The 9K58 Smerch 300mm Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) is designed to defeat soft and hard-skinned targets, artillery and missile systems.
It is produced by the Splav State Research and Production Association, Tula, Russia, which also manufactures the Uragan, Grad and Prima rocket launchers. Smerch was developed in the early 1980s and entered service with the Russian Army in 1988. It is also in service with Belarus and the Ukraine, and has been exported to Kuwait (27 systems) and Algeria (18 systems).
In 2002, the Indian Army carried out a series of firing trials of the modernised Smerch-M system, which features an automatic rocket preparing and launching system and an increased range of up to 90km. In December 2005, India placed an order for an initial 38 systems. Deliveries began in May 2007.
The Russian Army is upgrading Smerch MLRS systems with new navigation and targeting systems.
The Smerch MLRS is composed of a launch vehicle, transloader, rockets, training facilities and arsenal equipment.
The launch vehicle is based on the MAZ-543M 8×8 wheeled truck chassis on which is mounted a 12-tube launcher. The vehicle is manufactured by Minsk Auto Zavod (MAZ). The tubes are arranged as two blocks of four with a single row of four above. The launcher has a crew of four and is capable of single or salvo firing.
A Smerch unit is typically composed of six launchers and six transloaders.
The transloader is based on the MAZ-543A 8×8 wheeled truck chassis which carries a further 12 rockets. The transloader provides for mechanised loading of the launch vehicle, by means of a hydraulic crane mounted on the vehicle.
Smerch fires the 300mm 9M55K rocket. This has a solid propellant rocket motor. Firing range is from 20km to 70km. The 9M55K rocket is 7.5m long and weighs over 800kg. It is fitted with either a warhead containing 72 HE-FRAG (High-Explosive Fragmentation) submunitions or HE-FRAG separable unitary warhead. It can also be fitted with a warhead containing five Bazalt MOTIV-3F anti-armour submunitions.
The ‘smart’ submunitions have dual-colour infrared sensors for terminal guidance and kinetic energy fragment warheads which are said to be able to penetrate 70mm of armour at an angle of 30° to the normal.
Splav have also developed a new 9M528 projectile which uses a high-energy composite propellant which will give an increased range of 90km, and a new warhead that scatters 25 anti-tank mines.
The fire control system for Smerch is the Vivari FCS which can function automatically or under manual control.
One Vivari system controls the six Smerch launchers in a unit and is housed in a separate command vehicle. It has either one or two E-175 computers to calculate ballistic and targeting data for each launcher. The command vehicle has both satellite and radio communications systems to link to both subordinate units and headquarters.
It has been reported that a miniature aerial vehicle, R-90, containing a stabilised camera is being developed which could be fired from the Smerch launcher, enabling realtime battlefield surveillance data to be relayed to the Smerch commander.
The aerial vehicle, which uses GPS (Global Positioning System), has the same 70km range as the 9M55K rocket and can transmit data for up to 30 minutes.
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