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from 11.00 to 18.00 (the ticket office closes an hour earlier) the
entrance of visitors to the Museum territory stops at 17.00
days off-Monday, Tuesday, last Thursday of the month.

On February 23 admission to the Museum is free. On February 29 and March 8 the Museum will be CLOSED!

The History of Rocket Armaments

The display in the room is dedicated to the history of developing rocket weapons since the 17th century. Represented are various exhibits and documents, from the first plain pyrotechnic and military rockets up to modern missile systems for land forces with different purposes.


Rockets were made in various countries and were known to many peoples. However, the first of them supposedly appeared at the same time as the invention of barreled firearms, or even earlier. General K. Konstantinov, a prominent Russian scientist, wrote that “rockets were brought into use for military operations at the same time as the invention of pieces of artillery and were used almost everywhere where powder was used.”

The first documentary data about the use of rockets in Russia date from the second half of the 17th century. There is a description of fireworks arranged in Velikii Ustiug in 1675. Since that time, pyrotechnic rockets started to become rather widely adopted. Their production especially increased after the foundation of a special pyrotechnic laboratory in Moscow in the early 1680’s. It was called a rocket institution, where rockets and pyrotechnic compositions were made. In 1717, the first signal (parachute) flare was added to the armory of the Russian army. A model of it is displayed in the room.

Work on military rockets started in Russia in the 1810’s. A. Kartmazov, member of the Military­-Scientific Committee, was the first who made and tested military incendiary and fougasse powder rockets with a side fin (tail). This was in 1814–1817. At the same time, Russian artillerist A. Zasiadko, Hero of the War of 1812, made rockets and launchers for them at his own expenses. They underwent troop tests, but were not added to the armory.

The first rocket institution was founded for the mass production of rockets in St. Petersburg in 1826. All rocket institutions, which had existed in Russia before, became subdivisions of the St. Petersburg one in 1832.

In April 1827, a rocket company was formed. In 1831, it was renamed into the battery, becoming the first and the only permanent rocket element in the Russian army (though it was abolished in 1856). The company was subordinated to the rocket institution and intended for joint operations with the infantry and cavalry, and in peaceful times, for training troops.

Russian troops used rocket armaments for the first time in the Caucasus in August 1827, during the Russian-Persian War of 1826–1828. The heaviest usage of Russian military rockets took place during the Russian­-Turkish War of 1828–1829. 1,191 rockets (380 incendiary rockets and 811 fougasse ones) were launched during the single campaign of 1828. Moreover, the majority of them were used during the siege of the Varna fortress.

In 1834, the talented military engineer K. Shilder was busy improving the tube countermine system that he had previously invented for the defence of fortresses. It turned out that he worked out a design for an underground tube launcher, as well as rockets with intensified mining effect. He also used the electric primer for solid propellant (powder) ignition for the first time in the history of rocket materiel. K. Shilder designed and tested the first rocket-carrying submarine in the world and the first ferry armed with launchers. He made it possible for some rockets to be launched from the submarine position. Thus, the first half of the 19th century. is notable for the creation and comparatively wide military use of rocket arms. The display includes experimental rockets of that time designed by A. Kartmazov and A. Zasiadko, samples of the first launchers, drafts (drawings) of A. Zasiadko’s rockets, underground launchers, A. Shilder’s submarine and ferry and copies of other documents.

In the 1840’s­1860’s, General­-Lieutenant Konstantin Konstantinov, a prominent representative of the Russian artillery school, scientist and inventor, made a great contribution to the development of rocket arms and theories of their military usage. In 1850–1859, he headed the St. Petersburg Rocket Institution, and from 1859 he was responsible for production and use of rockets. K. Konstantinov accomplished a real revolution in rocket production of that time with his scientific work and inventions. He did what he could so that the Russian rocket armament could occupy a pivotal place in the world. He worked out principles of experimental rocket dynamics, scientific methods for projecting military solid-­propellant rockets, as well as the controls for their testing and made a number of instruments and devices for determining ballistic characteristics. In addition, the inventor became an innovator in the sphere of producing rockets, arranging their mass production, and he did much for mechanizing and securing the technological process, introducing an improved method for rocket production by using a number of his newly designed machines and powerful hydraulic presses for rocket charge pressing.

