TORNADO stands for the family of the new Russian multi caliber MRLS that was developed to replace Soviet-designed triad of BM-21 Grad, BM-27 Uragan and BM-30 Smerch. Being known in Western world as 9A52-4 it continues the Russian love affair with wheeled rocket-launching vehicles. Thus, TORNADO family is represented by TORNADO-G, TORNADO-U and TORNADO-S respectively. A universal multiple launch rocket system concept offers advantages of faster reloading and simpler logistics. It is capable of firing existing types of rockets without special preparation or changes.
TORNADO-S (9A52-4) is the, upgrade of 300 mm MLRS ‘Smerch’ bearing rockets with satellite-assisted guidance. Tornado is fitted with a single container with six launching tubes for 300-mm rockets. It can fire all existing Smerch rockets, including HE-FRAG, incendiary, fuel-air explosive, cluster with anti-personnel or anti-tank mines. Cluster rounds may also carry self-targeting anti-tank munitions. A standard rocket is 7.6 m long and weights 800 kg. Maximum range of fire is 70 km with ordinary and 90 km with extended-range rockets. Rockets are fitted with range and direction correction system for better accuracy. A full salvo of this rocket system covers area of 32 hectares.
Tornado-S was just introduced to Russian military in 2012. No other country has this system besides Russia.
Two types of containers are available. One of them is factory-fitted and sealed. It is used to store, transport and launch rockets. The whole container is disposable. It is replaced after all rockets are launched. Another is an open-type, reusable launcher pack. It is reloaded with individual rockets by a reloading vehicle in field conditions.
The 9A52-4 chassis of KamAZ-63501 8x8 military truck. Vehicle is powered by a KamAZ-740.50.360 turbocharged diesel engine, developing 360 hp. This heavy-duty truck has good cross country mobility. Artillery system has climatic operation range from -40°C to +50°C. A crew of two men prepares system for firing within 3 minutes, without leaving cabin. The launch vehicle is fitted with automated laying and fire control system. It is also fitted with autonomous satellite navigation and positioning system. A launch vehicle exchanges positioning and firing data with command vehicle. Rockets can be launched directly form the cab, or remotely form the vehicle. The 9A52-4 can launch single rocket, partial ripple or full salvo.
TORNADO-G represents a modernization of famous MRLS BM-21 Grad. The main distinctive features of the new system are larger range of fire, more powerful ammo as well as automated systems of aiming and navigation. Due to these improvements MRLS can be operated in autonomous mode. While it is not clear how many ‘Tornado-S’ systems there are in Russian army, but the first ‘Tornado-G’ systems were delivered to troops back in December 2011. Producer of Tornado systems, NPO ‘Splav’ started mass production of ‘Tornado-G’ in December 2014. The only operator of ‘Tornado’ systems is Russia.
It is indicated in Armament Research Services Report that some sources point out that pro-Russian separatists have "Tornado" systems in place. It's likely to be "Tornado-G" instead of "Tornado-S", which has not yet been accepted into service. At the same time the authors of the report noted that the organization could not independently verify these facts. "Tornado-G", "Tornado-U" and "Tornado-S" are mentioned in the first Minsk memorandum including artillery systems that need to withdraw from the contact line of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. The complex measures for the implementation of the second Minsk agreement mentioned only "Tornado-S".
It was also claimed that MRLS Grad attack on the Kramatorsk airport where Ukrainian military HQ has been located has been performed using Tornado ammo.