In today's world, the rocket propelled grenade (RPG) seems to be the weapon of choice when it comes to “insurgents”of all nationalities. Given the recent photo’s in the news, it sometimes looks like every Iraqi citizen comes equipped with one. After all, they’re cheap, fairly accurate and depending on the type of grenade being used, are effective against both troops and armored vehicles such as tanks and personnel carriers. They also require little or no training on the part of the rocketeer to be effective.
For starters, why don’t we take at look at the weapon itself…
Basically, you’ve got two types of RPG’s. The only similarity that they share is that they consist of two parts. A launcher and a grenade.
The first one, manufactured by the Americans is of the throw away variety. It’s good for one shot and after that, the launcher is discarded and rendered useless.
The next one, manufactured by the Russians differs from it’s American counterpart by the fact that can it can be reloaded and and re-used.
Both types offer a couple of different types of grenades that can be launched. The more popular ones are High Explosive (HE) rounds primarily used against troops and the High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) primarily used against tanks, personnel carriers convoys, and helicopters. Both grenades are similar in nature and contain a motor and fins which guide them to their intended targets.
Since these are carried around by people and need to be light, the RPG is constructed from cheap, easily available materials such as aluminum, fiberglass or zinc.
Both weapons have a standard trigger system for firing. Once the mechanism is triggered, the rocket exits the tube and the fins are deployed in order to keep its path stable. Another difference in the American version and the Russian version is the tube itself. The American version is basically a tube within a tube. When ready for use, the rocketeer will will snap the tube open, rest it on his or her shoulder, take aim at their target through the sight and fire the weapon. It is then spent and cannot be re-used.
The Russian version consists of a single tube that can be reloaded from the front of the weapon and since it needs to be more durable to withstand the constant re-firings, is also a little heavier and more cumbersome than its American cousin.
Both weapons have little or no recoil but there is a backblast. This means that for the most part, if somebody around you is getting ready to fire one of these babies, do not stand directly behind them or you will get fried. The backblast also limits the weapons use and it shouldn’t be fired from small rooms and enclosed spaces. Rooftops and open area’s seem to be the best place to discharge the weapon.
As for the grenades themselves, the High Explosive (HE) grenade detonates on impact. The explosion itself and expelling of shrapnel are what causes the most injuries and deaths.
The High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) grenade acts a little differently. First of all, it travels much faster than its cousin and the speed at which it travels converts the missile into something like a “mini-jet”. The causes the impact zone to be much more condensed and allows the rocket to penetrate most armored vehicles.
Other types of projectiles that can be fired from RPG’s include illumination grenades for night operations, smoke grenades used for covering a body of troops or to mark an airfield for helicopters and tear gas grenades for crowd disbursment and riot control.
The weapons are extremely accurate from a range of fifty meters or so even in unskilled hands. With practice and training, a decent rocketeer can make them effective from ranges anywhere between 150 up to 300 meters.
Due to it’s somewhat limited range, the basic strategy on the part of a rocketeer is to get as close as they can to their intended target and, since you’ve only got one round to fire, make the round count and get the hell out of there. The backblast gives away your position and even if you’re using the re-loadable version, you probably won’t have time to re-load without being detected.
Should you come under fire from RPG’s there are some things you can do. First of all, if you’ve got artillery support, I sugest you call ‘em in and start raining some steel of your own on your attackers. Better yet, if you have close air support in the form of attack helicopters or jets in your little knapsack of destruction, I’d recommend calling those folks in and doing a couple of fly bys on your enemies position.
Or, as a last resort, you can always stand and fight.