Prospects for the development of hand-held rocket-propelled grenade launchers

Prospects for the development of hand-held rocket-propelled grenade launchers
Prospects for the development of hand-held rocket-propelled grenade launchers

The proposed material is devoted to hand-held rocket-propelled grenade launchers (hereinafter referred to as grenade launchers), which differ from complexes with guided anti-tank missiles and recoilless guns by the ability to carry one grenade launcher without using a machine or wheeled carriage. A shot from a grenade launcher is made with a free outflow of powder gases without a recoil impulse. Some models of grenade launchers are equipped with a launcher tube with a rifled channel, an air turbine on the stabilizer or stabilizer planes set at an angle to the incoming air flow to give the grenade rotation in order to average the eccentricity of the ammunition surface and the thrust of the rocket engine.


Grenade launchers differ in the way a grenade is dispersed in a launch tube:

- with the help of a starting rocket engine installed in a grenade (the so-called unloaded tube);

- with the help of a propellant charge placed in the breech of the launch tube or put on a grenade stabilizer (the so-called loaded tube).

The first method facilitates the design of the grenade launcher, but creates a risk of burns for the grenade launcher in the event of prolonged combustion of the starting rocket engine. The second method requires strengthening the design of the launch tube to resist the pressure of the powder gases. A piezoelectric trigger is used to initiate the electric igniter of the starting engine, and a percussion trigger is used to pierce the side capsule of the propellant charge.


In addition to the starting engine or propellant charge, most grenades are equipped with a sustainer rocket engine, which is triggered by a pyro retarder after the grenade is removed from the end of the launch tube by 10-15 meters and accelerates it to its maximum speed already on the flight path. This solution allows you to minimize the power of the propellant charge for the implementation of the so-called soft start with a minimum volume of powder gases in order to reduce the unmasking effect of the shot.

The speed of the grenade is limited to the speed of sound in the air to eliminate the loss of energy to overcome the sound barrier. In flight, the grenade is stabilized by the tail unit and, in part, due to the gyroscopic effect of rotation. Aimed firing from a grenade launcher is carried out with a direct shot along a flat trajectory with an elevation of the muzzle of the launch tube in proportion to the distance of the target in accordance with the scope range scale, as well as corrections for the lateral displacement velocity of the target and the strength of the wind. When firing while standing, the maximum elevation angle of the launch tube is limited to 20 degrees due to the danger of the grenade launcher being hit by stones and small soil particles thrown by the jet stream. When shooting prone, the maximum elevation angle is zero. Shooting in confined spaces is possible only from grenade launchers with counter-mass and locking of powder gases in the barrel, which do not create excessive pressure acting on the grenade launcher himself.


According to the frequency of use of the launch tube, grenade launchers are divided into disposable and reusable. Reusable grenade launchers have a lower rate of fire due to the need to perform an extra operation (loading ammunition), so they are serviced by a crew from a grenade launcher and a loader.

Folding aperture sights (included in the launch tube accessories), optical and optoelectronic sights (mounted on the launch tube using quick-release mounts) are used as sighting devices. To increase the accuracy of shooting, one or two handles, a shoulder rest, a two-support bipod, attached to the muzzle end of the launch tube, are used. To eliminate the risk of a grenade launcher burns, linings are used on the launch tube; when firing from a prone position, a single-support bipod is used, attached to the breech end of the launch tube. Grenade launchers are carried using a shoulder strap or a U-shaped handle, grenades in case equipment - using a backpack.

The beginning of the story

The first hand-held rocket launcher was developed in 1916 in the Russian Empire by Dmitry Pavlovich Ryabushinsky. The caliber of a smooth-bore breech-loading launch tube was 70 mm, weight - 7 kg, length - 1 m.The weight of a caliber grenade with a propelling charge placed in a burning fabric sleeve with a zinc pan (which served as a partial counter-mass) was 3 kg. The firing range reached 300 meters.

