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9K73 Tactical Rocket-Helicopter Complex

Since the fifties of the last century, the armed forces of the Soviet Union mastered the latest helicopter technology, which could perform transport and some other tasks. During the search for new techniques for the use of new rotorcraft, the most original proposals appeared. Among other things, rocket-and-helicopter complexes were launched as part of a tactical missile with a launcher and a specially modified transport helicopter. One of the projects of such a system was designated 9K73.

The 9K73 rocket-and-helicopter complex was to become a development of the tactical class 9K72 system. The complex of the basic model included a liquid rocket R-17 / 8K14 and self-propelled launchers of several types. Combat vehicles carrying missiles had the ability to move along roads and rough terrain, but in some cases their mobility and patency were insufficient. Some areas, which in theory could be used to locate starting positions, were not available for self-propelled complexes 9K72. For this reason, at the beginning of the sixties a proposal appeared that concerned a serious change in mobility through the use of an unconventional vehicle.

Instead of a wheeled or caterpillar chassis in the new missile complex, it was proposed to use a military transport helicopter with suitable characteristics. His task was to transport a small launcher and a rocket on it. In this case, the missile system could be briefly transferred to the desired area, inaccessible to land equipment. Such opportunities could facilitate attacks on some hard-to-reach enemy targets, and also ensure their surprise.

Development of the first version of the missile and helicopter complex on the basis of the 9K52 Luna-M system began in the first months of 1961. The result of these works was the 9K53 Luna-MV complex. At the beginning of February 62, a resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR appeared, according to which it was necessary to develop a similar system based on the 9K72 complex with the R-17 missile. The prospective project received the designation 9K73. The technical task was to develop a new version of the missile called R-17V or 8K114 and a lightweight 9P115 launcher. The Mi-6RVK transport helicopter was planned to be borrowed from the already developed Luna-MV project.

Several projects of the defense industry attracted the 9K73 project. The lead developer was OKB-235 (Votkinsk). Creation of a launcher of small dimensions was assigned to the designers of GSKB (KBTM) under the leadership of L.T. Bykov. OKB-329, led by M.L. Mil, who was developing the project of a helicopter-transporter of the missile complex.

The only element of the prospective missile and helicopter complex, which should be developed from scratch, was a self-propelled launcher. The product 9P115 or VPU-01 was presented with several basic requirements. It was supposed to provide transportation of the R-17B rocket in a horizontal position, including delivery to the helicopter, loading into its cargo cabin and unloading. At the same time, the movement had to be carried out independently and without the involvement of tractors. In addition, the 9P115 chassis required the installation of the launcher necessary to launch the missiles. Particular attention was paid to the dimensions of the self-propelled machine with a missile: it had to fit into the dimensions of the cargo compartment of the Mi-6RVK helicopter.

Within the framework of the project 9K73, a new self-propelled launcher with a biaxial chassis was developed, which was equipped with a set of necessary equipment. Machine 9P115 had an elongated frame on which all the necessary assemblies and systems were mounted. Provided for its own power plant and hydraulic transmission, which provided the possibility of independent movement. For maneuvering the wheels of one of the axles were made manageable. It was assumed that after unloading from the helicopter the self-propelled launcher would be able to independently reach the launch pad and there to prepare for the shooting.

To keep the rocket in the correct position during transportation, as well as for its pre-launch lifting to the vertical position, a special lifting ramp was introduced into the 9P115 equipment. This unit was a complex shaped frame with a set of semicircular lodgmentals for the missile body. The ramp could swing on the rear axle with hydraulic drives, and thereby produce a rocket lift. Because of the need to reduce the overall dimensions of the system, the missile in the marching position was placed at the lowest possible height above the chassis. On each side of it, on the sides of the chassis, there were several voluminous casings necessary for placing special equipment. Despite the small size, the 9P115 had to independently perform all operations to prepare the rocket for launch.

In the stern of the chassis on a swinging base, there was a starter table with a set of additional devices. All these units, probably, were borrowed from the wheeled launcher 9P117 and underwent some modifications connected with a different chassis design. In the case of a four-axle war machine, the starter table was able to turn in the horizontal plane by 80 to the right and to the left of the starting position. Vertical aiming was absent due to the use of the corresponding equipment of the rocket itself. Directly under the tail of the rocket on the launching table was placed a reflector consisting of two parts and necessary for the removal of jet gases away from the machine.

