Artillery: Chinese MLRSski Goes Legit


August 25,2008:  Russia has sold manufacturing licenses for its BM-30 (9K58) multiple rocket launchers to China and India. No price was announced, and the deal may involve a royalty for each launcher and rocket produced.

The 9K58 entered service in the late 1980s, just before the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union dissolved. Think of this as Russians answer to the American MLRS. Nicknamed Smerch (Tornado), this twelve tube launcher fires 300mm rockets, that have a max range of 90 kilometers and weigh about 550 pounds (depending on type). A 44 ton wheeled vehicle carries the launcher and the three man crew. The vehicle can be ready to fire in three minutes, and can move on within two minutes of firing. All twelve rounds can be fired within 38 seconds. It takes twenty minutes to reload.

Russia has been selling the BM-30 vehicles for about $12 million each (including a supply of rockets and technical support). Russia has about 300 BM-30s. About 150 have been exported so far. China reverse engineered the BM-30 as the A100, which was introduced in 2002. But the A100 was inferior to the BM-30, especially in terms of reliability. By buying a manufacturing license, China can now improve the effectiveness of its A100 systems, especially the propellant in the rockets (which the Chinese have had a lot of trouble with).

The competition is the U.S. M270 MLRS, which entered service in 1982. This system fires twelve 227mm (650 pound) or two 610mm (1.6 ton) rockets. The smaller rockets have a max range of 70 kilometers, the larger ones, 300 kilometers. The rockets are carried on a 25 ton tracked vehicle and has a crew of three. There is also a lighter, wheeled vehicle, that carries six 227mm or one 610mm rockets. The MLRS costs about the same as the BM-30, and now has GPS guided rockets, which provides a major advantage over the BM-30.




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