A Guide To Chinese Infantry Support Weapons (Guest Post)

chinaarmy

This guest post was written by a friend of mine, Curtis, and edited by myself.

Here’s a short overview of Chinese weapons, featuring: Types of launchers that explode for various reasons for various goals currently used in the world. Let’s begin shall we? I’ll be using PLA launchers as the base examples, but providing the closest equivalents of the West and USSR/Russia. Now then, onto the weapons:

Type 79 Mini Rocket

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Image source: weapon.at.ua

You may be wondering, “hey, where’s the launcher?”, well, that little green tube is the launcher, this thing is quite literally a pocket rocket, or, failing to use the little mini mortar thing, you can release the safety manually and throw it as a contact grenade similar to old Russian AT grenades of WW2 vintage. While It’s intended more as a frag grenade, it has limited armor penetration of around 20-25mm supposedly. (need a clearer citation for this, data for this little thing is hard to find for some reason.)

Closest analogues – ….I have no clue.

Speaking of small, easily concealed devices, onto our next selection, the DFR-89 personal frag-incendiary launcher.

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Image source: twwiki.com

Yet another odd design, this 35mm launcher is really a device small enough to allow any soldier to carry one really, and supposedly has both HE-FRAG and Incendiary options.

Closest analogues – Honestly, this is yet another “unsure”.

QLB-06/QLZ-87B 35mm Grenade launcher

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Image source: chinesemilitaryreview.blogspot.com

Despite what its proper designation would suggest, this weapon is also reported as a variant of the older QLB-87. This happened because the 87 was originally supposed to be essentially a point GMG, however, a lighter version using smaller drums for reduced weight was often used as a portable launcher, effectively making it a GPGMG. A few things made it rather ill-suited to this, such as the relatively high rate of fire of 480ish rounds per minute with a drum of only 6 rounds. The QLB-06 on the other hand was purpose built for small squads as a light fire support weapon and is semi auto only. Due to it’s design, it’s effective at up to 600m on point targets and 1000m on area targets, and features a wide range of grenades, such as HE-FRAG, HE-I, HE-DP with high armor penetration (Supposedly 80mm RHA at the sacrifice of kill range), and Smoke.

Closest analogues – XM25 for the West as far as intended function goes, maybe somewhat closer to the Milkor MGL or RG-6 as it is a 6-shot “dumb” launcher.

Type 70-1 62mm Rocket Launcher

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Image source: 21ccwg.blogspot.com

Some people think that ultra light, small rockets like this are obsolete on the modern battlefield, however, I have to disagree. In many low intensity conflicts, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, you’re not facing the most advanced MBTs and IFVs in the world that can shrug them off. A small explosive launcher like this can disable almost any vehicular threat can easily be disabled or destroyed with a LAW, plus it can flush enemies out of certain fortifications if needed. In fact the M72 of Vietnam vintage is still in limited service, albeit with many upgrades, and this is basically the same thing. It’s a very light launcher that’s very easy to train with, that almost any soldier can use and have on hand in a low intensity conflict. Even in a hot conflict, you’ll have a very light, compact weapon that can still be a threat to lighter vehicles, so while I certainly think such launchers aren’t an answer to everything on a battlefield and need to be supplemented with more capable systems in some situations, they still have their place. While it can be used as an anti fortification and infantry weapon as said before, It can also penetrate an estimated 300mm of RHA.

Closest Analogues – The M72 and RPG-18/22/26 series.

FHJ-84 62mm Incendiary launcher

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Image source: seesaawiki.jp

This is a rather nasty piece of hardware, as it fires either WP Smoke rounds or rounds that burst into a fiery death cloud of metallic incendiary based gel, the obvious use here is against groups of infantry in cover or to get rid of that whole pesky buildings and foliage things to hide in, DO NOT QUOTE ME ON THIS, but I’ve heard it can also fire standard HEAT rounds similar to those used in the 70-1, but considering the 70-1 is a disposable launcher, I’m taking the truth of that one with a grain of salt.

Closest analogues – The M202A1 Flash of Vietnam vintage, which also used a metallic based gel incendiary. (in this case, Trimethylaluminium which is also pyrophoric) and Russian RPO-Z

DJZ08 80mm Multi Purpose breaching launcher

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Image source: defense.pk.