K. Konstantinov created 2‑inch, 2.5‑inch and 4‑inch rockets with launchers. In comparison with rockets of the 1820’s­1840’s Konstantinov rockets had a longer range and better accuracy of fire and reliability. In addition, they sustained longer storage life. The maximum range of the 2‑inch rocket was 2.6 km; the 4‑inch rocket range was 5.3 km. They had the same or even a longer firing range than the corresponding first samples of field artillery guns with the same caliber. They were added to the Russian armory and produced in the St. Petersburg Rocket Institution.

Konstantinov launchers did not differ much from the ones made in the 1820’s­1830’s. They were more up-­to-date, however, portable and comfortable for carrying and transportation. They provided better firing rate and accuracy of fire, especially in mountain locations.

In 1856, K. Konstantinov worked out a project for a new rocket institution and designed machinery equipment for it. In the early 1870’s, a rocket factory was built in the city of Nikolaev.

In the mid. 19th century rocket arms were widely distributed, especially during the Crimean War of 1853–1856, when Konstantinov rockets were used in field battles, the siege, storms of fortresses, and defence of Sebastopol. Military rockets were added to the armory in almost all military districts. They were used for arming ships of the navy, as well as naval bases.

During the Russian-­Turkish War of 1877–1878, new 2‑inch fougasse rockets were used in the Balkans and in the Trans­-Caucasus Region. Their head end was charged with smokeless pyroxyline powder, more powerful than those with smoke.

Thus, rocket arms were developed even further in the second half of the 19th century. However, the scientific-technical level of rocket construction was still rather low. As a result, military rockets started to yield to the quicker progress of barreled artillery. It became especially obvious after the creation of rifled long-­range breech­-loading guns, the invention of smokeless powder and oblong shells. Rocket arms gradually lost their significance worldwide and their production for armies was stopped in the 1860’s­1890’s. Production of rockets continued in Russia longer than in most other countries. In January 1886, the Artillery Committee at the Main Artillery Administration made a decision to stop their production and they were removed entirely from the armories at the end of the 19th century.

The display represents this period with 2‑inch rockets Model 1851, a launcher for mounted and un-mounted commands designed by K. Konstantinov, as well as a 3‑inch rescue rocket of his design. The latter, supplied with a rope, had a range of 523 m. It was used on rescue stations in the Baltic Sea. Exhibited also are a 2‑inch fougasse pyroxyline rocket designed by N. Nechaev, as well as a 76‑mm parachute flare Model 1886 widely used during the Russian­-Japanese war and World War I, along with photos and other documents.

In spite of the fact that military rockets were removed from the armory, the research work dedicated to them continued again in the early 20th century. New ideas were put forward concerning the increasing range for rockets and their accuracy of fire (M. Pomortsev). Projects for a rotating rocket, multi-­barreled land and aircraft launchers (I. Volovskii) were made and work was organized to create military anti­aircraft solid-­propellant rockets (N. Gerasimov). A new rocket fuel with smokeless pyroxyline powder was invented (I. Grave).

However, the absence of theoretical principles became one of the obstacles for further development of rocket armament. Russian scientists realized the necessity of solving this problem. In the late 19th — early 20th century. N. Kibalchich, I. Meshcherskii, I. Zhukovskii, S. Nezhdanovskii, F. Tsander, Yu. Kondratiuk and others worked on this problem. They made a considerable contribution to the theory of reaction propulsion. A comprehensive theory, however, was still absent.

Prominent scientist K. Tsiolkovskii is considered as the real founder of a theory of reaction propulsion, that is, rocket dynamics and cosmonautics. From 1883 until the last days of his life, he worked hard and productively on solving problems of rocket armament and spaceflights.