Prospects for the development of hand-held rocket-propelled grenade launchers

The first hand-held rocket-propelled grenade launcher was put into service in the USSR in 1931 - B.S. Petropavlovsky's 65-mm rocket rifle, loaded with high-explosive fragmentation and kinetic caliber projectiles with a rocket engine and electric launch. Until 1933, 325 grenade launchers were produced, which were used by the OGPU and the GUGB of the NKVD of the USSR for foreign special operations using high-explosive fragmentation rounds. The low speed and, accordingly, the low penetration of armor-piercing shells did not allow the use of this weapon as an anti-tank weapon.


During World War II, the USA, Germany and the USSR intensified the development of a new type of anti-tank ammunition based on shaped charges that do not need high speed to penetrate tank armor, and launchers for them in the form of rocket-propelled grenade launchers with a launch tube unloaded from the pressure of powder gases …

The first serial sample of a reusable breech-loading grenade launcher with a caliber grenade equipped with a shaped charge and a starting rocket engine was adopted by the American army in 1942 under the name M1 Bazooka. The caliber of the grenade launcher was 60 mm, the weight of the launch tube was 6, 3 kg, the weight of the grenade was 1, 6 kg, the muzzle velocity was 82 m / s, the range of a direct shot was 140 meters, and the armor penetration was 90 mm. The grenade launcher performed well in battles against Rommel's corps in North Africa. Since 1944, a more efficient M9 model with an increased launch tube length, an increased initial grenade speed and an expanded range of ammunition began to be supplied to the troops. Some of the grenade launchers were supplied under the Lend-Lease of Britain and the Soviet Union (in the amount of 9000 units), where they were tested at ranges and used in hostilities.


In Germany, they became interested in rocket-propelled grenade launchers in 1942 after getting acquainted with the captured M1 Bazooka. In 1943, according to the American type, the first German reusable RPzB.43 Ofenrohr grenade launcher of 88 mm caliber was adopted, the curb weight of which reached 12, 5 kg, the initial velocity of the cumulative grenade was 115 m / s, the direct shot range was 150 meters, armor penetration was ensured at the level of 210 mm. When fired, the grenade launcher wore a gas mask without a filter box to protect his face from the powder gases of the starting rocket engine. In 1944, an upgraded model of the RPzB.54 / 1 Panzerschreck grenade launcher was released, equipped with a protective shield and an improved aperture sight.


In 1943, the world's first disposable Faustpatrone grenade launcher was adopted in Germany. It consisted of a steel launch tube, an over-caliber non-reactive grenade and a propellant charge.The sighting device included a flap mounted on the launch tube), which, when aiming at the target, was aligned with the upper edge of the grenade rim. After revealing the limited combat capabilities of Faustpatrone, associated with the low speed of the grenade and the range of a direct shot (28 m / s and 30 meters, respectively), in the same year the disposable F1 Panzerfaus grenade launcher began to enter the Wehrmacht's armament, and subsequently its improved modifications F2, F3 and F4, which differed in the diameter of the launch tube, the caliber of the grenade and the power of the propellant charge. The weight of the F4 Panzerfaus reached 6, 8 kg, the weight of the grenade was 2 kg, the muzzle velocity was 80 m / s, the range of a direct shot was 100 meters, and the armor penetration was 200 mm.


The USSR began to develop its own samples of hand-held rocket-propelled grenade launchers, designed for firing cumulative grenades, at the end of the war, based on the study of M1 Bazooka and captured Faustpatrone, Panzerfaus and Panzerschreck received under Lend-Lease. Considering the high efficiency of using grenade launchers in urban battles (disabling up to 2/3 of tanks and self-propelled guns), the commander of the 8th Guards Army, Colonel-General V.I. Chuikov, suggested organizing the production of copies of German models under the code name "Ivan-patron". However, the Soviet leadership chose the path of developing original samples of this weapon, which entered service after the war.

Post-war reusable grenade launchers

In 1945, the M20 SuperBazooka grenade launcher of 88.9 mm caliber was adopted by the American army, the grenade weight of which was 4 kg, muzzle velocity - 105 m / s, direct firing range - 200 meters, armor penetration - 280 mm. The weight of the grenade launcher remained at the level of the previous M9 model due to the use of aluminum instead of steel. The breech-loading launch tube was disassembled into two parts for ease of transportation, the aperture sight was replaced with an optical one. The M20 grenade launcher was widely used in the Korean, Vietnam and Middle East wars, and was in service with the NATO armies until the mid-1970s.


