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The 9K58 Smerch 300mm multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) is used to defeat personnel, soft and hard-skinned targets, light-armoured vehicles, 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.
The Russian Army upgraded the 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 Tornado-S MLRS, a new universal multiple rocket launcher, will replace the Smerch system. It is a significant upgrade of the Smerch MLRS and includes improved tactical and technical features.
The new weapon system was demonstrated for the first time at the Army 2020 International Military-Technical Forum in Russia in August 2020. It was also showcased during the Victory Day Parade in Moscow in June 2020.
Other operators of Smerch weapon system
Smerch is also in service with India, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Ukraine, and was exported to Kuwait (27 systems) and Algeria.
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.
India placed an order for an initial 38 systems in December 2005. Deliveries began in May 2007 and the last batch was delivered in 2008.
The 9A52-2T Smerch, a variant based on the Tatra 10×10 chassis, was designed in Russia for the Indian Army.
The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) of the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD), Rosoboronexport, and Splav signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to form a joint venture (JV) to manufacture five versions of Smerch rockets in August 2012. Russia agreed to provide the technology required for the manufacturing of the rockets.
Smerch MLRS launcher
The launch vehicle of the 9K58 Smerch 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 enables mechanised loading of the launch vehicle, through a hydraulic crane mounted on the vehicle.
Smerch MLRS rockets
Smerch fires the 300mm 9M55K rocket, which is powered by a solid propellant rocket motor. The firing range of the weapon system is between 20km and 70km.
The 9M55K rocket is 7.5m-long and weighs more than 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 can penetrate 70mm of armour at an angle of 30° to the normal.
Splav also developed the 9M528 projectile which uses a high-energy composite propellant which enables an increased range of 90km, and a new warhead that scatters 25 anti-tank mines.
The fire control system (FCS) 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.
A miniature aerial vehicle, R-90, containing a stabilised camera was developed for launch from the Smerch launcher, enabling real-time 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.
The initial version of the Smerch MLRS was known as BM-30 Smerch.
The MLRS with the 9A52-2 launch vehicle is an upgrade of the basic version of the BM-30 Smerch. It has a salvo time of 40 seconds and a maximum speed of 60km/h. The firing range is between 20km and 120km.
The 9A52-4 Tornado is a new modernised version with a lightweight launch vehicle that can carry six launch tubes when compared to the traditional capacity of 12 tubes. It features either a 9Ya295-type modular container or a MZ-196-type reloadable container.
The new weapon system can accommodate a crew of two and fire rockets of 300mm. It can engage targets at distances between 20km and 120km.
Approved for exports in August 2019, the Tornado-S MLRS provides increased range and firing accuracy when compared to Smerch. It is equipped with new 300mm guided missiles with the provision for inputting individual flight mission data for each projectile using a control unit for different flight ranges and trajectories.
The accuracy of the Tornado-S shells is 15 to 20 times higher than that of the Smerch shells. Each shell can break armour up to 140in. A satellite navigation system guides the shells to the target.