Theoretical principles of rocket armament were thus generally worked out and the preconditions for transition to practical works, that is, organizing scientific research and experimental ­design institutions, enabled by the early 1920’s. The first such state organization named the Laboratory for Elaboration of Engineer Tikhomirov’s Invention was founded in Moscow on May 21, 1921. In 1927, it was transferred to Leningrad and then reformed into the Gas Dynamics Laboratory (June 1928). The laboratory began its activity by realizing reactive torpedo flights, but later on was involved in elaborating military solid­-propellant rockets (rocket shells) with smokeless powder. An active rocket 82‑mm shell was made in the laboratory and launched for the first time on March 3, 1928. In 1930–1933, un-rotating fin­-stabilized and rotating turbo­-reactive shells were worked out. Starting in May 1929, theoretical and experimental research work was undertaken on liquid­-fuel and electrical rocket motors.

In September 1931, a Group for Reaction Propulsion Study was organized in Moscow for scientific and technical propaganda, uniting and educating specialists in this sphere. On November 18, 1931, it started scientific research for projection­-design elaboration of ballistic and winged missiles. The first experimental ballistic missiles were made and tested by the Group in 1933.

On September 21, 1933, the Reaction Scientific Research Institute was founded on the basis of the Gas Dynamics Laboratory and the Group for Reaction Propulsion Study (Scholar-­Research Institute #3, in December 1936). The institute developed extensive research work on solid­-propellant, liquid-­fuel and blended-­fuel rocket motors, including a theory of ballistic and winged missile flight, and automatic guidance of their flight. The same institute projected several ballistic and experimental winged missiles and rocket-­powered sailplanes, created improved rocket shells and launchers for them, including the famous BM­13 fighting vehicle (the legendary Katyusha).

BM-13 Katiusha fighting vehicle with M-13 rocket shells

The works in the institute resulted in a number of inventions, many projects for different systems, aggregates and equipment which were later on used in rocket armaments.

A stand dedicated to the creation of experimental rocket engines and rockets, rocket shells and launchers in the pre­-war time (1921–1941) gives detailed information about the Gas Dynamics Laboratory and the Group for Reaction Propulsion Study, the Reaction Scientific Research Institute, their leading specialists and results of their research work.

The display includes experimental rocket engines, the first experimental ballistic liquid-­fuel missiles, an 82‑mm aviation rocket shell (RS­82) and the first multiple­-launch rocket system, the BM­13 fighting vehicle with an M­13 rocket shell. These marked the start of forming special troops for combat use of rocket arms.

The BM­13 fighting vehicles and M­13 rocket shells were added to the armory by the beginning of the Great Patriotic War (June 21, 1941). A difficult situation on the eve of the war required quickly putting rocket weapons into operation and arming the land forces with them. The reconstruction of industry connected with the production of rocket armaments was realized in the short­ term. Many enterprises were involved in their production (214 factories in July­-August 1941). At the same time, with the development of production, the work continued for creating new samples and for updating available samples of rocket shells and launchers.

On July 30, 1941, a special design office started its work at the Moscow Kompressor factory. It became a leader for projection launchers and the factory itself became a leader for their production. The special design office headed by chief designer V. Barmin worked out 78 models of various launchers during the war. They could be mounted on vehicles, tractors, open goods tracks, and ships. 36 of them were added to the armory. The industry started their production and they were used in military operations. The display includes BM­8–48 and BM­31–12 fighting vehicles, as well as M­30 launchers.

During World War II, rocket armament was developed by increasing mine action, rocket shell range and improving their accuracy, as well as modernizing launchers design. As a result, heavy-­duty rocket shells and self­-operated multiple launchers fit for maneuvers in military operations were adopted in the rocket artillery by the end of the war. An unprecedented numerical increase in rocket artillery happened during the war. From July 1941 to December 1944, the Soviet industry produced 10,114 self­-operating multiple launchers.

At the beginning of World War II, special troops were organized in the armed forces of the USSR for using rocket weapons. They were rocket troops, though they were called the Guards Mortar Units during the war. Later (until the present time), they were called the rocket artillery. Individual batteries and battalions were the first organized form of Guards Mortar Units. The first rocket battery was formed in three-­four days. It had seven available experimental launchers and a small number of M­13 shells. The battery was commanded by Capitan A. Fliorov. On July 2, 1941, it was sent to the Western Front, where it was included in the 20th Army. On July 14, 1941, at 15.15 the battery made its first volley from all launchers at the Orsha rail road station, where a lot of men power and military equipment of the enemy was concentrated. As a result of the great simultaneous impact of 112 rocket shells, a glow of fire rose above the station. Stunned with this sudden fire storm, many panic-­stricken Hitlerites scattered. The combat effectiveness of the new weapon exceeded all expectations.

