The BM-8 Rocket Launcher, or "Katyusha",[N 1] was a series of rocket launcher systems that was used by the Soviet Union during World War II.


The BM-8 was the first launcher of the series and it fired 82 mm rockets at a range of up to 6,400 meters. The BM-8 also served as the lighter version of the series and could feature anywhere from eight to forty-eight rocket launch tubes.

The rockets could be activated in groups of twos or all at once as necessary and they were launched via an electric signal.[N 2] In order to operate effectively, the Katyusha required at least a crew of two men with four preferably whether the weapon was mounted on a truck, stationary emplacement, etc.

The total weight of the weapon was around 5,500 kilograms while the total length was about 7 meters. The accuracy of the Katyusha was severely lacking even with the later addition of stabilization fins to the rockets.

However, the psychologicial effect was undoubtably far more reaching, causing shell shock among even the more veteran soldiers. The types of ammunition used in the Katyusha was typically HE but towards the end of the war, if firing against large concentrations of armor, even AP rockets could be used as well as illumination models.[1]


The first variant of the series was the M-8-6 model designed to be fired from stationary positions and or sleds/mounts. Following came the BM-8-8 model which was a smaller version of the Katyusha designed to be fired from Lend-Lease Willys Jeeps. The BM-8-36 was designed to be fired from ZiS-5 trucks. The next major variant in the series was the famous BM-13 model which served as a medium launcher. It fired 132 mm rockets from typically around sixteen launch tubes. The BM-13 subsequently spawned its own sub variants each equipped with different features to be used on different platforms and in different situations.

However, with the introduction of the BM-13N, the use of the Studebaker US6 was standardized with the BM-13N launcher. The final variant of the series produced during the war was the BM-31 which fired 300 mm rockets out of a total of twelve launch tubes.[2] As well, it came with its accompanying sub variants.


Soviet Katyushas firing in Berlin, 1945

Several Katyushas mounted on the back of Soviet trucks in Berlin, 1945.

The Katyusha was first developed in the early 1930s and was initially put through combat during the launch of Operation Barbarossa. However limited the Katyusha was in these initial battles, it still proved to be a crucial part of the Soviet defense and like the T-34 and KV-1, was quite a surprise for invading German troops assuming Soviet weapons were very low-tech.

The key to the success of the weapon is often attributed to the fact that it was a cheap system to manufacture even if it required both truck and weapon to be built. They could be built at an incredible pace and in the end, thousands were created. They were then used all along the Eastern Front as a standard weapon of the Red Army


  1. Originally, the BM-8 was nicknamed the flute by Red Army troops (Stalin's Organs by the Germans) but was then renamed Katyusha after the popular wartime song.
  2. If the launcher was mounted on a truck or other vehicle, the igniting system was usually powered by the vehicle's own battery.



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