In the Soviet Army, the multiple rocket launcher (MRL) BM-24-12 succeeded the BM-31-12 in the late 1950s. It was seen for the first time during the Soviet 1953 parade, the launcher system was then originally mounted on the back end of a ZIL-151 6×6 truck. The system is composed by 2 rows of 6 launcher rails located on a rotary framework. Each rocket, the 240 mm M-24 type, is loading manually. The original carrier, the ZIL-151 truck, is equipped with two stabilizing jacks deployed together on the soil before firing to hold the platform. The crew consists of 6 gunners: the windshield and doors windows are equpped with folding armor plates, lowered when firing. The fuel tanks are also protected from rocket’s exhaust by armor plates.
According to SIPRI, 30 BM-24-12 systems were delivered to the Egyptian army between 1964 and 1965, and were, during the 1967 war, the standard multiple rocket launcher of the Egyptian artillery, with the Czechoslovak 130 mm M51.
After the Sinai fighting, the IDF captured a signifiant number of this MRLS. The Israelis found them quite useful to the point that the decision was made to incorporate them into the IDF artillery inventory.
A number of improvements were made by the Israelis on the basic vehicle: The ZIL-151 truck carrier was replaced and the BM-24-12 was mounted then on a ZIL-157 body, more rugged than its predecessor. Several additional devices are visible on the new chassis, as a tool holder mounted on the fuel tank, and two additional brackets for jerrycan mounted on the front mudguards. Three portable fire-extinguishers provide the immediate protection in case of fire. Others improvements were made to the original BM-24-12 system, like an israeli design firing mechanism. Standard IDF communications equipment are also fitted. At the same time, the Israeli military industry (I.M.I.) began developing and manufacturing its own rockets.
The Israeli BM-24-12 MRL was first showed to the public in 1971, when the IDF introduced their news acquisitions, like the M-113 APC and the M109 SPG. Some sources indicate that two independent battalions were equipped with the BM-24-12. But the existence of only one battalion is proved, the 270th, which begins the 1973 October war on the Syrian front, and was later moved into the Egyptian front. During the fighting, the battalion commander was killed in action. After that the ammunition ran out, the batteries returned on the northern front but didn’t see any action, the cease-fire with Syria having taken effect.
The batteries of the 270th battalion were also deployed during Operation Peace for Galilee, in 1982, where they participated in the siege of West Beirut. Another independant battalion was established during this conflict, using the 122 mm BM-11 MRL, the north-korean copy of the Soviet BM-21, mounted on Japanese Izuzu truck. This battalion was dismantled after the Lebanese War.
Text by Mathieu Morant.
Photos provided by the Author.