Rocket propelled grenade
Overview
 
A rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) is a shoulder-fired, anti-tank weapon system which fires rockets equipped with an explosive warhead. These warheads are affixed to a rocket motor and stabilized in flight with fins. Some types of RPG are reloadable while others are single-use. RPGs, with the exception of self-contained versions, are loaded from the muzzle
Muzzleloader
A muzzleloader is any firearm into which the projectile and usually the propellant charge is loaded from the muzzle of the gun . This is distinct from the more popular modern designs of breech-loading firearms...

. RPGs are very effective against armored vehicles such as armored personnel carriers (APCs).
In the context of "rocket-propelled grenades", RPG is a transliteration of the Russian РПГ or ручной противотанковый гранатомёт (transliterated
Scientific transliteration
Scientific transliteration, variously called academic, linguistic, or scholarly transliteration, is an international system for transliteration of text from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet...

 as "ruchnoy protivotankovy granatomyot"), which translates to the English phrase "hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher".
Encyclopedia
A rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) is a shoulder-fired, anti-tank weapon system which fires rockets equipped with an explosive warhead. These warheads are affixed to a rocket motor and stabilized in flight with fins. Some types of RPG are reloadable while others are single-use. RPGs, with the exception of self-contained versions, are loaded from the muzzle
Muzzleloader
A muzzleloader is any firearm into which the projectile and usually the propellant charge is loaded from the muzzle of the gun . This is distinct from the more popular modern designs of breech-loading firearms...

. RPGs are very effective against armored vehicles such as armored personnel carriers (APCs).

Etymology

In the context of "rocket-propelled grenades", RPG is a transliteration of the Russian РПГ or ручной противотанковый гранатомёт (transliterated
Scientific transliteration
Scientific transliteration, variously called academic, linguistic, or scholarly transliteration, is an international system for transliteration of text from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet...

 as "ruchnoy protivotankovy granatomyot"), which translates to the English phrase "hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher". Thus rocket-propelled grenade is a backronym
Backronym
A backronym or bacronym is a phrase constructed purposely, such that an acronym can be formed to a specific desired word. Backronyms may be invented with serious or humorous intent, or may be a type of false or folk etymology....

 rather than a translation.

The first Soviet "RPGs", RPG-40
RPG-40
The RPG-40 was an anti-tank hand grenade developed by the Soviet Union in 1940. Its anti-tank capability came from blast effect produced by the detonation upon contact of 760 grams of explosive contained in it. This effect enabled about 20 mm of armour to be penetrated, and secondary damage,...

, RPG-43
RPG-43
The RPG-43 was a high explosive anti-tank hand grenade used by the Soviet Union during the Second World War. It entered service in 1943, replacing the earlier model RPG-40. The RPG-43 used a shaped charge HEAT warhead, whereas the RPG-40 used the simpler HE warhead...

, and RPG-6
RPG-6
The RPG-6 was a Soviet anti-tank hand-grenade operating on the shaped charge principle, developed during World War II...

, were in fact thrown hand grenades, and the acronym stood for ручная противотанковая граната, or "hand-held anti-tank grenade"—obviously not a launcher. The projectile of RPG launchers is similarly designated PG, (PG-7, etc.), which similarly stands for противотанковая граната, "anti-tank grenade".

History

The RPG has its roots in the 20th century, with the early development of the explosive shaped charge
Shaped charge
A shaped charge is an explosive charge shaped to focus the effect of the explosive's energy. Various types are used to cut and form metal, to initiate nuclear weapons, to penetrate armor, and in the oil and gas industry...

. The development of practical rocketry provided a means of delivering such an explosive. Research, occasioned by World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, produced such weapons as the American bazooka
Bazooka
Bazooka is the common name for a man-portable recoilless rocket antitank weapon, widely fielded by the U.S. Army. Also referred to as the "Stovepipe", the innovative bazooka was amongst the first-generation of rocket propelled anti-tank weapons used in infantry combat...

, and German Panzerfaust
Panzerfaust
The Panzerfaust was an inexpensive, recoilless German anti-tank weapon of World War II. It consisted of a small, disposable preloaded launch tube firing a high explosive anti-tank warhead, operated by a single soldier...

, which combined portability with effectiveness against armored vehicles such as tanks.

The Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

-developed RPG-7
RPG-7
The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...

 is the most widely distributed and used RPG in the world. The basic design of this RPG was developed by the Soviets shortly after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in the form of the RPG-2
RPG-2
The RPG-2 was the first rocket-propelled grenade launcher designed in the Soviet Union.-Development:The RPG-2 , was a man-portable, shoulder-launched rocket-propelled grenade anti-armor weapon...

, which is similar in function to the Bazooka and the Panzerfaust.

An early method of disabling shaped charges developed during World War II was to apply thin skirt armor or meshwire at a distance around the hull and turret of the tank. The skirt or mesh armor (cage armor
Cage armor
Slat armor is a type of vehicle armor designed to protect against anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade attacks...

) triggers the RPG on contact and much of the molten jet that a shaped charge produces dissipates before coming into contact with the main armor of the vehicle. Well-sloped armor also gives some protection because the shaped charge is forced to penetrate a greater amount of armor due to the oblique angle. The benefits of cage armor are still considered great in modern battlefields in the Middle East, and although similar effects can be obtained using spaced armor, either as a part of the original design or as appliqué armor fitted later, cage armor is preferable due to its low weight and ease of repair.

