The RPG-7 System Primer

The RPG-7 System Primer

LEFT: Early style RPG-7 optical sight pouch contains spare bulbs, spare batteries, and various lens covers for low light, bright light, and haze, as well as the low temperature battery wire set. Some modern sight carriers are molded plastic. RIGHT: Low temperature battery wire set allows the operator to remove the battery from the optical sight and use it remotely. The battery fits inside the operator’s shirt pocket to keep body heat on the battery. The wire connects the battery to the optical sight. It is somewhat awkward but an excellent solution to low light/ low temperature situations. Don’t forget that the sight has an adjustment for low temperature aiming as well.
LEFT, CENTER: RPG-7 standard optical sight left and right side views. Note the forehead brace above the eyepiece, and front cover in place. The optical sight has a magnification of 2.7x and a 13 degree field of view. The reticle can be illuminated from the battery on the left side with a simple on-off switch. RIGHT: RPG-7 standard optical sight, front view showing the two adjustment knobs.

• If there is another misfire, then the A-gunner removes the grenade and inspects the primer.  If there is no hit on the primer, then there must be a full check done on the pistol group and firing pin.  The A-gunner should re-install the fuze cover and safety pin, then remove the round and unscrew and store the expeller charges and grenades in their carry cases.  Under no circumstances should the expeller charges be left attached to the grenades and carried around.  The reasons for this should be clear from the discussion of how the rounds work.

On longer range targets, using the optics, the only thing that changes is from the old Soviet training doctrine.  At 300+ meters, the A-gunner should have the second and possibly third grenade ready for immediate loading.  As the gunner gets his windage calculations, he should prepare himself to be as immobile as possible for fast secondary sighting, and the A-gunner should be immediately ready to reload.  Once the first round is fired, the gunner should be observing all wind effects on the first round as odds of a first round hit are relatively low at long distances.  He should be mentally making all point of aim adjustments while the A-gunner immediately loads the second round and visually clears the back-blast area, and the next round should be “on-target” if the gunner has done his homework and training.

LEFT: Standard PG-7 nose fuze cover in place. Cover should not be removed until directly before firing, and whether the fuze cover and safety is removed before loading or after loading is local command doctrine. For a single operator it is easier to remove the cap and safety pin before loading. The fuze is rated to be safe for a three meter fall. CENTER: Remove the safety pin using the pull tape. Retain pin and cap in pocket in case of having to remove and store the grenade. Re-install in the same manner. Many operators keep a couple of sets of cover and safety pin in a front pocket, and simply discard the covers as they are used so they don’t have to be concerned under combat conditions about whether they have a cap and safety should they need it. RIGHT: PG-7 grenade nose fuze ready for firing. The fuze contains direct pressure piezo electric firing as well as timed fuze self destruct capabilities. Some modern designs have a grazing hit feature.

Defending against the RPG
A couple of quick notes on defending yourself against RPG-7 attacks.  Unfortunately, for most vehicles it is not practical to put up any fencing around the vehicle.  Perhaps the best defense is high speed and evasive maneuvering.  Don’t drive one constant speed or straight path.  The other helpful hint goes to suppressive fire – keep their heads down.  If you are hit, remember that a back up shot will probably be coming soon – within 8 to 12 seconds if it’s a single RPG-7.  When an RPG-7 is fired towards your position, there are three basic signatures.  The first and second are simultaneous: the flash and 30 meter blast area behind the operator’s position, and the flash to the front of the operator (minimal).  The third is that approximately 11 meters in front of the operator, there will be a puff of smoke that will be inside line of fire, where the rocket motor kicks in.  These events are generally quite visible and a good basis for aiming return fire.  If you are in the line of fire, just aim back into the area and suppress.  If you are oblique to the line of fire (e.g. the RPG was firing at a vehicle in front of you) aim back 11 meters from the puff and put the hammer down on your guns.

This graph gives a good rule of thumb for the operator. Modern RPG-7 rounds all have self-destruct fuzes, and the fuze is set to go off at approximately 900 meters, or five seconds of flight time.

During the Vietnam War, U.S. Forces began building portable fencing structures on their vehicles.  This was chain link fence or very tight barbed wire.  The goal was two fold.  First, the fence could catch the round in mid-flight, holding it and keeping it away from the vehicle.  If the round detonates away from heavy armor, then it probably will not penetrate the armor.  Most RPG-7 rounds are designed as shaped charges, so they need to be a set distance from the surface of the target when they go off, or they are not effective in penetration.  Rounds that have a self-destruct fuze will explode 5 seconds after firing, even if trapped in defensive fencing.  This is a danger to soldiers who are unprotected.  While the AT rounds are not designed as anti-personnel (some have anti-personnel fragmentation bands added today), there can be enough fragmentation and blast to kill or cause other casualties to those near the explosion.  The second reason for the fencing is due to the manner in which the traditional RPG-7 rounds operate.  There is a double cone in the front of the stand-off area.  These two cones are intended as the path for the piezo electric fuze to ignite the main fuze on the shaped charge.  It is quite effective, but if the round strikes the fencing and this cone area is distended and the cones touch, the fuze can’t operate – it is short circuited.  Newer rounds have a bypass system in place, so the best the defender can hope for is to hold the round in fencing, away from the skin of the vehicle, when it explodes.  Damage to unprotected personnel can be expected.  In the event that the nose fuze strikes a strand of the fence, the round will detonate away from the vehicle, nullifying the shaped charge effect.  The shaped charge can, however, penetrate light armor from several feet away.