Home > Firearms > RPO Rys

RPO Rys

Rocket-propelled flamethrower

RPO Rys

The RPO Rys was one of the earliest rocket-propelled flamethrower weapons, and represented a radical shift in Soviet thinking for both RPGs and incendiary weapons

 
 
Country of origin Soviet Union
Entered service 1975
Caliber 93 mm
Cartridge type 93x940 mm
Cartridge weight 9.4 kg
Weight (empty) 12.6 kg
Weight loaded 22 kg
Length (unloaded) 500 mm
Length (loaded) 1 440 mm
Muzzle velocity ~ 125 m/s
Rate of fire 1 rpm
Sighting range 190 m
Range of effective fire (against static targets) ~ 150 m (?)
Maximum range 400 m

 

   The RPO Rys ("Lynx") is a reloadable rocket-propelled flamethrower weapon developed in the 1970s by the Soviet Union. It was one of the earliest weapons of its type, and also one of the largest and most powerful.

   The Soviet Army's interest in an RPG-type weapon as a potential replacement for their flamethrowers dates back to at least the early 1970s, and was no likely influenced by the performance of the US-made XM191 in Southeast Asia. Their experience with flamethrowers in World War 2 had been rather bleak, and it was becoming increasingly clear that flowstream flamethrowers were dangerously inadequate for most combat tasks. This created a dilemma for the Soviet armed forces, as experience had also shown that flame weapons were an extremely valuable asset on the battlefield. An RPG-type weapon with a napalm filler potentially offered a solution to this dilemma, as it would eliminate most of the safety, survivability, and range shortfalls that had always plagued the conventional flowstream flamethrower.

   Work on what would become the RPO began in 1972, and development proceeded quickly, with the initial field tests taking place in 1974. The RPO Rys was officially adopted in 1975, and by 1979, it was in widespread service throughout the Soviet armed forces. The timing of the RPO's entry into service couldn't have been much more serendipitous either, as it became operational just in time to participate in the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, where it was no doubt a weapon of choice.

   The RPO Rys resembles a greatly enlarged RPG-29 (they do in fact share a few common components, but are otherwise unrelated), and like the latter is a 2-piece weapon consisting of a separate launch tube and ammunition tube. The launcher is long and cylindrical, with a rifle-like pistol grip section forward and a slightly flared venturi aft. The trigger mechanism with a wooden pistol grip and foregrip is the same as used on the RPG-16. A collapsible bipod is fitted to the underside of the muzzle, and both the launch tube and ammunition tube each have their own sling. There are 5 brackets on the barrel; the first holds the bipod and the launch tube's forward swing swivel; the second fastens the front of the trigger mechanism to the launcher tube; the third fastens the trigger mechanism to the launcher tube, and also carries the aft sling swivel for that tube, and the sights; the fourth joins the launcher and ammunition tubes together when the weapon is loaded, and holds the forward sling swivel for the ammunition tube; and the fifth secures the ammunition tube's main barrel and venturi together, and also hold the aft sling swivel for that tube. A simple black rubber shock absorber is mounted on the muzzle, while the aft shock absorber is painted metal. Both the launch tube and ammunition tube are typically painted a yellow-green color.

   Sources on the RPO are unclear about the weapon's composition, but it appears to have a lightweight steel or aluminum launch tube, while the sights and grips are made of plastic. The rocket containers are likely made of reinforced fiberglass. The RPO Rys reportedly has a tube life of 100 rounds fired.

   The caliber of the RPO Rys has been quoted by some sources as 122 mm, but the rocket itself has a diameter of 93 mm; the confusion might stem from the diameter of the entire launcher itself, which is closer to the greater figure.

   Rockets for the RPO Rys are issued in launch containers, which are attached to the chamber of the launch unit to form the complete weapon. The container is not designed to be opened by hand, and the rocket inside is not meant to be removed. The rocket is launched directly from a loaded launch container, which is then discarded. The container is hermetically sealed, waterproof, and shock-resistant, but is not designed to be left submerged in water or handled roughly.

