of 60 states. China, for example, copied "Grad", but not everything worked out there. Russia has certain “school”, a know-how which is absolutely indispensable”.

Noteworthy, the specialist do not doubt that MRLS as a kind of arms will be demanded in modern conflicts. Our question dealt with high visibility of MLRS. The conflicts of the past decades in Asia and Africa demonstrated that in certain circumstances MRLS have their special role. With just 3-4 members of the crew one system is capable to solve the problems, which are usually solved by a far bigger unit.

Today different holdings are being formed in the Russian military-industrial complex. It is unlikely that “Splav” join some in the near future. According to Mr. Ivanyuk “Splav” is the key organization in structure of manufacturing MRLS. Over fifty suppliers and subcontractors work with the company. To a point this may be regarded as a holding in itself, although formally it does not exist. All enterprises engaged in the production of MRLS work perfectly, otherwise it would have been impossible to fulfill the existing orders. Therefore at present there is nobody whom “Splav” could join, as it is a self sufficient and unique enterprise. “On the other hand, I do not know what trends there will be in the government. Perhaps, one or another holding will appear. But this is not a today’s question” – he added.

Yuri Seleznyov