Today, technologically advanced armies have implemented composite armors such as Chobham armor which provide protection superior to steel. For added protection, vehicles may be retrofitted with reactive armor; upon impact, reactive tiles explode or deform, disrupting the normal function of the shaped charge. Russian and Israeli vehicles also use active protection system
Active protection system
An active protection system is a system designed to prevent sensor-based weapons from acquiring and/or destroying a target....

s like Drozd
Drozd
Drozd is an active protection system developed in the Soviet Union, designed for increasing tanks' protection against anti-tank missiles and RPGs. It is considered the world's first operational active protection system, created in 1977–78 by A...

, Arena APS
Arena Active Protection System
The Arena is an active protection system developed at Russia's Kolomna-based Engineering Design Bureau for the purpose of protecting armoured fighting vehicles from destruction by light anti-tank weapons, anti-tank guided missiles , and missiles with top attack warheads. It uses a Doppler radar...

 or Trophy. Such a system detects and shoots down incoming projectiles before they reach the vehicle.

As in all arms races, these developments in armor countermeasures have led to the development of RPG rounds designed specifically to defeat them, with methods such as a tandem-charge
Tandem-charge
A tandem-charge weapon is an explosive device or projectile that has two or more stages of detonation. It is effective against cage armor, which is designed to protect an armored vehicle against anti-tank munitions. The first stage of the weapon triggers the reactive armor of the target, limiting...

 warhead, which has two shape charges, of which the first is meant to activate any reactive armor, and the second to penetrate the vehicle.

Description

An RPG comprises two main parts: the launcher and a rocket equipped with a warhead. The most common types of warheads are high explosive (HE) or high explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank warheads are made of an explosive shaped charge that uses the Munroe effect to create a very high-velocity partial stream of metal in a state of superplasticity that can punch through solid armor....

 (HEAT) rounds. These warheads are affixed to a rocket motor and stabilized in flight with fins. Some types of RPGs are single-use disposable units similar to the RPG-22
RPG-22
The Soviet RPG-22 Netto is a one-shot disposable anti-tank rocket launcher first deployed in 1985, based on the RPG-18 rocket launcher, but firing a larger 72.5 mm fin stabilised projectile. The weapon can be prepared to fire in around 10 seconds, and can penetrate 400 mm of armour, 1.2 meters of...

; others are re-loadable, such as the Soviet RPG-7
RPG-7
The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...

.

The launcher is designed such that the rocket exits the launcher without discharging an exhaust that would be dangerous to the operator. In the case of the RPG-7
RPG-7
The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...

 the rocket is launched by a gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 booster charge, and the rocket
Rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

 motor ignites only after 10 metres. In some other designs the propellant charge burns completely within the tube.

An RPG is an inexpensive way to deliver an explosive payload over a distance with moderate accuracy. Substantially more expensive, wire-guided rockets are used when accuracy is important; these rockets trail a thin wire behind them during firing and steering corrections can be sent by the operator (see Missile guidance
Missile guidance
Missile guidance refers to a variety of methods of guiding a missile or a guided bomb to its intended target. The missile's target accuracy is a critical factor for its effectiveness...

) while in flight, such as in the AT-3 Sagger
AT-3 Sagger
The 9K11 Malyutka is a Manual Command to Line-of-Sight wire-guided anti-tank guided missile developed in the Soviet Union. It was the first man-portable anti-tank guided missile of the Soviet Union and is probably the most widely produced ATGM of all time—with Soviet production peaking at...

.

Warheads

The HE (high explosive) warhead is a general-purpose explosive warhead for use against soft targets such as infantry, unarmored vehicles and fixed positions. The HE warhead detonates upon impact or when the fuse runs out; usually the fuse is set to the maximum burn of the rocket motor but it can be shortened for improvised anti aircraft purposes. The warhead case and charge generate a moderate amount of fragmentation, which can pass through many obstacles without stopping.

The HEAT (high explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank warheads are made of an explosive shaped charge that uses the Munroe effect to create a very high-velocity partial stream of metal in a state of superplasticity that can punch through solid armor....

) round is a standard shaped charge
Shaped charge
A shaped charge is an explosive charge shaped to focus the effect of the explosive's energy. Various types are used to cut and form metal, to initiate nuclear weapons, to penetrate armor, and in the oil and gas industry...

 warhead, similar in concept to those used in tank cannon rounds. In this type of warhead, the shape of the explosive material within the warhead focuses the explosive energy on a copper (or similar metal) lining. This heats the metal lining and propels some of it forward at a very high velocity in a highly plastic state. The resulting narrow jet of metal can defeat armor several hundred milimeters of RHA equivalent, such as that used in light and medium armored vehicles. However, heavily armored vehicles such as main battle tanks are generally too well armored to be penetrated by an RPG, unless weaker sections of the armor are exploited. Various warheads are also capable of causing secondary damage to vulnerable systems (especially sights, tracks, rear and roof of turrets) and other soft targets.

