Russia Develops New BM-21 MLRS Variant Offering Ballistic and Mine Protection for Ukraine Battlefield

In a significant development of the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) offering more protection, a picture emerged on the Russian social network "VK" on August 24, 2023, revealing that Russia's defense industry has developed a new version of its BM-21/Tornado-G 122mm MLRS for Ukraine battlefield. This new rocket launcher is based on the 6x6 armored vehicle AMN-590951, offering enhanced protection against ballistic and mine threats.
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The new 122mm MLRS is based on the 6x6 armored vehicle AMN-590951 offering protection against ballistic and mine threats. (Picture source Russian Social Network VK)

The original BM-21 and Tornado-G MLRSs, which are based on a Ural-375D six-by-six truck chassis, have faced considerable vulnerabilities, as evidenced by the loss of more than 150 such artillery systems in Ukraine since the war began in 2022. The new version aims to address these vulnerabilities by incorporating lessons learned from Russian military deployments in Syria. Manufactured by VPK-Ural, the AMN-590951 chassis features additional armor at the front and on the roof and is designed to withstand a blast of 6 kg of TNT under the vehicle floor and wheels.

The new MLRS retains the original design of the Russian-made BM-21/Tornado-G with the engine at the front, the crew in the middle, and the launcher station at the rear. The cabin can accommodate up to four military personnel and is equipped with an automated fire control system, allowing all firing operations to be performed from inside the crew cabin. The vehicle is powered by a 312 hp engine and can run at a maximum road speed of 100 km/h with a cruising range of 1,000 km.

Like the BM-21, the new MLRS is equipped with a bank of 40 launch tubes 122 mm arranged in a rectangular shape that can be turned away from the protected cab. The rocket tube arrangement is a single rectangular bank of four layers each with 10 tubes. The rocket launcher pod is mounted on a mobile elevatable launcher platform which has elevation from 0 to +55º with traverse being 60º right and 120º left.

To increase protection against aerial threats, the roof of the crew cabin can be fitted with a remotely operated weapon station armed with a 7.62mm PKM machine gun.

Beyond these features, the use of an armored chassis offers several inherent advantages. The enhanced protection significantly increases crew safety, allowing the MLRS to be deployed closer to the front lines without compromising the well-being of the personnel. This proximity to the front lines also reduces the time to target, thereby increasing operational effectiveness. Additionally, the armored design is likely to incur less damage from enemy action, reducing the frequency and cost of repairs. The vehicle's mobility is further improved by its powerful engine and high maximum speed.

With its fortified design and enhanced capabilities, Russia's new armored Tornado-G MLRS is poised to play a pivotal role in future conflicts, offering a blend of protection and firepower that could set a new standard for artillery systems worldwide.

Defense News August 2023