US Army Tests “Amerikanski” RPG-7 Derivative

RPG-7-600x388

The US Army has tested – to some degree – Airtronic USA Inc.’s “Amerikanski” RPG-7 rocket launcher. From Kit Up!:

U.S. Army infantry platoons may one day be fighting with an Americanized version of the famous, Soviet RPG 7 anti-armor weapon.

Army testers recently evaluated Airtronic USA Inc.’s RPG 7 as part of service’s annual Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment.

“The durability, simplicity, low cost and effectiveness of the RPG 7 has made it the most widely used man-portable anti-armor weapon in the world, according to the AEWE’s Systems Book of selected technologies chosen for this year’s experiment.

But the Airtronic RPG is quite different than the 1960s-era Soviet weapon. Its tube is made from 4140/4150 ordnance grade barrel steel and it features several sections of rail for attaching optics. It also has an M4-style pistol grip and buttstock. It weighs about 14 pounds unloaded and without optic.

Many soldiers involved with the experiment have faced enemy forces in Iraq and Afghanistan that were armed with RPG weapons, Army officials from the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., said.

“There was a great deal of interest because there were a number of guys that had been deployed had seen it from the other perspective,” said Harry Lubin, chief of the Experimentation Branch of MCOE’s Maneuver Battle Lab.

The Airtronic RPG is now a program of record in U.S. Special Operations Command. Soldiers, however, did not get to fire any RPG rounds through it because of restrictions imposed by Army Test and Evaluation Command’s safety release, Lubin said.

The problem was that RPG ammunition is made in Europe and could not be safety certified in time for this year’s live-fire portion of AEWE, he said.

“Special-ops command is a little ahead of the Army as far as looking at these,” Lubin said. “They have got the lots of ammo certified … we didn’t not have that luxury. Soldiers could handle it but couldn’t pull the trigger on it.”
This challenge may be solved in the future since Airtronic USA is working on producing the ammunition for it in the United States, Lubin said.

The weapon did perform well when company representatives fired it at targets between 900 and 1,200 meters away, Lubin said.

“The accuracy seemed to be very good,” he said.

It’s too early to tell if the Army will adopt an RPG-style weapon, but the results of the live-fire assessment will be available to Army officials who write future lethality requirements, Lubin said.

Speculation about the US Army adopting RPG-7s is certainly premature, but the RPG-7 has always struck me as one weapon with no direct American equivalent that seems worth a hard look. The system does have some serious disadvantages imparted on it by the backblast generated during firing, but its ability to take multiple warhead types in a variety of sizes lends it a lot of versatility and growth potential.

The US Army recently has been highly interested in infantry portable long-range high explosive delivery systems. A year ago, they announced the issuance of 84mm M3 “Carl Gustaf” MAAWS recoilless rifles to regular troops. As a solution to the problem of improving the effectiveness of infantry at range, while maintaining precision, I certainly can’t argue with that decision.



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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  • H92

    It would be nice to have a domestic source of RPGs and ammo.You know just in case an ally/proxy is running short.You know…Iraq,the Kurds, the Ukrainians, various rebel groups in Syria maybe even some of the friendlier Libyan militias.

  • Dave

    I wish they would just man up and admit that the Carl Gustav is the weapon they’ve wanted and needed for years instead of this bullshit.

    • Holdfast_II

      Ever fired a Gustav? It’s kind of a big deal, and fills a different role.

      • Dave

        Many many times.

      • John Sjöström

        It can fill out more roles IMO then the RPG-7.

        • iksnilol

          It is also much heavier. Though there is a lighter version that weighs 6.6 kg unloaded, about 15 lbs. It is pretty new, was developed last year.

    • Michael

      Goose is great. However being near one has similar physiological effects to eating a breach, with associated long term health effects. As a Ranger (the Scrollx2 kind +Tab) that has switched to North Carolina honorably, I hope to see this fielded to bridge the gap between stupid throwaways and the Goose.

