Thursday, 6 November 2014

Syria's BM-27 Uragans, emerging from the shadows

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

Syria's BM-27s: While their 220mm rockets have found their targets around Damascus multiple times, the launcher was yet to be spotted, leading to speculation the rockets were actually fired by some of Syria's indigenously designed multiple rocket launchers (MRLs).

However, a photo published on a Pro-Assad Facebook page finally reveals the presence of the ZiL-135 based launchers inside Syria. Although the launchers could have been supplied by Russia in the midst the Syrian Civil War, it is more likely that they were already part of the Syrian arsenal before the Civil War began. Thirty-six BM-27s, ordered in 1986 and delivered between 1987 and 1988, were reported to be in Syrian service, and this number has presumably not increased.[1]

This opposed to the UR-77s and BM-30s also used by the Republican Guard on various occasions. Not known to have been ever received and operated by Syria before the Civil War, both are believed to have been recently delivered by the Russian Federation.

The photo could have been taken on Mount Qasioun or one of its surrounding mountains. Located near Damascus, Mount Qasioun is undoubtedly the most important hill in Syria. Home to much of the Pro-Assad forces around Damascus and serving as the main base for the Republican Guard and the 4th Armoured Division, it also houses numerous surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites and Brigade 155, equipped with various guided and unguided ballistic missiles and artillery rockets.

Rebel-held neighbourhoods in Damascus such as Jobar have seen heavy shelling of MRLs in the past years. While initially many of the 122mm rockets used came from BM-21 Grad MRLs, heavier rockets, such as those fired by the BM-27, have frequently been sighted during the past couple of months.

BM-27s can also be used to encircle rebel groups by laying minefields to block their advance or retreat. Rockets with a cluster warhead contain up to 312 submunitions, meaning that with one BM-27 firing up to sixteen rockets, you can lay a minefield of almost five-thousand mines over a range of thirty-six kilometers. Although this tactic was extensively used by the Soviets in Afghanistan, it hasn't yet been seen used in Syria.

The remains of a 220mm rocket fired at Jobar can be seen below.

Strangely enough, indigenously designed MRLs have not yet been documented as used during the Syrian Civil War. At least three different versions are known to exist, of which one, the 302mm Khaibar-1, was captured by the Free Syrian Army and two others, 220mm or 230mm and 302mm, were sighted during live firing exercises conducted by the Syrian Arab Army.

Special thanks to PFC_Joker.

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  1. The big question is where SIPRI took data on the alleged delivery of the Uragan MLRS in Syria from the USSR in 80s. According to all known reliable Russian sources, the Soviet Union delivered Uragans to only one foreign country - Afghanistan during withdrawal of Soviet troops in late 80s. Also suspicious that the BM-27 began to be used only at the beginning of this year, about the same time as the BM-30. If Syria had BM-27 before the war, then why is it so long they were not used. By that time, the Syrian army have long been started to use even all the types of tactical missiles.
    I believe that Syria has received Uragan MLRS in same time as Smerch MRS - at the end of last - the beginning of this year.

    1. Syria's warm relationship with the Soviet Union also led to interesting arms transfers such as the T-72As, also not supplied to any other country. And Syria's indigenously designed MRLs haven't been seen either.

      The green colour is suspicious though.

    2. Yes, Syria has been a very close ally for us, but it's strange, that old arms shipments from the Soviet Union in Syria has long been known in Russian sources, except for this Uragan MLRS.
      As for indigenously designed Syrian MRLs, I have a suspicion that these systems were designed for Hezbollah shortly before the war, therefore Syria did not have a stock of rockets and now Syria is simply unable to produce new rockets.