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RPG-18

Anti-tank rocket launcher

RPG-18

The RPG-18 was a Soviet clone of the American M72 anti-tank weapon

 
 
Country of origin Soviet Union
Entered service 1972
Caliber 64 mm
Warhead weight 1.2 kg
Weight (loaded) 2.6 kg
Length (collapsed) 705 mm
Length (extended) 1 050 mm
Muzzle velocity 114 m/s
Sighting range 200 m
Range of effective fire 200 m
Maximum range ~ 600 m
Armor penetration 300 - 375 mm

 

   The RPG-18 (RPG stands for the Russian Ruchnoy Protivotankovvy Granatomyot, or hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher) is yet another weapon in the Russian “RPG” line of anti-tank rocket launchers. Unlike most of its reusable counterparts, such as the RPG-7, the RPG-18 is a disposable weapon—that is, it can only be used once.

   Development of the RPG-18 began in the 1960s, soon after the release of the American M72 LAW. Most likely that examples of the American M72 were obtained during the Vietnam War by the Soviet-backed North Vietnamese Army, and transferred to the Soviet Union for trials and evaluation.

   The RPG-18, also nicknamed the "Mukha" (fly), was heavily influenced by the M72 LAW, both in design and concept. The two weapons are so similar that at the time of its introduction some people believed that the RPG-18 is simply a reverse-engineered M72. Both weapons can be carried in a collapsed mode before being extended for combat. Both are disposable and effective out to around 200 meters. They also have similar armor penetration, caliber, weight, and even appearance. However, of the two, the M72 LAW is unquestionably more famous and widely used.

   The RPG-18 is a simple, smoothbore, single-shot aluminum tube, layered with fiberglass on the outside. It is 705 millimeters long when being carried or stored. When in combat, however, the smoothbore aluminum tube is telescoped out to a longer length (1 050 mm) for greater accuracy. It is cocked manually by rotating the rear sight. Once cocked, the safety cannot be activated, posing a security threat. So in practice once the weapon is cocked, the rocket is launched somewhere anyway. Both ends of the weapon are covered with hinged caps to keep the weapon clean. These are opened when the weapon is made ready to fire.

   The RPG-18 is equipped with only simple flip-up sights, both forward and rear. Maximum sighting range is 200 meters. There have not been any recorded attempts to equip it with an optical or night sight. Thus, accuracy is minimal.

   This anti-tank rocket launcher fires a pre-loaded PG-18 rocket. When fired, four stabilizing fins pop out of the rocket. A solid-propellant motor powers this High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) rocket out to 200 meters. It can fly on for several hundred more meters until it self-destructs, which happens about 6 seconds after launch. For safety purposes, the PG-18 does not arm until it has traveled 20 meters. Loaded with 312 grams of explosives, the PG-18 can slice through a maximum of 300 - 375 millimeters of rolled homogeneous armor—not enough to take on either the main battle tanks of today or even of the ‘70s. However, it is still useful against light vehicles (where its armor penetration remains acceptable) and bunkers (since it can penetrate 1 000 mm of reinforced concrete).

   The RPG-18 can be made ready to fire in less than 10 seconds. Simple instructions are printed on the side of the weapon. The RPG-18 is also equipped with a shoulder strap for ease of transport.

   The empty tube cannot be reloaded, so there is no need to keep it after the rocket is launched. In practice, the launcher is discarded as soon as the rocket reaches its target and isn't recovered until long after the battle.

   The back-blast area of the RPG-18 is rather large—at least 15 meters long. This is a severe disadvantage of the weapon, for it exposes the operator, limits its usage to open areas, and endangers nearby personnel.

   Although Russian use of the weapon ceased in the early ‘90s in favor of the improved RPG-22, the RPG-18 was widely exported to several Warsaw Pact nations, some of which were still producing this weapon in the ‘90s. Production has most likely ceased, as has most frontline service, although there are still probably large numbers in circulation.

   Disposable anti-tank rocket launchers certainly have their disadvantages when compared to their reusable cousins. They can only be used once, forcing the operator to carry several for maximum effectiveness. They tend to be less well developed with cheap, somewhat flimsy designs that lack optical or night sights (and have therefore limited accuracy). However, disposable launchers have their advantages too. They are cheap, easy to use, small and light. With a little extra training, one man in every squad could carry one or two, giving each squad some anti-tank or anti-vehicle capability. The effectiveness of these disposable weapons is evident. Thus, these anti-tank rocket launchers remain important weapons.

 

Variants

 

  RPG-22: It is essentially an enlarged 72-millimeter version, with increased penetration. It entered service in 1985 and is nicknamed the Netto.

 

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