      • 6.5x55Swedish

        There has been no evidence to suggest that it poses long term damage. Some safety regulations has been put in place to prevent soldiers from feeling ill during training which includes not firing more than 6 rounds in one day. In Sweden they have been using this weapon for a long time and even with the persons who used it before this regulation there are no indication of long term damage.

        • CommonSense23

          I oversaw a lot of rocket ranges. Anything that causes nose bleeds and and massive headaches to the RSOs has to have some negative consequences in the long run.

        • Dave

          “not firing more than 6 rounds in one day”
          Well that doesn’t bode well, I went through at least 30 in 4 hours when we took Bagram…

    • n0truscotsman

      Already in service.

      The RPG7 is lighter, and there is no doubt Airtronix chopped down some weight.

      Having a lighter weapon in service that is compatible with foreign ammunition is a role well needed to be filled in the US military.

      Carl Gustav’s are awesome. The RPG7 would compliment them nicely.

      Its amazing that are re-discovering the wisdom of cheap, dumb rocket and recoilless weapons that can be reloaded and carried. Because of this fulda gap-centric infatuation with expensive anti-tank guided missiles (which serve a role in their own right, but in COIN?)

  • badwolf

    At4 not good enough?

    • Airborne

      AT4s are not re-loadable, which poses a problem. Also an RPG can accept a bunch of different warheads for different purposes, giving you options; the AT4 doesn’t have that capability. I’d reckon RPGs are a bit cheaper vs an AT4 as well, although I’m sure a domestic supplier will find a way to jack up the price (make it out of metal with a bunch of rails and slap on an EOtech, for example).

    • Uniform223

      AT4 is one use only. During pre-deployment training we were told that the SOPs for the AT4 is that after use you bring the tube with you. I don’t know about you but if you’re dismounted and you use that M136 AT4, I don’t want the hassle of having to lug around an empty tube. Something that is relatively lightweight ( anti-armor or anti-material role ) re-loadable and reusable is a good idea and win in my book. The US Military should have had something like the RPG-7 along time ago. Improving the SMAWs that the USMC uses and making it service wide would be a good idea in my book or even making a reloadable version of the M72.

      • Badwolf

        smaw not good enough?

    • SDsa22c

      cant reload an AT4

    • AT4 is much shorter ranged, IIRC.

  • d

    All you need now is laser ranging and smart ammo, and make the launcher from the same steel lined carbon fibre stuff in the Carl Gustav, and you have a super lightweight counter defilade weapon.

    • iksnilol

      Airtronic USA makes a lightweight version with a steel lined polymer barrel. Weighs about 3.5 kg unloaded. So just make a smart scope and some ammo that is compatible with it and you are golden.

      • Airborne

        And then your cheap $900 RPG turns into a $75k weapon ;). Good idea, but the whole counter defilade idea is a pretty niche thing and overrated, IMO. Read the AARs about Rangers in Afghanistan concerning the so-called “Punisher”. Basically one guy in your squad ends up doing only one thing- counter-defilade. He can’t do other tasks like suppression bc of his single use weapon, and after his limited ammunition supply is exhausted he’s useless. Carrying an extra M4 with extra ammo for him is far to burdensome given the already very heavy basic load on the infantryman, so you have one guy out of the fight with his thumb up his bum.

        • Airborne

          Although it being an RPG, I suppose one could alternate between ammunition types (HEAT/Counter-defilade rounds). That said, why doesn’t the Carl G have any counter defilade capability? Maybe it does and I haven’t heard of it? That would be cool- love the Carl G

          • Uniform223

            I got to fire the Carl Gustav with some Danish Army guys. It doesn’t have a counter defilade capability per se. It does however have a special purpose proximity/timer fused round that is capable of air burst obviously.
            If I remember correctly, after you get the range of the target you set the dial on the “warhead”. After a certain number of rotations the warhead goes off. I could be wrong but that is what I remember that these guys had.

