TechMissile strike on Belgorod shopping center raises concerns over Ukrainian use of RM-70 systems

Missile strike on Belgorod shopping center raises concerns over Ukrainian use of RM‑70 systems

RM-70 Vampire in action.
RM-70 Vampire in action.
Images source: © X | Screenshot

2:37 PM EST, February 15, 2024

The city of Belgorod, located in Russia, along with its surroundings, regularly succumbed to bombardment from Ukrainians. Being on the border with Ukraine, the region is a significant hub for repairing and maintaining damaged Russian military equipment. Several military setups, including the 357th Air Force Training Center, also operate within the city.

Considering the strategic importance of these targets, the Ukrainian attacks are not entirely surprising. For instance, in the attack on February 14, 2024, some of the fired missiles either deviated or were potentially intercepted, as stated by Russian sources. An important point is that the warhead's detonation might not always ensue due to a direct missile hit. It could have exploded after the missile's fall on the Magnit shopping center. Reportedly, the Ukrainians employed multiple-launch rocket systems RM-70, which originated from the Czech Republic or Slovakia.

The RM-70: A Czech-style Interpretation of the Russian BM-21 Grad

Brought into service in 1972, the RM-70 systems denote a significant part of the Czechoslovak army's arsenal. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a simple adaptation of the Soviet BM-21 Grad launcher. The system deploys the same 122 mm caliber rockets but entails an entirely different design.

The engineers of Czechoslovakia at the time opted for local Tatra chassis. Aside from the launch pad, this setup made room for an additional fire unit. As a result, it delivered a higher degree of operational independence, facilitating a double salvo without needing an ammunition vehicle or depot access.

Originally, the RM-70 utilized 122mm-caliber rockets capable of hitting targets up to 13 miles away housed in a 40-rail launcher, allowing the entire charge to be fired within 20 seconds. The array usually consisted of rockets carrying a 42-pound shrapnel-destructive warhead covering a 98 feet impact radius. There were also alternative versions featuring cassette warheads filled with anti-tank bomblets or anti-infantry mines.

However, considering the distance of roughly 22 miles from the border of Ukraine to Belgorod, it seems likely that rockets with an approximate range of 25 miles were employed. Such rockets are produced by several countries, including Poland, which manufactures the M-21 "FENIKS" rockets, remnants of which have been discovered in Russia in the past.

These rockets involve a different rocket fuel composition, featuring a simple unguided design with an upgraded rocket engine. This has essentially doubled the range while retaining the exact dimensions.

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