Specialized warheads are available for illumination, smoke, tear gas, and white phosphorus. Russia, China, and many former Warsaw Pact nations have also developed a fuel-air explosive
Thermobaric weapon
A thermobaric weapon, which includes the type known as a "fuel-air bomb", is an explosive weapon that produces a blast wave of a significantly longer duration than those produced by condensed explosives. This is useful in military applications where its longer duration increases the numbers of...

 (thermobaric) warhead. Another recent development is a tandem HEAT warhead capable of penetrating reactive armor.

So-called PRIGs (Propelled Recoilless Improvised Grenade) were improvised warheads used by the Provisional IRA.

Effectiveness

The RPG-29
RPG-29
The RPG-29 is a Russian rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Adopted by the Soviet Army in 1989, it was the most recent weapon of its type to be adopted by the Russian military before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The RPG-29 has since been supplemented by other rocket-propelled systems, such...

 uses a tandem-charge
Tandem-charge
A tandem-charge weapon is an explosive device or projectile that has two or more stages of detonation. It is effective against cage armor, which is designed to protect an armored vehicle against anti-tank munitions. The first stage of the weapon triggers the reactive armor of the target, limiting...

 high explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank
High explosive anti-tank warheads are made of an explosive shaped charge that uses the Munroe effect to create a very high-velocity partial stream of metal in a state of superplasticity that can punch through solid armor....

 warhead to penetrate explosive reactive armor (ERA) as well as composite armor behind it, capable of destroying some modern MBTs such as the Merkava
Merkava
The Merkava is a main battle tank used by the Israel Defense Forces. The tank began development in 1974 and was first introduced in 1978. Four main versions of the tank have been deployed. It was first used extensively in the 1982 Lebanon War...

, Challenger 2, or T-90
T-90
The T-90 is a Russian third-generation main battle tank that is a modernisation of the T-72 . It is currently the most modern tank in service with the Russian Ground Forces and Naval Infantry...

.

In August 2006, an RPG-29 round penetrated the frontal ERA of a Challenger 2 tank during an engagement in al-Amarah, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 and wounded several crew members.

In May 2008, The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

disclosed that an American M1 tank
M1 Abrams
The M1 Abrams is a third-generation main battle tank produced in the United States. It is named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US military forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. The M1 is a well armed, heavily armored, and highly mobile tank designed for...

 had also been damaged by an RPG-29 in Iraq.

Various armies and manufacturers have developed add-on tank armor and other systems for urban combat
Urban warfare
Urban warfare is combat conducted in urban areas such as towns and cities. Urban combat is very different from combat in the open at both the operational and tactical level...

, such as the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK) for M1 Abrams
M1 Abrams
The M1 Abrams is a third-generation main battle tank produced in the United States. It is named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US military forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. The M1 is a well armed, heavily armored, and highly mobile tank designed for...

, slat armor for the Stryker
Stryker
The IAV Stryker is a family of eight-wheeled, 4-wheel-drive , armored fighting vehicles derived from the Canadian LAV III and produced by General Dynamics Land Systems, in use by the United States Army. The vehicle is named for two American servicemen who posthumously received the Medal of Honor:...

, ERA kit for the FV432, AZUR for Leclerc
Leclerc
The AMX-56 Leclerc, commonly known as the Leclerc, is a main battle tank built by Nexter of France. It was named in honour of General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque who led the French element of the drive towards Paris while in command of the Free French 2nd Armoured Division in World War...

, and others. Similar solutions are active protection system
Active protection system
An active protection system is a system designed to prevent sensor-based weapons from acquiring and/or destroying a target....

s, engaging closing projectiles such as the Russian Drozd
Drozd
Drozd is an active protection system developed in the Soviet Union, designed for increasing tanks' protection against anti-tank missiles and RPGs. It is considered the world's first operational active protection system, created in 1977–78 by A...

 and Arena
Arena Active Protection System
The Arena is an active protection system developed at Russia's Kolomna-based Engineering Design Bureau for the purpose of protecting armoured fighting vehicles from destruction by light anti-tank weapons, anti-tank guided missiles , and missiles with top attack warheads. It uses a Doppler radar...

, as well as the recent Israeli Trophy
TROPHY Active Protection System
Trophy is an active protection system , designed to supplement the armor of both light and heavy armored fighting vehicles. It intercepts and destroys incoming missiles and rockets with a shotgun-like blast...

 system.

Tactics

RPGs were used extensively during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 (by the Vietnam People's Army
Vietnam People's Army
The Vietnam People's Army is the armed forces of Vietnam. The VPA includes: the Vietnamese People's Ground Forces , the Vietnam People's Navy , the Vietnam People's Air Force, and the Vietnam Marine Police.During the French Indochina War , the VPA was often referred to as the Việt...

 and Vietcong), Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by the Mujahideen
Mujahideen
Mujahideen are Muslims who struggle in the path of God. The word is from the same Arabic triliteral as jihad .Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as mujahedin, mujahedeen, mudžahedin, mudžahidin, mujahidīn, mujaheddīn and more.-Origin of the concept:The beginnings of Jihad are traced...

 and against South Africans in Angola
Angola
Angola, officially the Republic of Angola , is a country in south-central Africa bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Luanda as its capital city...

 and Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

 (formerly South West Africa
South West Africa
South-West Africa was the name that was used for the modern day Republic of Namibia during the earlier eras when the territory was controlled by the German Empire and later by South Africa....

