Developed during the Cold War, the 9K52 Luna-M was a Soviet mobile missile launcher, later succeeded by the OTR-21 Tochka.

The Soviet Union invested heavily in front-line missile launchers to thwart an attack. This type of missile has directional tails but does not have a guidance system, making it only considered a rocket instead of a real ballistic missile.

One of the most powerful weapons that is extremely dangerous for any country that owns them. Modifications allow them to have a range of up to 90km and accuracy is also greatly improved. Currently, this variant of the missile is still produced by North Korea and Iran.

Luna-M entered service in 1964. Originally called the 3R-11 and 9R11, the 9M21 is a solid fuel rocket with four off-angle vernier chambers immediately behind the warhead section. When the main engine section ignites, the verniers activate to start spinning the rocket to improve stability and accuracy. At range, the 9M21 has a nominal circular error probable of 400 meters.

The initial 3R-11 rocket, known also by its military designation R-65, measured 8.9 meters in length. It was replaced in 1968 with an improved R-70 which measured 9.4 meters. This new variant allowed for switching warhead sections and the addition of air brakes at the rear of the rocket, lowering the minimum range to 15 km.

The rocket is mounted on a transporter erector launcher designated 9P113. Based on the ZIL-135LM 8×8 truck, it features a large hydraulic crane to allow faster reloading. This complex became the most massive in the Soviet army, the peak of deployment of combat vehicles of the complex occurred in 1986, when they were in the army about 750 pieces.

A significant drawback of the “Luna-M” complex was the low accuracy of firing, even the use of nuclear warheads did not provide guaranteed defeat of pointwise well-protected targets like command post, etc. In the early 1960s the Soviets experimented with a modified 9P113 launch vehicle with a fully-enclosed superstructure and launch roof. This did not solve the issue entirely though, necessitating the development of the Tochka.

In Soviet service, the Luna-M was organized into battalions to provided divisions with rocket artillery support. Preparing the launcher to fire could take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, and launch sites were generally located 20 to 25 kilometers behind the front line. It was the longest-ranged artillery system available to a division commander and typically reserved for special missions. Because the rocket’s inaccuracy at long range made the use of conventional warheads insufficient barring a large and vital target, the system was more useful deploying specialized warheads.

Active operators include former Soviet allied players such as Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Libya, North Korea, and Ukraine. Former operators of note include Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Iraq, Kuwait, Poland, and Romania.


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