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BM-13 Katysha Multiple Rocket Launcher

During WWII the BM-13 Katysha multiple launch rocket system gained immortal glory as a symbol of Soviet artillery power. During WWII the most suitable BM-13 platform was Lend-Lease Studebaker truck. The placement of the launcher on ZIL-151 platform was one of the first attempts to improve the Katysha after the end of WWII. The ZIL-151 platform had high cross-country capabilities and was domesticafly produced. The BM-13 was subsequently deployed on the on ZIL-157 platform. BM-13 was equipped with M-8 82mm rockets or M-13UK 132mm rockets launched from a joist type system. The spiral type lifting mechanism was hand-driven and permitted firing 16 rockets from 8 guiding tubes. Two jacks, located at the vehicle rear, were set against the soil before firing to discharge the back axles springs and to stabilize the platform.

On the eve of the Great Patriotic War the Soviet naval and coastal artillery were first issued the excellent 130-mm gun. This was subsequently used as an antitank-gun and as a field gun and finally in a self-propelled-variant. Also just before the war, in the spring of 1941, a highly successful rocket launcher was developed in the U.S.S.R. This was the BM-13, which could fire sixteen 130-mm rockets simultaneously. It later became known to the Soviet army as the 'Katyusha' and to the Germans as the "Stalin Organ." Naturally, the existence of both the gun and the rocket launcher were kept entirely secret.

In the first days of June 1941, the new rocket launcher was shown to members of the Politburo in Stalin's presence. However, it was not fired, because artillery shells instead of rockets had been delivered to the test range. The mistake was understandable, in view of the great zeal with which secrecy was being preserved-how could the ordnance officers possibly have known of the existence of the 130-mm rockets, which bore no resemblance to artillery shells?

Knowing Stalin, those present assumed that everyone responsible for this mistake would be shot immediately. However, Stalin told the Chekists not to get involved and went back to Moscow. The second demonstration took place-on 21 June at Solnechnogorsk. This time everything proceeded very well. Stalin was delighted with the rocket launcher. Then and there, on the range, he signed an order authorizing its issue to the Soviet army. However he directed that, henceforth, in order to avoid confusion, the rockets should be referred to as 132-mm, not as 130-mm. Accordingly, while the-rocket launcher continued to be known as the BM-13 (13-cm being 130mm), the rockets were, henceforth, referred to, despite their true caliber, as 132-mm. That very night the war began.

In 1942, the design of the rockets was modernized and their grouping capability and destructive effect were-improved. In the process, they became slightly thicker, and their caliber was increased to 132-mm - thus coming to match their designation.

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