The Swedish Grg m / 48 Carl Gustaf grenade launcher, developed on the basis of a dynamo-reactive rifle with a kinetic striking element and put into service in 1948, became the second most widespread in the world and is currently in service with forty countries. Unlike other grenade launchers, it has a rifled launch tube with breech loading, while its ammunition is made in the form of unitary shots, consisting of an aluminum sleeve with a knock-out bottom, a propellant charge and a grenade (including a rocket engine). The perforated bottom of the liner ensures optimal combustion pressure of the propellant charge, the conical nozzle of the launch tube provides an increase in jet thrust. The weight of an unloaded grenade launcher of the latest modification (the launch tube of which includes a carbon-fiber hull and a titanium liner) without sights is 6, 8 kg. The initial speed of grenades, depending on the type, ranges from 210 to 300 m / s. The direct firing range is from 300 to 600 meters.


In 1945, the development of a grenade launcher under the title RPG-1 began in the Soviet Union, the design of which included a muzzle-loading launch tube with a heat-insulating wooden plate, a folding mechanical sight and a control handle with a trigger. The grenade consisted of a shaped charge, a tubular extension, a folding tail stabilizer and a burning cardboard sleeve with a propellant charge. The mass of the equipped grenade launcher was 3.6 kg, the range of a direct shot reached 75 meters. In 1949, a grenade launcher was adopted under the title RPG-2, caliber 40 mm (launch tube) and 80 mm (grenade), weighing 4, 6 kg in equipped form, having an initial speed of 84 m / s and a direct shot range of 100 meters …


Based on the experience gained during the combat use of the RPG-2, in 1961 the USSR adopted the RPG-7 grenade launcher, which became the first most widespread in the world and is still in service with one hundred and fifty countries.The design differences of the RPG-7 from its predecessor are the expansion of the launch tube in the middle part to create optimal combustion pressure of the propellant charge, the nozzle in the breech end of the launch tube to increase the jet thrust and the second handle for easy holding. In addition to the propellant charge, the grenade is equipped with a sustainer rocket engine with six nozzles located in front of the engine and directed at an angle to the longitudinal axis of the rocket to eliminate the effect of powder gases on the shooter. An air turbine is located behind the tail fin. The wide international range of RPG-7 ammunition includes several dozen types of grenades weighing from 2 to 4.5 kg with an initial speed of 100 to 180 m / s and a direct firing range of 150 to 360 meters. The latest modifications of the grenade launcher are equipped with an optical sight or Picatinny rail, designed for mounting sighting devices, a stock, a laser rangefinder, etc. Currently, the RPG-7 is produced both with a metal (weighing 6, 3 kg) and with a carbon fiber launch tube (weighing up to 3.5 kg).


In 1984, the Mk153 SMAW grenade launcher of 83.5 mm caliber with an original breech loading scheme was adopted in the United States - the grenade was located in a disposable transport and launch container, which, when loaded, was docked with the breech end of a reusable launch tube. The durable and sealed TPK made it possible to avoid damage to the grenade during operation and to eliminate the dampness of the gunpowder. The first modifications of the grenade launcher were equipped with a sighting barrel with external ballistics coinciding with the grenade, the latter modification is equipped with an optical or optoelectronic sighting device. The weight of the SMAW II carbon fiber launch tube is 5.3 kg, the weight of a charged grenade launcher complete with an optoelectronic sight, a laser rangefinder and a ballistic computer reaches 12.6 kg, the initial speed of the grenade is 250 m / s, the direct shot range is 500 meters.


Post-war disposable grenade launchers

In the 1960s, technological progress in the field of polymer materials provided an opportunity for developers to create samples of grenade launchers with lightweight and cheap disposable launch tubes, which are simultaneously transport and launch containers for grenades. The ends of the TPK are equipped with hinged covers to seal the container and flange buffers made of microporous rubber to protect against impacts. Disposable grenade launchers in the TPK form factor have become the most massive type of hand-held rocket weapon with a total number of produced copies of several tens of million units.

