Rocket (weapon)

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Katyusha rocket launcher, one of the earliest modern rocket artillery weapons Katyusha launcher rear.jpg
Katyusha rocket launcher, one of the earliest modern rocket artillery weapons

A rocket is a self-propelled, unguided weapon system powered by a rocket engine. Rockets are used primarily as medium and long-range artillery systems, although historically they have also seen considerable use as air-to-surface, some use as air-to-air weapons, and even a few examples of surface-to-air devices. Examples of modern surface-to-surface rocket systems include the BM-27 Uragan and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System.

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In military parlance, a rocket differs from a missile primarily by lacking an active guidance system; early missiles were known as "guided rockets" or "guided missiles". Some rockets were developed as unguided systems and later upgraded to guided versions, like the GMLRS, and these generally retain the term "rocket" instead of becoming missiles. [1] Rockets or missiles that travel underwater, like the VA-111 Shkval, are known as torpedoes no matter what their propulsion system is.

Early development

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), and gradually spread to Europe and the Middle East. Rockets became a significant weapon during the 20th century, when precise manufacturing processes made relatively accurate rockets possible.

Basic roles

Artillery

M270 MLRS MLRS 05.jpg
M270 MLRS

Rockets have been used as an artillery weapon for centuries, and continue to be used in the modern age after being extensively modernized in World War II. Rockets in the artillery role complement traditional field guns, being superior in some ways and inferior in others. Rocket artillery tends to be simpler, lighter and more mobile than guns or howitzers, most of which must be emplaced. Guns tend to have better accuracy, consistency, and range, while rocket artillery is light enough to be employed closer to the front lines and excels at saturation fire, expending its entire ammunition load in a single barrage on a target. The saturation fire produced by rocket artillery is only somewhat approximated in effectiveness with gun artillery via the time on target barrage method.

Time-sensitive soft target interdiction (such as personnel or unarmored vehicles moving in large groups) is where rocket artillery is particularly useful. This allows for the shoot-and-scoot method, avoiding the enemy counter-battery fire that is the greatest risk to emplaced artillery pieces, while maximizing damage to the target before it can find better cover. (see Rocket artillery vs gun artillery)

German Army Panzerfaust 3. Panzerfaust3.jpg
German Army Panzerfaust 3.

Portable anti-tank

With the invention of the tank, the infantry required a weapon to counter the threat. Tank armour soon developed beyond the point at which an anti-tank rifle could practically be carried by an infantryman, and by the Second World War rocket weapons such as the US bazooka and German Panzerschreck were in service. Development continued after the war, with weapons such as the RPG-7, although a need to increase range led to the development of guided weapons to fulfill the anti-tank role. Most modern armies now use guided missiles for long-range engagements and rockets for close-range or emergency use; disposable weapons such as the RPG-26 are popular for this.

The use of anti-tank weapons to attack buildings and other targets has led to the development of weapons and ammunition designed specifically to attack non-tank targets, such as the one-shot LASM and the larger SMAW.

Air-launched

AH-64 carrying rocket pods AH-64D Apache Longbow.jpg
AH-64 carrying rocket pods

Unguided rockets are a widely used weapon system and have been launched from aircraft since the early 20th century, to attack land, sea and air targets. Even after the development of guided missiles, rockets remain useful for short-range attacks – typically for close air support missions.

70mm (2.75")

The standard NATO calibre is 70mm and is meanwhile considered as the international calibre. The rockets can be fired from a variety of rotary and fixed-wing platforms and combat aircraft of many nations worldwide by means of a rocket launcher. The 70mm rocket system offers several warhead configurations that fulfill a wide range of special mission requirements to defeat soft to lightly armored targets.

See also

Related Research Articles

Missile Self-propelled guided weapon system

In military terminology, a missile, also known as a guided missile or guided rocket, is a guided airborne ranged weapon capable of self-propelled flight usually by a jet engine or rocket motor. Missiles have five system components: targeting, guidance system, flight system, engine and warhead. Missiles come in types adapted for different purposes: surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles, air-to-air missiles, and anti-satellite weapons.

