By all indications, the RM-70 Vampire Multiple Launch Rocket System from Excalibur Army is significantly more interesting than the standard “Grad.” Why?
Our Western partners are striving to provide as much necessary weaponry as possible to help deter the Russian onslaught. The Czech Republic is no exception, as it not only provided shelter for thousands of our refugees, for which we are deeply grateful, but also assists us with various modern armaments.
In mid-April 2022, the Czech Republic transferred twenty RM-70 Vampire Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to Ukraine. After necessary training and preparation of personnel, this equipment soon reached the front lines. With its assistance, the Ukrainian army not only replenished a certain portion of its technical losses but also increased the overall firepower of the military. These multiple launch rocket systems have proven themselves effective. A video showcasing the operation of this powerful installation on one of the most intense frontlines has surfaced online.
Let’s delve into what the renowned Multiple Launch Rocket System RM-70 Vampire represents.
What is interesting about the RM-70 Vampire MLRS
The RM-70 Vampire, a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) developed by Excalibur Army, is an upgraded version of the RM-70 122 MLRS. The MLRS is designed to engage various enemy targets, including infantry, artillery, motorized infantry, tanks, and other combat vehicles.
The first prototype of the RM-70 Vampire was manufactured in February 2015, and successful firing tests were conducted in October 2015. The original RM-70 was mounted on the chassis of the Tatra T-813 truck. However, the new Vampire utilizes an entirely new platform, the heavy tactical truck Tatra T-815-7 8×8. The basic configuration of the rocket system on the vehicle chassis corresponds to the original RM-70, but most of the electrical wiring has been significantly revamped or completely upgraded. The cable system is also entirely new.
The RM-70 Vampire multiple rocket launcher system is capable of concentrating fire on larger enemy-occupied areas, destroying personnel, and combat vehicles. The RM-70 Vampire can be ready to fire in less than 2.5 minutes and leave its combat position within 3 minutes. It can release 40 rockets in less than 30 seconds. According to publicly available information, since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Czech Republic has supplied an undisclosed quantity of 122mm multiple rocket launcher systems (MLRS) RM-70 Vampire to our country.
Several versions of the RM-70 MLRS have been produced. Let’s briefly go through each of them.
- RM-70 M1 — This version of the MLRS features an armored cab, providing protection for the crew against small arms fire and artillery shell fragments. The cabin is also equipped with a system for protection against nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons (NBC). This artillery system was exported to Azerbaijan.
- RM-70 Vampire 4D — This version features an unarmored 4-door cab and was first revealed in 2017. It is this version of the MLRS that has been delivered to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. More details about this version will be discussed below.
- M-21 MT 4×4 – Another new Czech artillery rocket system, but smaller in size. This system is based on a Tatra truck with a 4×4 wheel configuration and has a 40-tube launcher. However, it lacks an integrated reloading system and cannot fire rockets.
History of RM-70 MLRS development
The Multiple Launch Rocket System RM-70 (Raketomet vzor 1970) is the Czechoslovak version of the Soviet BM-21 “Grad” Multiple Rocket Launcher System and shares key components in common with it. The development of the RM-70 took place at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s. In 1971, the system underwent its first trials on a test range, and it was publicly showcased the following year.
The Czechoslovak RM-70 was a highly popular rocket artillery system, and it was exported to numerous countries in its time. The RM-70 is still widely used today. After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, Czech and Slovak companies introduced their own modernizations of the RM-70 rocket artillery system.
In 2005, Slovakia introduced its version of the RM-70 called the RM-70 Modular, which was subsequently adopted into service. Then, in 2015, the Czech Republic presented its own modernization – the RM-70 Vampire. The private company Excalibur Army is responsible for its development. The RM-70 Vampire is a 122mm caliber rocket artillery system that has been in service with the Czech Army since 2016. Essentially, as mentioned earlier, it is a heavier variant of the BM-21 Grad rocket artillery system, providing increased performance. The primary purpose of this rocket artillery system is to engage targets such as troop concentrations, armored vehicles, artillery batteries, and more.
Design and features of RM-70 Vampire
The Czech rocket artillery system RM-70 Vampire is based on the chassis of the military-tactical truck Tatra T-815-7 8×8. The new chassis is equipped with an armored cabin capable of providing protection against biological and chemical weapons, and it also allows for the installation of additional ballistic protection.
The cabin and the vehicle itself were designed to allow for the addition of various levels of armor. The crew cabin accommodates four individuals seated on separate seats equipped with three-point safety belts and adjustable headrests. The driver sits on a separate seat, enabling him to concentrate his attention to the fullest.
The weight of the RM-70 Vampire chassis with an empty multiple rocket launcher system is 18,080 kg, and with a load of 80 rockets, it is 25,890 kg. The crew consists of four individuals.
The armored crew cabin of the RM-70 Vampire multiple rocket launcher provides protection against 7.62mm caliber projectiles and artillery shell fragments. It can also withstand the explosion of 6 kg of TNT.
The cabin is also equipped with an integrated system for protection against biological and chemical weapons. The cabin and the vehicle can be connected with additional armor via hinges to enhance the ballistic protection level.
RM-70 Vampire MLRS engine and mobility
Czech developers equipped their MLRS with an eight-cylinder engine, the Tatra T3C, delivering 402 horsepower in conjunction with the Tatra 10 TS 210 N gearbox featuring a semi-automatic electronic gear shifting system called Tatra Norgren, and an additional gearbox, Tatra 2.30TRS. The engine is capable of producing a maximum power of 270 kW.
