USA Now An Exporter Of The RPG-7

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After maybe the AK family, no other weapon platform has as much impact on non-Western warfare than the humble RPG-7. Introduced in 1961 by the Soviet Union, the weapon can be used as poor man’s indirect artillery (guerrillas have adapted the RPG to launch 82mm mortar rounds), anti-amour, anti-personal or even as a bunker buster depending on the ammunition used. It punches far above its weight. If the weapon had not cemented itself in the mind of the Western public by the end of the Cold War, the downing of the two Blackhawk helicopters by RPGs in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993 did the trick.

A few years ago when Airtronic USA, a company that used to make electronic medical products and more recently M203 grenade launchers, announced they would be manufacturing an  RPG-7, I was skeptical to say the least. The  Airtronic RPG-7 features quad picatinny rails, an M4 stock, an AR-15 pistol grip, a picatinny fore grip (mounted at the rear, so really it is a rear grip), flip up backup iron sights and support for red dot sights. After actually handling the RPG-7 I realized that was a ergonomic system and the M4 accessories were not just gimmicks.

RPG

Airtronic RPG-7 Specifications

Caliber:  40mm
Weight:  14 Pounds without furniture
Length:   37.4 inches
Trigger Group:  Single Action
Launch Tube:  4140/4150 ordnance grade barrel steel (NO CASTINGS)
Sight:  Flip-up BUIS on Picatinny Rail
Maximum Range:  1,000 Meters
Effective Range:  250-500 Meters (depends on round)
Safety Distance:  Back 15-20 Meters
Muzzle Velocity:  110-140 Meters per second (depending on the round)
Life Expectancy:  1,000 Rounds
Ammunition:   Backwards compatible with all existing rockets
Warranty:  Two year limited for defects in material and workmanship

That said, I was still skeptical that Airtronic’s would be able to sell a premium version of the RPG-7. Last year they announced they were ready to take orders for the RPG-7. Judging by the photo at the top of this post, which was taken this week, it did not take them long to find customers. The photo shows the Peruvian Army Special Forces at a military parade to commemorate country’s 192nd independence anniversary. The solider in the center is carrying a Airtronic RPG-7 with a EOTech sight mounted on the top rail.




Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • ProvoXe

    I don’t know what’s meaner looking. The RPG, or that Warpaint!

    • 032125

      When I was in the Army we used to pulls stunts like that. I used to play the Imperial march from my MP3 player whenever we left a FOB.

      Looking back, it’s probably not helping anyone to go around actively looking like a henchman. If you find yourself wanting to terrify the enemy with spikes and skulls, your moral compass may be a few degrees off true north.

      And yeah, RPGs are just damned useful. The AT4 packs a bigger payload, but not enough to justify the lack of re-usability and utility that the RPG has amply demonstrated.

      • sturm44

        Reminds me of this skit (Blackadder?)

        • AnoSynum

          BLACKADDER? Seriously?

          It’s Mitchell and Webb. Absolutely hilarious guys.

        • 032125

          Ding! Apparently I’ve become an introspective Brit at heart.

      • J.T.

        Any experience with the MAAWS/Carl Gustav? If so, how did that compare?

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          I’ve used both the Carl Gustav 84mm RR and the RPG-7, as well as the AT-4. On the balance, the RPG-7 is the most versatile and useful, as well as being relatively compact and light. As has been pointed out previously, the AT-4 suffers from its one-shot, throwaway design concept, as well as limited warhead diameter ( critical for a HEAT warhead in that the ability to achieve armor penetration is proportional — everything else being equal — to the effective warhead diameter ) In turn, the CG 84mm RR a.k.a. MAAWS, even in the more compact version, is still relatively heavy and bulky, and less adaptable although it is still a versatile weapon with a wide range of available ammunition types. Also, the effective diameter of the warhead is confined to 84mm since it is entirely ensconced in the launch tube prior to firing. The RPG-7 has no such limitation, given that the warhead protrudes beyond the muzzle of the launch tube. As long as developmental technology can provide adequate and reliable rocket motor thrust to match a given warhead while sustaining accuracy, there is less limitation to warhead size. Except for the specialized CS ( “Confined-Space” ) version of the AT-4, all three weapons exhibit the typical backblast signature that is a drawback of any recoilless rocket launcher or gun. Having said that, the backblast from an RPG-7 appears to be less significant than that of an 84mm RR or standard AT-4.

