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Kestrel

Anti-tank rocket launcher

Kestrel anti-tank rocket launcher

The Kestrel is a new Taiwanese rocket launcher, capable of launching both anti-tank and anti-structure munitions

 
 
Country of origin Taiwan
Entered service 2015
Caliber 67 mm
Weight ?
Length 1 100 mm
Muzzle velocity ?
Sighting range 400 m (?)
Range of effective fire (HEAT rocket) 400 m
Armor penetration (HEAT rocket) 400 mm
Range of effective fire (HESH rocket) 150 m
Brick penetration (HESH rocket) 300 mm
Concrete penetration (HESH rocket) 200 mm

 

   Designed by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), the Kestrel is Taiwan's first indigenous design for an anti-tank rocket launcher. It is a disposable, single-shot weapon manufactured with two different projectiles; a rocket with a shaped charge High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warhead for use against armored vehicles, and a larger rocket with a High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) warhead for use mainly against structures.

   The effort to develop this weapon originated in a 2008 request by the Republic of China's Marine Corps for a new infantry support weapon along the same lines as the AT4, SMAW-D, and RPG-26, but an indigenous design was also called-for. Important considerations were the weather conditions typical of Taiwan, and the conditions expected for fighting in coastal and mountainous areas. The first prototypes were completed in 2009 and began series of eleven critical tests that were completed in 2012, at which time the weapon began its initial operational test and evaluation testing.

   As progress was made in the development of the HEAT round for the weapon in 2012, the project was also expanded to include a HESH round for use against structures. A series of tests were conducted on the HESH round, ultimately culminating in four live fire tests with pre-production "war shots" against real reinforced walls. The completed design was finally publicly unveiled at the 2013 Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition convention, by which time the weapon had essentially been finalized, and formally named the Kestrel. Two years of further refinement followed, and the Kestrel finally became operational with the Taiwanese armed forces in 2015.

   The launch tube for the Kestrel has a highly ergonomical and semi-organic shape, lending it a conspicuously futuristic appearance. The tube is cylindrical, but has numerous grooves, impressions, and contours. A shock absorber is located at each end of the tube, both of which are bulky and octagonal in shape; the aft shock absorber has a blocky appearance, while the forward one is slightly conical. A small lanyard is attached to the rear shock absorber, which is probably connected to an arming pin. The telescopic sight is mounted at the midsection of the tube on the upper-left side; it is usually lowered into a recess, which is protected at either end by a distinctive curved slope. A pistol grip and conventional trigger group are located on the underside of the tube at its midpoint, and a hinge and hollow interior enable the pistol grip to be folded around the entire trigger guard when not in use. The shoulder rest is flat, and hinged against a trapezoid-shaped fixture, and is also folded against the bottom of the tube when not in use. The foregrip is also trapezoidal, and appears to have a safety button located on the left side. The exterior is typically covered with stenciled text and instructional decals, all in Chinese. All examples displayed so far are olive drab in color, with black shock absorbers, and a red trigger and safety mechanisms.

   The launch tube is predominately composed of fiber reinforced plastic. Most of the larger fixtures (the pistol grip, shoulder rest, safety switch, and so on) are composed of polymers, while some minor components appear to be made of metal. The shock absorbers have a plastic casing, but the contents are unknown.

   The Kestrel has a simple telescopic sight that's folded-down against the tube when not in use (regular iron sights are unusable, due to the broad front shock absorber), and will also accept a variety of other optics that can be clipped-on. The sighting range has not been published, but as the effective range against tanks for the Kestrel has been quoted as 400 m, the primary sight presumably has stadia lines for this distance.

   The primary munition for the Kestrel is a HEAT round with a shaped charge warhead. It will reportedly penetrate 400 mm (some sources claim only 350 mm) of rolled homogenous armor equivalent, which is exceptional for a 67 mm munition. The Kestrel is effective against most armored vehicles in service today. However it is not capable of penetrating the frontal armor of the latest Chinese tanks, such as the Type 96 and Type 99, and it is questionable against even the flank armor of these tanks. It is also unclear if the Kestrel's HEAT round has a precursor charge to defeat explosive reactive armor.

   Unusually for a shoulder-launcher anti-tank weapon --- or *any* modern weapon, for that matter --- a HESH; also known as "HEP", for High Explosive Plastic) round is also provided. The warhead contains a large mass of plastic explosives inside of a casing that easily bursts on impact, allowing the filler to flatten-out against a hard surface on impact, which is then detonated by a fuze in the base of the warhead before the filler can scatter. This allows HESH munitions to blast through thick walls, or at least cause tremendous structural damage in whatever they hit via the shockwave, and the Kestrel's HESH round is no exception. The HESH round will penetrate 300 mm of brick, creating a 900 mm mousehole in the process, or 200 mm of reinforced concrete, creating a 600 mm mousehole. The concussion from the blast and the considerable mass of debris from the destroyed surface also cause substantial internal damage inside the target as well. HESH rounds are also extremely effective against light armor, and can even be used against some main battle tanks.

   The Kestrel has so far received surprisingly little attention from the media; as of October 2016, the only major website to report on this weapon was Army Recognition, who wrote a relatively brief article on it in 2013. It remains heavily-advertised by NCSIST on their site, but it is unclear if the Kestrel has been offered for export yet --- or if it will be at all.

   As of late 2016, the only operator of the Kestrel is Taiwan.

 

Similar weapons

 

   AT4: Swedish 84 mm disposable anti-tank recoilless gun. This weapon was one of the primary models evaluated in the Kestrel's development.

   APILAS: French 112 mm disposable anti-tank rocket launcher. It is the largest-bore weapon that NCSIST evaluated, though the Kestrel ended up having half the bore.

   M141 BDM: Also called the SMAW-D, the M141 is a US 83 mm disposable anti-structure rocket launcher, firing an 83 mm rocket based on that from the Mk.153 SMAW, with an electronically-fuzed High Explosive Dual-Purpose (HEDP) warhead.

   RPG-22: Soviet 78 mm disposable anti-tank rocket launcher. It resembles the M72 LAW, but is essentially an enlarged RPG-18.

   MARA: Argentinean 78 mm disposable anti-tank rocket launcher. The MARA also resembles the M72 LAW, but has less armor penetration than the RPG-22 (despite having the same bore).

   PF-89: Chinese 80 mm disposable anti-tank rocket launcher. The configuration is similar to the Kestrel, but it fires a larger rocket only available with a HEAT warhead (which, despite its larger bore, has about the same penetration).

 

Blacktail

   Article by BLACKTAIL

   It was the first detailed article on the internet about the Kestrel rocket launcher

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Video of the Kestrel anti-tank rocket launcher

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Kestrel anti-tank rocket launcher

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Kestrel anti-tank rocket launcher

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Kestrel anti-tank rocket launcher

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Kestrel anti-tank rocket launcher

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Kestrel anti-tank rocket launcher

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Kestrel anti-tank rocket launcher

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Kestrel anti-tank rocket launcher

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Kestrel anti-tank rocket launcher

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Kestrel anti-tank rocket launcher

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Kestrel anti-tank rocket launcher

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