World War 2 (1939-1945) finally brought to bear the power and lethality of in-direct missile strikes from one nation against another primarily through Germany's V-1/V-2 programs. In the post-war decades, the Soviets - already familiar with the inherent power of amassed formations of rocket projectors against its German foe - undertook considerable effort to bring about a plethora of missile/rocket-projecting solutions to bring to bear against the West should the Cold War ever have "gone hot". One of these creations, the OTR-21 "Tochka" (GRAU designation of "9K79", known to NATO as the SS-21 "Scarab") appeared in its original form in 1976.
This weapon, a 6x6 wheeled tactical ballistic missile launcher, has seen extensive combat service since, covering the clashes of the Yemeni Civil Wars (1994 and 2015), the First (1994-1996) and Second (2000-2009) Chechen wars, the Syrian Civil War (2011-Present), the War in Donbass (2014-Present), the Saudi involvement in Yemen (2015-Present), the Nagomo-Karabakh Conflict (2020), and the Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine (2022).
The advancement of missiles led to larger, more powerful solutions that offered greater accuracy than that of carpeting an entire target area with rockets while still retaining the inherently terrifying psychological value. In-direct fire allows a launcher source to arc its lethal payload, from range, and rain down onto enemy positions or fixed targets, giving a tactical edge to the attacker in this scenario. The prospect of a wheeled delivery vehicle means that the system can be relocated to another firing location once resupplied with a fresh missile - however, this requires the commitment of accompanying resupply vehicles and additional support staff for optimal performance on the battlefield.
Series production of OTR-21 vehicles began in 1973 under the KBM (Kolomna) brand label followed by Soviet deployment of the mobile launchers in 1981 to East Germany. These were used to succeed an aging line of 9K52 "Luna-M" rocket projectors which arrived back in 1964.
The complete OTR-21 system involves a lightly-armored, all-wheel 6x6 military truck chassis capable of on-road / off-road travel seating a single missile launcher unit over the rear hull. The vehicle portion of the system is the 9P129. The rocket component - seated on the BAZ-5921 Mobile TEL launcher - is a single-stage, solid-fueled weapon with variable operational range depending on the production variant. These missiles reach speeds of Mach 5.3 and are guided to the target by inertial guidance systems (the "Tochka-R" version since added passive radar support to better engage radar-emitting installations).
The "Scarab-A" was the initial missile development of 1975 and could be used with High-Explosive (HE), FRAGmentation (FRAG), and nuclear warheads. These missiles featured an engagement range of about 43 miles but suffered from accuracy issues (error probability of less-than 490 feet). The "Scarab-B" ("Tochka-U") improved error probability accuracy by about 200 feet to less than 315 feet and range was enhanced to 75 miles. These missiles came online in 1989 after years of testing. B-models were then followed by the improved 'Scarab-C" in the 1990s. Range was enhanced to 115 miles and error probability lowered to 230 feet - making for a much useful vehicle.
Many former Soviet allies have since given up use of the OTR-21 system including Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic/Czechia), Poland, and Slovakia. However, the missile still remains in play for the forces of Russia, Ukraine, North Korea, Syria, Kazakhstan, Yemen, and others. Russian Army versions have been succeeded by the 9K720 "Iskander" series in time.
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April 2022 - A Tochka-U (SS-21) missile was blamed by the West for the attack on a Kramatorsk train station that led to the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian civilians. Russia denies the missile was fired from their forces, a report contradicted by Western intelligence and Ukrainian evidence.
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