) by SWAPO guerillas during what the South Africans called the South African Border War
South African Border War
The South African Border War, commonly referred to as the Angolan Bush War in South Africa, was a conflict that took place from 1966 to 1989 in South-West Africa and Angola between South Africa and its allied forces on the one side and the Angolan government, South-West Africa People's...

. Twenty years later, it is still being used widely in recent conflict areas such as Chechnya
Chechnya
The Chechen Republic , commonly referred to as Chechnya , also spelled Chechnia or Chechenia, sometimes referred to as Ichkeria , is a federal subject of Russia . It is located in the southeastern part of Europe in the Northern Caucasus mountains. The capital of the republic is the city of Grozny...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, and Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

.

One of the first instances when it was used by militants was on 13 January 1975 at the Orly airport in France, when Carlos the Jackal
Carlos the Jackal
Ilich Ramírez Sánchez , better known as Carlos the Jackal, is a Venezuelan pro-Palestinian currently serving a life sentence in France for shooting to death two French secret agents and a Lebanese informer in 1975....

 together with another member from the PFLP used two Soviet RPG-7 grenades to attack an Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i El Al
El Al
El Al Israel Airlines Ltd , trading as El Al , is the flag carrier of Israel. It operates scheduled domestic and international services and cargo flights to Europe, North America, Africa and the Far East from its main base in Ben Gurion International Airport...

 airliner. Both missed, and one of them hit a DC-9 of Yugoslav Airlines instead.

RPGs can also be used to achieve a mobility kill
Mobility kill
A mobility kill in armoured warfare refers to a weapon or vehicle that is immobilized, or the act of immobilizing such a target. Typically this term is used to refer to tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles that have their engines, tracks, or running gear damaged...

, because no matter how thick the tank's armor is, its tracks remain the weakest components. If there is no covering fire, the tank may be destroyed easily as it unable to move to protect itself. However, if recovered, the tank can easily be repaired and ready for actions.

Due to the lack of a guidance system in the RPG rockets, the operator must fire relatively close to the intended target, increasing the chances of being spotted. Most modern armies deploy anti tank guided missiles (ATGM) as their primary infantry anti-tank weapon, but the RPG still remains a potent threat to armored vehicles, especially in situations such as urban warfare
Urban warfare
Urban warfare is combat conducted in urban areas such as towns and cities. Urban combat is very different from combat in the open at both the operational and tactical level...

 or jungle warfare
Jungle warfare
Jungle warfare is a term used to cover the special techniques needed for military units to survive and fight in jungle terrain.It has been the topic of extensive study by military strategists, and was an important part of the planning for both sides in many conflicts, including World War II and the...

, where they are favored by guerrillas. They are most effective when used in restricted terrain as the availability of cover and concealment can make it difficult for the intended target to spot the RPG operator. Note that this concealment is often preferably outdoors because firing an RPG within an enclosed area may create a dangerous backblast.

When deployed against personnel, the warhead can be aimed at a solid surface to detonate, popular choices being trees or buildings. Another option is an indirect method of firing the warhead over the intended target area at ranges of 800–1000 m where the warhead would detonate automatically. More skilled shooters can use the RPG self-destruct feature to make it explode over the enemy at closer range.

Although they can be—and often are—used against hovering helicopters, they should not be confused with anti-aircraft shoulder fired surface-to-air missile
Surface-to-air missile
A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

 (MANPADS) such as the Stinger
FIM-92 Stinger
The FIM-92 Stinger is a personal portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile , which can be adapted to fire from ground vehicles and helicopters , developed in the United States and entered into service in 1981. Used by the militaries of the U.S...

 or SA-7 Grail
Strela 2
The 9K32 “Strela-2” is a man-portable, shoulder-fired, low-altitude surface-to-air missile system with a high explosive warhead and passive infrared homing guidance...

/SA-14
9K34 Strela-3
The 9K34 Strela-3 man-portable air defence missile system was developed in the Soviet Union as a response to the poor performance of the earlier 9K32 Strela 2 system. "9K34" is its GRAU designation and its NATO reporting name is SA-14 Gremlin. The missile was largely based on the earlier Strela...

. MANPADS are capable of actively tracking the target as opposed to flying in a ballistic trajectory as the unguided RPG-missiles do; allowing kills at high altitude (which are too far to be hit by an unguided projectile). Furthermore, firing at steep angles poses a danger to the user, because the backblast from firing reflects off the ground. In Somalia, militia members sometimes welded a steel plate in the exhaust end of an RPG's tube to deflect pressure away from the shooter when shooting upwards at US helicopters. RPGs are used in this role only when more effective weapons are not available.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, Mujahideen
Mujahideen
Mujahideen are Muslims who struggle in the path of God. The word is from the same Arabic triliteral as jihad .Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as mujahedin, mujahedeen, mudžahedin, mudžahidin, mujahidīn, mujaheddīn and more.-Origin of the concept:The beginnings of Jihad are traced...

 guerrillas used RPG-7s to destroy Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 vehicles. To assure a kill, two to four RPG shooters would be assigned to each vehicle. In areas where vehicles were confined to a single path (a mountain road, swamps, snow, urban areas), RPG teams trapped convoys by destroying the first and last vehicles in line, preventing movement of the other vehicles. This tactic was especially effective in cities. Convoys learned to avoid approaches with overhangs and to send infantrymen forward in hazardous areas to detect the RPG teams.