The first experience of using rocket weapons showed its high combat effectiveness which was one of the reasons for rapidly organizing Guards Mortar Units. The State Defence Committee and the General Headquarters were responsible for forming units and for military operations of the units. On September 8, 1941, the State Defence Committee made a decision to arrange special bodies for commanding the Guards Mortar Units in the persons of a Commander, Military Council, Staff, and the Main Arms Administration. The commander of the Guards Mortar Units was at the same time a Deputy People’s Commissar for Defence and was subordinated to the General Headquarters. It was also decided on September 9 to organize operative groups for the Guards Mortar Units on different fronts to control the combat activities and to supply units on the front. On September 12, army operative groups were organized for the Guards Mortar Units. As a result of such organization measures, the Guards Mortar Units became an individual arm of the service within the Russian land forces.

By the end of the war, the rocket artillery had 40 individual battalions, 115 regiments, 40 individual brigades and 7 divisions; 519 battalions in total.

The room is decorated with 16 colors of the Guards Mortar Units and formations.

Rocket artillery developed further after the war. In the early 1950’s, launchers of the second generation were designed and added to the armory. These are the BM­14 and BM­24 fighting vehicles displayed in the room, the first Soviet systems with turbo­-reactive (rotating) rocket shells. They differ from the BM­13 and BM­31–12 systems with their longer firing range, improved accuracy and the increased power of shell action near the target. The display includes the long­-range 200‑mm rocket BMD­20 system with a fin-­stabilized rocket shell.

From 1963 to 1989, completely new multiple­-launch rocket systems of the third generation were added to the armory. They were designed in the Splav State Scientific Research Enterprise (chief designer — A. Ganichev). A tendency to considerably increase the firing range and salvo power was reflected in these arms. The display shows the Grad 122‑mm 40‑barreled multiple-­launch rocket system (1963), Grad­1 (1976), Grad­V (1967), Prima (1989); Uragan 220‑mm 16‑barreled multiple-­launch rocket system (1975) that provides target hitting from a distance of 10 to 35 km, with rocket shell warheads for different purposes. Also exhibited is the Smerch long­-range 300‑mm 12‑barreled multiple-­launch rocket system (1987) that has no analogue in the world. The firing range of the Smerch is from 20 to 70 km, which is comparable with the range of tactical missile systems. The vast section in the display shows various multiple-­launch rocket systems, with rocket shells, various warheads, launchers and their models, electrified stands, photos and other exhibits, as well as Grad­P (1965) and Ililusminatsia single­-round launchers.

The same section includes an exhibition dedicated to A. Ganichev, a prominent designer of multiple-­launch rocket systems.

The birth and development of practical Soviet rocket construction is first associated with the work of a staff at the special design office in Scientific Research Institute #88. It was headed by Sergei Korolev, chief designer of the first ballistic long­-range missile. The latter was, in fact, a copy of the German V­2 rocket (initially called A­4). The staff led by S. Korolev consecutively went through all stages of mastering the A­4 rocket; from studying documents for a prototype up to its reproduction in Soviet conditions and with test flights. In order to realize them, a State Central Firing Ground #4 was arranged 100 km to the South­-East of Stalingrad, not far from the settlement of Kapustin Yar.

The first reproduced A­4 missile took off from the ground on October 18, 1947. While testing it the special design office led by S. Korolev made the Soviet analogue R­1 missile (NATO reporting name SS­1 Scunner), partially free from shortcomings of the A­4 (generally concerning its reliability).

The first Soviet ballistic R­1 missile (firing range — 270 km) took off on September 17, 1948, and was added to the armory on November 25, 1950. In September­-October 1949, test flights of the R­2 missile (NATO reporting name SS­2 Sibling) also took place. It was to some degree an analogue of the R­1 missile, but with considerable changes in its conception.

Liquid-fuel rocket motors for ballistic missiles. 1950-1951.

