RPG-30: Russia’s Dual Tube Rocket Launcher

The RPG-30 is one of Russia’s more advanced disposable anti-armour weapons. Developed in the early 2000s by Bazalt it is designed to overcome reactive armour and active protection systems. It entered service in 2012 and has seen extensive use during the fighting in Ukraine. 

The 7P53 RPG-30 “Kryuk” or ‘Hook’ is a 105mm fin and spin stabilised rocket propelled munition with a tandem HEAT shaped charge warhead. The RPG-30 overcomes ERA and APS by using a 42mm IG-30 decoy projectile, which is believed to be inert, coupled with the main rocket’s tandem warhead. This can be seen in a secondary, thinner tube running along the side of the weapon. The precursor decoy causes premature activation of the APS and allows the main warhead to exploit the gap in the tank’s protection. The theory being that the target’s APS takes some time, perhaps half a second, before it can engage again. The gap between the firing of the two rockets is measured in milliseconds and the lag does not appear to be significant enough to effect the user’s aim or accuracy on target.

RPG-30 (Vitaly Kuzmin CC BY-SA 4.0)

The RPG-30 uses the PG-30 tandem HEAT warhead, similar to the PG-27 used by the RPG-27. It can reportedly penetrate 750mm of rolled homogeneous armour and up to 650mm of rolled homogeneous armour after ERA. Effective range estimates vary with the average suggesting 200m.

The weapon’s sights are simple and consist of a folding ladder front sight and rear sight – there does not appear to be provision for mounting optics. Flipping up the rear sight also cocks the weapon. The disposable tube(s) is made of aluminium with a fibreglass outer layer. Sources suggest it weighs around 10.3kg (22.7lbs) and has an overall length of just over 1m (1,135mm/44.7in). 

A pair of RPG-30s captured in April 2022 (via Social Media)

Unlike other Russian weapon systems few videos of its use have been shared by Russian state media or Russia’s defence exports corporation Rosoboronexport. The ongoing war in Ukraine, however, has provided our first real look at the weapon in action. As soon as the Russian invasion was launched on 24 February, RPG-30s began to be seen in use with Russian forces. By late February and early March imagery of captured examples was shared on social media. 

Russian soldier posing with RPG-30, March 2022 (via Social Media)

The first images of the weapon came from Russian sources in late February, just after the invasion. This was quickly followed by imagery of captured examples, most notably from the column of Tigr-M armoured infantry mobility vehicles in Kharkiv.  A photograph of a further two captured RPG-30s appeared in April, while another example was photographed in Donbas in early May. Later in May a photo of a Russian soldier posing with one was shared on social media and in September significant caches of weapons were captured in Kherson and Balakliya. 

Still of a Russian soldier firing an RPG-30, August 2022 (via Social Media)

In late August we got our first brief look at the RPG-30 being fired in a montage video of VDV weapon systems (see image above). Earlier in mid-August a sort of ‘unboxing video’ was shared giving us a good close up look at some of the packaging the RPG-30s are shipped in and the markings on the side the weapon. Most recently in some further video of the RPG-30 being fired on a Russian Western Military District range also surfaced giving us a good look at the weapon in action.

RPG-30s captured in April (via Social Media)

Of course the weapon is designed to be simple to use, anyone with training on a similar shoulder-fired disposable anti-armour weapon can operate it. While it has been said that its widespread use in Ukraine is somewhat ironic given that Ukraine does operate any APS equipped tanks, the weapon is still useful against less sophisticated tanks. While the precursor might potentially deliver some limited kinetic damage to the ERA block, the RPG-30’s tandem warhead is capable of defeating the ERA fitted to most Ukrainian tanks, though of course, the same can be said of Russia’s other anti-armour weapons which use tandem warheads.

Update 27/10/22:

The Georgian Legion recently shared a short video looking at a captured RPG-30. The video also includes firing footage of the weapon.


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Bibliography:

105mm PG-30 Rocket, CAT UXO, (source)

RPG-30 Kryuk (Hook), US Army TRADOC, (source)

Russian Army receives cutting-edge antitank rocket launchers, TASS, (source)

Javelin In Ukraine

The transfer of Western anti-armour weapons started before the war even began. The United States transferred significant shipments of Javelin anti-tank guided missiles along with M141 SMAW-D Bunker Defeat Munitions and Stinger MANPADS. 

At the same time as an initiative from the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – Estonia also delivered Javelin missiles. For reasons of operational security we don’t know how many Javelins have been delivered to Ukraine by the US and Estonia at this time. However, Estonia is believed to have had several hundred in stock.

Ukrainian troops training with January in February 2022 (Ukrainian MoD)

What is Javelin?

Javelin is an infrared guided man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile. It’s been been in service with over a dozen countries for over 20 years and is still produced by a joint venture between Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Lockheed Martin. It weighs about 22kg or 46 lbs ready to fire and had a detachable Command Launch Unit (or CLU) . Its effective range depends on the type of CLU but the improved Lightweight CLU introduced in 2020 can engage targets out to 4,000 metres (about 3 miles). As of 11 March, Lightweight CLU has not yet been seen in Ukraine. The earlier block 0 and 1 CLU can engage targets out to 2,500 meters (1.5 miles). The CLU enables this with a number of optics including a 4x day sight, a 4x night sight a 9.2x thermal sight. The CLU is also a useful tool for reconnaissance when other NVG and thermal imagers aren’t available. Once the gunner has their target and establishes a lock the missile can be launched.