Self-propelled launcher 9P115 had a full set of various units, necessary for independent work on the launch pad. She received a pre-launch service system, a special communication unit, an electric and hydraulic system, topographic control and rocket equipment control equipment, a set of spare parts, etc. During the development of the equipment complex, the work on previous projects was taken into account, and also some existing units and assemblies were used.

For the use of the 9K73 complex, the R-17B missile was proposed, which should have been a modified version of the basic R-17 / 8K14. It was a guided single-stage liquid ballistic missile. The rocket had a cylindrical body of large elongation with a conical head fairing and stabilizers in the tail section. The main part of the hull was given for placing the warhead of the required type. Behind her was the hardware bay. The central compartment of the hull was given for large fuel tanks of a bearing type. The tail part of the rocket housed the engine and some control systems. The hull and tanks were made of steels and aluminum alloys.

In the rear part of the body was mounted liquid engine 9D21, using as fuel kerosene mixture TM-185 and oxidant AK-27I. Also, the starting fuel of the "Samin" type was used. Depending on some parameters, the thrust of the engine reached 13.38 tons. The tanks accommodated up to 822 kg of fuel and up to 2,919 kg of oxidizer (at air temperature + 20 C). This fuel stock was enough to run the engine for 48-90 seconds and pass the active section of the flight of the required length.

The R-17 missile received the inertial control system necessary to improve the accuracy of hitting the target. To keep the missile on the required trajectory, an automatic system was used to track its position in space. In the active part of the flight, maneuvering was possible with the help of graphite gas rudders located behind the engine's nozzle. The automatic range took into account longitudinal accelerations and determined the moment of engine shutdown, after which the rocket should continue to move along the required ballistic trajectory.

For the R-17 ballistic missile, several types of combat units were developed. The main one was a high-explosive 8F44 with a weight of 987 kg with the possibility of detonation on contact with the target or at a certain height above it. It was possible to use a special combat unit 8F14 with a charge of 10 kt. Such an article had a mass of 989 kg and dimensions corresponding to the dimensions of the high-explosive warhead. Other variants of special combat units were also developed. There were several modifications of the chemical head with various combat equipment.

The total length of the R-17 rocket was 11.164 m, the hull diameter was 880 mm. The range of the stabilizers was 1.81 m. The starting mass reached 5950 kg, of which up to 3,786 kg fell on the fuel, oxidizer and compressed air. In the first version the missile could attack targets at ranges of 50 to 240 km. Later, in the course of some modifications, the maximum range was brought to 300 km. The missiles of the first series had a circular probable deviation of 2 km. Later, this parameter was improved by half.

According to the existing project, the operation of the 9K73 missile and helicopter complex should have several interesting features related to the main ideas of the project. It was assumed that after installing the missile, the 9P115 / VPU-01 could independently approach the Mi-6RVK transport helicopter and, without additional assistance, drive into its cargo cabin. After securing the missile complex, the helicopter could go up into the air and take a course to the designated area to carry out the shooting.

The self-propelled launcher had to leave the helicopter in its own way and go to the required starting position. There, by calculating the machine, the complex was prepared for shooting. Despite the smaller dimensions and other characteristics of the 9P115 unit, the process of preparing the rocket for launch was almost identical to the procedures performed in the case of other self-propelled vehicles. The installation of the launching table was made, and the rocket was raised by means of a ramp. Using the available equipment, the location of the launcher was determined and the data for the guidance was calculated, after which the data on the required flight range were entered into the missile's automation, and the starting table was turned to the required angle. After the preparation was completed, it was possible to start with a remote control. After running,

The development of the 9K73 missile and helicopter project took about a year. After that, the project organizations transferred the necessary documentation to the enterprises, which had to start assembling prototypes of new equipment. Already in 1963 the first and, according to some reports, the only prototype of the self-propelled launcher 9P115, suitable for transportation by helicopters, was assembled. Soon after completion of the assembly work, this product was sent for testing. In addition, a prototype of the Mi-6RVK helicopter, which had a set of special equipment for working with missile systems, was presented for testing.