The first grenade launcher in the TPK form factor was the American M72 LAW of 66 mm caliber, which was put into service in 1963 and is still in service with 18 countries of the world. Advanced modifications of the grenade launcher are produced in the USA, Norway and Turkey. The launch tube and body of the grenade of the first modifications of the V72 LAW were made of aluminum alloy, as a result of which the equipped weight of the grenade launcher was 2.5 kg, incl. weight of a grenade with a starting rocket engine 1, 1 kg. The folding aperture sight was designed for use by an unprepared infantryman, there was no control handle, the firing mechanism was located directly on the body of the launch tube. The TPK had a retractable telescopic section that lengthens the launch tube for the purpose of complete combustion of the rocket engine fuel in it. The initial speed of the grenade was 145 m / s, the range of a direct shot was 200 meters. Modern modifications of the M72 LAW have a fiberglass body and mounting space for various kinds of sighting devices.


In the 1970s, the FRG developed the first grenade launcher that could fire from confined spaces - the 67 mm Armbrust.This was ensured by placing the anti-mass in the launch tube in the form of a bundle of plastic fibers and the location of the propellant charge in the center of the tube between two pistons pushing the grenade and the anti-mass, respectively. Upon reaching the ends of the pipe, the pistons jammed and did not release the powder gases outside. The weight of the equipped grenade launcher was 6, 3 kg, the weight of the grenade was 0, 9 kg, the speed was 220 m / s, the range of a direct shot was 300 meters. The grenade launcher was not adopted by the NATO countries, but was exported to third world countries, and was also adopted as a basis for the development of this type of grenade launcher in Israel and Singapore.


In 2011, when the Russian Army adopted the world's most powerful disposable grenade launcher RPG-28, caliber 125 mm, with penetration behind ERA of 1000 mm of homogeneous steel armor behind ERA. The weight of the grenade launcher is 13 kg, the length is 1.2 m, the speed of the grenade is 120 m / s, the range of a direct shot is 180 meters.


In 2012, Russia adopted the RPG-30 grenade launcher, developed on the basis of the RPG-27 and designed to destroy tanks with active protection systems. The TPK of the main grenade of the grenade launcher is interlocked with the TPK of the imitation grenade of a smaller caliber, which causes the early activation of the KAZ. The armor penetration behind the ERA is 600 mm, the weight of the grenade launcher is 10.3 kg, incl. the weight of the main 105 mm grenade is 4.5 kg, the length is 1.1 m, the speed of the grenade is 120 m / s, the range of a direct shot is 180 meters.


In addition to the universal grenade launchers, the so-called. jet infantry flamethrowers, for which ammunition are used shots with a thermobaric warhead designed to defeat enemy manpower in confined spaces - RPO "Rys", "Shmel" and "Shmel-M". The last of them has a disposable fiberglass TPK of 90 mm caliber with end caps-buffers made of rubber. A reusable aiming and triggering device is attached to the TPK, consisting of a control handle, a trigger and an optical sight. The equipped weight of the grenade launcher is 8, 8 kg. The grenade is equipped with a starting rocket engine and a thermobaric warhead containing 3.2 kg of a volumetric detonating mixture with a TNT equivalent of 9 kg. The speed of the grenade is 130 m / s, the range of a direct shot is 300 meters with a KVO of 0.5 meters in the absence of wind action.


The American FGM-172 SRAW grenade launcher of 139 mm caliber, put into service in 2002, is currently the most advanced example of a hand-held rocket weapon. The assembled grenade launcher weighs 9.8 kg (including the weight of the grenade 3.1 kg) and consists of a TPK, an optical sight and a grenade in the form of a guided missile, equipped with an inertial guidance system, a ballistic computer and an electric tail stabilizer. The low-power starting rocket engine provides the so-called. soft launch of a grenade with an initial speed of 25 m / s and a minimum amount of powder smoke. The rocket engine propels the grenade to a speed of 300 m / s at a distance of 125 meters. The direct fire range is 600 meters. Shooting is carried out with direct fire with automatic determination of the distance and anticipation of the target's speed (using the onboard equipment of the grenade) by tracking the movement of the target by the grenade launcher through the sight for 2 seconds before firing. The cumulative grenade is equipped with a magnetometer and a laser fuse to destroy armored vehicles from the side of the upper hemisphere.