          And, as so many knowledgeable contributors have pointed out, the RPG-7’s virtues of simplicity and reliability, without sacrificing general performance or ammunition upgrade capability versus its competition, are quite telling, which may help to explain its longevity and effectiveness on the modern battlefield.

      • Rick Randall

        And don’t forget — the nature of the RPG makes it feasible to enlarge the warhead, unlike the AT4 (where it would be a total redesign of teh launcher as well). They also make a LOT of different RPG rounds, including light armor piercing thermobarics. . .

    • Kosme

      Those pandas do look terrifying

  • sean

    I know what I want for X-mas now!

  • Random man

    I ca tell you that certain us based importers have been selling US allies RPG-7’s for at least a decade when they where otherwise prohibited from purchasing directly from former western block nations.

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      But they were not being manufactured in the USA, just fiddling the paperwork.

  • Jilu Khan Spandiary

    I live down the block from where these are made in Elk Grove Village.

  • Casey Taylor

    It would be nice if we could have this in the Army. The AT-4 is alright, but it’s one and done; super expensive, to boot. RPGs are ubiquitous – we don’t deploy anywhere the system isn’t in full use – simple and operator-friendly, relatively inexpensive… I could go on. Also, Infantrymen are already well familiar with the Gunner/AG partnership, so assigning a designated RPG gunner wouldn’t be that big of a change to the MTOE.

    • Anonymoose

      I could see these being issued to special operations troops for plausible deniability reasons (same as the SR47 and the Type 56s we’ve purchased in the past), but I doubt the DOD would adopt an Eastern Bloc standard for mainline forces.

      • Casey Taylor

        I agree, I just think it would make a lot more sense than our current light infantry structure (Army, at least; Marines incorporate the LAW pretty efficiently). We haven’t really replaced the capabilities lost when we rolled all CMF 11 together into 11B/C, and adopting this system would go a ways toward fixing that. It would make us more lethal, and do it on the cheap. Given this age of sequester, you never can tell how we’ll end up.

      • AnoSynum

        What about something like the Panzerfaust 3 or the new Wirkmittel 90 the Germans are using?
        Aren’t they basically Western RPGs?

        • Casey Taylor

          The Wirkmittel 90 is a rocket, but it’s enclosed in a disposable tube. Disposable except for the laser sighting device, which has to be carried by the soldier and attached/detached from every tube. Being enclosed, the payload and capabilities are also significantly limited.The Panzerfaust 3 has an externally attached projectile, but it’s also a disposable system. It has the benefit of a limited backblast, but because of how that’s accomplished it also has a very limited range.

    • avconsumer2

      Indeed. The cost per round difference would be staggering. I imagine usage would go up substantially as well.

      • Casey Taylor

        Bingo. I doubt the RPG launcher would ever get “accidentally” left on the truck.

    • Nadnerbus

      Too cost effective. It would not water any congressional district with money either, so that is a non starter.

      Sad, but that, and designed in ‘merica pride mean it would never be adopted. And it is too bad, it’s a ridiculously simple and useful battlefield tool.

      • Casey Taylor

        You are, unfortunately, most likely correct. Congressional ass-hats and retired GOs just can’t help themselves.

  • Douglas Chandler

    Next a round for it with a fin guidance fuse that you can program off an iPod, and do indirect top down fire. Who wants to haul a base plate around all the time. Perhaps with a heat seeker. Nothing says “Hi there!” like a round into an exhaust pipe.

  • mechamaster

    There is no patent infringement with Russian original manufacturer, yes ?

    • Bull

      patents expire after 20 years so it shouldnt be a problem. it it ever was patented that is.

    • Laserbait

      I doubt the Russians submitted the original design to the USPTO. At the time that it was developed, they weren’t very forthcoming with weapon design plans.

  • John Sjöström

    Put rail and AR parts on it everyone will buy it!

  • wetcorps

    Ok I’ve been holding it up for some time so forgive me.

    GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH STOP PUTTING THESE UGLY M4 STOCK ON EVERYTHING GOD DAMN IT!!!!!