        • Jay

          I grew up in a former Warsaw pact country and did military service there, carrying the RPG. As conscript, the first firearm I was assigned to was the underfolder AK and then the RPG-7, so just because the guy is carrying the RPG, it doesn’t mean he won’t have a carbine/rifle. In Romanian army, back then, the first guy in the squad, behind the squad leader, was carrying the RPG. Next two guys carried the RPK and PSL, everyone else had AKs. The first two AK guys were the ones carrying the RPG ammo, so it’s not all left on the one guy.
          One thing I have to agree with, is that it would be retarded to carry one for anti defilade and then another weapon for anti armor. So, because of the much better AT abilities, I’d take the Carl Gustav over the RPG any day, and twice on Sundays.

          • iksnilol

            IIRC the Carl Gustav doesn’t have anti defilade capabilites or something. Carrying both would be stupid, making a smart scope and smart ammo for the RPG would be a good idea. + Rockets are heavy, being able to use enemy rockets could make it easier in regards to resupply (not depend on enemy ammo but be able to use it if needed).

            It makes sense to get the AK guys to carry RPG ammo since they are carrying less by default than the others.

          • micmac80

            Carl Gustav can never match RPG-7 or better jet German Pzf 3 because of warhead diameter limitation .In anti armor warhead diameter directly corelates to hollow charge capability you can modernise all you want in the end it comes down to size ,’over bore’ warheads also offer much more potential for development.

          • 6.5x55Swedish

            The strength of the Carl Gustav is its versatility. Most armies will use it for the bunker busting capabilities and against soft targets and have heavier weapons than both the RPG-7 and the Pzf 3 against armor. The US army haven’t had to bust a tank on a regular basis in a long time, but the need for a good weapon against soft targets is there nearly every day.

          • micmac80

            RPG is definetly way more versatile as if bunker busiting is a problem for RPG,from what we know it was used to shot down more helicopters than any manpad. So proven versatile in practice . Carl Gustav probably never hit anything else than a bunker in real war.

          • d

            Actually, the CG does have oversize warheads available for it

          • S O

            There was actually a supercalibre warhead (IIRC 125 mm) under development for the Carl Gustav back in the early 1980’s.

        • d

          Well, there are a dozen companies making smart 40mm grenades and associated fire control, so the amount if R&D required is low.

          • micmac80

            40mm grenade vs RPG grenade is like comparing fire cracker to a handgranade

    • 6.5x55Swedish

      Or you just buy
      a newer Carl Gustav with the new Aimpoint fire control system. It gives you a
      very good, proven, reasonable light, flexible system with a safe partner that
      you have done business with for a long time.

      • gibonez

        Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t that ampoint like 11 lb and doesn’t the lack of any magnification make it less useful than already existing optics.

  • iksnilol

    The Americans doing something right? I guess I am a bit surprised.

    I am of course talking about the other version, the lightweight version that uses a steel lined polymer barrel. IIRC it is called the MK777 and weighs about 3.5 kg unloaded.

  • altaz

    Whats with the eotech? Just on there for looks?

    • Chad Blodgett

      I would think for general point and shoot at a big target, or area when you don’t have time, nor need to fine tune it with the other optic, just my guess though since I have never used an RPG and have no idea how quick targeting is with the stock device.

  • Aubrey

    I guess the M203 is definitively dead then, huh?

    • RaunchyDawg

      M203 is not the same as a rocket propelled grenade.

      • Aubrey

        Of course, but if they’re buying these or Carl Gustavs to fight infantry outside of rifle range, that makes the m203 pretty lonely.

      • gunsandrockets

        True it’s trivia, but RPG does not stand for rocket propelled grenade (even though the warhead of the RPG-7 could be described as a rocket propelled grenade). RPG is an acronym for ‘Ruchnoy Protivotankovy Granatomyot’, which translates as ‘hand-held anti-tank grenade-launcher’.

      • Aubrey

        Of course, but it still supposedly fulfills the “hurt someone 3 or 4 hundred yards away” role

  • Bal256

    Airtronics is a name I’d choose if I was going to start a battery-powered toy company.

    • the ammo addict

      With their involuntary bankruptcy and behind-the-scenes shenanigans, I’m surprised the company kept the name. They do not have a good reputation.

    • Roderick Lalley

      Call it what you will if it truly works as stated !!! Batteries included !!!