Multiple shooters were also effective against heavy tanks with reactive armor: The first shot would be against the driver's viewing prisms. Following shots would be in pairs, one to set off the reactive armor, the second to penetrate the tank's armor. Favored weak spots were the top and rear of the turret.

Afghans sometimes used RPG-7s at extreme range, exploded by their 4.5-second self-destruct timer, which translates to roughly 950m flight distance, as a method of long distance approach denial for infantry and reconnaissance.

Angola

Soviet RPGs posed a serious threat to lightly armored South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

n APCs, which would be targeted as soon as they stopped to let off troops. In reaction to ambushes, units such as Koevoet
Koevoet
Koevoet , also known as "Operation K" and officially known as the "South West Africa Police Counter-Insurgency Unit" , was a police counter insurgency unit in South-West Africa during the 1970s and 1980s...

 (Afrikaans for crowbar) developed the unique tactic of driving the APCs in widening circles, using automatic gunfire from one side to destroy the RPG teams. By not stopping to let off troops, the APCs were difficult to target. The secondary effect was also to confuse and surprise their attackers by deploying tactics not known or studied elsewhere that they could not have been trained or prepared for.
The tactic was developed informally in the field and passed on to new drivers as it required good coordination between the vehicles which seldom numbered fewer than 2-4.

Chechnya

During the First
First Chechen War
The First Chechen War, also known as the War in Chechnya, was a conflict between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, fought from December 1994 to August 1996...

 (1994–1996) and Second Chechen War
Second Chechen War
The Second Chechen War, in a later phase better known as the War in the North Caucasus, was launched by the Russian Federation starting 26 August 1999, in response to the Invasion of Dagestan by the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade ....

s (1999–2009), Chechen
Chechnya
The Chechen Republic , commonly referred to as Chechnya , also spelled Chechnia or Chechenia, sometimes referred to as Ichkeria , is a federal subject of Russia . It is located in the southeastern part of Europe in the Northern Caucasus mountains. The capital of the republic is the city of Grozny...

 rebels used RPGs to attack Russian tanks from basements and high rooftops. This tactic was effective because tank main guns could not be depressed or raised far enough to return fire, in addition, armor on the very top and bottom of tanks is usually the weakest. Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n forces had to rely on artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 suppression, good crew gunners and infantry screens to prevent such attacks. Tank columns were eventually protected by attached self-propelled anti-aircraft guns (ZSU-23-4
ZSU-23-4
The ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" is a lightly armored, self-propelled, radar guided anti-aircraft weapon system . ZSU stands for Zenitnaya Samokhodnaya Ustanovka , meaning "anti-aircraft self-propelled mount". The "23" signifies the bore diameter in millimeters. The "4" signifies the number of gun barrels. It...

, Tunguska-M1) used in the ground role to suppress and destroy Chechen ambushes.

Chechen fighters formed independent "cells" that worked together to destroy a specific Russian armored target. Each cell contained small arms and some form of RPG (RPG-7
RPG-7
The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...

V or RPG-18
RPG-18
The RPG-18 Mukha is a Russian short-range, disposable light anti-tank rocket launcher.-History:The RPG-18 is very similar to the US M72-series LAW anti-tank rocket and was developed after the Soviet military obtained M72s from its allies in Vietnam...

, for example). The small arms were used to button the tank up and keep any infantry occupied while the RPG gunner struck at the tank. While doing so other teams would attempt to fire at the target in order to overwhelm the Russians' ability to effectively counter the attack. To further increase the chance of success, the teams took up positions at different elevations where possible. Firing from the third and higher floors allowed good shots at the weakest armor (the top). When the Russians began moving in tanks fitted with explosive reactive armor (ERA), the Chechens had to adapt their tactics, because the RPGs they had access to were unlikely to result in the destruction of the tank.

Iraq

In the period following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the RPG became a favorite weapon of the insurgent forces fighting U.S. troops. Since most of the readily-available RPG-7
RPG-7
The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...

 rounds cannot penetrate M1 Abrams
M1 Abrams
The M1 Abrams is a third-generation main battle tank produced in the United States. It is named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US military forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. The M1 is a well armed, heavily armored, and highly mobile tank designed for...

 tank armor from the front, it is primarily effective against soft-skinned or lightly armored vehicles, and infantry. Even if the RPG hit does not completely disable the tank or kill the crew, it can still damage external equipment, lowering the tank's effectiveness or forcing the crew to abandon and destroy it.

Newer RPG-7 rounds are more capable, and in August 2006, an RPG-29 round penetrated the frontal ERA of a Challenger 2 tank during an engagement in al-Amarah, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 and wounded several crew members.