The missile design envisaged a detachable head end and had a fuel tank carrier. The inventors increased the overall dimensions as well. On November 27, 1951, the R­2 missile, with a firing range up to 600 km, was added to the armory. In 1952–1953, six brigades for special purposes were armed with R­1 and R­2 missiles with head ends of usual (fougasse) loading.

In the second half of the 1950’s, the first operational-­tactical missile systems of the second generation were designed under the guidance of S. Korolev and added to the armory. They used high-­boiling components of rocket fuel (kerosene — nitric acid). These included a system with the 8A61 (R­11) missile (1955) and the 8K11 system with the R­11M missile, which was an updated variant of the 8A61 missile and adjusted for the heavy warhead with a nuclear charge (1957). These missiles were of comparatively small size and weight. The 8A61 missile, for instance, had the same range as the R­1, but its weight was twice (or even three times) less.

The 9K72 system with the 8K14 liquid­-propellant missile was added to the armory of land forces in 1962. It had an improved design. The launch weight of the missile was 5.8 t and its nuclear warhead weighted 989 kg. A missile with such characteristics had a range of 50–300 km. The 9K76 system with a 9M76 two­-stage solid-­propellant missile was added to the armory in 1965. Its range was 300–900 km.

Visitors can see an R­2 missile, R­1 and R­2 rocket engines, naval variant R­11M, R­11FM and 8K14 missiles, models of a 9P17 launcher and a 9M76 missile, as well as a set of guidance units and a 9B51 computer for preparing their launches.

A perfect and unique 9K714 Oka system with a 9M714 solid­-propellant missile (range of 50–400 km) was added to the armory in 1980. It was a missile system of the third generation. Achievements in science, with new technical solutions were realized in this system. It considerably extended the combat capabilities of rocket arms of land troops. However, this system, as well the Temp­S was liquidated in accordance with the agreement between the Soviet Union and the USA dated December 8, 1987. Missiles with a range of 500 or more kilometers fell under the reduction. The new Iskander­E was elaborated instead of the Oka. It is to some degree an analogue of the Oka, but is more updated. The missile system, with a range up to 280 km, is capable of executing all combat missions using warheads with non­-nuclear loading and having two missiles on its launcher. It greatly increases firing efficiency. All of these things suggest that the Iskander­E is a missile system for the 21st century.

Nuclear­-missile weapons have been widely implemented in all kinds of armed forces: rocket troops for strategic purposes, anti­aircraft defence troops, military air forces, and in the navy. The display includes models of a Grozny missile cruiser, a MiG­21 front fighter, an anti­aircraft guided missile, and photos depicting a strategic missile in a parade and launching a ballistic missile from a submarine.

In addition to operational-­tactical systems, tactical anti­tank and anti­aircraft missile systems were designed for use in the army.

Fighting vehicles with missiles from anti-tank missile systems. 1960.


Anti­tank guided missiles are the most effective anti­tank means. They have longer firing range in comparison with other options, including anti­tank cannons. They also have a high probability of hitting armored targets and are of small size and weight. Anti­tank missiles, in conjunction with launchers and special devices, form anti­tank missile systems, which may be carried by hand or transported. There are also systems which may be moved by both methods.

The first generation of anti­tank missile systems appeared in the early 1960’s, when Shmel (wire control) and Falanga (radio control) systems were added to the armory in 1960, and the Maliutka (wire control) in 1963.

2P26 fighting vehicle with four 3M6 missiles from the 2K15 Shmel anti-tank missile system. 1960.

They were all hand­-operated. The layer had to track (by the sight) both the missile and the target and draw up steering commands by hand. It required great experience and training of layers and strict selection after long education with the help of special trainers. The systems are displayed in the room.

All anti­tank missile systems added to the armory in the 1970’s and 1980’s represent the second generation. They had a semi­automatic guidance system that allowed the layer to track only the target through the telescopic sight. The missile track and steering commands were enabled by automatic ground equipment. The displayed Metis, Fagot, Konkurs and Shturm­S systems are of this kind.

The anti­tank missile systems of the second generation had a positive feature. The missiles were placed in special transport­-launching containers. A missile ready for combat use was kept, transported and set on the launcher in the container. Technical state of the missile was controlled without extracting it from the container. Placing the missile in transport­-launching containers increased its safe keeping and combat readiness as well as allowing easier placement on different carriers. The display includes an exhibition dedicated to A. Nudelman, an outstanding designer of missile­-artillery armaments and chief designer of the Falanga anti­tank missile system.

