Guerrilla missiles: light rocket system “Grad-P”

Launcher 9P132 in one of the Vietnamese museums. Photo Wikimedia Commons

The USSR actively supported North Vietnam with supplies of materiel. Among other samples supplied to the ally, there was a light rocket system “Grad-P”, created at his request. This product combined small dimensions, ease of use and the power of shells of the full-size Grad multiple launch rocket system.

Helping an ally

In 1965, the leadership of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam turned to the USSR with an unusual request. The Vietnamese army needed a new artillery system with increased projectile power, but easy to handle and transportable over difficult terrain. Preference was given to reactive systems that had already shown their potential.

The Soviet leadership went to meet a friendly country and launched a new project. A group of domestic enterprises headed by NII-147 (now NPO “Splav”) was instructed to create a lightweight complex of weapons, unified with the MLRS 9K51 “Grad”. The new product received the code “Grad-P” (“Partizan”).

Already in July 1965, an experimental launcher and shells for it were presented for joint tests. According to their results, “Grad-P” was recommended for production. In addition, the command considered it possible not only to send such a system abroad, but also to adopt domestic special forces.

Trophy “Grad-P” in Israel. Photo Wikimedia Commons

At the end of the same year, serial production began. The first 20 jet systems and the ammunition for them were completed by the beginning of 1966. In the following months, another 180 products were assembled. By the end of the spring of 1966, they were shipped to a foreign customer. During the second half of the year, another order for 200 complexes was carried out. The plan for 1967 provided for the manufacture of 300 Grad-P products with sending for storage – if necessary, they were planned to be delivered to one or another customer. Basically, they were shipped by the DRV, and in the future, mass production continued.

The simplest design

The basis of the “Grad-P” system was the 9P132 launcher. When it was created, the need to reduce the size and weight was taken into account while obtaining sufficient combat characteristics. In addition, the product was made collapsible, which simplified transportation over difficult terrain.

The main element of the installation is a tubular barrel guide with a caliber of 122 mm with a U-shaped spiral groove. In fact, this part is the barrel of the “Grad”, shortened to 2.5 m. On the guide there were means of an electric launch control system.

The barrel is fixed on a cradle of a simple design, installed on the machine. The lightweight machine had three folding legs; the front was equipped with a coulter. There were manual horizontal guidance mechanisms. The horizontal movement of the trunk was carried out within a sector with a width of 14 °. Vertical guidance – from + 10 ° to + 40 °. For aiming, the PBO-2 sight and compass were used.

Shooting was carried out using a sealed remote control with a cable 20 m long. When the start button was pressed, the remote control generated an electrical impulse, which was responsible for igniting the projectile engine. During the launch, the crew was at a safe distance from the installation.

The design of the 9M22M projectile. Figure

The barrel-guide had a mass of 25 kg, the machine – 28 kg. They were transported separately in two packs; a few more packs were given for ammunition. The assembly or disassembly of the launcher at the firing position required no more than 2-2.5 minutes. Calculation of the system – 5 people. In the stowed position, the numbers of the calculation separately transferred the barrel, the machine and several rockets.

Compatible ammunition

The first ammunition for the Grad-P was the 9M22M rocket, developed on the basis of the M-21OF product for the base Grad. The new projectile was 1.95 m long and featured a collapsible body. The warhead with the warhead was borrowed unchanged from the M-21OF; the engine compartment was a shortened version of the existing one. The tail section contained stabilizers that could be deployed in flight. A projectile weighing 46 kg carried 6.4 kg of explosive and could show a range of up to 10.8 km.

In 1968, NII-147 and other enterprises modernized the Grada-P, during which the 9M22MD extended-range projectile was created. In general, he retained the basic design, but received an increased engine charge with replacement of the gunpowder grade; the nozzles have also changed. The firing range was brought to 15 km. However, additional preparations were required to use the 9M22MD. A load weighing at least 50 kg had to be placed on the front leg of the machine, otherwise the installation could turn over due to the greater energy of the projectile.

Also, specially for the “partisan” system, a 9M22MS projectile with incendiary equipment was developed. The missile part of the projectile was taken from the 9M22M without changes, the combat part was borrowed from the full-size 9M22S for the Grad. In terms of flight characteristics, the incendiary projectile corresponded to the high-explosive fragmentation.

Guerrilla missiles: light rocket system
Iranian copy of the Soviet Grad-P. Photo

If necessary, the 9P132 unit could launch standard Grad MLRS shells, which was confirmed during tests. However, the specificity of the launcher did not allow to realize all the advantages of such ammunition. Such methods of using “Grad-P” turned out to be inappropriate.

Modernization proposals

The first Grad-P products were sent to the DRV at the end of 1966. In just a few months, the Vietnamese gained experience in their operation, and by the end of the summer of 1967 made proposals for the modernization and further development of the structure.

There was a request for an additional reduction in the mass and dimensions of the complex. They also asked to increase the firing range – this was done in the 9M22MD project. There have been complaints about the reliability of the firing controls. It was proposed to make a new launcher with three or four guides in order to reduce the intervals between launches and, accordingly, the risks for the calculation.

Some of the proposals were implemented, while others did not progress beyond testing. So, at the test site, a modification of the 9P132 product with a barrel shortened to 2 m was tested (the weight was reduced by 2.8 kg). This reduction in barrel length did not impair the accuracy and accuracy of the fire. We also assembled a double-barreled version with shortened guides. Tests have shown that such an installation is more complicated and heavier, has limitations in pickup angles and requires an increase in the calculation. All this was considered unacceptable, and the installation was left single-barreled.

Operation and application

The first serial “Grad-P” went to the DRV and immediately found application in various operations. Deliveries of such weapons continued until the early seventies. More than 950 complexes and thousands of shells for them were transferred. Depending on the need, the Vietnamese artillerymen used both standard shells, normal and extended range, and rockets for the Grad.

“Fantasy on a Theme” performed by DNR gunsmiths. Photo

Light launchers and shortened rockets were regularly used in fire raids on enemy targets with varying degrees of success. Such weapons showed the best results when used massively against large targets, such as airfields. The possibility of disassembly and relatively low weight made it possible to deliver the system to a firing position along mountain and forest paths, and then strike from an unexpected direction.

In the future, “Grad-P” was actively supplied to other friendly countries, and some of them used it in battles. In particular, the Cuban army became one of the operators – its artillerymen worked quite actively during African conflicts. In the Middle East, the Palestine Liberation Organization has become the main user. In addition, 9P132 were supplied to Iran and produced by it independently.

“Guerrilla” reactive systems are still used in local conflicts. So, since 2014, the use of such weapons in the Donbas conflict has been regularly reported. In the same period, the first cases of the use of “Grad-P” in Yemen are noted.

According to various sources, “Grad-P” also entered service with some special forces of the Soviet army, but was not widely used. For its own needs, the USSR could use more advanced models.

Special tool

The Grad-P product occupies a special place in the history of Soviet missile weapons. It was created at the specific request of a foreign customer and therefore received a special look. At the same time, the system showed sufficiently high operational and combat characteristics – although it could not compare with full-fledged MLRS using unified ammunition. However, practice has confirmed that such “partisan” weapons can be very useful in local conflicts.

The Grad-P system has long been taken out of production, but it still remains in service with a number of countries and armed formations. In addition, in current conflicts, reactive systems based on the Grada-P concept have become widespread. It is unlikely that the military DRV could imagine that their request for help would lead to the formation of ideas so tenacious and useful in certain conditions.

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