Promising developments

Despite the more than 75-year history of hand-held rocket-propelled grenade launchers, they have not been able to get rid of their "generic" flaws:

- the use of an unguided rocket ammunition makes the firing accuracy of a grenade launcher dependent on the strength of the wind;

- the introduction of adjustments for aiming for wind drift before the shot does not eliminate the deviation of an unguided grenade on the trajectory with an uneven wind speed;

- short range of a direct shot sharply reduces the survivability of the grenade launcher in battle;

- the presence of a dead zone behind the grenade launcher (swept away by a high-speed flow of hot powder gases) limits the elevation angle of the launch tube, making it impossible to carry out mounted fire like a mortar;

- the use of the body of the grenade launcher as an elastic support, which has many degrees of freedom, provokes the withdrawal of the aiming line of the grenade launcher from the direction of sight of the target during the acceleration of the grenade in the launch tube;

- the radiation of laser rangefinders, speed meters and target designators, which are part of optoelectronic sights, serves as an additional unmasking factor when firing from a grenade launcher.

The threaded channel of the launch tube, on the one hand, makes it possible to stabilize the flight of the grenade due to the gyroscopic effect, to reduce the area of ​​the tail of the grenade and, accordingly, its wind drift, but, on the other hand, significantly increases the weight of the grenade launcher. Protivomassa eliminates the unmasking of the position of the grenade launcher with powder gases, but at the expense of a two-fold reduction in the weight of the projectile grenade. The FGM-172 SRAW guided grenade with an onboard ballistic computer has an unnecessarily high cost.


A well-known trend in the development of grenade launchers is the development of guided rocket-propelled grenades of the Dubbed Ultra-Light Missile type for the Karl Gustaf RPG with laser target illumination. However, such ammunition requires constant laser operation throughout the entire flight time of the grenade, thereby unmasking the position of the grenade launcher. In addition, an automatic system for setting up an aerosol curtain, consisting of laser irradiation sensors and mortars with smoke grenades, which are equipped with many samples of armored vehicles, serves as an effective protection against laser-guided grenades.

Currently, Russia is developing the Smes grenade-and-flame-throwing complex (according to the publication in the collection "Rocket-technical and artillery-technical support of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation - 2018") with a disposable TPK and a reusable optoelectronic sight. However, the unguided rocket-propelled grenade and sight with an optical lens and a laser rangefinder provided in the complex reduce its combat capabilities due to the failure to eliminate the above disadvantages, adding to them increased weight, dimensions and cost of the sighting device due to the use of an optical lens. A fatal circumstance for the RPG "Mix" is the lack of the possibility of firing with an elevation angle of the launch tube of up to 45 degrees or more in order to use roof-piercing anti-tank grenades in the context of the expansion of the use of KAZ and SAZ on armored vehicles.


Taking into account the above, it is possible to designate increased tactical and technical requirements for a promising grenade launcher system, devoid of the shortcomings of existing and developed ones:

1. The multi-caliber grenade launcher system includes a reusable sighting device and disposable TPK with guided rocket-propelled grenades equipped with various warheads.

2. The sighting device performs the functions of a fire control system and includes a digital camera of the visible and near infrared range with electronic zoom, a display, control keys, a processor with a ballistic computer, digital image stabilization, a range finder, a speed meter, an accelerometer, an inclinometer, a magnetometer, pressure and temperature sensors air, induction transceiver and carbotitanate battery, quick-detachable attachment to the Picatinny rail.

3.The TPK is equipped with a folding aperture sight - a fuse, a piezoelectric trigger, a Picatinny rail, end caps-buffers and a shoulder strap. As a structural material of TPK, organoplastic is used, which is superior to carbon fiber in terms of impact resistance.

4. The grenade is equipped with a two-stage solid propellant rocket engine, consisting of a starting and sustaining sticks, a gasless combustion pyro retarder, an electric igniter and a swinging nozzle, an inertial guidance system with a processor, a solid-state gyroscope, a rocket fuel temperature sensor, a capacitive battery and an induction transceiver battery and electric nozzle, warhead. The thrust vector of the main rocket engine is controlled in accordance with the trajectory parameters calculated by the ballistic computer of the sighting device.

