What was the point of rocket artillery?

I’m thinking mainly of the WWII era rocket artillery, such as the Nebelwerfer and Katyusha. Wikipedia lists some advantages, the main being the mobility of the launch platform compared to a conventional artillery piece, which had to be braced for recoil (another main advantage being the huge barrage that could be delivered at once to a target; I don’t know if the rockets had greater range than artillery shells). But how much of an advantage could that mobility actually give you? Could those launchers be quickly reloaded in the field? I imagine the rockets were also quite a bit larger than a typical artillery shell, meaning you couldn’t carry as many.

The mobility means you’re less suspectable to counter-battery fire. You can shoot off your entire loadout and move before the return fire came in. As you noted, there’s also an advantage to the sheer amount of firepower that you can unload into a target in a short amount of time. Depending on the design of the rocket, they can also be longer ranged than most artillery.

Tube and rocket artilleries are complimentary and have different advantages - most modern armies use a combination of both, with the MLRS seeing widespread use in NATO armies and various rocket systems even more common among the former eastern bloc.

High saturation of a particular point on the battlefield. A single multi-tube rocket launcher can drop a lot of ordnance very quickly on a particular point relative to something like a howitzer. The uses of this are situational, but you can see the advantage if, for example, you are trying to spread a chemical agent.

Their mobility was used to great effect during the battle of Stalingrad. Zhukov was outnumbered during most of the siege, but he had a battery of Katyusha launchers based behind a ridge where the German artillery were unable to target them. So they would load up all the rockets they could carry, drive out to a suitable firing position, fire off a couple barrages and drive back to shelter before the Germans could pinpoint their location and fire off an artillery barrage of their own. And they did this several times each day, so Zhukov effectively got the benefit of two or three conventional artillery batteries which would have taken much longer to re-deploy and would have been more vulnerable to counter-attacks.

The horrendous wail that these things gave off were also morale-killers as well.

So would you say that they were reliant on close proximity to a supply point?

How easy was it to reload one of these launchers?

Well, yes. The supply line to the shore of the Don river was apparently not too far from where they were based, and given the circumstances it would certainly have been difficult to supply them at a different location. I’m not sure about the specifics of their operation, but I have to imagine constantly moving around like that must have used up a substantial quantity of fuel, as well.

Ease of vehicle conversion too.

Rocket launchers were bolted to Ma Deuce trucks, tanks, half tracks, landing craft, lightners, towed by jeeps–there were probably horse-drawn ones!

Bolding mine
<nitpick mode> Chuikov</nm>m the name of the commander was Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov.

bolding mine again.
<nitpick again>Stalingrad (now Volgograd) is located on the shores of the Volga river.</na>

Tube artillery needs a lot of pieces to get a significant first impact. If you only have a couple of units, after the first few shells explode, troops have time to get to cover, making the rest quite ineffective overall.

Say you have 5 artillery pieces. All five fire at once, then continue with another salvo every 5 seconds. At the impact point, the 5 rounds hit, then the troops have 5 seconds to find cover before the next impact, and another 5seconds after that, etc. Within the first few seconds, the majority of the troops will be in trenches or other cover. Its more complex than this, especially with modern systems that can fire multiple rounds that all impact at all the same time.

Now take 5 MLRS, with all five firing at once, 12 rockets per unit, or 60 rockets total, over a span of 2 seconds. At the impact point, all 60 rockets will land at the target area within the same 2 second span, giving the troops on the ground almost no time to react and seek cover.

Downside is they cost a lot more to deploy, and the individual rounds are a LOT bigger, so far less ammo can be carried.

The Vietnamese of the northern variety (and also Viet Cong) would set up a single 122mm rocket on a disposable launcher and set off a delayed fuse of some kind and then leave the area. This was simply H & I fire (harrassment and interdiction), but it worked well in that function even if only semi-aimed and they lost no one to counter-battery fire.

I don’t think incoming artillery barrages, no matter the type, have ever rated very high on the infantryman’s Uplifting scale :stuck_out_tongue:

ETA : Unless it’s falling short, of course. Then it’s a hoot.

That’s still standard Hizballah tactics, and one reason Israel had such a hard time stopping them in 2006.

There is a similar multiple strike system using conventional artillery that has been used ever since howitzers came into use.

It all to do with angle of trajectory, as long as you are shooting withing the maximum range of your weapons, there are two angles you can shoot and still hit the same place, one high, the other low, and if you are laying down a carpet artillery attack, you can get pretty much most of your rounds to strike within a couple of seconds.

You aim high, you have a certain flight time, if you depress your angle, you can fire again and the flight time is reduced, keep doing this and you will find aiming times and angles where you can actually fire several rounds and due to differant flight times, they can all hit ground almost the same time, and with great care you can get them to strike damn close together.

Some large calibre mortars - artillery types, also had pressure bleed valves, so that you could keep the same angle of trajectory but change the range, or vice versaan adaptation was to use a combination of gas bleed and trajectory to drop a number of rounds on teh same spot so that they all strike at once.

I saw a Kaytushka fire a full barrage.
Your balls hop out and run away…and I was on the shooting end of the equation.

This pretty much sums up the advantages of rocket artillery and why a modern army has both kinds.

It’s all about combined arms, kids.

Ma Deuce is a machine gun. You’re thinking of ‘deuce and a half’ 2 1/2 ton trucks.


The related action that was perfected years ago is the Time On Target barrage where every gun in multiple batteries, depending on caliber and range, is fired with the intent to hit the target nearly simultaneously. The U.S. Army artillery was sufficiently good at this that during the retreat in the Philipines, the Japanese actually protested its use.

Planes have a similar effect using rockets. It was a pretty standard comparison to note that one plane or another had the (momentary) firepower of a light cruiser when turning loose all its rockets and cannons at the same time.

I think a .50BMG with a rocket launcher mounted on it would be pretty damn cool :smiley:

I’d think another advantage of rockets is that the launcher is pretty cheap - like teh interwebs, “It’s basically a series of tubes”. Not sure how the cost of the projectiles compares to artillery rounds of comparable payload.