Army Rumour Service

Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!

War Rockets

A couple of weeks ago, in the Britain's completely underrated role in WWII thread our chum @KGB-Resident Started banging on about how innovative the Katyusha rocket launcher was, and how great it was. Needless to say this was challenged and @CrashTestDummy started getting sarcastic in our direction about derailing threads. At the time I said I had (by sheer coincidence) been reading up on rockets and thought it might be an idea to start a new thread. This idea was warmly received and so, I immediately failed to leap into action, until now.

As a starting point rockets are horribly inaccurate, every source seems to agree on this, and they're used as area fire weapons to spread the love around. In 1943 a German Propaganda radio broadcast specifically mentioned that the area effect of these weapons was great, as it meant you could batter the unwashed Soviet hordes senseless, and thus preventing them from creating a massive superiority in numbers which was the only way they could achieve success. The Rocket launcher was given as the idea weapon for the eastern front for this reason.
The grown-ups actually agreed, after a fashion, about this. Every POW interrogated, of any rank, and every German source found agreed on the same conclusion. They stressed that rockets were only for area fire, and were unable to engage point targets. This meant that rockets were to serve only as an adjunct to regular artillery and could never replace them. When challenged on this by an integrator one Officer POW became very agitated and shouty on the subject. From documents it appears that the Russians agreed. Here we have a nice document from the early years of the Katyusha:
Испытания автомобильной ракетной установки на шасси ЗИС-5, конструкции НИИ-3, чертежа № 199910 для пуска 132 мм. ракет. (Время испытаний: с 8.12.38 по 4.02.39г.) | Ракетная техника

Now I don't speak Russian, but a colleague who does says the phrases '45 minutes to reload' and 'shooting is unsafe' appear in those documents. For those of you who like pretty pictures there is a nice one of the prototype Katyusha equipment.

All this kind of flies in the face of KGB resident's claim a Katyusha was equivalent to 72 guns. But lets keep looking at the subject. The above was for the prototype equipment, but what about the service equipment. Well Good news! Reload time is down to about 10 minutes (In a sustained fire rate) for a sixteen rail launcher. Each of these launched a rocket with 2lbs of HE. Thus in ten minutes the Katyusha can launch 32lbs of HE at the target.
A German Nebelwerfer can reload in just 90 seconds, although I suspect that's a max rate, and sustained will be slower. For ease we'll use 2 minutes. It's shell comes in with 5.5lbs of filling. So we're looking at 27.5lbs of HE, so Herman Loses out. Of course there's ab it of a difference to one salvo arriving in one big lump, and a ten minute barrage.

But lets set the cat amongst the pigeons, by calculating what a 25-lbr could put down in ten minutes. Rate of fire for 'Normal' is three rounds per minute. In the same time period a 25-pounder can put down 30 rounds (Max rate of fire, BTW, was 8rpm). HE filling is 1.8lbs. thus a total of 54lbs. This can be spread about as needed, or aimed at point targets. Now you can see why the British didn't get involved in surface/surface rocketry at the start of the war, indeed were not really interested until the Canadians sort Heath Robinsoned something together. Britain didn't really buy into rockets until Project JAWL of the mind 1960's where we decided to sit down and work out the technical details on making rockets accurate. We got over the technical difficulties and produced a rocket that was accurate enough, that a battery salvo was judged to able of wiping out 78% of a Red Army Artillery battery. We then started planning to link them to ZENDA radars and basically in the first two days of the Third World War wipe out every single Soviet artillery unit facing us. As we were part of NATO we decided to enter talks about standardisation. The Italians were onboard. Then we got the Germans involved. The Germans happened to have their own equipment they wanted to standardise too (which was inferior in every way apart from price). Thus the Germans began to throw as much mud as they could and raise every objection they could. Despite this we actually overcame most of the problems the Germans created. However they continued to drag their feet, and the Treasury stepped in and killed everything dead on cost grounds in the late 60's. The Germans then began to looks smug, thinking they'd gotten their way, until the US waded in and said have you seen our new MRLS? At which point the Germans just gave up.

But anyway, I'm getting side tracked. WWII rockets are cheap, nasty and crude with limited flexibility. They'd add another ammo nature to the logistic train, which is something the Germans suffered from quite a lot. They often ran short of rockets, which is why many of the larger calibres of launchers had adaptors to allow them to fire the more common 15cm round. But even that was often reported as in short supply. Any Soviet reliance on rocketry was not innovative in any way, but more a factor of throw enough shit at the wall. The Germans began to look at rocketry in the early to mid 1930's, the Soviets in the late 1930's.
At the same time Britain was also working on rockets, but for AA work. Here the Rockets are really great. You can have a light launcher, which can be pivoted fast to track a target, and the characteristics of throwing a large amount of HE up in a few seconds is rather useful. The Germans copied the UK work on AA rockets at least twice during the war with copies of the PAC system, which seems to have been based around large rockets. intel reports seem to indicate they combined the idea of a trainable rocket projector (analogous with a Z battery mount) with a PAC rocket.