  • Zebra Dun

    These may be highly thought of, yet many people have died shooting them.

    The son’s former DI died fam firing RPG’s his unit captured in Iraq, that exposed warhead and rocket tube are easy to damage and when the solid fuel booster is cracked….boom to soon.
    Stick with a cased and covered launcher.

    • Kurt Akemann

      That’s a useful point, but the Airtronic RPG’s ability to be reloaded and its being able to take foreign-made warheads makes it useful in some cases. My own thought would be to ship some to Iraq and see how the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army do with it.

      • Ethan

        That seems a fitting role… of course for every 2 we ship over, ISIS ends up with 1 of them.

        • Yellow Devil

          Hey we gotta give the enemy a fight chance. It’s in the Hague Convention, a JAG officer told me that once.

          /Sarcasm

    • CommonSense23

      And it is the same with the CARL G munitions, Fragmentation grenades, mortars, laws, AT-4s. If you use things that you don’t know how is maintained anything can happen. Even with items straight from the factory you can get problems. I have seen a lot of grenades that were airbursting almost 1 out of 3 grenades. Just cause something bad happens doesn’t mean it has a uncorrectable flaw.

    • iksnilol

      Explosives are going to mess you up if they aren’t in good condition. The case and cover only becomes extra shrapnel if it goes kaboom.

  • Camilo Emiliano Rosas Echeverr

    What’s wrong with Panzerfaust 3?

  • Komrad

    this company is associated with Black Horse Arsenel, the peopl who scammed everyone with their “American Dragunovs” and tried to make a PSL pistol just to spite the community when they got called out

    • Airtronic has been one of the US military’s major suppliers of M203, M203A1, and M203A2 grenade launchers.

    • David Sharpe

      What was the problem with their PSL type rifle? Did they actually market it as a Dragunov or a PSL?

  • gunsandrockets

    Heck if the military really wants a cheap, reusable, lightweight, recoilless grenade launcher with a big punch, why not bring back the RPG-2? Because it’s smaller and lighter than the RPG-7, only 10 pounds loaded.

    The principle advantage the RPG-7 has over the earlier RPG-2 is higher projectile velocity, to increase effective range against tanks. But the RPG-7 is obsolete as an anti-tank weapon and would be used primarily against non-tank targets, such as field fortifications and troop concentrations. With laser range finding an RPG-2 should be just as accurate as the RPG-7 against such fixed targets.

    • iksnilol

      RPG-2 has weaker range and charge than the RPG-7 IIRC.

      Though it is lightweight.

      • gunsandrockets

        The practical range limit of the RPG system is mainly due to hand held firing and a fin-stabilized projectile. The higher velocity of the RPG-7 mainly assists hitting a moving target and easing range estimation. With a cheap laser range finder, either built in or more likely provided by an assistant gunner, an RPG-2 would have almost as great an effective range against fixed targets.

        The Egyptians make an HE round for the RPG-7 and it’s warhead is only 40mm in diameter. There is no need for a ultra heavy, large diameter warhead unless it is a HEAT warhead for use against tanks. And simple HEAT warheads from short-range infantry launchers aren’t very useful anymore except in the most limited circumstances. Not impossible, but today very very rare. Heck, if anything the more looping trajectory of an RPG-2 could possibly hit deck armor unlike the flatter shooting RPG-7.

        An updated RPG-2 could have at least three rounds, a large diameter pure HEAT warhead around 5 pounds, an 82mm diameter dual purpose fragmentation/HEAT warhead around 4 pounds, and a 40mm diameter pure HE fragmentation warhead around 3 pounds. The ammunition should use some countermass to reduce backblast danger and launch signature. Reduced weight, size, and launch signature of an RPG-2 would be more useful than the increased velocity of an RPG-7 to a squad or platoon level user.

        However, if one sticks with the higher velocity RPG-7 than one type of new round is a must, a small diameter HE/fragmentation warhead with a VT proximity fuze. This round would provide airbursts against ground targets at longer ranges or at greatly different elevations, but primarily useful as a cheap handheld anti-aircraft weapon!