Rocket-propelled grenade Shoulder-launched anti-tank weapon

A rocket-propelled grenade is a shoulder-fired missile weapon that launches rockets equipped with an explosive warhead. Most RPGs can be carried by an individual soldier, and are frequently used as anti-tank weapons. These warheads are affixed to a rocket motor which propels the RPG towards the target and they are stabilized in flight with fins. Some types of RPG are reloadable with new rocket-propelled grenades, while others are single-use. RPGs are generally loaded from the front.

Anti-aircraft warfare Measures to combat enemy aerial forces

Anti-aircraft warfare or counter-air defence is the battlespace response to aerial warfare, defined by NATO as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action". It includes surface based, subsurface, and air-based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements, and passive measures. It may be used to protect naval, ground, and air forces in any location. However, for most countries the main effort has tended to be homeland defence. NATO refers to airborne air defence counter-air and naval air defence as anti-aircraft warfare. Missile defence is an extension of air defence, as are initiatives to adapt air defence to the task of intercepting any projectile in flight.

Indirect fire is aiming and firing a projectile without relying on a direct line of sight between the gun and its target, as in the case of direct fire. Aiming is performed by calculating azimuth and inclination, and may include correcting aim by observing the fall of shot and calculating new angles.

Autocannon

An autocannon, automatic cannon or machine cannon is a fully automatic gun that is capable of rapid-firing large-caliber armour-piercing, explosive or incendiary shells, as opposed to the smaller-caliber kinetic projectiles (bullets) fired by a machine gun. Autocannons have a longer effective range and greater terminal performance than machine guns, due to the use of larger/heavier munitions, but are usually smaller than tank guns, howitzers, field guns or other artillery. When used on its own, the word "autocannon" typically indicates a non-rotary weapon with a single barrel. When multiple rotating barrels are involved, such a weapon is referred to as a "rotary autocannon" or simply "rotary cannon".

Anti-tank warfare

Anti-tank warfare originated from the need to develop technology and tactics to destroy tanks during World War I (1914–1918). Since the Triple Entente developed the first tanks in 1916 but did not deploy them in battle until 1917, the German Empire developed the first anti-tank weapons. The first developed anti-tank weapon was a scaled-up bolt-action rifle, the Mauser 1918 T-Gewehr, that fired a 13mm cartridge with a solid bullet that could penetrate the thin armor of tanks of the time and destroy the engine or ricochet inside, killing occupants. Because tanks represent an enemy's greatest force projection on land, military strategists have incorporated anti-tank warfare into the doctrine of nearly every combat service since. The most predominant anti-tank weapons at the start of World War II in 1939 included the tank-mounted gun, anti-tank guns and anti-tank grenades used by the infantry, as well as ground-attack aircraft.

Artillery battery Artillery unit size designation

In military organizations, an artillery battery is a unit or multiple systems of artillery, mortar systems, rocket artillery, multiple rocket launchers, surface-to-surface missiles, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, etc., so grouped to facilitate better battlefield communication and command and control, as well as to provide dispersion for its constituent gunnery crews and their systems. The term is also used in a naval context to describe groups of guns on warships.

Rocket launcher Portable device that propels unaimed rocket

A rocket launcher is a device that launches an unguided, rocket-propelled projectile, although the term is often used in reference to mechanisms that are portable and capable of firing actual rockets.

Shoulder-fired missile

A shoulder-fired missile, shoulder-launched missile, man-portable rocket launcher, or man-portable missile is a rocket-propelled explosive projectile small enough to be carried by a single person and fired while held on one's shoulder. The word "missile" in this context is used in its original broad sense of a heavy projectile, and encompasses all guided missiles and unguided rockets. In many instances, although not technically defining all shoulder-fired missiles, the name bazooka is regularly used as an informal name, although the actual Bazooka is a type of unguided rocket launcher in its own right.

Multiple rocket launcher Rocket artillery system capable of launching multiple rockets in quick succession

A multiple rocket launcher (MRL) or multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) is a type of rocket artillery system that contains multiple launchers which assembled onto a same platform, and shoots its rocket ordnance in a fashion similar to a volley gun. Rockets are self-propelled in flight and have different capabilities than conventional artillery shells, such as longer effective range, lower recoil, typically considerably higher payload than a similarly sized gun artillery platform, or even carrying multiple warheads.

