The Katyusha (in English katyusha), tender diminutive Catherinette in Russian, is the nickname given by the Soviets to a burst rocket launcher from the Second World War.
Nicknamed by the Germans Stalin's organ (Stalinorgel) because of its characteristics, it consisted of a truck firing rockets in bursts. Several batteries of Katyushas were usually lined up, with the aim of creating a very important barrage and destruction fire. Their formidable firepower was nevertheless offset by a high inaccuracy of fire.
There are two versions of this burst rocket launcher, the 82mm BM-8 and the 132mm BM-13 (BM for Boyevaya Machina - combat vehicle). Each truck had between 14 and 48 launchers.
The rockets of the BM-13 system, called RS-132 (RS for Raketnyi snaryad =self-propelled rocket) were 1.8 m high, 132 mm in diameter and weighed 42 kg. The rockets were launched by a solid nitrocellulose propellant housed in the rocket's steel motor. The rocket was stabilized by cruciform fins formed by the sheet steel. The explosive warhead, which could be fragmentation, was highly explosive and weighed about 22 kg. The firing range of the Katyushas was about 5 km.
The Katyushas are the Soviet answer to the German Nebelwerfer and Panzerwerfer.
Work on Soviet artillery began in 1938 and the deployment of 82mm BM-8s was approved on June 21, 1941. On July 14, 1941, an experimental artillery battery of seven launchers was used for the first time in combat against the German army at Orcha in Belarus under the command of Captain Flerov. The first eight Katyusha regiments (36 launchers in each unit) was created on August 8, 1941. An improved version called BM-13N ("standardized") will be developed in 1943, and more than 1800 rocket launchers of this model will be produced until the end of World War II.
The Katyusha was created jointly by Georgy Erikhovitch Langemak and Sergei Korolev. In 1937, Langemak will be imprisoned, tortured, tried on false complaints and then executed. Sergei Korolev had a similar fate and escaped death in a Soviet gulag, but would later return to lead the Russian space program.
The term Katyusha has become generic to designate rocket launchers of Soviet origin or inspired by it, thus it is used in particular in the Israeli-Lebanese conflict of 2006.