    Well if they are so popular they must be functional, and functional is good. But damn, they are ugly.

    • Anonymoose

      If it’s a regular M4 stock assembly couldn’t they replace it with something better, like a Magpul or Vltor?

      • anon

        I believe the Idea was to make the RPG compatable with one of the most common stocks available. This would make it attractive to international buyers since the m4/ar15 is so common globally. Something to consider if you stocking an entire army/division.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Ugly but deadly unless you happen to be in an Abrams.

      • Avery

        Not quite. I believe there’s been a recorded mobility kill on August 28th, 2003, where a tandem warhead RPG managed to penetrate the side flank of an Abrams. It penetrated the skirt and side hull, injured the gunner by grazing his seat (his armor is what saved him from further injury), passed between the commander’s legs and hit a power junction box, disabling the tank.

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          Good point about the later-generation tandem warhead designed to defeat compound and / or reactive armor. And so the race between warhead and armor development continues. The Abrams has some of the very best armored protection of any modern MBT, but it is not wholly invulnerable ( no armored vehicle is ).

          Based on your description, it sounds as if the jet from the HEAT warhead went into the turret through the turret basket after passing through the side skirt and hull at a slight up-angle, indicating that the RPG gunner may have been in a prone or crouched position. The crew, especially the gunner, were incredibly lucky. A couple of inches off, and the story might have been different.

  • gunslinger

    the M16….most versitale gun ever. want to go from .223 to RPG? take the stock off and put it on an rpg7

  • erwos

    I wonder if they’ll release any to civilians with a DD stamp? (Answer: no.)

    • Spade

      Yeah. If I can buy a M203 then I should be able to buy a RPG, imo.
      No idea what I’d do with it though.

      • wetcorps

        Blow stuff up? :D

      • avconsumer2

        Would it matter!!?! YOU’VE GOT AN RPG-7!!?! What WOULDN’T you do with it!!?! ;)

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

        Most of these M203 look alikes are 37mm just so they can’t be used with 40mm rounds.

  • Sid

    Should the US Army adopt the RPG-7? Hell yes! Too versatile. Ammo can be found on every battlefield. Different warheads for just about every need.
    As a former 11BC2 (Dragon Medium Anti-Tank Weapon), I can tell you what we need was LESS technology. Carry a high tech sighting system with you in a rugged terrain once and you will appreciate weight savings and ruggedness. Where’s that lens cap? Freon and batteries run the night vision, sir?
    We are not defending Fulda Gap anymore. There are no tank kill teams hiding in the bushes trying to wire guide missiles at T-72s from 1000 meters away. Tank kills are done at close range in urban environments if ever. That is IF the tank got past the Apaches and the M-1s.

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      The problem it that is would be trivial to modify the RPG-7 fuse that that it explodes on ignition. You could not collect RPG rockets and use.

      • Sid

        I understand your concern. But our host nation soldiers would be responsible for procuring their rockets. Ours would most likely come from assured sources. But we could supply our allies with a weapon that they can resupply at a much lower price point.
        Regardless of the source of the rockets…. we should be using it instead of several different weapons. Also, it is $100 solution to a $1,000,000 problem. If one well placed shot takes the tread off of main battle tank, you win. The Rangers on the airfield Grenada would have benefitted greatly from having just one RPG team.

  • orly?

    Well, at least the supply train gets smaller in a way. Find the enemy, and use their own weapons against them.

    Btw, what do we usually do with enemy mortars/RR if they’re still serviceable?

    • Casey Gunn

      I read once that MAC-V SOG used to reload 7.62X39mm rounds with explosives instead of gunpowder as a way to spike ammo cache’s that they found during missions. Their small unit size and covert mission made it impractical to destroy such caches in some cases so they would mix in the bomb rounds with the ammo. The result was firing pins launched backwards into the shooter and exploding AKs. I’d guess this is the kind of reason why you won’t see a weapon system or TTPs that include using captured enemy arms/ammo.

