As the bombardment of Ukraine’s population centers by Russian forces continues, here are the missile, rocket, and artillery systems raining death and destruction on civilians. While the Russian army produces precision-guided weapons to hit targets, their doctrine going back to WWWII favors vast amounts of cheap unguided munitions rather than a smaller number of platforms that can hit targets precisely as is favored by the U.S. and NATO countries. The Russians have so many platforms because they are slow to retire and dismantle obsolete systems, preferring to keep them in inventory for reserve units of the Russian army or to offer them for sale to third-world countries.

It is one thing to use these weapons against military targets, but SOFREP has seen evidence of these weapons being used in civilian areas. including  220mm Uragan (Hurricane) and 300mm Smerch (Tornado) cluster munition rockets. We have seen remnants of the shell casings  from Uragan and Smerch cluster munition-type rockets as on the ground in Ukraine.

International human rights organizations are in Ukraine now assessing the extent of their use by the Russians before the evidence of these crimes against humanity are forever erased by the advance(despite valiant resistance by Ukraine forces) of Putin’s army.



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BM-21 GRAD, 9K51, NATO Designation M9164

The BM-21 GRAD is probably the most widely used rocket artillery system in the world today, developed in 1963. In its most basic design, the BM-21 consists of forty 122mm rockets on a turntable launcher mounted to the Ural-375D truck. The rockets have a range of some 2okm and the BM-21 can salvo all of them in 20 seconds. These are unguided rockets meant to shower a wide area with incendiary, explosive, and fragmentation warheads.  The aiming mechanism is manually operated and the rockets are also loaded by hand. Other versions include longer-range rockets able to reach 30km and 40km respectively.  This system is unarmored and after firing must rapidly leave the area to avoid counter-battery fire from a U.S. 155 howitzer or the U.S. Army’s own HIMARS rocket system which fires the precision-guided GMLRS rocket and has a range of 135km.


“9K57 BM-27 Uragan (Hurrikan)” by shumpei_sano_exp8 is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

BM-27, Uragan 9K57 NATO Designation M1977

The Uragan,”Hurricane” was a late cold war developed system with longer-range rockets to keep it out of the range of U.S. counter-battery fire.  As a result, it carries just 16 rockets compared to the BM-21 but they are 220mm and reach out to 35km.  Like the BM-21 GRAD, these rockets are unguided and crudely aimed to hit an area of ground rather than a precise location.

This system is less mobile than the BM-21 but can sit further to the rear behind the lines of engagement. It would be vulnerable to guided bombs and missiles from U.S aircraft or missiles fired by the HIMARS. These units would be a prime target of Ukrainian aircraft, drones and their own guided missiles.



“Soviet Heavy Multiple Rocket Launcher BM-30 Smerch. Советская система залпового огня БМ-30 ‘Смерч'” by Peer.Gynt is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

BM 9A52 Smerch, NATO Designation M1983

The Smerch, “Tornado” was introduced in the 1980s in response to the U.S. introduction of the MLRS or Multiple Launch Rocket System. Like other Soviet designs, the rocket system sits on a trainable platform on the MAZ-543 truck with 8 wheel drive. The Smerch fires 12 solid-fueled,  300mm unguided rockets that deliver bomblets, or high explosive warheads, out to a range of 70-90km. The Smerch is also an area effect weapon meant to shower a large area with explosives rather than precise targeting of a single target.  The range of these rockets also allows it to be relatively immune to counter-battery fire from anything but modern U.S. and NATO weaponry. Like the Uragan above, this weapon would also be a prime target for Ukraine’s airforce, drones and guided missiles.



TOS-1A BM-1 SOLTSEPEK “Scorching Sun/Sunburn

The TOS-1 is based on the T-72 Main Battle Tank without the gun and turret.  It is not a flamethrower in the classic sense of a weapon dispensing a stream of ignited and flammable liquid but is a rocket launching system for thermobaric warhead-equipped missiles which explode in a large fireball of heat, pressure wave, and partial vacuum.  Its unguided rockets sit on a turntable-type platform that allows for 360-degree traverse and elevation of the 220mm rocket launcher to hit targets up to 6,000 meters away.  This system was meant to serve in an armored division with relative accuracy as an area effect weapons able to ensure complete destruction of some 40,000 square meters of open ground with thermobaric munitions.  The standard model salvos 30 rockets in 6 seconds while the thermobaric model fires 24.

This type of munition consists of a thin tube of powdered or liquid explosive that bursts above the ground creating a cloud that is then ignited.  The resulting blast of this combination of fuel and air consists of a huge fireball, intense heat, and a pressure wave followed by a partial vacuum as all the oxygen in the cloud is consumed in an instant.  The effects on any troops near it are almost always fatal or incapacitating with injuries that include blindness, deafness, severe burns, burst organs, and other types of internal hemorrhage. Fired into densely populated areas with tall buildings magnifies the destructive effect as the pressure wave bounces around off harder structures while collapsing lighter ones.

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