Democratic Republic of the Congo deploys Ukrainian-made Bastion-1 MLRS

According to Hammer of War on September 21, 2023, recent footage emerged online depicting a Ukrainian-made 122 mm Bastion-1 (or Bastion-01) 6x6 122mm multiple rocket launcher system (MLRS) of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Armed Forces launching rockets on M23 militants in the eastern regions of the country, specifically in the province of North Kivu. As of now, the Bastion-01 has been in service with the DRC, Georgian, Senegalese, and Ukrainian armed forces, although the exact quantity and delivery date are unspecified.
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Democratic Republic of the Congo deploys Ukrainian-made Bastion-1 MLRS in Eastern region (Picture source: Twitter and Wikimedia)

The origins of the Bastion-1 can be traced back to the early 2000s when work began in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to develop a modernized version of the BM-21 Grad multiple-launch rocket system. Ukrainian-made chassis were incorporated into this project, resulting in the proposal of the BM-21U "Grad-M" and BM-21K variants for the Ukrainian armed forces.

By 2006, the KrAZ-6322 army truck, which became the chassis for the Bastion-1, was adopted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces as part of a broader effort to standardize vehicle chassis within the Ukrainian army. Subsequently, Kharkiv's Automobile Repair Plant and Kharkiv Mechanical Engineering Design Bureau worked on creating a modernized version of the BM-21U "Grad-M" MLRS mounted on the KrAZ-6322 chassis.

State Enterprise "Orizon-Navigation" contributed to enhancing the Bastion-1's capabilities by equipping it with satellite navigation systems, thereby increasing its autonomy during marches and in firing positions. The first test model of the Bastion-1, based on the KrAZ-6322 chassis, was manufactured and delivered to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine in early May 2009.

The modernization process to bring the MLRS to the "Bastion" level takes place at the State Enterprise "Shepetivka Repair Plant" by installing an artillery unit on a new KrAZ chassis, either sourced from BM-21s in storage or withdrawn from active service in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The Bastion-1 is mounted on the KrAZ-6322 all-wheel-drive off-road truck, featuring a 6x6 wheel arrangement. This platform enables the vehicle to operate effectively in extreme natural, climatic, and road conditions, including temperatures ranging from -50 to +60 °C and altitudes of up to 5,000 meters above sea level. It can traverse water obstacles up to 1.5 meters deep and snow cover up to 0.6 meters. Additionally, a centralized tire inflation system ensures high maneuverability on soils with low bearing capacity. The vehicle can be customized with either left-hand or right-hand drive, as well as optional armor protection for critical components and assemblies.

Apart from the standard Bastion-1 model, there is a variant known as Bastion-2 (or Bastion-02). This version features an extended wheelbase, allowing for additional ammunition storage. A key differentiator is the fast reload system (URS), which enables the vehicle to hold 40 additional missiles in special open clips. Using URS, the reloading process takes approximately 120 seconds, compared to about 7 minutes without it. Furthermore, the Bastion-02 can be equipped with two man-portable anti-aircraft missile systems.

Bastion 1 RDC 925 002

Bastion-1 MLRS at the military parade in Kyiv in August 2014 (Picture source: Wikimedia)