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Weapons: If You Can't Beat 'em, Make A Better Copy
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July 13, 2009: The Russian RPG-7, bane of armored vehicles for decades, has found an unusual new manufacturer: A United States company. Airtronic U.S.A. has redesigned the world’s most widely used Anti-Tank weapon with upgrades users of the M-16/M-4 assault rifles will find familiar.

An M16A2 pistol grip replaces the original straight grip on this new version of the RPG-7. Picatinney Rails allowing sights, lights, laser designators etc., occupy the standard 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock positions in two sets, above the pistol grip and, over the shoulder stop where the tube expands. An M4 carbine stock allows for a snug fit while still allowing the tube to rest upon the shoulder.        

Perhaps more important, though undetectable, is the type of steel Airtronic uses. Since its introduction in the early 1960’s, standard RPG tubes were made from castings with varying instances of quality control. Explosions, though rare, have occurred, and tolerances have been found among cast tubes varying as much as 2mm from original specs. The new tube uses 4150 ordnance grade steel, the same kind used in M16 barrels, and is machined with much tighter tolerances. Weight of the weapon will be more than the standard 18 pounds, depending on what accessories are used.

Airtronic plans to offer a composite tube, much lighter in weight, in the near future. There are also redesigned and new warheads for the system available, or under development. Cost of the Airtronic system is 3,000 dollars, which is ten times what than Russian and Chinese versions go for, due to accessories, higher grade steel, and machining. Warhead costs may be comparable to legacy rounds depending on type and amount produced. Airtronic has already received orders from some allied nations.

The RPG 7 launcher itself was developed 40 years ago as a cheap, lightweight anti-tank weapon. It was based on a similar German weapon developed during World War II. The launcher weighs 18 pounds and the standard anti-tank rocket weighs about five pounds. China, and several other nations, make cheap clones of the RPG 7 launcher and a wide variety of warheads. The standard RPG-7 rocket contains a shaped charge explosive for punching a whole through armor. The new rockets either have fragmentation warheads or more expensive thermobaric (fuel-air explosive) warheads. The thermobaric rocket, if fired into a building, has the same effect of about five pounds of high explosive (about the same amount found in a 120mm mortar shell.) For aimed fire, the max range of the RPG-7 is about 500 meters.  Basic RPG rockets can be had in many third world arms bazaars for as little as ten dollars each. A warlord with some cash to spare can train some very expert RPG-7 gunners by supplying them with plenty of rockets. And that's exactly what has happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.  -- Mike Perry


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Bob Cortez       7/13/2009 6:40:47 AM
Why so long?  The RPG is just an changed version of the Panzerfaust 44,  For some reason we are just now getting around to reverse engineer it.  You might note that the M-60 is a very poor take on the German M-42. 
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Herald12345    Not so fast.   7/13/2009 1:08:06 PM

Why so long?  The RPG is just an changed version of the Panzerfaust 44,  For some reason we are just now getting around to reverse engineer it.  You might note that the M-60 is a very poor take on the German M-42. 



In the trade, that is called a kludge.
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JFKY    Herald   7/13/2009 1:14:58 PM
The article you cite is laudatory of the Airtronics RPG-7.  Why do you call it a kludge?  No argument or insult intended.  Usually your technical take is very valuable...what is wrong with the copy or with the RPG-7?  Why would you call it or them kludges?
I did wonder about the ammunition.  It doesn't seem Airtronics is manufacturing the ammunition.  Nothing personal but I don't trust Russian/Soviet/Bulgarian ammunition...the manufacturing standards can be low and variable.  So the fact I have a quality RPG-7 doesn't make for confidence if you have sub-standard ammunition.
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Herald12345    Aside from the CLUMSY grips and the poor choice of sight?   7/13/2009 1:32:19 PM
The thing that makes the RPG so deadly is that even a six year old can operate it after brief instruction. The idiot safes and bells and whistles Airtronics added turn a simple effective weapon into an inferior complicated  version of DRAGON.
The RPG is simple and inexpensive for a reason. Russia needed a good inexpensive bazooka like the pamzerfaust and they made one. They gave it a reload feature and a better sight, but they kept it price ranged enough so that they could issue hundreds of thousands of rocket rounds and tens of thousands of easy to use launchers in a hurry to ill trained recruits.
Poor man's artillery.
Airtronics defeated the fundamental design purpose as well as made it much less user friendly..
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razputin       7/13/2009 5:26:52 PM
)) thanks Herald I was just going to write that )))
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Photon       7/13/2009 8:44:13 PM
I think this development is an overkill, as RPG series are easily available in the global arms market.  We certainly do not need to pay more expensive contractors to purchase enough RPGs to arm irregulars and proxies.  Quality control is not going to be that critical for these two.
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maruben    Poor man's artillery   7/24/2009 11:08:55 AM
Poor man's artillery... but unpleasantly deadly.
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