So, this is another special purpose launcher, and while can be used against light-medium armor in a bad situation, albeit with very erratic performance against sloped armor due to the design (300mm penetration at 0 degrees, and a mere 25mm at 65), It’s intended purpose is simple: Breech walls, including those made of things concrete, brick, or other hard materials, and cut through rebar reinforcement, while doing terrible things to anyone on the other side while making a hole large enough for troops to enter following the impact. It’s a very odd design, featuring a shaped charge warhead in front, and a delayed fuze HE warhead on the back. Strangely, according to what I’ve read, this supposedly had magnesium and thermite in both warheads added to cut through rebar and create a genuine molten metal jet (as opposed to standard HEAT where it’s mostly just confusion by the abbreviation) to increase the chance of detonating or igniting anything on the other side that will catch. I do not know if this actually works.

Closest analogues – gonna go with the Matador system used by Germany, Spain, and Israel, and the AST version of the M136.

PF-89 80mm HEAT launcher

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Image source: Nazarian.no.

So, now we start getting into high intensity conflict level anti armor weapons. Many countries now use disposable AT launchers such as these to give troops a chance against all but the toughest of armor. This is your run of the mill HEAT warhead: it hits a thing, the fuze detonates the high explosive in the back of the charge, the inverted cone embedded facing inwards in the explosive (usually copper) is everted outwards and launches forward at up to 30 kilometers a second by the sheer force, and bad things happen to whatever is in it’s way. The launcher is then thrown out as it’s served its purpose. Armor penetration of the base model is estimated to be around 400mm

Closest analogues – AT4/M136, too many RPG variants to list that fit the role and are disposable.

PF-89A 80mm HEAT-MP

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Image source: 21ccwg.blogspot.com.

So killing vehicles is good and all, but what if you want to kill vehicles and everyone around them and also decimate bunkers? Well, that’s where HEAT MP warheads come in, while they don’t penetrate as deep due to the shallower, thinner cone as seen below (penetration is roughly cut in half to about 200mm)

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Image source: qianyan001.com

(Standard PF-89 missile on the bottom, A variant on top)

It carries a tougher nose allowing to smash through certain objects before bursting and a higher explosive/fragmenting material content, so this can more of less be described as jack of all trades launcher.

Closest analogues: M136 HEDP, RMG

PF-89B 80mm Tandem HEAT

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Image source: bbs.tiexue.net.

So, a long time ago, some jerks decided to make tanks and other heavy vehicles that have tougher armor, and also add reactive armor on top of that, which counters HEAT warheads in the art of “blowing them tout of the way when activated”, however, reactive armor is not a very smart guy, he is easily tricked, hence, someone, somewhere got the idea to use a more powerful warhead than usual in the back, and a decoy small warhead in the front to trigger the reactive armor while allowing the big boom to go through uncontested.

In all seriousness, yeah, this is a tandem version of the PF-89 above with an updated warhead, Penetration is around 650mm, plus it gets through that mean jerk invention of RHA.

Closest analogues: M136 HP, RPG-27

PF-89-1/2 PF-97 80mm (possibly also 93mm) Thermobaric launcher (?)

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Image source: seesaawiki.jp.

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Image source: 21ccwg.blogspot.com

Disclaimer: the following may be slightly confusing, as, I’ve had a lot of contradicting sources say the PF-89-1 and 2 are thermobaric versions of the regular PF-89, however, that the PF-97 is just an updated version, or the same thing, however, I then found this little data sheet that indicates the latter is actually a separate 93mm device. (sorry for the crap image quality on this one.)

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Image source: SinoDefense Forum.

Maybe they both exist, or just one as 80mm and someone confused the 97 with the RPO-A which is the same caliber, who knows?

These are thermobaric launchers, also known as “yet another thing the UN hates”, they work by creating a super hot overpressure wave by the following, a small charge breaks open the case, releasing the finely dispersed fuel mist that mixes perfectly with the surrounding oxygen in the air. The second sets it off; this creates a very large over pressure wave in the area without the dangers of shrapnel hitting you far away but having devastating effects in the local area, and even being able to inflict severe burns on those not caught directly in the cloud or their lungs if they inhale the burning fuel. Generally, these are quite a bit more effective than standard explosives for most intents and purposes such as anti personnel and demolition work, particularly because thermobarics work at their best in tight areas.

PF-98 120mm Anti Tank launcher

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Image source: bbs.tiexue.net.

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Image source: bbs.tiexue.net.

Affectionately known as the Queen Bee, this is a company/battallion level piece that can halt even the toughest of armor and troop advances, It’s a recoilless rifles that can either be shoulder launched or mounted on a low or high sitting tripod, seeing as how aiming old era RRs of this size would be a pain in the rear, this one has some things to help out, such as a X4 adjustable night vision sight with easy to use range correction, and a laser rangefinder and ballistics calculation and fire control computer that links to an LED display for the gunner and can help make corrections for him.

