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clive_t

BM-13-16 'Katyusha' Rocket Launcher (Chevrolet G7117)

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The BM-13 'Katyusha' multiple rocket launcher was first deployed by the Red Army during the German invasion ('Operation Barbarossa') during WW2. Mounted on trucks, these highly mobile rocket batteries made up for their inherent inaccuracy with their capacity to deliver a saturation bombardment of an enemy position, before rapidly relocating to avoid retaliatory strikes. Particularly effective as a psychological weapon, the howling noise made as they were fired en masse earned them a fearsome reputation with the Germans.

 

In June 1938, the first prototype multiple rocket launcher was developed in Chelyabinsk, Russia, firing modified 132mm M-132 rockets broadside from ZiS-5 trucks. These proved unstable, however one of the engineers, a man by the name of Galkovskiy, proposed mounting the launch rails longitudinally, firing forward over the cab. The result was the BM-13 (BM = Boyevaya Mashina, or 'combat vehicle' for M-13 rockets). The design was relatively simple, consisting of racks of parallel rails on which rockets were mounted, with a folding frame to raise the rails to the desired trajectory. Each truck had 14 to 48 launchers. The M-13 rocket of the BM-13 system was 142cm (55.9in) long, 13.2cm (5.2in) in diameter and weighed 42kg (93lb).

 

The first large-scale testing of the rocket launchers took place at the end of 1938, when rounds of various types were used. A salvo of rockets could completely straddle a target at a range of 5,500 metres (3.4 mi); the artillery branch, however, were not particularly impressed with the results. It took the best part of an hour to load and fire 24 rockets, while a conventional howitzer could fire 95 to 150 shells in the same time. Further tests with various rockets were conducted throughout 1940, and the BM-13-16 with launch rails for sixteen rockets was authorized for production. Unfortunately, only forty launchers were built before Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.

 

Initially, secrecy concerns prevented the military designation of the launchers from being known even by the soldiers who operated them. They were called by various code names, including 'Kostikov guns', 'Guards Mortars', and 'flutes'. The name BM-13 was only allowed into secret documents in 1942, and remained classified until after the end of WW2. Because they were marked with the letter K (for Voronezh Komintern Factory), Red Army troops adopted a nickname from Mikhail Isakovsky's popular wartime song, "Katyusha", about a girl longing for her boyfriend, who is on military service (Katyusha is the Russian equivalent of Katie, an endearing diminutive form of the name Katherine).

 

As an aside, here's the actual song - you might have already heard the tune without necessarily knowing what it was called or what it was about:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SLvtP6KMUM

 

German troops coined the term Stalinorgel ("Stalin's organ"), after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, due to the launch array resembling a pipe organ.

 

As a result of their success in the first month of the invasion - most notably during the defence of Smolensk in July 1941 - mass production was ordered and the development of other models proceeded. The Katyusha was relatively inexpensive and could be manufactured in light industrial installations which did not have the heavy equipment to build conventional artillery gun barrels. By the end of 1942, more than 3000 Katyusha launchers of all types had been built; by the end of the war total production is believed to have reached in excess of 10000 units.

 

The truck-mounted Katyushas were initially installed on ZiS-6 6×4 trucks, as well as the two-axle ZiS-5 and ZiS-5V. In 1941, a small number of BM-13 launchers were mounted on STZ-5 artillery tractors. A few were also tried on KV tank chassis as the KV-1K, but this was abandoned as a needless waste of heavy armour.

 

From 1942, with the advent of Lend-Lease, they were also mounted on various British, Canadian and U.S. trucks; in this case they were sometimes referred to as BM-13S. The cross-country performance of the Studebaker US6 2½ ton truck was so good that it became the standard mounting in 1943, with the designation BM-13N ('Normalizovanniy', or 'standardized'). More than 1800 of this version were manufactured by the end of WW2. After the end of WW2, BM-13s were based on Soviet-built ZiL-151 trucks.

 

A battery of BM-13-16 launchers comprised four firing vehicles, two reload trucks and two technical support trucks, with each firing vehicle having a crew of six. Firing was initiated by way of an electric primer provided by the truck's own battery system. Reloading was executed in 3–4 minutes, although the standard procedure was to switch to a new position some 10 km away due to the ease with which the battery's location could be identified by the enemy. Where possible the firing vehicles travelled to their new firing location with the lower rack already loaded. Four BM-13 launchers could fire a salvo in 7–10 seconds that delivered 4.35 tons of high explosives over a 400,000-square-metre (4,300,000 sq ft) area, making its power roughly equivalent to that of 72 conventional artillery guns.

 

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I enjoyed this kit more than I initially feared I would, despite the challenges put in my way by the kit makers PST. Certainly the relatively small scale (1:72) contributed to the 'fun', but at least the moulding quality was for the most part pretty good. The instructions could do with a bit more clarity though, and a couple of reasonably detailed figures would have been a welcome inclusion. The WIP thread is here should you wish to peruse it.

 

Anyway, without further ado, here are a small (large!) collection of photos of the finished article, hope you enjoy them - comments and criticisms all welcome, as ever! :thumbsup2:

 

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Thanks to all who followed the build with comments and suggestions, all very much appreciated :thumbsup2:

 

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That's a beautifully grubby looking rocket launcher! Great weathering, especially in 1/72! Very well done. :thumbsup:

Kind regards,

Stix 

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Thanks Stix, very kind of you.

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Thanks bazer, much appreciated.

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Nice job Clive. I keep having to remind myself it's 1:72.........:S. Really sharp job, and some nice detail add on's too....:goodjob:

 

Simon.

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Nicely done Clive. As others have mentioned, even better considering the scale.

 

John.

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Simon, John, Nigel and Francis, thanks all for your most kind comments.

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Lovely job Clive you must have some dam good eyesight :clap2:

 

Regards

Richard

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2 hours ago, Ripaman said:

Lovely job Clive you must have some dam good eyesight :clap2:

 

Regards

Richard

Ha, thanks Richard, sadly not the case. I wear glasses permanently and even then I am almost entirely dependant on my head-mounted magnifier even for the modest kind of detailing I am able to add :( Getting old really sucks, pretty sure I didn't sign up for this!

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One great build Clive and in 1/72(WOW),every placement of the rockets is so accurate,I think the info is a mammoth task on it's own  well done mate,Cheers.

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Thank you Jim and Hairtrigger for your comments, much appreciated :thumbsup2:

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Posted (edited)

I recently obtained a copy of one of the Osprey Modelling Manuals, 'WWII Soft-Skinned Military Vehicles', and just my luck one of the models the book features is the Italeri 1/35 BM-13-16 Katyusha carried on a ZiS-151 truck (so a post-ww2 version). Some very nice pics of the build are shown, and the author's opinion is that the kit still holds its own in terms of quality despite having no meaningful alterations or upgrades since it's original issue in 1976. I might be tempted in the future to return to this subject but in a larger scale.

Edited by clive_t
Added clarification

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