Country of origin
Range of effective fire
~ 600 m
300 - 375 mm
(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
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
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.
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-use 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).
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
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—30
meters long. This is a severe disadvantage of the weapon, for it
exposes the operator, and endangers nearby personnel. Though the
RPG-18 can be used inside buildings, however these should be no
walls at least 2 meters behind the operator.
Although Russian production of the weapon ceased in the mid
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
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.
RPG-22: It is
essentially an enlarged 72.5-millimeter version, with increased
penetration. It entered service in 1985 and is nicknamed the "Netto".
M80 Zolja is
a Yugoslav 64 mm anti-tank rocket launcher, similar to the RPG-18.
Despite its obsolesce the M80 is being produced to this day.
Article by The Tiger
publish your own articles? Visit our
guidelines for more information.