It fires 2 rounds, one of which is a tandem heat charge that penetrates 800mm behind RHA, the other is a general purpose round, description below from sinodefense:

“The multipurpose high explosive round has a warhead with 120 steel balls and incendiary material. This round is capable of piercing 400 mm armor (under 55 degrees). Due to the fragmented nature, it kills the crew inside, or produces fragments to kill other personnel within 25 m of the point of impact. The maximum range is 1,800–2,000 m.”

It sounds very effective against infantry as well.

Closest analogues: honestly, this is a strange one, but, want to go with the Carl Gustav and SMAW, despite their smaller size, they mostly fill the same functionality and design, just not big enough to tackle MBTs from the front.

HN-6 72mm Surface-to-Air missile

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Image source: ArmyRecognition.com.

You might’ve heard of this, as it’s older brother, the FN-6 managed to cause a minor kerfuffle in certain news agencies when Syrian rebels managed to obtain some and promptly record themselves shooting down 2 Mi-17 Helicopters of the Syrian government last year with said equipment. Secret weapon trades or weapon theft theories aside, This is your typical MANPAD for all your low altitude air defense needs, Not much is known about the missile it uses, it’s believed to be a standard HE FRAG using an annular blast type warhead similar to US Anti air missiles including the Stinger, and have a delayed impact fuze and possibly a magnetic influence secondary. It uses a digital infrared seeker because aircraft happen to do things that generate lots of heat and stuff, but also has a UV guidance option and resistance to countermeasures, the sight is optical with adjustable zoom, night vision enabled, and linked to fire control much like the Queen Bee, and it has an optional IFF screen attachment to prevent friendly fire incidents. Note that variants using the IFF screen are instead called the FY-6, FY-16, and HY-6 respectively.

Closest analogues: FIM-92 Stinger, SA-24 Igla-S

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I hope you enjoyed reading and/or learned things and want to discuss it!



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • FedUp

    End the Bush ban on Norinco ammo and guns! I want $400 M1A’s dammit!

    • I want cheap Type 97 bullpups like the Canadians!

      • iksnilol

        I want the 7.62×25 SIG P226 clone that Norinco makes!

        Wait, I can actually import one since I am not in the US. Should I? On one hand 17+1 rounds of 7.62×25 + P226 comfort/controls (decocker with no safety) on the other hand it is a Norinco and i don’t know how precise they are.

        If you are curious just google “Dominon Arms P762” without the quotation marks.

        • Sweet Providence man import that little devil!

        • FourString

          Do it and write a review for us plz
          Norincos are actually pretty swell clones, which is what made them popular

          • iksnilol

            Can’t do it for a while. Ain’t old enough to own a gun and don’t have a good enough job for the moment. Though it is cheap, 400 USD + 100 (1/4th of price) for importing it.

            How are the triggers on Norinco Sig clones?

        • Wetcoaster

          They go bang consistently with cheap surplus ammo. What else do you want?

          I’d love to see more modern guns chambered in 7.62 x 25. It’s a really neat round independent of the surplus ammo factor

          • iksnilol

            Accuracy is another thing I like, especially important considering guns in Norway have to be bought for stuff like hunting or competition. Also, I am not talking about IDPA or something.

            Though that is a non-issue, can probably just polish it up like so many others have done with their Norinco Sigs and get good accuracy. I also wonder whether there is a 9mm barrel available for them, so I can shoot ammo that I don’t have to import. 7.62×25 is one of my favorite pistol cartridges but it isn’t common in Norway.

          • Wetcoaster

            I’m not surprised. x25 is only common here because of cheap surplus Chinese, Russian, and Polish Tokarevs, and cheap surplus Czech and other ex-WP ammo.

            Like I said though, I think it’s a really neat little round. Pity more companies don’t make guns chambered for it.

    • Bubba

      Those chinese AKs make my peepee feel funny.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        The Norinco Legend has definitely lived up to its name. Too bad we’ll probably never see them imported in America again.

  • Timothy G. Yan

    PF89-1/2 is the bunker buster version of the PF-89.

    PF97 is a licensed production of the Russian RPO-A Shmel with a different sight, trigger mechanism and warhead arming fuse.

    PF98 is a replacement of the recoilless rifle.