Aside from the main narrative, whilst talking about logistics the thought occurred. Why do the Germans always seem so hell bent on creating a new calibre every five seconds? Standardise on one calibre! The Germans had rockets in 2.8in, 5.9in, 8.3in, 11.8in, 11in and 12in. All doing the same bloody job. To fire all these rockets they had at least 10 different launchers. Then with the huge selection of items to choose from, the German designers said 'I know what we need is a smaller rocket with less warhead!' and came up with this monstrosity:
 
I believe that NKVD troops were used at first to maintain secrecy but chucking large amounts of rockets around gets attention. Cheap and easy to knock out in large numbers and they obviously worked for the Soviets but still dumb ordnance. Must have frightened the horses.
 

aardvark64

War Hero
As was pointed out in the other thread, British Army use dates back to Napoleonic Times:

Wikipedia: Congreve Rockets

32-pdr tip:



(image from the Wiki site - see there for attribution)
 

tiv

LE
Congreve.jpg

The Congreve was replace by the Hale that dispensed with the stick, using offset nozzles to spin stabilize it. Accuracy problems were due to transportation causing cracks in the filling leading to uneven burning.

Hale-&-Launcher.jpg
 
Last edited:
Here's a partial translation of a Soviet document outlining the equipment, personnel, and capabilities of a rocket brigade.
Tank Archives: Katyusha Brigade
Interestingly, the names are translated as "Mortar Brigade" and "Mortar Regiment".

Reload time varies, depending on whether they actually carry any reloads with them. The Mortar Brigade is listed as carrying only one salvo, so reload time is 2 hours. It would appear that they would fire one salvo and then go back to wherever their rockets were stockpiled to reload.

The Mortar Regiment on the other hand is listed as carrying 4 salvos, and reload time was 6 to 10 minutes.

The key things though are these bits describing how they were to be used.
The Guards Mortar Brigade is applied in one piece in the direction of the main offensive in order to destroy the front line of enemy defenses.

The Guards Mortar Regiment is applied in one piece in the direction of the main offensive in order to destroy field fortifications and enemy manpower both on the front lines and in depth of enemy defenses.

Note the emphasis on applying the salvo all at once on one target to destroy the enemy defences. The evident intention is to land a blow all at once just prior to attacking to facilitate penetrating the enemy's front line.

The Soviets pretty evidently had no intention of using rockets to replace conventional artillery, as they continued to develop and deploy artillery in large numbers. Instead, rockets were there to fulfil a very specific purpose and were to be used in a very specific way to complement artillery.

The translation of the unit types as "mortar" is also interesting. It also shows that they didn't see rockets being a replacement for "artillery" any more than mortars were.
 
On the different calibres and logistics thing, Hitler wanted a new generation of tanks producing every 12 to 18 months, hence the increase from PanzerIII in 1940 to the King Tiger in 1944. That's okay if your economy can cope with that sort of thing, but the German economy couldn't.

Presumably that, and the multiple agencies all designing their own systems, is the reason for the Germans not standardising their rockets.
 
The translation of the unit types as "mortar" is also interesting. It also shows that they didn't see rockets being a replacement for "artillery" any more than mortars were.

'Mortar' at least in British parlarnce, is a catch all term for any ordance that we can't classify as gun or howitzer. It maybe the Russians had similar ideas.

Presumably that, and the multiple agencies all designing their own systems, is the reason for the Germans not standardising their rockets.

I suspect its more of this than anything else.
 
On the different calibres and logistics thing, Hitler wanted a new generation of tanks producing every 12 to 18 months, hence the increase from PanzerIII in 1940 to the King Tiger in 1944. That's okay if your economy can cope with that sort of thing, but the German economy couldn't.

Presumably that, and the multiple agencies all designing their own systems, is the reason for the Germans not standardising their rockets.
Different types of tanks were there to fulfil different purposes. The Tiger was the German equivalent to the Soviet KV (and later IS) or the British Churchill. These tanks sacrificed mobility in favour of heavy armour. Their role was to to be the in spearhead of an attack on well defended enemy positions and punch a hole through allowing the more lightly armoured but more mobile medium tanks to follow through behind them and exploit the opening.

So on the German side the medium tank line went Pz III --> Pz IV --> Panther. The heavy side went Pz IV --> Tiger --> King Tiger. The Pz IV was originally supposed to be an "infantry support" tank, but the early versions were really too lightly armoured for that. It was moved into the medium role when the Pz III became inadequate. Messing up this lineage a bit are the self propelled guns, many of which fulfilled parts of the same role as the heavy tank.
 

Latest Threads

Top