What does “RPG” really stand for?
Reusable launchers – RPG-2/7/16/29 – ruchnoi protivotanoviyi granatomyot = handheld antitank grenade launcher.
Single use weapons – RPG-18/22/26/27/28/30 – reaktivnaya protivotankovaya granata = JET antitank grenade.
The USSR developed the RPG-7 series of launchers and grenades to extend the range of their individuals in the anti-tank role. The RPG-2 was seriously lacking in that regard. In order to get more range, and faster time to target, the Soviet designers did two things: first, they added an expansion chamber to the tube that would surround the expeller cartridge, allowing for more volume, and an internal Venturi and the Divergent Nozzle to the rear. The pressure build up and mass needed to attain more velocity was dramatically changed allowing the grenade a much further and faster trajectory. Second, they added a rocket assist that ignites after the grenade has left the recoilless launcher adding more range and speed as well. The Soviet doctrine for RPG-7 with optics and a trained operator allowed frequent hits on targets out to 550 meters and beyond. The RPG-7 is a reloadable launcher, and estimates of over 10 million of the different variants having been made would not be out of the range of believability. The RPG-7 took the steps forward that were used in the RPG-4, modified them, enlarged on the technology, and reduced the general tube size back to that of the RPG-2; 40mm (not including the enlarged expansion chamber area).
The first model in the USSR around 1962 was the RPG-7, first tracked in-country by US forces in Vietnam by about 1967-8. It gradually replaced most of the RPG-2s in the hands of the NVA and Viet Cong. This model was quickly replaced in the late 1960s by the RPG-7V, and then by the RPG-7V1 and V2 models. These designations are basically about adding different round capabilities to the launcher – the Thermobaric rounds of today would not be possible to fire from an original RPG-7. The 7V1 added a bipod capability as well. Today the Russians are manufacturing these as well as their many rocket type RPG shoulder fired launchers, and a new unit called a “Temp 10” that has a 50mm tube, and is the base for launching an EFP – Explosive Formed Projectile – Grenade. The appearance is that of an RPG-7V series launcher, but with the odd, flat nosed grenade, it stands out.