Anti-Armor

RPG-7

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The RPG-7 (Russian: РПГ-7) is a widely-produced and used handheld anti-tank grenade launcher designed by the Soviet Union.

Development

The RPG-7 (Ruchnoy Protivotankoviy Granatomet, ‘Handheld Anti-Tank Grenade Launcher’) 6G3, and its predecessor the RPG-2, are man-portable, shoulder-launched rocket propelled grenade weapons. Its ruggedness, simplicity, low cost and effectiveness have made it the most widely used RPG in the world. Currently around forty countries use the weapon and it is manufactured in a number of variants by nine countries. It is also popular with irregular and guerrilla forces, including terrorist organizations. Numerous recent conflicts with such forces have seen extensive use of the RPG-7, including the Battle of Mogadishu, Second Gulf War, and United States war in Afghanistan .

The most commonly seen major variations are the RPG-7D paratrooper model (able to be broken into two parts for easier carrying), and the lighter Chinese Type 69 RPG.

The RPG-7 was first delivered to the Soviet Army in 1961 and deployed at a squad level. It replaced the RPG-3, having clearly out-performed the intermediate RPG-4 design during testing. Its original design concept originated with two World War II era weapons: the American Bazooka and the German Panzerfaust. The current model produced by Russia is the RPG-7V2, capable of firing standard and dual HEAT, high explosive/fragmentation, and thermobaric warheads (see below), with a UP-7V sighting device fitted (used in tandem with the standard optical sight) to allow the use of extended range ammunition. The RPG-7D3 is the equivalent paratrooper model. Both the RPG-7V2 and RPG-7D3 were adopted by the Russian Army in 2001.

Description

The launcher is based around a simple milled steel tube, 40 mm in diameter, 95.3 cm long, and weighing just 7 kg. The middle is wood wrapped to protect the user from heat and the end is flared to assist in blast shielding and recoil reduction. Sighting is usually optical with an iron sight, but passive infra-red and night-sights are available.

As with similar weapons, the grenade protrudes from the launch tubes. It is larger than a hand grenade (70 – 85 mm in diameter) and weighs between 2.5 and 4.5 kg. It is propelled by a gunpowder booster charge at 115 m/s, which creates a cloud of light grey-blue smoke. The rocket motor ignites after 10 meters and sustains flight out to 500 meters at a maximum velocity of 295 m/s. The grenade is stabilized by two sets of fins that deploy in-flight: one large set on the stabilizer pipe to maintain direction and a smaller front set to induce rotation. The grenade can fly up to 1100 meters; the fuze sets the maximum range, usually 920 m.

Accurate firing is difficult over 300 m and with the RPG-7 the phrase “the closer the better” is always true. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the Mujahideen tended to use the weapon at ranges of less than 80 m.

TRADOC

According to the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Bulletin 3u (1977) Soviet RPG-7 Antitank Grenade Launcher — Capabilities and Countermeasures, the RPG-7 munition has 2 sections: a “booster” section and a “warhead and sustainer motor” section. These must be assembled into the ready-to-use grenade. The booster consists of a “small strip powder charge” that serves to propel the grenade out of the launcher, the sustainer motor ignites and propels the grenade for the next few seconds, reaching a speed of 294 meters/s. The TRADOC bulletin provides anectdotal commentary that the RPG-7 has been fired from within buildings, which agrees with the two-stage design. It’s stated that only a 2-meter standoff to a rear obstruction is needed for use inside rooms or fortifications.

The fins not only provide drag stabilization, but are designed to impart a mild rotation to the grenade. A video of an RPG-7 grenade in flight was shown on one report from Iraq on the American ABC TV network’s Nightline program. This included a close-up view of an incoming RPG-7 projectile, wobbling slowly, illustrating the extent of the spin.

Due to the configuration of the RPG-7 sustainer/warhead section, it responds counter-intuitively to crosswinds. A crosswind will tend to exert pressure on the stabilizing fins, causing the projectile to turn into the wind. While the rocket motor is still burning, this will cause the flight path to curve into the wind. The TRADOC bulletin explains aiming difficulties for more distant moving targets in crosswinds at some length, as the RPG-7 optical sight’s reticle is somewhat challenging.

Ammunition

The RPG-7 can fire a variety of warheads for anti-armor (HEAT, PG-) or anti-personnel (HE, OG-) purposes, usually fitting with an impact (PIBD) and a 4.5 second fuze. Armor penetration is warhead dependent and ranges from 30 to 60 cm of homogenous steel; one warhead, the PG-7VR, is a ‘tandem charge’ device, used to defeat reactive armor with a single shot.

Current production ammunition for the RPG-7V2 consists of three types:

  • PG-7VL standard HEAT warhead for most vehicles and fortified targets (93mm)
  • PG-7VR dual HEAT warhead for defeating modern heavily armored vehicles equipped with reactive armor (105mm)
  • TBG-7V thermobaric warhead for anti-personnel and urban warfare (105mm)
  • OG-7V fragmentation warhead for anti-personnel warfare (within caliber due to limitations of international treaties)

Specifications

Manufacturer specifications for the RPG-7V1 provided by Rosoboronexport and Globalsecurity.

  • Caliber: 40 mm (1.57″)
  • Weight: 7 kg (15 lb)
  • Length: 95 cm (37″)
  • PG-7V:
    • Warhead: Single-stage HEAT
    • Round weight: 2.6 kg (5.7 lb)
    • Diameter: 70,5 mm (2.7″)
    • Penetration: Over 330 mm RHA (12.9″)
  • PG-7VL:
    • Warhead: Single-stage HEAT
    • Round weight: 2.6 kg (5.7 lb)
    • Diameter: 93 mm (3.65″)
    • Penetration: Over 500 mm RHA (19.5″)
  • PG-7VR:
    • Warhead: Tandem HEAT
    • Round weight: 4.5 kg (9.9 lb)
    • Diameter: 105 mm (4.1″)
    • Penetration: Over 600 mm RHA after reactive armor (23.4″)
  • OG-7V:
    • Warhead: Fragmentation
    • Round weight: 2 kg (4 lb)
    • Diameter: 40 mm (1.6″)
    • Maximum effective area for people wearing body armor: 150 m (492 ft)
  • TBG-7V:
    • Warhead: Single-stage thermobaric
    • Round weight: 4.5 kg (9.9 lb)
    • Diameter: 105 mm (4.1″)
    • Kill radius: 10 m (33 ft)

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