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PF-97

Thermobaric rocket launcher

PF-97

The PF-97 is extremely effective against holed-up infantry

 
 
Country of origin China
Entered service 2000 (?)
Caliber 93 mm
Rocket 93 x 700 mm
Weight 12 kg
Length 920 mm
Muzzle velocity 125 m/s
Sighting range 600 m
Range of effective fire 200 m

 

   The PF-97 is a Chinese copy the Soviet RPO-A Shmel. This weapon was designed to engage hostile troops located in buildings and bunkers. It is also extremely effective against soft skin vehicles, such as trucks. In 1992 China began negotiations with Russia in order to acquire production license for the RPO-A Shmel. It seems that Russia refused to grant production rights. Anyway in 1996 China began to carry out local development and preparation for production. The RPO-A Shmel is a rather widespread weapon in the region. It is used by Russia, India, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. So Chinese intelligence could easily acquire samples for reverse-engineering. The PF-97 has some minor changes over the RPO-A Shmel to suit local operational requirements. Some sources report that the PF-97 was introduced in 2000 and is currently used by the Chinese army. This weapon is used by specialized flamethrower squads, that support in combat advancing regular infantry. Smaller and less powerful WPF-89-1 and WPF-89-2 thermobaric rocket launchers with 80 mm bore were developed in China. These are derivatives of PF-89 anti-tank rocket launcher. However it seems that these thermobaric weapons were not adopted by the Chinese army and are offered only for export. The PF-97 is also it is being offered for export customers.

   The PF-97 launcher has a 93 mm bore and uses a cylindrical 93x700 mm rocket, which is built into the launcher. The rocket weights 3.5 kg and contains 2.1 kg of thermobaric filler, which is released as an atomized cloud by a small precursor charge employing a conventional high explosive compound. In this cloud-like form, the main filler combusts on contact with the air. It uses oxygen from the surrounding and generates abnormally high pressure and high temperature explosion. Detonation creates intense incendiary and blast effects over a large area. Fireball has a radius of over 6 m, and a casualty radius is 50 m. Blast of the PF-97 rocket is equal in power to that of a 107 mm artillery piece, or around 4 kg of TNT, which is substantial for such a small munition. The rocket has a kill radius of 80 m in confined areas and 50 m in open areas.

   The effects of the blast on personnel are generally the same as those of basic high explosives, but with substantially greater trauma associated with blast overpressure; this includes internal hemorrhaging, ruptured internal organs (especially the lungs), and even broken bones, and these effects are especially pronounced and brutal against personnel inside confined areas, such as buildings, trenches or pillboxes.

   The rocket can also be devastating against vehicles, especially thin-skinned vehicles like trucks, and any armored fighting vehicles with open hatches. However heavily armored vehicles that are buttoned-up are unlikely to sustain any internal damage. If the PF-97 hits the underside of a wheeled armored fighting vehicle (or the ground very near it), it will likely blow most of the tires and wheels off. Tracked armor is much less vulnerable to the rocket, but there is little doubt that any tank track could be severed by a direct hit.

   This weapon is extremely effective against hostile troops located in bunkers, buildings, pillboxes, fortified structures, underground tunnels, caves, and trenches. However destructive power of the PF-97 rocket is lower than that of dedicated bunker busting projectiles. The PF-97 is also extremely effective against unarmored and lightly armored vehicles. It can be used against vehicle convoys and so on. This weapon is also suitable for some other missions. It can be used against parked aircraft, radar dishes, and other similar targets. Once the rocket is launched, the empty launcher is discarded.

   So the PF-97 exceptionally effective for clearing-out enemies in closed terrain, without having to risk close quarters combat with an enemy that is likely waiting in ambush. The soldier using the PF-97 is much less vulnerable to hostile fire than soldier with traditional flow-stream flamethrower.

   Some other 93 mm rockets are being offered for export, including several anti-armor rockets.

   The PF-97 is a simple-to-use weapon. Verry little training is required prior to using this weapons. Simple instructions are printed on the side of the launcher.

   Launcher of the PF-97 is watertight. An operator can carry 2 of these rocket launchers clamped together. The pack of 2 loaded launchers weights 24 kg.

   Original version of the PF-97 had simple flip-up sights, similar to those of the RPO-A. This weapon had a signting range of 600 m. However a production improved version, PF-97A, was fitted with a simple clip-up optical sight. Chinese sources report that effective range of this weapon is 200 m, though the rocket itself will fly out to a maximum range of 850 m. Interestingly the Soviet RPO-A has an effective range of 300 m and the rocket will reportedly fly out to 1 000 m. So it could be either a mistake, or the Chinese weapon is slightly less powerful.

 

Variants

 

   PF-97A is a production improved version, fitted with a simple clip-up optical sight instead of iron sights. Once the rocket is launched, the optical sight is removed from the empty tube and can be installed on another tube. This weapon was reportedly finalized in 2008. The PF-97A is currently used by the Chinese army.

 

 
PF-97

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