Rocket artillery

Rocket artillery

Rocket artillery is a type of artillery equipped with rocket launchers instead of conventional guns or mortars.

Types of rocket artillery pieces include multiple rocket launchers.


Pre-modern history

The use of rockets as some form of artillery dates back to medieval China where devices such as fire arrows were used (albeit mostly as a psychological weapon). The basic idea of fire arrows were expanded in such inventions as the Korean Shin Ki Chon. The use of medieval rocket artillery was picked up by the invading Mongols and spread to the Ottoman Turks who in turn used them on the European battlefield. Although the technique was therefore known to Europeans from the 17th century their use fell out of favor until the late 18th century, when Indian forces from Mysore led by Tipu Sultan invented iron rockets for use as rocket artillery against British forces in battle, which led to the British development of the Congreve rocket. The British thereafter used rockets in several armed conflicts during the 19th century.

World War II

Modern rocket artillery was first employed during World War II, in the form of the German Nebelwerfer and Soviet Katyusha-series. The Soviet Katyushas, nicknamed by Nazi German troops Stalin Organs because of their visual resemblance to a church musical organ, were mounted on trucks or light tanks, while the German Nebelwerfer was a towed and therefore less mobile piece. However, the Germans also had some self-propelled rocket artillery in the form of the Panzerwerfer and Wurfrahmen 40 which equipped half-track armoured fighting vehicles. An oddity in the subject of rocket artillery during this time was the German "Sturmtiger", a vehicle based on the Tiger I heavy tank chassis that was armed with a 380 mm rocket mortar.

The Western Allies of World War II employed little rocket artillery. During later periods of the war, British and Canadian troops used the Land Mattress, a towed rocket launcher. The United States Army built and deployed a small number of T34 Calliope rocket tanks (converted from M4 Sherman medium tanks) in France and Italy. In 1945, the British also fitted some Shermans with two 60 lb RP3 rockets, the same as used on ground attack aircraft, which were called "Tulip".

Post-World War II

Israel fitted some of their Sherman tanks with different rocket artillery. An unconventional Sherman conversion was the turretless Kilshon ("Trident") that launched a AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile.

The Soviet Union continued its development of the Katyusha during the Cold War, and also exported them widely.

Modern rocket artillery such as the US M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System is highly mobile and are used in similar fashion to other self-propelled artillery.

Rocket artillery vs Tube artillery

*Rockets produce no recoil, while conventional artillery systems produce significant recoil. Because of this, unless firing within a very small arc with the possibility of wrecking a SP artillery systems vehicle suspension, gun artillery must usually be braced against recoil, gun systems requiring load out time. In this state, they are immobile, and can not change position easily. Rocket artillery is much more mobile and can change position easily. This "shoot-and-scoot" ability makes the platform difficult to target. A rocket artillery piece could, conceivably, fire on the move. Rocket systems however produce a significant amount of backblast, which imposes its own restrictions on how launchers may be sited, and the arcs that they can fire without damage to themselves and neighbouring vehicles.

*Rocket artillery cannot usually match the accuracy and sustained rate of fire of conventional artillery, but may be capable of very destructive strikes by delivering a large mass of explosives simultaneously, thus increasing the shock effect and giving the target less time to take cover. Modern computer-controlled conventional artillery have recently begun to acquire the possibility to do something similar through MRSI.

*Rocket artillery typically has a very large fire signature, leaving a clear smoke-trail showing exactly where the barrage came from. However, since the barrage does not take much time, the rocket artillery can move away quickly.

*Tube artillery can use a forward observer to correct fire, thus achieving further accuracy. This is usually not practical with rocket artillery.

*Tube artillery shells are typically cheaper and less bulky than rockets, so it can deliver a larger amount of explosive at the enemy per weight of ammunition or per money spent.

*While tube artillery shells are smaller than rockets, the gun itself must be very large to match the range of rockets. Therefore rockets typically have longer range while the rocket launchers remain small enough to mount on mobile vehicles. Extremely large guns like the Paris Gun have been rendered obsolete by long range missiles.

*If the artillery barrage was intended as a preparation for an attack, and it usually is, a short but intense barrage will give the enemy less time to prepare by, for instance, dispersing.

*The higher accuracy of gun artillery means that it can be used to attack an enemy close to a friendly force. This combined with the higher capacity for sustained fire makes cannon artillery more suitable for defensive fire. It is also the only practicable system for counter-battery fire.

ee also

* List of artillery rockets
* Multiple rocket launcher
* Tactical ballistic missile

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