   The projectile itself is highly unusual in shape, with a ventilated cylindrical body, a flat nose, and four "wraparound" conformal fins that spring into position when the projectile leaves the launcher. A bell-shaped rocket motor trails the projectile body itself, and the two are joined by four struts.

   The warhead contains 4 liters of napalm, weighing about 4 kg. The area affected by the detonation and resulting spatter of napalm filler is conical in shape, 4 m wide at the base, and approximately 30 m long. The resulting fire continuously burns for up to 2 minutes, at temperatures of up to 1 200 degrees Celsius. The viscous and jelly-like state of napalm causes this incendiary agent to easily adhere to objects, people, and terrain as it burns, making it useful for a wide range of combat scenarios. Just as when napalm is projected by flow-stream flamethrowers, it is most effective when fired into confined areas, such as pillboxes, trenches, and small structures. The warhead can also be used to set fire to vegetation from a distance, either to deny concealment to the enemy, or to flush them out.

   The RPO Rys is most effective against structures, softskin vehicles, heavy foliage, and personnel in the open. It can also be employed against armored vehicles, particularly wheeled vehicles with rubber tires, though defeating a full-track vehicle usually requires a direct hit on the engine grille (causing burning napalm to spray into the engine compartment), or close to an open hatch. As the drivers and commanders of armored fighting vehicle crews generally stand in open hatches for maximum all-round visibility, they are especially vulnerable. However, a buttoned-up main battle tank charging in an attack profile is unlikely to be affected by the RPO, and attacking a formation of them with such a weapon is inadvisable for obvious reasons.

   The RPO may be fired from standing, kneeling, or prone positions. When firing from a prone position, the operator must be aim the weapon 60 degrees off-axis, to avoid being wounded by the backblast. The launcher is typically issued to a specialist operator along with 2 rounds of ammunition, often with additional rounds carried by other accompanying soldiers.

   The backblast of the RPO is apparently quite spectacular, likely owing to its large caliber. The "danger area" (within which personnel will suffer serious injury) extends directly behind the launcher out to 45 m, but it is unclear how wide an angle this area is (probably 45 degrees, given the angle the launcher much be turned to for a safe launch from a prone position), or how far the "caution area" behind it extends.

   Russian Army literature further indicate that the RPO Rys should not be fired when unsecured objects are within 3 m of the venturi, if a vertical terrain feature is within 6 m behind the venturi, or if a vertical terrain feature is within 1 m to either side of the weapon. Further prohibited are firing from an unprepared position on flat ground' at targets within 20m of the firing position; from a prone position out to a range of beyond 200 m; or from a kneeling position at targets beyond 400 m. Only personnel qualified on the weapon are to manipulate or operate it, the weapon is only to be transported when all the mandated covers and seals are in place, and the RPO and its ammunition are not to be stored in civilian structures, administrative buildings, barracks, or warehouses for artillery ammunition. It is strictly forbidden for personnel to field-strip the weapon (maintenance is presumably carried-out by workshop staff), to remove the projectiles from their launch container under any circumstances, to immerse launch containers into water or allow them to sustain any structural damage, to use the weapon or its launch containers as cover from enemy fire, fire the weapon without ensuring that all parts are secure and in working order, or firing the projectile at a target in such a manner as to prevent its ignition fuse from activating.

   The advantages of the RPO Rys over backpack-style flowstream flamethrowers are significant. Compared to the LPO-50 flamethrower, the RPO Rys has 10 times the range, allows the user to potentially fire from behind cover, and even its large backblast isn't as strong a visual indicator as the huge jet of fire emitted by a flowstream weapon. Moreover, the RPO Rys is much smaller and lighter, significantly safer to handle and operate, and isn't as likely to attract as much fire as a flowstream flamethrower is spotted by the enemy, as the RPO looks like an ordinary anti-tank RPG (an important consideration, as flame soldiers historically suffer the highest and most severe casualties of any infantrymen). The RPO Rys is not a perfect replacement however, as a conventional flamethrower can burn a vastly larger area much more quickly, they can deliver a considerably greater volume of fire before running out of fuel, and they can be used at much shorter ranges and in more confined terrain than the RPO.

