Type 81 122mm Multiple Rocket Launcher
The Type 81 is the 122mm, 40-tube multiple launch rocket system was developed from the Soviet BM-21 ‘Grad’, which was first fielded in the Soviet Army in 1964 and regarded as the world's most widely used artillery rocket system. The Type 81 entered PLA service in 1982 and was produced in mass numbers. It is the standard artillery rocket system at motorised infantry division level. Based on the Type 81 design, NORINCO has also developed the tracked Type 89 and the improved truck-mounted Type 90.
The PLA captured some Soviet-made BM-21 ‘Grad’ 122mm 40-tube multiple launch rocket systems during the 1979 Sino-Vietnam border conflict. These BM-21s were later used as an example for China’s own indigenous 122mm artillery rocket design. The resulted Type 81 122mm artillery rocket system was introduced in 1981 and entered PLA service in 1982. The Type 81 was designed to deliver a high volume of fire within a very short period of time to cover large area targets such as troops in open, armour formations, railway stations, airfields, weapon storages, etc. However, the weapon has a poor accuracy and is not suitable for engaging point and moving targets.
The Type 81 was initially fielded by the PLA ground forces as an corps-level artillery weapon. Each Group Army (GA) has a Type 81 regiment (54 units) in its subordinated artillery division. However, due to its excellent performance, the Type 81 was soon being assigned to division level to replace the older 130mm 19-tube artillery rocket. By the mid-1990s most PLA motorised infantry divisions have a Type 81 battalion (18 units) in their subordinated artillery regiment. The PLA has also fielded a tracked variant of the multiple launch rocket known as Type 89 in its armoured troops.
The Type 81 fires 122mm free rockets to a maximum range of 20km. The rocket consists of one piece, with the warhead attached with the rocket motor. A fixed amount of propellant is contained in the rocket motor. The rocket uses fin and low speed spin stabilisation to ensure the firing accuracy. The rocket delivers high-explosive (HE) warheads containing steel balls and prefabricated fragments. NORINCO has also developed a range of specialised warheads including High-Explosive Incendiary (HEI), anti-tank/anti-personnel submunition, and mind-laying, all of which can be fired from the Type 81 rocket launcher.
The rocket launcher is mounted on a Yan’an SX2150 6X6 truck. The electrically powered launcher has four rows of 10 tubes mounted above each other on a rotating cradle assembly. The launch tubes have an elevation range of 0° to 55° and azimuth range of -102° to +70°. The rocket launcher can be operated in manual, semi-automatic, or automatic modes. The electrical firing system fires the rockets in either single or in salvo with 0.5 seconds interval. The launcher can be operated inside the driver’s cab or remotely outside the vehicle. The Type 81 can fire 40 rockets in 20 seconds. The reloading by its 7-man crew takes 8 minutes.
Rocket calibre: 122mm
Number of tubes: 40
Rocket length: 2,870mm
Launch tube length: 3,000mm
Rocket weight: 66.8kg
Muzzle velocity: 50.7m/s
Max speed: 692m/s
Max firing range: 20km
Rate of fire: 40 rounds in 20 seconds
Reloading time: 8 minutes
System combat weight: 15,532kg
Launch vehicle speed: 70km/h (road); 20km/h (off-road)
Launch vehicle travelling range: 600km
Last update: 14 March 2008