During the tests, it was possible to identify some of the shortcomings of the missile complex in its present form, which were quickly eliminated. After the modifications of the system, the 9K73 complex was again tested by various tests. The tests of the launcher on the polygon tracks, tests with the rocket, as well as tests using the full set of missile complex facilities, including the helicopter, took quite some time. For testing, debugging and other work took about two years.

Even at the testing stage, some problems were identified, which could not be eliminated with the existing level of technology. At the same time, such shortcomings did not stop the work on the complex. In 1965, the only sample of the 9K73 missile and helicopter complex was transferred to the troops for trial operation. The servicemen of the missile forces and artillery quickly mastered the new technology and began to check it in the conditions of army operation. During the trial operation, some of the conclusions drawn from the previous tests were confirmed. In addition, some not very successful features of the new development were again criticized. An analysis of the responses of the military allowed the command and the leadership of the industry to draw conclusions about the real prospects of the original complex.

During all inspections, the 9K73 complex confirmed the possibility of rapid transfer to hard-to-reach areas, most suitable for launching missiles at certain enemy targets. In addition, it was possible to theoretically apply such a technique in the enemy's close rear areas, further increasing the range of the complex. With all these advantages, the missile-helicopter complex retained all the positive features of the 9K72 base system with the R-17 / 8K14 missile.

Nevertheless, the 9K73 complex had some serious drawbacks that did not allow to fully realize the existing advantages, as well as interfering with the achievement of the required characteristics. For example, in practice it was established that the Mi-6RVK helicopter, after installing the necessary equipment and with the launcher on board, loses in the range of flight, which reduces the real range of the missile and helicopter complex.

Several shortcomings of the complex were associated with small dimensions of the self-propelled launcher. The 9P115 could not carry the whole complex of necessary navigation and other equipment, which worsened the accuracy of determining its own coordinates with negative consequences for aiming the missile at the target. In addition, the reduction in the size of the car led to the fact that it seriously lagged behind the mobility indicators from the full-size self-propelled launcher 9P117.

Another problem of the complex concerned the impossibility of using a complete set of all necessary equipment. To maximize target damage, the battery of the 9K72 complexes needed data on the state of the atmosphere to heights of the order of 60 km. Using information on the wind parameters at various heights, the calculations could make corrections to the aiming of the missiles and thereby increase the probability of target destruction. To study the atmosphere, meteorologists of rocket forces should use meteorological probes and several types of radar stations. The meteorological force of the missile brigade prepared a meteorological bulletin, then transferred to battalions and batteries.

Operating in hard-to-reach areas and at a great distance from other units, missile and helicopter systems were not able to use data from full-fledged meteorological reconnaissance. There was virtually no possibility of introducing them into the missile-helicopter complexes. For this reason, calculations of the 9K73 complexes could not receive full-fledged data on the state of the atmosphere, which could have a negative impact on the accuracy of the shooting.

Minor project deficiencies, identified during testing and trial operation, were almost completely corrected. Nevertheless, a number of characteristic minuses were preserved, the disposal of which was fundamentally impossible. At the same time, the unavoidable shortcomings did not allow the 9K73 missile and helicopter complex to be operated with maximum efficiency. Because of this, the new system could not be adopted and put into series production.

According to various sources, the experimental operation of the single 9K73 complex as part of the 9P115 self-propelled launcher and the Mi-6RVK helicopter continued until the beginning of the seventies. Despite the relatively long use, the new system was not considered as a possible means of rearming rocket troops and artillery. The prototype of the complex remained in a single copy. After the development of the resource, it was written off as superfluous and disposed of. Until now, a unique example of military equipment has not survived.

In the first half of the sixties of the last century, two rocket-and-helicopter complexes were developed in the USSR that used rockets of existing models. 9K53 Luna-MV and 9K73 systems were tested, and then entered experimental military operation, but they did not reach serial production and full-scale use by the troops. During the inspections it was found out that the original and interesting proposal concerning the transfer of missile systems by helicopters imposes serious limitations on the various characteristics of equipment and its design features and, as a result, does not allow achieving the required results with the current level of technology development.

The 9K53 and 9K73 rocket-and-helicopter complexes became the first and last developments of their class. After the unsuccessful completion of the two projects, it was decided to abandon the further development of this direction. All subsequent domestic tactical missile systems were created without taking into account the possible joint operation with helicopters of different classes. This allowed the development of projects with reasonable limitations in size and weight, not interfering with the achievement of the required combat characteristics.




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