  • Johnny

    Few year´s back, Czech paratroopers from 43.VMPR Chrudim get Carl Gustaf as replacement for RPG-7. They´r experience is simple “With RPG, yot can hit a vehicle 300m away, but with Carl Gustaf and on same range, you can hit vehicle exactly where you want.”

    • 6.5x55Swedish

      Being a
      rifle as opposed to a rocket propelled grenade it is inherently more accurate. In
      order to get good accuracy with an RPG you need an advanced steering system
      which add cost, weight and increases the risk of failure.

      • David Sharpe

        The RPG is not a rocket propelled grenade….that “translation” is an incorrect western translation. In reality the RPG is a recoiless rifle, just the the Carl G.

        The Carl G is more accurate most likely due to the rifling in the barrel.

  • uncle fester

    I am a firm believer in copying good ideas. When you look all the way back to the Panzerfaust, the RPG-like design has had great successes.

    Ignoring the RPG design by the US Armed Forces has always baffled me.

    • UnrepentantLib

      I read recently that the 82nd Airborne in Normandy in WWII captured a stockpile of panzerfausts and put them to use, even taking some with them on Operation Market-Garden. Yet the higher-ups never accepted the idea that, hey, the Germans have something good here. NIH, at its best.

  • Mystick

    Why not just make it an upper for the AR platform? Hell, they’ve done everything else as an upper at this point….

    • Sam Schifo

      I can see it now, the RPGR (Rocket Propelled Grenade Receiver)

      • Mystick

        …and since it’s an upper, no paperwork required!

      • Kivaari

        Did you know “RPG” is not the correct description of the Russian words? It tranlates to “Hand held anti-tank grenade”. During WW2 the Soviets had hand thrown RPGs.

  • Ned Weatherby

    I wondering how an over-the-shoulder weapon employs an M4 style buttstock…

    • The M4 stock rests under the tube. I believe it’s removable.

      • gunsandrockets

        And really clumsy looking too.

    • n0truscotsman

      It still is “over the shoulder”, except it adds an additional point of contact (shoulder), like a rifle, which further stabilizes the weapon. Excellent idea IMO.

  • Don Ward

    For proper training, the soldiers must mutter “Allah Akbar” to himself for a minute or two while his comrade films with a shaky cellphone camera.

    But kidding aside, making a cheap and safe RPG seems like a good investment, if only to arm our friends who still use RPGs. Emphasis on the words CHEAP and SAFE.

    • yu tube

      Cheap which is why this won’t happen, not a fat enough profit margin for US military industrial complex. But an expensive version with unwanted, unneeded, features and add-ons will be produced.

      • Don Ward

        I fear you maybe right.

  • freethinker

    It was my impression the military didn’t want this style weapon as the warhead is exposed with the potential of it being hit by small arms fire. At least that is what I read years ago. It seems to me that we should have adopted this long ago.

  • John

    I would say that while the RPG is a cool weapon, pattern recognition is a big deal and there’s going to be a lot of friendly fire incidents if you can’t tell the difference between an American RPG and a regular Russian RPG. So the Department of Defense will likely stick with the Carl Gustav bazooka for the near future for that reason if nothing else.

    SOCOM, on the other hand, could easily use an American RPG, especially for undercover missions or what have you. I’m not surprised they already bought the ammo and this stuff; they were the ones who forced the creation of the FN-SCAR rifle line and adopted it first. Hell, I’d be surprised if they didn’t have some Russian RPGs in their arsenal anyway. They’ve got the money for it, Congress loves SOCOM, so they’ll get this.

    When phasers and plasma cannons are created, I’ll bet SOCOM gets a dozen versions of those off the line while Congress argues about adopting expensive, unproven and resource-heavy weapons.

    • CommonSense23

      Just cause SOCOM pushes something doesn’t mean it is the greatest. The FN SCAR is the perfect example of a sub par weapon being adopted.

  • FWIW: Jim Leatherwood (of ART scope fame) was pushing for US adoption of the RPG-7 back during Vietnam. MICOM at Redstone Arsenal even began reverse engineering it as the XM194.