    • dp

      QlZ87 is the old, bit unwieldy one; although still modestly mobile to compare with western guns. This is much handier version for same round. West does not have an equivalent to it. Mk19 and Striker are based on retarded ‘thinking’ of sitting on vehicle, firing full auto like crazy with 2 truck supplying ammo; nuts.

  • asdf

    My favorite weapon in Mercenaries 2 was the Fuel Air RPG. Things tend to get dicey when the enemy would span with them and blow up half their own base with it lol.

  • I hear some of our anti-tank rockets are something like $7000 a piece?

    A buddy said he was ranked highest in PT quals, so his commanding officer chose him to shoot the tube against a dilapidated tank for training purposes. He said it was a real “F**K YEAH” reward on top of the so called training aspect.

    I was surprised by the price, and that Heavy Equipment national guard troops would be trained with them.

  • Bob

    The 35mm looks like a analogue of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handflammpatrone that the Bundeswehr used to use. Nasty nasty thing.

    • iksnilol

      Incendiary weapons tend to be nasty, so are explosive ones.

    • mikewest007

      WOOOO! Toasty!

  • Phil Hsueh

    To me, the mini rocket launcher resembles the old Japanese “knee mortars” from WW II, maybe not in purpose but in general appearance and (I’m guessing) size.

    And a word to the editor, the possessive form of it is its, without the apostrophe; it’s is the abbreviation for it is.

    • This is a guest post. If the errors are minor we don’t normally change these very much at all.

    • I mostly removed inappropriate language, as the content was originally intended for a MUCH more casual venue.

      With an article that long, I’m not surprised a grammatical error or two got through.

  • big daddy

    Very cool, more please. This is what we should see more of instead of airsoft. Although in the name of airsoft talk about using it as a training tool. After all it’s the Firearm Blog…..

  • dp

    And this is ‘just’ infantry arms. Now imagine, there is ‘someone’ who pushes for war with China and keeps provoking…. do you think he/ they have brains?

    • Rusty Shackleford

      No. I think they have a large investment in defense industry shares.

    • mikewest007

      The Chinese are funny… until you remember there’s four billion of them.

  • whodywei

    Where is the QLT89 handheld grenade launcher ??

  • Gyufygy

    How is this sort of info gathered? I’m actually kind of surprised and impressed this much information is available for public consumption. Very interesting.

    • Matrix3692

      honestly, if you can read chinese, the information mentioned above is rather easy to find on public internet.

    • Lots of searching and in this case probably translation. It certainly takes a lot of time to compile.

      • Matrix3692

        http://www.firearmsworld.net/

        This website here, if you can read chinese, is almost a treasure trove for information regarding chinese firearms and others.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      I think Matrix3692 hit the nail on the head with his answer to your question. Also, before the Age Of The Internet, there was a surprising amount of printed public information available on the latest Chinese weaponry and arms technology of the time, a lot of which was in the form of publications originating in Hong Kong and Taiwan for obvious reasons. I remember going through some of these between the late 1970’s and mid-1980’s, when experts with a real interest in the global defence and military markets recognized the emergence of a potentially influential and modern home-grown Chinese armaments industry, and sought to publicize this phenomenon. If you read old copies of well-known publications such as “International Defence Review” from that period, you will see what I mean. The creation of Chinese-language publications disseminating similar or even more revealing information seems to have happened almost simultaneously.

  • Chijen

    In the traditional Confucian hierarchy, the military man is one of the lowest members of society. No wonder China kept getting invaded & conquered for centuries. As you can see, for better or worst, the Communists will have none of that nonsense .

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    Very good article, Nathaniel — thank you.

    With regard to the PF-89-1 or -2 / PF-97 Thermobaric Launcher, that’s really a compact, man-portable variation of the FAE ( Fuel-Air Explosives ) concept.

    The PF-89B and PF-98 Tandem HEAT AT weapons have great potential in the endless see-saw contest between armor and anti-armor technology. Like the RPG-27, these warheads should also have increased penetration against Chobham-type composite armor ( and not just reactive armor ) versus single-stage HEAT warheads.

    The standard PF-89 and PF-89A disposable launchers remind me a lot of the Carl Gustaf AT-4 / U.S.M136, which brings me to an important question — is there a version that can be safely fired from an enclosed space in the same manner as the AT-4CS? If so, they would be very useful in urban applications or when firing from protected positions while minimizing the firer’s exposure.

    • I didn’t write it, but thanks!

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        Sorry — It was Curtis who wrote this excellent article, and he did a good job. However, many thanks are still due to you for taking the time to edit the article and for presenting it on TFB!