The first tactical missile systems appeared in the second half of the 1950’s. These are the 2K1 Mars, 2K4 Filin and 2K5 Korshun systems. They are displayed in the room with detailed annotations. These systems were still imperfect and did not meet the requirements expected for such missile systems. A small number of them were added to the armory for a short time.

2P2 launcher with the 3R1 missile from the 2K1 Mars tactical missile system. 1958.


The 2K6 Luna missile system (analogue of the Mars system), which was perfect for that time, was added to the armory in 1960. The firing range of the system with the 3R10 missile’s nuclear warhead was 10–32 km, and with the 3R9 missile with usual arm, 12–45 km. Already in 1964, troops started to be armed with a highly-mobile (on wheels) reliable in exploitation 9K52 Luna­M missile system, with a range up to 67 km.

Finally in 1975, a tactical missile system of the third generation, the 9K79 Tochka with a range of up to 70 km, was added to the armory. It is notable for its high accuracy at hitting targets, even during launches on the march with unprepared positions from a topographical-­geodesic respect. The system is characterized by its high reliability and ease of exploitation, as well as its long lifetime. In 1989, the 9K79–1 Tochka­U system, the updated variant of Tochka, was added to the armory. It had an increased firing range (up to 120 km) and better accuracy of fire. Other characteristics were improved, as well. The display includes missiles from these systems, photos of the launchers, the VR­2M rifle­-anemometer and a 9V53 computer for preparing launches, as well as an exhibition complex dedicated to Marshal of Artillery P. Kuleshov, chief of the Main Rocket-­Artillery Administration (1965–1983).

In connection with designing nuclear­-missile weapons, anti­aircraft rocket systems became one of the most important components in the post-­war anti­aircraft defence of the Soviet Union and for its land forces as well. The first Soviet mobile system C­75 was added to the armory of the anti­aircraft defence troops and the land forces in 1958. The second stage of the missile from this system destroyed an American U­2 aircraft on May 1, 1960. Fragments of this craft, as well as photos of the commanders and personnel of the battalion that brought it down are on display.

This system, however, was mainly worked out for anti­aircraft defence troops in the country and did not meet requirements expected for mobile protection means to the land forces in conditions of military operation maneuvers. As a result, the following mobile anti­aircraft missile systems were designed and added to the armory of the army’s anti­aircraft defence in the second half of the 1960’s and first half of the 1970’s: the long range army 2K11 Krug system (1965); the middle range battalion 12K12 Kub (1967), Osa (1972) and Osa­AKM (1975) systems; the short range regimental Strela­1 (1968) and Strela­10 (1976) systems, as well as a portable anti­aircraft system Strela­2 (1968).

Improved and absolutely new multi-­barreled (with two or more simultaneously launching missiles and firing targets) anti­aircraft systems of the second generation were added to the armory for the army’s anti­aircraft defence in the 1980’s. These were the army anti­aircraft system Buk (1980), battalion Tor (1986), and well-­known multi-barreled mobile universal anti­aircraft system S­300B (1988) which was made for the army’s front section and intended to cover the most important objects of these troops from tactical ballistic missiles.

An original anti­aircraft system, which united gun and rocket armaments, was added to the armory in 1983, the Tunguskacannon­-missile system. New and effective portable anti­aircraft systems the Igla­1 (1981) and the Igla (1983) replaced the portable anti­aircraft systems of the Strela­2 type. Missiles for these systems (except the S­300B), models, photos of launchers, and detection and guidance means with detailed annotations are on display.

The display finishes with exhibits dedicated to space exploration and the first astronaut in the world, Yurii Gagarin. Visitors may see the badge "Space Pilot" and a number of other badges and medals dedicated to space flights, along with their anniversary dates, and other things. The glass­-cases show schemes of spacecrafts Vostok, Voskhod, and Soiuz, orbital stations Saliut and Mir, the space system Energia-­Buran, and photos of Russian astronauts who undertook spaceflights up to December 1999.