The RM-70 Vampire MLRS also boasts an enhanced pneumatic suspension system, providing adjustable ground clearance. The vehicle can reach speeds of 25 km/h off-road and 35 km/h on dirt roads, with a potential range of approximately 1000 km at a maximum speed of up to 90 km/h.
The central tire pressure regulation system installed on the RM-70 Vampire MLRS allows the driver to adjust tire pressure according to the terrain type without leaving the vehicle. In addition, the vehicle can be equipped with a bulldozer blade (BZ-T) with hydraulic drive at the front of the chassis for preparing firing positions and clearing obstacles.
Armament of RM-70 Vampire
In the rear part of the truck chassis, a lifting launching unit for 40 projectiles of caliber 122 mm is installed. Therefore, the RM-70 Vampire is a forty-tube self-propelled artillery system with a loading device used for providing fire support to troops, firing unitary high-explosive fragmentation shells. It should also be noted that an additional batch of 40 powerful 9M22U rockets is located behind the crew cabin for quick reloading. Thus, the RM-70 Vampire carries a total of 80 projectiles of caliber 122 mm. A highly powerful multiple launch rocket system!
The RM-70 Vampire has a built-in reloading mechanism and carries a full set of rockets for reloading. A similar reloading system was also present in the original RM-70. To reload all 40 launch tubes, it takes approximately 2 minutes. This integrated reloading system significantly enhances the firepower of the machine, as one RM-70 Vampire launcher can quickly perform two consecutive salvos.
The rocket launcher has a length of 9.97 meters and is raised using pneumatic springs. All of this is controlled through electronic transmission control in semi-automatic or manual modes. The rocket launch can be executed by the operator from either the crew cabin or from an adjacent shelter using a remote control device.
The rocket launcher can release a full salvo of 40 rockets in less than 30 seconds. The fragmentation-high-explosive rockets have folding stabilizers and can engage targets at a maximum range of 20.3 km. Each 9M22U rocket weighs 66.3 kg.
The effective area of one rocket’s impact can reach up to 3000 square meters, and in reactive fire, up to 3 hectares. The total area of impact for a full salvo of rockets is up to 70 hectares. The RM-70 Vampire rocket launcher crew takes only three minutes to complete the launch sequence, including deployment, firing, and time to change positions.
Digital fire control system
It might seem like just an improved version of the well-known MLRS “Grad,” but it’s not quite that simple. The upgraded modern chassis Tatra T-815-7, a 122-mm system with a reloading mechanism, and the main difference that distinguishes 21st-century artillery from the 20th is the digital fire control system.
This system integrates a computer, a digital ballistic computer, a combined inertial and satellite navigation system, as well as a digital encrypted information exchange system. As a result, it significantly reduces the time from target detection to its destruction. And this parameter is one of the most crucial on the modern battlefield.
Technical characteristics of RM-70 Vampire MLRS
- Weight: with an empty system – 18,080 kg, with a load of 80 rocket projectiles – 25,890 kg
- Chassis: 8×8, Tatra T-815-7
- Protection: against gunfire of 7.62mm caliber and a 6 kg TNT explosion
- Engine: eight-cylinder Tatra T3C with 402 hp and Tatra 10 TS 210 N gearbox
- Maximum Speed: up to 90 km/h
- Length of rocket installation: 9.97 m
- Caliber: 122 mm
- Number of guide tubes: 40
- Range of the shot: 20.3 km (for 9M22U projectile)
- Weight of the 9M22U projectile: 66.3 kg
- Weight of explosives in the warhead of the 9M22U projectile: 6.4 kg
- Crew: 4 persons
RM-70 Vampire is a good find for the Armed Forces of Ukraine
The exact number of RM-70 Vampires in the Armed Forces of Ukraine is currently unknown. Czech Republic transferred at least 20 units to Ukraine in May 2022. Another unit was acquired by Ukraine thanks to Czech citizens. In March 2023, as part of the initiative called “Gift to Putin,” concerned Czech citizens raised several tens of millions of crowns to purchase a system they named “Przemysl.” Czech volunteers also plan to provide an additional 365 rockets for it, ensuring the full equipment of the MLRS. Information about other deliveries of this equipment to Ukraine is currently unknown.
Currently, our military actively uses these multiple launch rocket systems on various fronts. The power of these systems was felt by the residents of Belgorod.
Ukrainian defenders highly appreciate the performance of Czech installations. Comparing the RM-70 with the “Grad” systems, our soldiers say that it’s like switching from a “Zhiguli” to a foreign car. The mobility of the Vampire is significantly higher than that of Soviet counterparts, according to military personnel. Additionally, Czech installations are not only much more protected against enemy strikes but also more comfortable. The cabins are equipped with air conditioners and climate control, significantly easing work during hot and cold conditions. Furthermore, Vampires are equipped with cameras that provide visibility of the surroundings, making operations smoother.
Ukrainian military also emphasize that the RM-70 is fast, user-friendly, and allows for a quick exit from the firing position after engaging a designated target. These MLRS effectively cover large areas of territory, destroying enemy equipment and personnel. One of the significant advantages of these MLRS is the quick automatic reloading function, enabling more efficient elimination of Russian occupiers.
In the current conditions of intense combat with the occupiers, every precision projectile, combat vehicle, air defense system, and guided missile is extremely crucial for us. Therefore, we sincerely want to express gratitude to our Western friends and partners for their assistance and support. There is nowhere for the aggressors to escape from accountability. Glory to Ukraine! Death to enemies! Glory to the Armed Forces of Ukraine!