Northern Ireland

The RPG-7 has been used during The Troubles
The Troubles
The Troubles was a period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast...

 by both the Provisional Irish Republican Army
Provisional Irish Republican Army
The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

, the Ulster Volunteer Force, and other Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries. Some are still being used by dissident Republican groups, such as the Real Irish Republican Army
Real Irish Republican Army
The Real Irish Republican Army, otherwise known as the Real IRA , and styling itself as Óglaigh na hÉireann , is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation which aims to bring about a united Ireland...

 and the Continuity Irish Republican Army
Continuity Irish Republican Army
The Continuity Irish Republican Army, otherwise known as the Continuity IRA and styling itself as Óglaigh na hÉireann, is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation that aims to bring about a united Ireland. It emerged from a split in the Provisional IRA in 1986 but did not become active until...

. The RPG-7 has been used on British armoured personal carriers and static observation points throughout the conflict especially in Republican West Belfast and South Armagh.

El Salvador

RPGs were a main tool used by the FMLN's guerrilla forces in the Salvadoran Civil War. For example, during the June 19, 1986 overrun of the San Miguel Army base, FMLN sappers dressed only in black shorts, their faces blacked out with grease, sneaked through barbedwire at night, avoiding the searchlights, they made it to within firing range of the outer wall. Using RPGs to initiate the attack, they blew through the wall and killed a number of Salvadorean soldiers. They eliminated the outermost sentries and the searchlights with the rockets, then made it into the inner wall, which they also punched through. They were then able to create mayhem as their comrades attacked from the outside.

Lebanon

During the 2006 Lebanon War, Hezbollah fired hundreds of antitank missiles in the course of the conflict; 52 Israeli tanks were hit, and the armor was penetrated in the case of 22 of those tanks. The penetrations were caused by tandem warhead missiles, including the RPG-29 'Vampir'
RPG-29
The RPG-29 is a Russian rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Adopted by the Soviet Army in 1989, it was the most recent weapon of its type to be adopted by the Russian military before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The RPG-29 has since been supplemented by other rocket-propelled systems, such...

, AT-5 Spandrel 'Konkurs'
AT-5 Spandrel
The 9M113 Konkurs SACLOS wire-guided Anti-tank missile of the Soviet Union. "9M113" is the GRAU designation of the missile. Its NATO reporting name is AT-5 Spandrel.-Development:...

, AT-13 Saxhorn-2 'Metis-M', and АТ-14 Spriggan 'Kornet'
9M133 Kornet
The Kornet is a Russian anti-tank missile . It is a second generation ATGM intended to deal with main battle tanks and to engage slow and low flying helicopters, but is not intended to fully replace previous systems, due to the cost...

 missiles. Eighteen of the damaged tanks were Merkava Mark IVs, although two of them were still serviceable.

Anti-aircraft

Using RPGs as improvised anti aircraft batteries has proved successful in Somalia, Afghanistan and Chechnya. Helicopter
Helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

s are typically ambushed as they land, take off or hover.

In Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, the Mujahideen
Mujahideen
Mujahideen are Muslims who struggle in the path of God. The word is from the same Arabic triliteral as jihad .Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as mujahedin, mujahedeen, mudžahedin, mudžahidin, mujahidīn, mujaheddīn and more.-Origin of the concept:The beginnings of Jihad are traced...

 often modified RPGs for use against Soviet helicopters by adding a curved pipe to the rear of the launcher tube, which diverted the backblast, allowing the RPG to be fired upward at aircraft from a prone position. This made the operator less visible prior to firing and decreased the risk of injury from hot exhaust gases. Mujahideen also utilised the 4.5-second timer on RPG rounds to make the weapon function as part of a flak battery, using multiple launchers to increase hit probabilities. At the time, Soviet helicopters countered the threat from RPGs at landing zones by first clearing them with anti-personnel saturation fire. The Soviets also varied the number of accompanying helicopters (two or three) in an effort to upset Afghan force estimations and preparation. In response, the Mujahideen prepared dug-in firing positions with top cover, and again, Soviet forces altered their tactics by using air-dropped fuel-air bombs on such landing zones. As the U.S.-supplied Stinger
FIM-92 Stinger
The FIM-92 Stinger is a personal portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile , which can be adapted to fire from ground vehicles and helicopters , developed in the United States and entered into service in 1981. Used by the militaries of the U.S...

 surface-to-air missile
Surface-to-air missile
A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

s became available to them, the Afghans abandoned RPG attacks as the smart missiles proved especially efficient in the destruction of unarmed Soviet transport helicopters such as Mi-17
MI-17
MI-17 can refer to:* Mil Mi-17, Soviet helicopter*M-17...

.

In Somalia
Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

, both of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters lost by U.S. forces during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 were downed by RPG-7s.

Russian RPGs

RPGs currently in service in the Russian Ground Forces:
  • Anti-personnel explosives
    • RPG-7V2
      RPG-7
      The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...

      : Reloadable RPG launcher, TBG-7V thermobaric
      Thermobaric weapon
      A thermobaric weapon, which includes the type known as a "fuel-air bomb", is an explosive weapon that produces a blast wave of a significantly longer duration than those produced by condensed explosives. This is useful in military applications where its longer duration increases the numbers of...

       and OG-7V fragmentation
      Fragmentation (weaponry)
      Fragmentation is the process by which the casing of an artillery shell, bomb, grenade, etc. is shattered by the detonating high explosive filling. The correct technical terminology for these casing pieces is fragments , although shards or splinters can be used for non-preformed fragments...

       rockets
    • RPG-27
      RPG-27
      The RPG-27 is a Soviet disposable rocket launcher.-History:The RPG-27 Tavolga was developed by the State Research and Production Enterprise, Bazalt as a modern anti-tank grenade launcher designed to defeat modern and future tanks with advanced reactive and composite armor as well as fortified...

