In the mid-1930's NII-3 began development of unguided powder rockets for the Soviet Air Force: the 82mm diameter ROS-82 fragmentation rocket for fighters and the 132mm ROS-132 for bombers. The Germans had begun development of the six-barreled Nebelwerfer rocket mortar in 1936. Details of this were known to the Soviets due to the technical exchange of information under the Soviet-German Friendship Treaty. The Soviet authorities ordered NII-3 to develop Soviet equivalents of these battlefield barrage rockets. Based on its work on aircraft rockets, the institute quickly came up with the 82mm BM-8 and the 132mm BM-13. Both types were developed to carry chemical and incendiary warheads, and were mounted on ZIS 5 and ZIS 6 trucks.
233 rounds of rockets were tested at the end of 1938, indicating a target could be hit at a range of 5.5 km. But the Katyusha did not impress the Red Army's artillery branch - it took up to 50 minutes to load and fire 24 rounds. A conventional howitzer could fire 95 to 150 rounds in the same time span.
Nevertheless the Katyusha rocket, nicknamed Stalin's Organ, was accepted for service in May 1941. Two months later the rocket launchers saw action for the first time against the Germans at the Orsha railway station. Throughout World War II the Katyusha rockets were constantly modernized. New versions were mounted on all kinds of trucks, T-40 and T-60 tanks and even tractors. The most commonly used rocket, the 132-mm M-13, had a range of 8.47 km.
After the War the Soviets developed new versions, the most prolific being the 122mm BM-21 Grad adopted by the Soviet Army in 1963. The forty-missile launcher's rockets had a range of from 5 to 20 km. Various Grad systems were exported to more than 50 countries. The Katyusha figured prominently as the main weapon being fired at Israel by Palestinian and Lebanese fighters throughout the last quarter of the twentieth century. The first laser anti-rocket weapon, jointly developed by Israel and the United States, was specifically developed to destroy Katyusha rockets during their short flight.
At the end of the 1990's a new version of the Grad entered service. The rocket could be loaded with all kind of warheads: cluster, fragmentation, antipersonnel mines, and antitank mines. Two disposable sealed transport-launch containers, each with 20 rockets, replaced the cluster of metal launch tubes. Launchers could be reloaded within 5 minutes. Other systems using multiple rocket launchers of unguided rockets developed by the Soviet Union included the 220mm Uragan (10 to 35 kilometer range) and the 300mm Smerch (20 to 75 kilometer range). The Iranians developed the Fahr-3, with a range of 45 kilometers, and this was widely deployed by Hezbollah and other militant groups.
Boost Propulsion: Solid rocket.