      • Martin Moffit

        That was Project Eldest Son. Read all about it…

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Eldest_Son

      • Suburban

        There’s something about sabotaged ammo during the Vietnam war in one of the Rogue Warrior books. Red Cell? The books are sold as fiction, but Richard Marcinko was a fo’ real Navy SEAL.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Oh our guys have picked them up and used the RPG-7. AK’s are given to the host nation or destroyed depending on condition.
      As far as I know the rest goes to the desert and gets blown to kingdom come.

  • orly?

    How does this compare versus the original, the USMC SMAW, and the Carl Gustav?

  • LT

    I’m curious about the cost difference between this Airtronic RPG and the AT-4 and M72 series. And also about the difference between the Airtronic and a typical Eastern Block RPG…this thing looks to be three times as expensive.

  • jay

    Leave it to the Americans to turn a cheap simple weapon into a heavy expensive, overccesorized contraption. The reason the RPG is so widely used and popular, is because it’s cheap and simple.
    I’m sure you can buy two, three east block RPGs for Jayone of this.

    • mwnciboo

      I do want to agree with you, but the evidence is the opposite. The Mk777 is 3.5kg – Good for 250 shots.

      http://airtronic.net/datasheets/mk777.pdf

      It’s also engineered to a decent standard. The Rails allow those a Budget (every Military in the world!) the option of buying Cheap Launchers but better Sighting units. For my money an integrated NV with Laser Range finder and Magnification would be great, others may want Iron sights or whatever. Lets be honest the Rails take the humble RPG to the next level – You don’t want to miss when you give away your position in a cloud of dust and smoke!

      Also SOF will love this; the ability to operate behind the lines with a Weapon System they can likely get additional ammunition off Dead or Captured Enemies (given they always seem to operate in places awash with AK’s and RPG’s).

      For the Cost, you could give one of these to every damn Fireteam! Keep MAT teams with JAVELINS for the MBT’s.

  • Squirreltactical

    I love the combo of half-century-old ALICE gear and brand new ATACS.

    • EFreeman

      That’s not ALICE, looks like a Blackhawk LBE.

      • Squirreltactical

        Ah. The padding and the modern buckles should have been a giveaway. Good call.

  • Lance

    This is for contracts with new allied nations like Egypt (Pre Morrsi) or Bulgaria who use RPG-7s still they sell the upgrade kit they dont make the RPG themselves.Just as many buy new AK scopes and mounts made here for AKs we sell upgrades for all old commie weapons. PS not many nations buy them as you think though.

  • Jeff Zanooda

    M4 stock on RPG is just silly. RPG has no recoil, it does not need a stock. Same with vertical backgrip.

    • Cymond

      The “vertical backgrip” was part of the original design.
      And a 22lr rifle doesn’t have any recoil, but it still benefits from the stability of a shoulder stock.

  • Nicholas Mew

    Meh. I prefer the original.

  • Tenacious221

    I’d like to buy one…lets get rid of this NFA crap.

  • Sanjuancb

    “Anti-amour”…suitable for killing the romantic notions of any fool unlucky enough to get in front of it. No doubt the RPG-7 will soon be the weapon of choice for distraught divorcees the world over. :)

    • Sid

      You always hurt the ones you love….. even if they are in an APC.

  • john huscio

    looks like the thugees got some new equipment……….indy isnt gonna like this……

  • Jeff

    A US manfacturer will never compete with the cheap Russian equivalent.

  • Ivan Relppa

    Who are the guys in the pic? Are carrying FN F2000s, so maybe… Slovenian army? Polish GROM? Chilean SF? Some blegian unit? just curious

  • john shirley

    A-TACS camo, huh? Early adopters. Saw *1* guy in Aghanistan wearing it.
    http://www.propper.com/technology/a-tacs.asp

  • Tim

    “anti-amour”? So RPGs won’t hurt a tank but they’ll break your heart?

    • snmp

      PG7VR tandem (Dual Warhead) for Amor carrier with reactive armor blocks.

  • Tyler Marcoz

    Don’t the Marines have something comparable in the SMAW?

  • Erik North

    Don’t forget that it was also featured in the Avengers when Nick Fury (Sam Jackson) blew up a F-35… ish fighter with it. I thought it was a joke when I saw it, turns out the damned thing was real. I was surprised.

  • Noah Killough

    Tacti-Cool RPGs, A-Tacs, and Scary Face Paint ladies and gentlemen this is the future…