       "Tavolga": One-shot disposable RPG launcher, RShG-1 thermobaric
      Thermobaric weapon
      A thermobaric weapon, which includes the type known as a "fuel-air bomb", is an explosive weapon that produces a blast wave of a significantly longer duration than those produced by condensed explosives. This is useful in military applications where its longer duration increases the numbers of...

       rockets
    • RPG-29
      RPG-29
      The RPG-29 is a Russian rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Adopted by the Soviet Army in 1989, it was the most recent weapon of its type to be adopted by the Russian military before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The RPG-29 has since been supplemented by other rocket-propelled systems, such...

       "Vampir": Reloadable RPG launcher, TBG-29 thermobaric
      Thermobaric weapon
      A thermobaric weapon, which includes the type known as a "fuel-air bomb", is an explosive weapon that produces a blast wave of a significantly longer duration than those produced by condensed explosives. This is useful in military applications where its longer duration increases the numbers of...

       rockets
  • Anti-tank explosives
    • RPG-7V2
      RPG-7
      The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...

      : Reloadable RPG launcher, PG-7VL with ~500 mm RHA penetration, PG-7VR with ~600 mm RHA penetration after ERA
    • RPG-16
      RPG-16
      The RPG-16 is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher for anti-tank warfare. The RPG-16 was developed in 1968, and adopted by the Red Army in 1970 for special operation teams and the Soviet airborne troops...

      : Reloadable RPG launcher, PG-16 with ~300 mm RHA penetration, higher accuracy and four times the range of the RPG-7
      RPG-7
      The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...

    • RPG-18
      RPG-18
      The RPG-18 Mukha is a Russian short-range, disposable light anti-tank rocket launcher.-History:The RPG-18 is very similar to the US M72-series LAW anti-tank rocket and was developed after the Soviet military obtained M72s from its allies in Vietnam...

       "Muha (Fly)": One-shot disposable RPG launcher, PG-18 with ~375 mm RHA penetration
    • RPG-22
      RPG-22
      The Soviet RPG-22 Netto is a one-shot disposable anti-tank rocket launcher first deployed in 1985, based on the RPG-18 rocket launcher, but firing a larger 72.5 mm fin stabilised projectile. The weapon can be prepared to fire in around 10 seconds, and can penetrate 400 mm of armour, 1.2 meters of...

       "Netto (Nett)": One-shot disposable RPG launcher, PG-22 with ~400 mm RHA penetration
    • RPG-26
      RPG-26
      The RPG-26 Aglen is a disposable anti-tank rocket launcher developed by the Soviet Union. It fires a single-stage rocket with jack-knife fins, which unfold after launch...

       "Aglen": One-shot disposable RPG launcher, PG-26 with ~500 mm RHA penetration
    • RPG-27
      RPG-27
      The RPG-27 is a Soviet disposable rocket launcher.-History:The RPG-27 Tavolga was developed by the State Research and Production Enterprise, Bazalt as a modern anti-tank grenade launcher designed to defeat modern and future tanks with advanced reactive and composite armor as well as fortified...

       "Tavolga": One-shot disposable RPG launcher, PG-27 with ~750 mm RHA penetration after ERA
    • RPG-28
      RPG-28
      The RPG-28 is a Russian handheld anti-tank rocket launcher.-History:The RPG-28 was unveiled in 2007 at IDEX Abu Dhabi by the State Research and Production Enterprise, Bazalt as a modern anti-tank rocket launcher designed to defeat modern and future tanks with advanced reactive and composite armour...

      : One-shot disposable RPG launcher, with ~1000 mm RHA penetration after ERA
    • RPG-29
      RPG-29
      The RPG-29 is a Russian rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Adopted by the Soviet Army in 1989, it was the most recent weapon of its type to be adopted by the Russian military before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The RPG-29 has since been supplemented by other rocket-propelled systems, such...

       "Vampir": Reloadable RPG launcher, PG-29V with ~750 mm RHA penetration after ERA
    • RPG-30
      RPG-30
      The RPG-30 is a Russian hand held anti-tank grenade launcher.-History:The RPG-30 was unveiled in 2008 by the State Research and Production Enterprise, Bazalt as a modern anti-tank grenade launcher designed to address the threat of reactive armor and active protection systems on tanks...

       With a 'precursor' forerunner additional sub-munition, intended to defeat Active Defense Systems like Trophy.
    • RPG-32
      RPG-32
      The RPG-32 Hashim is a Russian hand held anti-tank grenade launcher.The RPG-32 multipurpose grenade launcher was developed between 2005 and 2007 by Russian state-owned FGUP 'Bazalt' organization on request and under contract from Jordan...

       "Hashim": Latest variant of RPG 105 mm Caliber, PG-32V with ~650 mm RHA penetration

See also

  • Grenade launcher
    Grenade launcher
    A grenade launcher or grenade discharger is a weapon that launches a grenade with more accuracy, higher velocity, and to greater distances than a soldier could throw it by hand....