5. The optical axis of the sighting device mounted on the TPK is axial to the longitudinal axis of the container. The shot is carried out by direct aiming of the grenade launcher at the target. When choosing a rectilinear flight profile, the grenade retains the direction of its aiming until it meets the target. When choosing a parabolic flight profile, the grenade goes to climb immediately after starting the main rocket engine by controlling the thrust vector. Compensation of the wind drift of the grenade after fuel burnout in the engine is carried out by deflecting its nozzle, which serves as a conical tail stabilizer.

6. The procedure for firing a grenade launcher includes manual installation of the sighting device on the TPK, automatic connection of the external power supply of the ISN grenade, charging the capacitive battery, transferring data on the type of ammunition and the temperature of the propellant from the grenade to the sight, manual selection of the flight profile, setting the fuse and locking the target in sight, automatic determination of the target's range and speed, calculation of the flight trajectory, transmission of the trajectory parameters to the grenade ISN, manual pressing of the trigger, automatic activation of the ampoule battery and triggering of the electric igniter of the rocket engine starting checker, manual removal of the sighting device from the TPK. In the absence of a sighting device, a shot from a grenade launcher is carried out using an aperture sight and a trigger key.

7. The range of ammunition for the grenade launcher includes anti-tank, anti-personnel, anti-bunker, high-explosive fragmentation, thermobaric, incendiary, smoke and lighting shots. Programmable fuses of warheads provide for installation on a contact explosion, an air explosion at a given distance and an explosion after breaking through an obstacle.

8. The maximum caliber of a grenade should not exceed 120 mm to limit the equipped weight of the grenade launcher (without sighting device) at the level of 12 kg, including the weight of the grenade - 10 kg, of which the warhead is 7 kg. The maximum speed of the grenade is 300 m / s, the range of a direct shot is 1200 meters, the range of a ballistic shot at an angle of 45 degrees to the horizon is 2400 meters.

The circular probable deviation of grenades with an inertial guidance system is estimated at the level of 1 meter per 1000 meters of the firing distance, which allows you to hit the target with one ammunition on the “fire and forget” principle. The possibility of aimed firing at a distance of up to 2400 meters makes it possible to multiply the distance of fire contact with the enemy, which, in combination with the “fire and forget” principle, significantly increases the survivability of grenade launchers on the battlefield even without using a TPK with counterweight.


Shooting from a closed position is carried out using external target designation as part of the magnetic azimuth, elevation and distance to the target.The grenade launcher is guided by the grenade launcher in space according to the first two indicators (control reflected on the display), the last indicator is entered manually using the aiming device control keys.

The penetration capacity of a tandem cumulative anti-tank grenade with a base of a warhead weighing 6 kg can be estimated at 1000 mm of homogeneous steel armor behind dynamic protection, while the approach of roof-piercing ammunition to the target will occur along a parabolic trajectory within the boundaries of the KAZ and SAZ dead funnel.

The destructive ability of an anti-personnel grenade equipped with a 7 kg shrapnel warhead with an axial spread of ready-made striking elements, when firing along a parabolic trajectory, will correspond to the lethality of a 120-mm high-explosive fragmentation mine with a circular dispersion of fragments.

The over-the-counter damaging ability of the anti-bunker grenade, equipped with a leading shaped charge and the main thermobaric charge, equipped with 4 kg of volumetric detonating mixture, will exceed the lethality of the RPO Shmel-M ammunition.

The specified characteristics of the promising grenade launcher system will allow it to replace all types of grenade launchers, recoilless guns, anti-tank systems and mortars at a combat range of up to 2400 meters to destroy ground and surface targets. The use of the complex as a standard weapon of fire units in the tactical level of platoon / company of motorized rifle, airborne assault and engineering units, marines and special operations forces will significantly increase their firepower and mobility, unify the composition of weapons and simplify the supply of ammunition.

The cost and dimensions of the electronic equipment of the promising grenade launcher will be greatly minimized through the use of processors, gyroscopes, accelerometers, video cameras, image stabilizers and other digital devices used in serial models of smartphones.

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