  • ColaBox

    This is old news. They’ve been testing this for years now. Im not sure why they’d bother as even the Russians have mostly gotten away from it.

  • spike001ton

    it just goes to show that soviet weapons are some of the best weapons out there i remember reading about the army looking to replace the m4 and there requirements would have been perfect for a 556 ak but they chose to test the scar 416 acr

  • Lance

    Still enjoy seeing marines use the newest M-72A^ LAWS though.

  • n0truscotsman

    Ill take some in FDE and multicam.

    (pics credited to their owner)
    http://soldiersystems.net/blog1/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Mk-777-variants.jpg

  • Simcha M.

    We Israelis have been carrying them for quite a few decades now. I wasn’t a dedicated RPG-ist, but when I did have to carry one I f*cking hated it. Most awkward, heavy, long, pain-in-the-tuchas weapon we had, aside from the 52mm mortar that I schlepped.

    • Joe Schmoe

      The IDF removed the use of RPG’s from it’s inventory several years ago in favor of disposable systems like LAW’s and Matadors.

    • El Duderino

      I thought the IDF used the 300 — what became the SMAW for the Marines. I was a Marine TOW gunner, never got to fire the SMAW but caught gravel thrown up by the backblast. That sucker is just slightly more deadly to the target!

      • Simcha M.

        You are probably correct, Mr. Dude. I haven’t been following IDF changes like I used to, and things seem to change so much more rapidly these days. Maybe I’m just getting older!!

  • Andrey Martim

    I saw some stuff about this company… Even a modernized China Lake P.A. Grenade Launcher that looks promising… Anyway, RPG-7 is a more than proven RPGL, I would give it some credit…

    • the ammo addict

      Yeah, they tried to steal that P.A. grenade launcher design and that is part of what ended up bankrupting their company. That, plus other gross mismanagement issues. I would advise anyone to stay FAR away from that company.

  • Note that the buttstock is simply mounted to a removable rail.

  • Pete Sheppard

    The M72 LAAW was developed to fill the same niche. Despite the fact that the launcher tube limits warhead size, the Russians went to a similar tube configuration with their later RPGs. Newer models of the LAAW have added to its versatility.

  • iksnilol

    The M4 variant looks like the bees knees, programable rounds and light weight? Aw yeah. Though I don’t use explosives (expensive and draw attention).

  • Wow, an Eotech on an RPG, now I’ve seen it all … lol

  • Kivaari

    From others that served in other theaters, in one of the “stans” before 9-11, thy reported seeing several of the RPG7 explode, killing the user. I have read that it has happened several times with both US and opfor operators killed. Is that so? I could see it upon looking at the handling marks on rockets carried in the field. The outer cone being damaged, may have closed the circuit, and the peizo-electric device activated upon launch. With that damaged outer cone, maybe they simply go boom. Is that common?

  • Ned Weatherby

    Thanks for the link!

  • Fegelein

    Given that the RPG-7 is very inexpensive, reloadable, simple, and effective, I see no reason why having either one or two of these in each platoon shouldn’t be pursued. Think of it as a way of granting more independence and capability to small units which otherwise may have no means of recourse should moderately heavy firepower be called for, such as if dealing with attack by enemies from a concealed, hard position, or for self-defense against airborne or other armored threats. The fact that the RPG-7 can be reloaded with highly inexpensive rockets which can be made for a variety of roles, only makes the case for the RPG-7 stronger, by allowing small groups of soldiers to have significantly bolstered firepower capability at a much lower cost than assigning an Apache or a Bradley or an Abrams or a Stryker or an A10 to take care of them, thus allowing the grunts to take better care of themselves at lower cost while the expensive high-powered shock and awe assets can be freed up to wreak the maximum havoc wherever they are needed rather than being shackled to some ground element.

  • Colin

    Yes I never understood why you guys took so long adopting it, we got ours in the late 70’s, I remember envious US soldiers watching us shoot ours.

  • Oingo Boingo

    Bout time