Suppressive fire Weapons fire that degrades the performance of an enemy force below the level needed to fulfill its mission

In military science, suppressive fire is "fire that degrades the performance of an enemy force below the level needed to fulfill its mission". When used to protect exposed friendly troops advancing on the battlefield, it is commonly called covering fire. Suppression is usually only effective for the duration of the fire. It is one of three types of fire support, which is defined by NATO as "the application of fire, coordinated with the maneuver of forces, to destroy, neutralise or suppress the enemy".

Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket

The Mk 4 Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket (FFAR), also known as Mighty Mouse, was an unguided rocket used by United States military aircraft. 2.75 inches (70 mm) in diameter, it was designed as an air-to-air weapon for interceptor aircraft to shoot down enemy bombers, but primarily saw service as an air-to-surface weapon. The FFAR has been developed into the modern Hydra 70 series, which is still in service.

Ranged weapon Any weapon that can engage targets beyond hand-to-hand distance

A ranged weapon is any weapon that can engage targets beyond hand-to-hand distance, i.e. at distances greater than the physical reach of the user holding the weapon itself. The act of using such a weapon is also known as shooting. It is sometimes also called projectile weapon or missile weapon because it typically works by launching solid projectiles ("missiles"), though technically a fluid-projector and a directed-energy weapon are also ranged weapons. In contrast, a weapon intended to be used in hand-to-hand combat is called a melee weapon.

Wunderwaffe Propaganda term for WWII German weapons programmes

Wunderwaffe is German for "wonder weapon" and was a term assigned during World War II by Nazi Germany's propaganda ministry to some revolutionary "superweapons". Most of these weapons however remained prototypes, which either never reached the combat theater, or if they did, were too late or in too insignificant numbers to have a military effect.

Avibras Brazilian defense industry company

Avibras Indústria Aeroespacial is a diversified Brazilian company which designs, develops and manufactures defense products and services. Its range of products encompasses artillery and aircraft defense systems, rockets and missiles such as air-to-ground and surface-to-surface weapon systems, including artillery rocket systems; 70 mm air-to-ground systems and fiber optic multi-purpose guided missiles. It makes armoured vehicles as well.

Rocket artillery

Rocket artillery is artillery that uses rockets as the projectile. The use of rocket artillery dates back to medieval China where devices such as fire arrows were used. Fire arrows were also used in multiple launch systems and transported via carts. By the late nineteenth century, due to improvements in the power and range of conventional artillery, the use of early military rockets declined; they were finally used on a small scale by both sides during the American Civil War. Modern rocket artillery was first employed during World War II, in the form of the German Nebelwerfer family of rocket ordnance designs, Soviet Katyusha-series and numerous other systems employed on a smaller scale by the Western allies and Japan. In modern use, the rockets are often guided by an internal guiding system or GPS in order to maintain accuracy.

List of abbreviations, acronyms and initials related to military subjects such as modern armour, artillery, infantry, and weapons, along with their definitions.

Bulgaria is a NATO member country with a large indigenous defence industry. Most of its weaponry is of Soviet design, but with significantly improved performance. Bulgaria is ranked as a "medium" small arms exporter according to the Small Arms Survey.

Precision-guided munition "Smart bombs", used to strike targets precisely

A precision-guided munition is a guided munition intended to precisely hit a specific target, to minimize collateral damage and increase lethality against intended targets. During the First Gulf War guided munitions accounted for only 9% of weapons fired, but accounted for 75% of all successful hits. Despite guided weapons generally being used on more difficult targets, they were still 35 times more likely to destroy their targets per weapon dropped.

Man-portable anti-tank systems are shoulder-launched anti-tank rockets. They are typically unguided weapons and are a threat to armored vehicles, low-flying aircraft, and field fortifications. Generally, MANPATS fall into three distinct categories. The first consist of a small, disposable preloaded launch tube firing a high explosive anti-tank warhead operated by a single soldier. The second is a firing system onto/into which a rocket is loaded, operated by a single soldier. The third are manufactured prepacked and issued as a single unit of ammunition with the launcher discarded after a single use.

References

  1. "GMLRS". British Army. 18 October 2012. Archived from the original on 18 October 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2019.