Weapons: The Chinese Special


April 25, 2011: In the last five years, China has introduced new, lightweight, 120mm "artillery" for the infantry. This is the new WPF 2004 warhead for the Russian designed RPG (rocket propelled grenade) 7 that is still popular in China and many other countries. The WPF 2004 rocket/warhead weighs 3.2 kg (7 pounds) and is effective out to 200 meters.

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 RPG 7 launcher/sight weighs 8.2 kg (18 pounds) and the standard 85mm anti-tank rocket weighs about 2.3 kg (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 hole through armor.

The new WPF 2004 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 2.3 kg (5 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, although the larger Chinese WPF 2004 has only about half that range.

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. In Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorists tend to use RPGs out in the open, against U.S. infantry or vehicles. An expensive (several hundred dollars each) thermobaric warhead is not much more effective than one with conventional explosives in it (and costing less than fifty dollars.)

Each Chinese infantry squad has an RPG gunner, equipped with at least one 120mm warhead. The rest of the squad is equipped with seven 5.8mm QBU 95 assault rifles, a 5.8mm QBU 95 light machine-gun and a 5.8mm QBU 88 sniper rifle. A skilled RPG gunner, using a WPF 2004 rocket, can have a devastating effect during a squad level battle, which is why each Chinese squad has access to these larger projectiles.