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Ukraine conflict: Russian forces employ guided rockets

The BM-30 Smerch, recognisable from the distinctive MAZ-530M chassis. The Tornado-S is a deep upgrade to this system. (Russian MoD)

Evidence is emerging from the conflict in Ukraine appearing to show that Russian forces are utilizing guided rockets – the 9M544 and 9M549 – with video and photographs of the remains of these types appearing across social media.

The 9M544 and 9M549 are understood to be the latest guided rockets fired from Russia's Tornado-S system. According to official information, these have a range of 120 km and a circular error probable (CEP) of 5–10 m. Images of rocket fragments with the guidance and control unit code 9B706 have appeared in areas where the 9K515 Tornado-S multiple rocket launch (MRL) system has been active.

The guided rockets have achieved an increase in range and accuracy over earlier types by equipping the nose module with cruciform aerodynamic rudders and integrating the 9B706 control system with on-board radio-electronic equipment.The 9B706 uses the CH398M strapdown inertial navigation system (SINS), which receives data from angular velocity and linear acceleration sensors. This, along with the GLONASS modules (also integrated into the 9B706 control system unit), provides a real-time data feed to generate an optimal quasi ballistic flight path for the 9M544 and 9M549 rockets.

Furthermore, the rocket's apogee is in the upper layers of the stratosphere, thereby reducing drag and supporting the increase in range.

The marked increase in accuracy versus earlier rocket types – for example, 9M55K (HE Frag) and 9M528 (HE Frag - parachute retarded) rockets, which have standard electronic time devices and a CEP of 150 m – is primarily due to the combination of the CH938M SINS and GLONASS.

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