Javelin’s CLU (US Army)

Javelin’s missile has a soft launch system which limits back blast and firing from relatively enclosed spaces. Once launched the main rocket motor kicks in at a safe distance. It uses automatic infrared self-guidance and has two modes of attack: direct for use against lightly armoured targets and structures and top-attack. In top-attack mode the missile climbs above the target and then plunges down on it to penetrate thinner top armour.

The missile has a tandem shaped charge high explosive anti-tank round. The initial charge can detonate any explosive reactive armour used by the enemy target vehicle while the second shaped charge will penetrate the target’s main armour. When the round detonates it super heats the metal of the armour and creates a high velocity stream of metal which enters the vehicle. More on the complex science behind shaped charges here. It can destroy vehicle’s drive systems or if it enters the fighting compartment it can kill or injure the crew and detonate munitions. 

History

Javelin was developed by Texas Instruments in cooperation with Martin Marietta. In the mid-1980s it beat off competition from Ford Aerospace and Hughes Aircraft to win the US Army’s Advanced Anti-Tank Weapon System—Medium program.

A Ukrainian Depot, early March 2022 (Ukrainian MoD)

In June 1989 Texas Instruments and Martin Marietta were awarded a development contract and the Javelin was adopted as the FGM-148. Javelin continued development and testing throughout the 90s before entering service. Since then it’s been adopted by countries including the UK, Australia, France, Norway, Poland, Taiwan, and many others. According to Raytheon the system is scheduled to be in inventory until 2050.

Javelin In Ukraine

Ukraine adopted Javelin in April 2018, ordering 210 missiles and 37 CLUs with a further order for 150 missiles and 10 CLS in December 2019. Since the threat of invasion became increasingly likely the US provided a series of aid packages worth $260 million. Reports suggest that at least 300 Javelin missiles were delivered as part of these packages. Since then the US has agreed a further package worth $350 million. 70% of this package is said to have been delivered as of 9 March. It’s difficult to estimate how many missiles and CLUs have been delivered so far but the number of missiles is likely over 1,000.    

Still from a Ukrainian training film on Javelin (Ukrainian MoD)

From the sparse evidence available we know that at least some of the Javelin transferred to Ukraine are confirmed to be  from older Block 0 stocks, which includes FGM-148A/B/C and D. The vast majority of Javelins in Ukraine are likely to be Block 0 variants. Block I, the FGM-148E came into service with the US in 2008 and has an improved CLU and rocket motor. Javelin’s shelf life is around 20 years, so it makes sense for these older production but still fully capable missiles to be sent first.

In early February the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense shared a short video showing troops testing the newly-arrived Javelins against tank hulks which had been fitted with so-called ‘Javelin Cages’, a metal structure which Russian tanks have recently added to their turrets. It is believed the cage is intended to detonate the initial charge of a Javelin before it contacts with the tanks explosive reactive armour or the hull itself. However, it is also believed that it is intended to defeat drone-fired micro munitions like the Turkish MAM series. The cage detonating the micro munition before it reaches the tank. The footage shared by the Ukrainian MoD showed that Javelin easily defeated the cages.

Update 15/3/22: We have now seen evidence of Block 1 FGM-148Es in Ukraine. Amael Kotlarski, Janes Infantry Weapons Editor, speculates that these may have originated from the Baltic states’ stocks. At least one example of the Block 1 and a number of Block 0s have been captured by Russian forces so far.

Ukrainian Defence Minister announcing arrival of a shipment of Javelin in January 2022

While at the time of publishing this video there has been no confirmed footage of Javelin in action in Ukraine, no doubt due to good Ukrainian OPSEC, we have seen the system in theatre. 

We got our first confirmation on 3 March, when Ukraine’s Operational Command “North” shared photos of troops being briefed on the use of NLAW and Javelin anti-tank weapons. In the photos we could see numerous Javelin transport cases stacked while troops were briefed on the Command Launch Unit (or CLU). On 6 March, the Ukrainian Armed forces shared a short instructional video on Javelin, showing how the battery is inserted and what the CLUs controls do.

How Capable is Javelin?

The penetration capabilities of Javelin are listed as classified with the USMC’s manual stating “The Javelin penetrates all known armor, “well” in excess of 30 inches [or 760mm] of rolled homogeneous steel.” This means Javelin is more than capable of knocking out any Russian armoured vehicle in Ukraine.

Javelin Missile (US Army)

In terms of performance in Ukraine, one report from 3 March, quoted an anonymous US Special Operations officer who is monitoring the conflict, suggested that of 300 Javelin fired, 280 knocked out vehicles. Time will tell.


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Bibliography:

Javelin – Close Combat Missile System, Medium, FM3-22.37, US Army, 2008 (source)
Rundown: Western Anti-Tank Weapons For Ukraine, Overt Defense, (source)
Introduction to Crew Served Weapons, USMC, (source)
NLAW In Ukraine, Armourer’s Bench, (source)
As Russia Pounds Ukraine, NATO Countries Rush In Javelins and Stingers, New York Times, (source)
$60 Million Worth of US Military Aid Arrives In Ukraine, Overt Defense, (source)
First batch of Estonia-donated Javelin missiles arrive in Ukraine, EER, (source)
New US Military Aid to Ukraine Includes 300 Javelin, nv.ua, (source) Shaped Charge, Global Security, (source)