  • Shoulder-launched missile weapon
    Shoulder-launched missile weapon
    A shoulder-fired missile, shoulder-launched missile or man-portable missile is a projectile fired at a target, small enough to be carried by a single person, and fired while held on one's shoulder...

  • Panzerfaust
    Panzerfaust
    The Panzerfaust was an inexpensive, recoilless German anti-tank weapon of World War II. It consisted of a small, disposable preloaded launch tube firing a high explosive anti-tank warhead, operated by a single soldier...

     and Panzerfaust 3
    Panzerfaust 3
    The Panzerfaust 3 is a modern and disposable recoilless RPG anti-tank weapon developed between 1978 and 1985 and put into service by the Bundeswehr in 1992...

  • Soviet and Russian RPG models: RPG-2
    RPG-2
    The RPG-2 was the first rocket-propelled grenade launcher designed in the Soviet Union.-Development:The RPG-2 , was a man-portable, shoulder-launched rocket-propelled grenade anti-armor weapon...

    , RPG-7
    RPG-7
    The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...

    , PG-7VR
    PG-7VR
    The PG-7VR is a tandem charge RPG warhead designed to penetrate up to 600 mm rolled homogeneous armour equivalence of explosive reactive armor and the conventional armor underneath...

    , RPG-16
    RPG-16
    The RPG-16 is a handheld anti-tank grenade launcher for anti-tank warfare. The RPG-16 was developed in 1968, and adopted by the Red Army in 1970 for special operation teams and the Soviet airborne troops...

    , RPG-18
    RPG-18
    The RPG-18 Mukha is a Russian short-range, disposable light anti-tank rocket launcher.-History:The RPG-18 is very similar to the US M72-series LAW anti-tank rocket and was developed after the Soviet military obtained M72s from its allies in Vietnam...

    , RPG-22
    RPG-22
    The Soviet RPG-22 Netto is a one-shot disposable anti-tank rocket launcher first deployed in 1985, based on the RPG-18 rocket launcher, but firing a larger 72.5 mm fin stabilised projectile. The weapon can be prepared to fire in around 10 seconds, and can penetrate 400 mm of armour, 1.2 meters of...

    , RPG-26
    RPG-26
    The RPG-26 Aglen is a disposable anti-tank rocket launcher developed by the Soviet Union. It fires a single-stage rocket with jack-knife fins, which unfold after launch...

    , RPG-27
    RPG-27
    The RPG-27 is a Soviet disposable rocket launcher.-History:The RPG-27 Tavolga was developed by the State Research and Production Enterprise, Bazalt as a modern anti-tank grenade launcher designed to defeat modern and future tanks with advanced reactive and composite armor as well as fortified...

    , RPG-29
    RPG-29
    The RPG-29 is a Russian rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Adopted by the Soviet Army in 1989, it was the most recent weapon of its type to be adopted by the Russian military before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The RPG-29 has since been supplemented by other rocket-propelled systems, such...

    , RPG-32
    RPG-32
    The RPG-32 Hashim is a Russian hand held anti-tank grenade launcher.The RPG-32 multipurpose grenade launcher was developed between 2005 and 2007 by Russian state-owned FGUP 'Bazalt' organization on request and under contract from Jordan...

  • Chinese PLA models: Type 69 RPG
    Type 69 RPG
    The Type 69 85mm rocket propelled grenade , made by Norinco, is a Chinese copy of the famous RPG-7 developed by the Soviet Union. First introduced in the early 1970s, the Type 69 RPG is a common individual anti-tank weapon in service with the PLA...

  • Palestinian models: Yasin
  • M72 LAW
    M72 LAW
    The M72 LAW is a portable one-shot 66 mm unguided anti-tank weapon, designed in the United States by Paul V. Choate, Charles B. Weeks, and Frank A. Spinale et al...

    , MK-153 SMAW
    Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon
    The Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon is a shoulder-launched rocket weapon, based on the Israeli B-300, with the primary function of being a portable assault weapon and a secondary anti-armor rocket launcher. It was introduced to the United States armed forces in 1984...

    , M136 AT4
    AT4
    The AT4 is an 84-mm unguided, portable, single-shot recoilless smoothbore weapon built in Sweden by Saab Bofors Dynamics...

    —similar weapons used by US Armed Forces
  • RPG-43
    RPG-43
    The RPG-43 was a high explosive anti-tank hand grenade used by the Soviet Union during the Second World War. It entered service in 1943, replacing the earlier model RPG-40. The RPG-43 used a shaped charge HEAT warhead, whereas the RPG-40 used the simpler HE warhead...

    , RPG-40
    RPG-40
    The RPG-40 was an anti-tank hand grenade developed by the Soviet Union in 1940. Its anti-tank capability came from blast effect produced by the detonation upon contact of 760 grams of explosive contained in it. This effect enabled about 20 mm of armour to be penetrated, and secondary damage,...

    , RPG-6
    RPG-6
    The RPG-6 was a Soviet anti-tank hand-grenade operating on the shaped charge principle, developed during World War II...

    —Soviet anti-tank handgrenades in use during World War II

External links

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