   The RPO Rys was first used in combat during the Soviet-Afghan War, where it was successfully and frequently employed to attack Mujahedeen fighting positions, fortifications, and obstacles. However, the weight, bulk, and length of the RPO Rys proved awkward in operational conditions, prompting development of a smaller version.

   Further development of the RPO Rys led to a significantly lighter, more compact, and disposable version, the RPO-A Shmel. This new launcher fires a rocket with a thermobaric filler rather than a napalm one, but there is also an incendiary version (the RPO-Z) and a smoke-laying version (the RPO-D). Production of the RPO Rys and its ammunition ended in the late 1980s, as the RPO-A Shmel entered service, but the RPO remained in Soviet service until the end of the Cold War, and with Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

   Literature on this weapon is unclear as to its proliferation beyond the former Soviet states. A US publication named "The Iraqi Threat and Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction" listed the RPO as being used by the Iraqi armed forces, but as with many such publications that sprang-up during seemingly from nowhere during the crisis leading up to the Persian Gulf War, much of the information within still cannot be verified.

   At present, the only confirmed operator is Russia, who will likely retain the RPO Rys until its ammunition has been expended in training or combat, or until the remaining rockets exceed their expiration dates.

 

Variants

 

   RPO Rys: Basic production model, as described above.

   RPO-A Shmel: New disposable weapon based on the RPO Rys. The launcher is a shortened version of that on the Rys, while the rocket has been converted to carry a thermobaric filler rather than a napalm one. The RPO-A is significantly lighter and more compact. By the late 1980s it completely replaced the original RPO Rys. There is also an incendiary version (the RPO-Z) and a smoke-laying version (the RPO-D).

   RPO-Z: Incendiary version of the RPO-A. Uses a very different filler than that in the RPO Rys, consisting of "Pyrogel" that burns at 800-1 000 degrees Celsius.

   RPO-D: Smoke-laying version of the RPO-A, with twice the filler weight.

   Bur: More compact version of the RPO-A, with a reloadable launch tube.

   Varna: Incendiary version of the Bur. Has a similar warhead to that of the RPO-Z.

 

Similar weapons

 

   XM191: US 4-barrel rocket-propelled flamethrower, with napalm-filled warheads. Prototypes were used in combat with great success, but production was forfeited in favor of the M202 FLASH.

   M202 FLASH: US 4-barrel rocket-propelled flamethrower developed from the XM191, but with a much more potent TEA (Triethylaluminum) warhead.

   PF-97: Chinese rocket-propelled flamethrower weapon similar to the RPO-A Shmel, with a smaller 80 mm bore. There are also smoke-laying and incendiary versions.

   MRO-A Borodach: Soviet rocket launcher that fires a 72.5 mm projectile based on that of the RPG-22, but with a thermobaric warhead. There are also smoke-laying and incendiary versions.

 

Blacktail

   Article by BLACKTAIL

   Want to publish your own articles? Visit our guidelines for more information.

 
RPO Rys

Expand image

RPO Rys

Expand image

RPO Rys

Expand image

RPO Rys

Expand image

RPO Rys

Expand image
 
RPO Rys

Expand image

RPO Rys

Expand image

RPO Rys

Expand image

RPO Rys

Expand image

RPO Rys

Expand image

RPO Rys

Expand image

RPO Rys

Expand image

RPO Rys

Expand image
 
RPO Rys

Expand image

RPO Rys

Expand image

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Home  Home     Aircraft     Helicopters     Tanks     Armored Vehicles     Artillery     Trucks     Engineering Vehicles     Missiles     Naval Forces     Firearms     |     Contact Us
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ARG 2006 - 2017
www.Military-Today.com RPO Rys

Visitor counter