  • big daddy

    How about doing the same for every major military? Great stuff!!!!

  • wetcorps

    OK I’ll take one of each please.

  • hydepark

    Why does everything look like it was made by Hasbro in the late 80’s? I’ve always had a hard time taking China seriously.

  • big daddy

    I was just thinking about this, when I was in the US Army we had a bunch of stuff in the inventory. I never saw most of it, I never fired most of it but I knew how to use a lot of it. Even though I was on the line during the cold war we just did not train nearly enough to develop skills in using any of the weapons we had. This goes for everybody including most of the NCOs. So I wonder, all this very nice and what looks like effective weapons, how many do they have and do they have enough to equip their army or even a small part of it? Do they have them stockpiled? I have a feeling the numbers of these weapons in the hands of and available to their army is very small.

    • Sam Pensive

      agrees here.. to shoot it enough you’d have to ‘borrow’ a lot and
      then use it a lot and remember to never run out of
      ammo…or these very interesting weapons.
      i’m a fan of placing the maximum amount of firepower in the hands
      of the lowest ranking ground troop guys to make
      them really effective fighting forces.
      who really wants to call an airstrike when facing a large obstacle or
      enemy threat. that’s just “bass ackwards” politically motivated
      micro mismanaging of the military anyway.

    • Tom C

      The Army has a TON of crap in storage, which they have occasionally rolled out in Afghanistan and Iraq, as they need it. Early on in Afghanistan, the LAW made a re-appearance, until they killed the remaining stockpile. An occasional M202 FLASH has been seen, as well (probably for cave clearing). Some of the ammo stockpiles still date back to the ’60’s and ’70’s (particularly among mortar shells)…. I think most of this fun stuff was simply kept in storage until a hot war broke out, not too different from what the Soviets did during the Cold War… (Stockpile the best stuff, use a small amount of the mid-range stuff for training…)

  • Lance

    Again cheap knock offs of Russian AT weapons and a copy of the SA-14 MANPADS.

  • germanguy

    Closest analogue in the west for the DFR-89 personal frag-incendiary launcher could be the german DM34 Handflammpatrone which was in use in the german army until 2001. It looks pretty similar: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handflammpatrone in german or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handflammpatrone in english.

    DFR-89 personal frag-incendiary launcher
    DFR-89 personal frag-incendiary launcher.
    DFR-89 personal frag-incendiary launcher.

    • germanguy

      Sorry, Bob already posted this.

  • Carmo

    Hi,

    The 2nd shown Weapon “DFR-89 personal frag-incendiary launcher”

    was once used in the German Army. The German Name of it is “HandflammPatrone DM 34” translates to something like “personal flamethrow cartridge”.

    It contains one shot of red phosphorus, the procectil would travel around 90meters toward a target and then spread to burn a area of about 15meters wide and 50meters deep.

    Burning temperature of the phosphorus is about 1300°Celsius.

    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handflammpatrone

  • Tom C

    The Chinese have a history of taking handy weapons from the last war, and making it fit their doctrine of mass firepower. As a consequence, some of the weapons listed in the post may actually mirror toys from years past that are no longer made in the West (and thus be a problem finding a modern equivalent)…. The DFR-89’s closest parallel is probably the HAFLA, which was briefly made and used by the West German Army in the ’70’s and ’80’s. (They even look alike and on a cursory examination, probably function similarly.)… Another guess I have is that the PF-98’s closest cousin in the West would probably be the M-67 Recoilless Rifle, similar to that used by the 75th Ranger Regiment up until the ’90’s, in their portable and gun jeep platforms.

  • Tyson chandler

    I loved this post, thanks so much Nathaniel F!

  • To Tin Fung

    Small Arms Defence Journal wrote an article here, might get u interested:
    http://www.sadefensejournal.com/wp/?p=2649
    http://www.sadefensejournal.com/wp/?p=2685

  • GVD

    DFR-89 personal frag-incendiary launcher is a direct copy of the DM-34 HAFLA used in the German and Belgian army. Probably quite a few more armies used to field this.
    It fires red or white phosphorus, and spreads over an area of 15×50 meters. It’s meant as area denial for infantry, clearing open trenches or setting fire to enemy supplies.

    Don’t fire against the wind, or you’ll have a bad day.

    Never heard of a HE variant, sounds wrong.

  • dan citizen

    What a fascinating article. I’m going to burn up a solid hour looking up these different items.

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  • walruskingmike