The RPG-7 (Russian: РПГ-7, Ручной Противотанковый Гранатомёт – Ruchnoy Protivotankoviy Granatomyot) is a portable, reusable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank, rocket-propelled grenade launcher. The RPG-7—along with its predecessor, the RPG-2—were designed by the Soviet Union, and is now manufactured by the Russian company Bazalt. The weapon has the GRAU index (Russian armed forces index) 6G3.
The ruggedness, simplicity, low cost, and effectiveness of the RPG-7 has made it the most widely used anti-armor weapon in the world. Currently around 40 countries use the weapon, it is manufactured in several variants by nine countries. It is popular with irregular and guerrilla forces. The RPG has been used in almost all conflicts across all continents since the mid-1960s from the Vietnam War to the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
Widely produced, the most commonly seen major variations are the RPG-7D (десантник – desantnik – paratrooper) model, which can be broken into two parts for easier carrying; and the lighter Chinese Type 69 RPG. DIO of Iran manufactures RPG-7s with olive green handguards, H&K pistol grips, and a Commando variant.
The RPG-7 was first delivered to the Soviet Army in 1961 and deployed at squad level. It replaced the RPG-2, having clearly out-performed the intermediate RPG-4 design during testing. The current model produced by the Russian Federation is the RPG-7V2, capable of firing standard and dual high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds, high explosive/fragmentation, and thermobaric warheads (see below), with a UP-7V sighting device fitted (used in tandem with the standard 2.7× PGO-7 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 Ground Forces in 2001.
The launcher is reloadable and based around a steel tube, 40 millimetres in diameter, 95.3 centimetres long, and weighing 7 kilograms. The middle of the tube is wood wrapped to protect the user from heat and the end is flared. Sighting is usually optical with a back-up iron sight, and passive infra-red and night sights are also available. The launchers designated RPG-7N1 and RPG-7DN1 can thus mount the multi-purpose night vision scope 1PN51 and the launchers designated RPG-7N2 and RPG-7DN2 can mount the multi-purpose night vision scope 1PN58.
As with similar weapons, the grenade protrudes from the launch tubes. It is 40–105 millimetres in diameter and weighs between 2.0 and 4.5 kilograms. It is launched by a gunpowder booster charge, giving it an initial speed of 115 metres per second, and creating a cloud of light grey-blue smoke that can give away the position of the shooter. The rocket motor ignites after 10 metres and sustains flight out to 500 metres at a maximum velocity of 295 metres per second. 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 rear set to induce rotation. The grenade can fly up to 1,100 metres; the fuze sets the maximum range, usually 920 metres.
According to the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Bulletin 3u (1977) Soviet RPG-7 Antitank Grenade Launcher—Capabilities and Countermeasures, the RPG-7 munition has two 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 then ignites and propels the grenade for the next few seconds, giving it a top speed of 294 metres per second (660 mph). The TRADOC bulletin provides anecdotal commentary that the RPG-7 has been fired from within buildings, which agrees with the two-stage design. It is stated that only a 2-metre 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 slow rotation to the grenade.
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 (see Weathervane effect). 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. Similar to a recoilless rifle the RPG-7 has no noticeable recoil, the only effect during firing being that of the sudden lightness of the launcher as the rocket leaves the tube.
In 2009, the American company Airtronic USA unveiled a modernized version of the weapon called the RPG-7USA. The launcher is fitted with updated features including a MIL-STD-1913 Quad Rail System for mounting combat optics, flip-up back up iron sights, aiming lasers/illuminators, tactical lights, and vertical foregips, as well as an M4 carbine-style pistol grip and telescoping stock. Compared to the RPG-7V2, the American launcher, named by the company the Precision Shoulder-fired Rocket Launcher (PSRL-1), is slightly lighter at 14 lb (6.35 kg) unloaded without optics and is made of 4140/4150 ordnance-grade steel for a longer 1,000-round lifespan that can separate into two pieces for compact carry. The PSRL-1 uses EOTech sights with a new sighting system that combines an illuminated reticule for use in low light situations, and is able to be fitted with magnifying optical sights for long-range firing enabling 90% hit probability at 800 metres, twice the distance of other RPGs; rate of fire is 3–4 rounds per minute. It is reportedly accurate at ranges from 900 to 1,200 m, and guided rockets could extend range to 2,000 metres. The weapon was a program of record in U.S. Special Operations Command by 2015, and the PSRL-1 was to enter production by mid-2016. Airtronic has also developed the more advanced GS-777/PSRL-2 model made of high-strength polymer that reduces weight to 7.77 lb (3.5 kg) and further improves durability and life cycle.
