At a time when tensions between East and West ran extremely high during the Cold War period (1947-1991) and another major war in Europe seemed all but inevitable, the Soviet Union invested heavily in frontline rocket-projecting weapons to stave off an attack. One such development of the period became the 8x8 wheeled 9K52 "Luna-M" battalion-level mobile battlefield rocket launcher carrying a single large rocket over the modified chassis of a ZiL-135LM military truck. The rocket was capable of unleashing conventional, chemical, and nuclear payloads at range, reaching speeds of Mach 3 in flight, and could "touch" targets as far out as 40 miles. The vehicle was initially developed (under the designation of "3R-11" and "9R11") as a nuclear-capable solution to deter any advanced from the West, mainly in and around East Germany, but were later converted to a conventionally-minded variant to better serve a Soviet frontline assault.
The vehicle was known to NATO as "Frog-7" and remains in limited use worldwide. In practice, it proved inaccurate, sensitive to weather/environment, and required a resupply vehicle on hand to replenish the single-shot rocket component. As such, it was eventually succeeded in the Soviet inventory by the more effective OTR-21 "Tochka" (NATO: SS-21 "Scarab") of 1976 detailed elsewhere on this site.
First-use of this battlefield system was by Syria in 1973 during the Yom Kipper War against Israel. They remained in inventory long enough to be used in today's long-running civil war by Syria.
Major rocket variants of the line included the nuclear-minded 9M21B, the conventional 9M21F (High-Explosive, FRAGmentation - HE-FRAG), and the chemical-capable 9M21Kh. The 9M21E offered cluster munition capability and the Laith-90 was the version used by Iraq in its wars against neighboring Iran and, later, the West. The PV-65 designation covered training systems.
The 9K52 series had a prolific reach for its time, utilized in conflicts ranging from the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989) and Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) to the Syrian Civil War (2011-Present) and the Yemeni Civil War (2014-Present). Its reach was such that it is still found on some battlefields today.
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