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RPG-29

Anti-tank rocket launcher

RPG-29

The RPG-29 is capable of defeating even the most heavily armored main battle tanks

 
 
Country of origin Soviet Union
Entered service 1989
Caliber 105 mm
Rocket weight 11.5 kg
Weight (loaded) 18.8 kg
Length (assembled) 1 850 mm
Length (collapsed) 1 000 mm
Muzzle velocity 255 m/s
Rate of fire 3 ~ 4 rpm
Sighting range 500 m
Range of effective fire 450 - 500 m
Maximum range 800 m
Penetration (steel armor) 750 mm
Penetration (steel armor behind ERA) 600 mm
Penetration (concrete) 1 500 mm

 

   The RPG-29 is one of the deadliest rocket launchers in use today. It was developed during the 1980s. The Soviets required a deadlier anti-tank weapon than the RPG-7 for their infantry to defeat NATO's third generation main battle tanks. It also had to be more accurate and have longer range than the RPG-7. The resulting RPG-29 is a tube-launched anti-armor rocket launcher that can be seen as an evolution of the RPG-16 previously used by the Soviet airborne troops and special forces.

   Since the RPG-29 bears a passing resemblance to the M20 Super Bazooka and the French LRAC, it’s worth contemplating if the Soviets saw greater potential in a completely new anti-tank weapon rather than stick with the upgraded versions of the RPG-7 or the miniscule single-use RPG-22 and RPG-26. This could have been the impetus for the KBP Instrument Design Bureau’s R&D from 1983 onward. The RPG-29 was a hybrid that combined the portability of the RPG-7 and the RPG-16 while offering a greater punch than the SPG-9 recoilless rifle. Its ultimate purpose was allowing infantry to defeat the latest Western main battle tanks tanks with reactive armor.

   Soon after it entered service in 1989 the tank killer dubbed “Vampir" (vampire) began to proliferate. This was intentional, since the RPG-29 was showcased at arms shows in the Middle East, reportedly IDEX in Abu Dhabi, as early as 1993.

   Given its dimensions the RPG-29 was carried by two soldiers: an operator and his assistant huffing extra rockets. It was a two-part weapon system whose breech housed the venturi connected to a launch tube.

   Connected to the launch tube is the assembly for an integrated pistol grip attacked beneath the optical sight; for short ranges a plastic flip sight is found on the outer rim of the launch tube’s muzzle. Certain features of the RPG-29 were borrowed from the RPG-16, hence both share startling commonalities like the electric fuze ignition housed in the trigger mechanism. Should the operator choose to fire lying on the ground, he could release the folding bipod behind the pistol grip.

   The RPG-29 anti-tank rocket launcher has a very short range of just half a kilometer compared to ATGMs. However it's actually twice the range of the RPG-7. The RPG-29 is also more accurate than the RPG-7.

   The RPG-29 fires a powerful 105 mm PG-29V rocket, which contains a tandem warhead. There is also a TBG-29V round with thermobaric warhead, which is used against buildings, field fortifications, soft skinned and lightly armored vehicles. These RPG-29-specific rounds are identifiable for their rocket motor containing fin stabilizers and aren't interchangeable with other RPG-type launchers.

   Another neat feature is its “cold” launch. In less than a second the RPG-29’s propellant expends itself within the fiberglass tube and flies towards its target without leaving a smoke trail along its trajectory.

   There is little to no evidence to prove the RPG-29 saw any combat during the 1990s even when so many different small wars were raging across the former Soviet republics. It wasn’t until the 2006 military conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon that the RPG-29 came to the world’s attention and became notorious.

   Unfortunately, IDF literature on the 2006 war offers few insights about the RPG-29’s use. It took another concurrent war to prove its lethality.

   During the long occupation of Iraq by a United States-led coalition forces RPG-29’s supplied from or via Iran to insurgent groups were employed in ambushes that disabled several tanks—these were the American M1A2 Abrams’ and at least a single British Challenger 2.

   The Challenger 2 incident finally proved that Soviet-era rocket launchers could disable third-generation NATO tanks. In August 2006 British forces were deployed to Al-Amarah, Southern Iraq, for a counterinsurgency operation. During an ambush an RPG-29’s tandem HEAT round struck the lower glacis of a Challenger 2 and injured three of the crew members.

   In 2013 viral footage from Syria showed a rebel firing an RPG-29 on a rooftop. The shot hit a T-72 and completely destroyed the tank, whose turret erupted in a fiery geyser. This was just further evidence of how effective the RPG-29 was against tanks.

   The destruction and disabling of NATO and T-series tanks by RPG-29’s confirms an apocryphal account of Russian army tests dating from 1999. In it, both missiles and RPGs were fired on T-80U and T-90 tanks. Both MBTs suffered frontal penetration by PG-29V rounds.

   Even if the RPG-29 is older than its siblings the RPG-28 and the RPG-32 the threat it poses to tanks and APCs shouldn’t be dismissed. With a lethal mythology that’s been growing for 25 years, it could be the single greatest influence reshaping present ideas about armor protection.

   There are no official numbers on how many RPG-29’s have been built since 1989. There’s reason to believe the system is no longer being mass-produced for the Russian army, with small batches reserved for limited export orders. Finding an exact list of its users, other than Russia and post-Soviet states, is hard to come by although the Mexican army stands out as a rare customer from Latin America. It’s fairly obvious, however, it is likely that regimes opposed to the West, i.e. Iran, Syria, and North Korea, have stocks of these extremely lethal tank killers.

 

Variants

 

   RPG-29N – is a "night" version, used the 1PN51-2 night sight.

   RPG-29-2003 – An RPG-29 with newer electro-optical sights, i.e. KPUO and VWO 2TS35, that have an integrated laser rangefinder and day/night compatibility. This variant operates like a recoilless rifle on a collapsible tripod mount.

   Ghadir – it is reportedly an Iranian version of the RPG-29.

 

Miguel Miranda

   Article by MIGUEL MIRANDA

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