Inside of an RPG's three sections.
I) The head contains
- conductive cone
- aerodynamic fairing
- conical liner
II) The rocket motor consists of
- nozzle block
- motor body
- motor rear
- ignition primer
III) The booster charge includes
- foam wad
The RPG-7 can fire a variety of warheads for anti-armor (HEAT, PG-Protivotankovaya Granata) or anti-personnel (HE, OG-Oskolochnaya Granata) purposes, usually fitting with an impact (PIBD) and a 4.5 second fuze. Armor penetration is warhead dependent and ranges from 30 to 60 centimetres of RHA; 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 four main types:
- PG-7VL [c.1977] Improved 93 mm HEAT warhead effective against most vehicles and fortified targets.
- PG-7VR [c.1988] Dual 64 mm/105 mm HEAT warhead for defeating modern armored vehicles equipped with reactive armor blocks. The first warhead (64 mm HEAT) detonates the reactive armor block prematurely and the second warhead (105 mm HEAT) passes through the gap to hit the exposed armor underneath.
- TBG-7V Tanin [c.1988] 105 mm Thermobaric warhead for anti-personnel and urban warfare.
- OG-7V [c.1999] 40 mm Fragmentation warhead for anti-personnel warfare. Has no sustainer motor.
Other warhead variants include:
- PG-7V [c.1961] Baseline 85 mm HEAT warhead capable of penetrating 260 mm RHA.
- PG-7VM [c.1969] Improved 70 mm HEAT warhead capable of penetrating 300 mm RHA.
- PG-7VS [c.1972] Improved 73 mm HEAT warhead capable of penetrating 400 mm RHA.
- PG-7VS1 [c.mid-1970s] Cheaper PG-7VS version capable of penetrating 360 mm RHA.
- GSh-7VT [c.2013] Anti-bunker warhead with cylindrical follow-through blast-fragmentation munition followed by explosively formed penetrator.
Manufacturer specifications for the RPG-7V1.
A 1976 U.S. Army evaluation of the weapon gave the hit probabilities on a 5-by-2.5-metre (16.4 ft × 8.2 ft) panel moving sideways at 4 m/s (8.9 mph). Crosswinds cause additional issues as the round steers into the wind; in an 11 km/h (6.8 mph) (3 m/s) wind, firing at a stationary tank sized target, the gunner cannot expect to get a first-round hit more than 50% of the time at 180 m.
History of use
The RPG-7 was first used in 1967 by Egypt during the Six-Day War, and by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, but it did not see widespread usage in Vietnam until the following year.
Accurate firing is difficult at ranges over 200 metres. During the Soviet–Afghan War, the mujahideen tended to use the weapon at ranges of less than 80 metres.
The RPG-7 was used by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 2005, most notably in Lurgan, County Armagh, where it was used against British Army observation posts and the towering military base at Kitchen Hill in the town. The IRA also used them in Catholic areas of West Belfast against British Army armoured personnel carriers and Army forward operating bases (FOB). Beechmount Avenue in Belfast became known as "RPG Avenue" after attacks on British troops.
In Mogadishu, Somalia, RPG-7s were used to down two U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters in 1993.
A Bulgarian soldier with an ATGL-L (Bulgarian copy of the RPG-7) equipped with a red dot reflex sight
A Romanian soldier with an AG-7 (licensed built RPG-7).
Iranian manufactured RPG-7 launcher, uncovered in Lebanon
, by the IDF
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