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Friday, May 13, 2016

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Weapons of the War in Afghanistan: Anti-tank/Assault Part II

Weapons of the War in Afghanistan
View to the South of the Korengal Valley from the Korengal Outpost (KOP).

In the world of war, weapons and technology are ever changing, each war is characterized by the weapons and tactics used to fight it. As new environments and enemies are encountered, the parties to those wars develop new - more effective tactics, technologies, and weapons to counter and defeat their adversaries. The ingenuity seen in war has existed since (and most certainly before) the first wars of recorded history and continue to this very day. 

Keeping with that theory, let’s take a look at the weapons that have characterized the wars and conflicts that the United States has been a party to over the course of it’s history. During the course of this series, I aim to breakdown the weapons used in each conflict by their classification, and to which party they were employed by. Having served in combat operations in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, I would like to start our series with the War in Afghanistan. 

For our sixth installment, let’s take a look at the most commonly encountered Anti-tank/Assault weapons in the War in Afghanistan. These weapons will be recoil-less weapons, rocket propelled grenades, grenade launchers, and shoulder fired missiles.


You can't go anywhere in Afghanistan without seeing one of these. We were attacked with RPG-7s on countless occasions throughout our deployment in the Korengal. Depending on what warhead is being used these can get the adrenaline flowing when they start flying around.

The RPG-7 (Russian: РПГ-7) is a portable, reusable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, was designed by the Soviet Union; it is now manufactured by the Russian company Bazalt.

The launcher is reloadable and based around a steel tube, 40 millimeters in diameter, 95.3 centimeters long, and weighing 7 kilograms. The middle of the tube is wood wrapped to protect the user from heat and the end is flared to assist in blast shielding and recoil reduction. Sighting is usually optical with a back-up iron sight, and passive infra-red and night sights are also available.

As with similar weapons, the grenade protrudes from the launch tubes. It is launched by a gunpowder booster charge, giving it an initial speed of 115 meters per second, and creating a cloud of light grey-blue smoke that can give away the position of the shooter. The rocket motor ignites after 10 meters and sustains flight out to 500 meters at a maximum velocity of 295 meters per second. The grenade is stabilized by two sets of fins that deploy in-flight: one large set on the stabilizer pipe to maintain direction and a smaller front set to induce rotation. The grenade can fly up to 1,100 meters; the fuse sets the maximum range, usually 920 meters.

The RPG-7 can fire a variety of warheads for anti-armor (HEAT) or anti-personnel (HE) purposes, usually fitting with an impact (PIBD) and a 4.5 second fuse. Armor penetration is warhead dependent and ranges from 30 to 60 centimeters of RHA; one warhead, the PG-7VR, is a 'tandem charge' device, used to defeat reactive armor with a single shot.

    • Cartridge: 40mm, 64mm, 85mm, 93mm, and 105mm Rocket propelled grenades
    • Effective Range: Effective range 200 m, Maximum range 920 m
    • Weight: 15 lbs / 7 kg
    • Rate of Fire: N/A
    • Capacity: Single shot (reloadable)

            Myself with an RPG-7 at Firebase Vegas, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.

            Norinco Type 69 RPG
            As with the RPG-7 the Type 69 RPG is very common in Afghanistan, this is mostly due to the fact that China supplied a large amount of these to the Mujahideen/Taliban in co-operation with the US and CIA, during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980's. The Chinese came up with some pretty hardcore nasty anti-personnel warheads for these, and being on the receiving end is not fun at all.

            The Type 69 85mm rocket propelled grenade (RPG), made by Norinco, is a Chinese copy of the RPG-7. First introduced in the early 1970s, the Type 69 RPG is a common individual anti-tank weapon in service with the PLA. New types of grenade rounds were developed in the 1980s and '90s to meet the requirements of modern battlefields.

            The Type 69 is a shoulder-launched, muzzle-loaded anti-tank and anti-personnel grenade launcher which launches a variety of fin-stabilized, over-sized grenades from its 40mm tube. The launcher has an optical daylight sight and (optional) infrared night vision to provide increased fire accuracy. In general, the Type 69 is a low-cost, easy-to-use weapon with significant firepower. It is sometimes referred to as "infantry artillery" or "pocket artillery". The type 69 RPG is a copy of the Soviet RPG-7 but not a direct copy. The Type 69 does not have a forward grip like the soviet RPG-7 as it was left out to lower production cost.

            Although the design of the grenade launcher has not changed significantly since it was introduced nearly thirty years ago, many new types of grenade rounds have been developed over the years to provide enhanced capabilities.
            • Cartridge: 40mm, 64mm, 75mm, 85mm, 93mm, and 105mm Rocket propelled grenades
            • Effective Range: Effective range 200 m, Maximum range 920 m
            • Weight: 12.3 lbs / 5.6 kg
            • Rate of Fire: N/A
            • Capacity: Single shot (reloadable)
            Chinese Type 69 40mm Airburst Anti-Personnel High-Explosive (HE) Grenade, many of these were found in enemy fighting positions after a night attack on OP Rock & Little Rock, Firebase Vegas, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.
            When the 75mm warhead strikes the ground, it is propelled upwards by a jump mechanism, and detonates at a height of approximately 2 meters. Somewhere in the region of 900 steel balls and fragments of the case are propelled outwards, giving the warhead a lethal radius of 15m. This is basically a rocket-propelled, bouncing, 360 degree claymore mine. AAF/ACF fighters were volley firing these at OP Rock & Little Rock. These are also available in a Anti-personnel high-explosive incendiary (HEI) type, which is the same except for the fact that it also contains 2,000 to 3,000 incendiary pellets. 

            The GP-25 and later variants made their way into Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War. While they are in the hands of AAF/ACF fighters, they don't have access to large stores of the grenades that these fire, so every once in a while you may see one used, but is generally not the norm. You will see these mostly in use by the Afghan National Army or Police.  

            The GP-25 Kostyor, GP-30 Obuvka, and GP-34 are Russian 40 mm under-barrel grenade launchers for the AK-series of assault rifles. They were first seen by the west in 1984 during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. The initial version was designated BG-15 Mukha, and was fitted under the barrel of AK-74 assault rifles. The main production version, the GP-25, has a different sighting system. The GP-30 was lightened and the redesigned sighting system was moved to the right.

            The grenade launchers are similar in appearance and fire the same 40 mm caliber ammunition and use the same High-Low System developed by Germany in late World War II to keep recoil forces low without a rocket or other type of recoilless weapon back blast.

            A grenade is first muzzle loaded into the barrel, the weapon is aimed, then the self-cocking trigger is pulled to fire the weapon. This fires the percussion cap at the base of the grenade which triggers the nitrocellulose propellant inside the body of the grenade. The hot expanding gas from the propellant is forced through vents in the base of the grenade that move the grenade along the barrel, and at the same time force the driving band to engage with the twelve rifling grooves. The rifling imparts stabilizing spin to the projectile.

            The barrel has a life of about 400 rounds.
            • Cartridge:  40 mm caseless grenade
            • Effective Range: Sighting system for 100 to 400 m
            • Weight: 3.31 lbs / 1.5 kg
            • Rate of Fire: N/A
            • Capacity: Single shot (reloadable)
            Abandoned structure below the Korengal Road, near "Death Draw," an area of the Korengal road known for IEDs, and Coalition Casualties. 

            Shawn G in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

            For more info on these and other weapons
            Technical specs compiled from:

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            Shawn in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

            For more info on these and other weapons
            Technical specs compiled from:

            "The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."


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