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How do you aim a Katyusha launcher?

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  • How do you aim a Katyusha launcher?

    This is something I've always been interested in.

    I realized today we have GPS and so forth but I'm talking about WWII conditions.

    Those rockets on a truck chassis had to drive into position, fire quickly and then leave before the enemy replied.

    Therefore, considering the imperfect rocket design, the dispersion and so forth, how did the crews solve the problem of actually hitting a distant target?


    "Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a ugly brawl."
    --Frederick II, King of Prussia

  • #2
    Love the Li-2 in the background.

    As with most rockets of the era, I'd imagine that you pointed it towards the enemy, adjusted the elevation to get the range, and then just hammered off so many that some of them were bound to hit.

    Accuracy wasn't such a big deal, since even a near miss (or an airburst) could kill or injure; couple that with the psychological effect and you could see what a devastating weapon it was.

    Even when the enemy could see one, they hadn't a clue where the rockets were going to land. Brown trousers time in any language.
    Indyref2 - still, "Yes."

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    • #3
      Originally posted by the ace View Post
      Love the Li-2 in the background.

      As with most rockets of the era, I'd imagine that you pointed it towards the enemy, adjusted the elevation to get the range, and then just hammered off so many that some of them were bound to hit.
      I'm afraid you can't just estimate the range, crank up the launcher and fire in the general direction of the target, because your error will be like 5 kilometers...

      "Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a ugly brawl."
      --Frederick II, King of Prussia

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      • #4
        Spherical trigonometry.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spherical_trigonometry

        What a fun class it was...
        If you can't set a good example, be a glaring warning.

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        • #5
          So you'd use similar calculations to those of conventional artillery,then, FS ?
          Indyref2 - still, "Yes."

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          • #6
            If you figure in an error of accuracy of 5km, you could add more launchers. I don't see these launchers having to displace in WW 2. The German countermeasures were not great when the whole Red Artillery was let loose. One other method might be using a single launcher to find the range in the week leading up to the attack.

            Pruitt
            Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

            Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

            by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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            • #7
              Originally posted by the ace View Post
              So you'd use similar calculations to those of conventional artillery,then, FS ?
              Correct. I would image your margin of error is quite a bit larger than for tube artillery.
              If you can't set a good example, be a glaring warning.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Freightshaker View Post
                Correct. I would image your margin of error is quite a bit larger than for tube artillery.
                True, but the sheer volume of your single volley would compensate. Traverse by pointing the truck, elevate by raising/lowering the launch rails, an optical rangefinder for the distance and brain-melting calculations. Not so different from guns but cheaper and able to get out from under the return faster.
                Indyref2 - still, "Yes."

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                • #9
                  As it follows from manual for BM-31-12 rocket launcher it was equipped with sights: ZIS-3 type and panoramic one.
                  I think something similar had earlier models

                  Also rocket launchers units had one howitzer for zeroing in

                  Regards
                  Alex
                  If you fire a rifle at the past, the future will fire a cannon at you.....

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                  • #10
                    Ahem. Let an old artillery Fire Direction Chief throw in a few words here. All artillery that is firing at targets you cannot see from the gun/launcher have the same requirements:
                    You have to know precisely where the gun/launcher is.
                    You have to point it precisely in the direction of the target.
                    You have to know precisely what it will take to get the missile (shell/rocket) from the firing position to the target. This includes As A Minimum the amount of power behind the projectile (powder charges, their strength, the initial velocity of the rocket, etc), the exterior ballistics of the projectile, and, ideally, the precise range to the target.
                    To get the precise location of the launcher you survey the firing point. Since almost all of the 'Katyushas' of the GPW had ranges less than 10km, this does not have to be as precise as it would be for longer-ranged weapons like, say, the 152mm cannon or the German 175mm cannons, but you still have to have a point to park the launching vehicle, and an 'aiming stake' to sight on to get the precise direction of fire.
                    After that, it's a matter of the range to the target, since the propellant charge and ballistics of the rocket are set for you ('factory settings', so to speak), and elevate to the trajectory that will reach that range. As AMVAS said, the first Guards Mortar units had a 122mm howitzer attached, and the range was obtained by firing the howitzer with various elevations and charges until it was hitting near the target, then, since there were extensive ballistic firing tables compiled for the 122mm howitzer over decades, using the tables to obtain the range in meters and plugging that into the required elevation for the rockets.
                    A good crew can pull into position and get the direction from the aiming stake in minutes, and once the range is obtained, the rockets can be elevated in minutes, so aside from the range determination, the entire process takes 5 - 10 minutes from the time the launch vehicle pulls into the clearing until the first rocket leaves the rail. In a pinch, range can be obtained by estimation from the map, since the rockets are area weapons. Doing that with regular artillery is almost always a waste of ammunition unless you are firing a LOT of guns/howitzers at once, but since the minimum Guards Mortar 'battery one round' was 64 to 96 rockets, you are already covering a larger area than the average gun/howitzer battalion with a single strike.
                    That, by the way, is what made the Guards Mortars so effective and terrifying. Rule of thumb in the artillery is that the first round to hit the target is 10 times more effective than the second round, because the people on the target take cover. The Katyushas from one battery all hit in the target area within less than a minute with (unless you were paying attention to that one lonely 122mm howitzer popping off at you) no warning. And since it covered a wide area, you could not get away from the target fast enough to make a difference: if you were under a Katyusha strike, all you could do was hit the dirt and pray that Chance did not take you this time.
                    In 1991 in Kuwait, the Iraqis who were targeted by the Katyusha's descendants, the MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) all had the same reaction: to be in the target area was to die, so you stopped doing anything that would make you a target - like firing an artillery piece, since MLRS was a counterfire weapon. Once you pulled a lanyard, as one Iraqi POW told his American interrogator, you had 2 minutes to be at least 500 meters away or you were going to be tiny fragments at one with the desert. Germans under a Katyusha barrage doubtless felt the same way...

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                    • #11
                      You don't "aim" them.

                      http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=e48_1296059419
                      Credo quia absurdum.


                      Quantum mechanics describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And yet it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as She is - absurd! - Richard Feynman

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                      • #12
                        How do you aim a Katyusha launcher?
                        Aim away from face
                        Last edited by Skoblin; 21 Nov 11, 18:44.

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                        • #13
                          the way I understand it there wasn't an excessive amount of aiming, so long as it landed on Germans it was dead on target.
                          Task Force Regenbogen- Support and Paras

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Dashy View Post
                            the way I understand it there wasn't an excessive amount of aiming, so long as it landed on Germans it was dead on target.
                            That is somewhat correct. It was not a pinpoint but a barrage weapon. It was not uncommon for rockets to land everywhere causing losses on both sides (either by wind or vodka). Both sides front units felt uneasy having them around. Some launchers was modified or constructed for direct fire capabilities so one could literally spray an area in sight.

                            Late in war they were popular to blanket urban settlements before attacks as the German used these as staging areas much to the demise of the civilian population.

                            /Pappy
                            "Charley Dont´t Surf."

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