Modernization of old, but successful weapons allows relatively quick and easy to obtain a certain increase in characteristics and then update the arsenals. This approach to development weapons actively used in various fields and is not something unusual. Nevertheless, some models of weapons, created according to this principle, may be of great interest. For example, a curious example of the modernization of the old and widespread system is the American anti-tank grenade launcher AirTronic PSRL.
At the heart of the PSRL project was the desire of the development company to offer potential buyers an updated version of the long-known and popular weapons. It was supposed not to master the production of the finished sample, but to create on its basis an updated and improved design. During the development of such weapons could use modern materials and components of one kind or another.
As a basis for a new project, American engineers from AirTronic USA took the old Soviet anti-tank RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher. This product appeared in the early sixties and since then remains in service with many armies in the world. For more than half a century, more than 9 million such grenade launchers have left the assembly line, and the ammunition produced for them simply cannot be counted. Nevertheless, despite the large number and special popularity among the armies, the RPG-7 in the basic configuration and its existing modifications may not fully suit the operator.
The authors of the long-term project considered that the Soviet-made grenade launcher was too heavy and inconvenient to operate, showed insufficient firing range, and besides, it had insufficient resources. Thus, the development of the existing sample had to go along the path of technological processing of the structure, improving ergonomics and combat performance. To solve this problem, it was possible to preserve the general features of the architecture, but all the main structural elements should be replaced.
The new upgrade project for the RPG-7 is called PSRL (Precision, Shoulder-fired Rocket Launcher - “High-precision rocket launcher for firing from the shoulder”). Later, in connection with the appearance of new modifications, the names PSRL-1 and PSRL-2 were introduced. Another result of the development of original ideas was the emergence of a modernized grenade launcher called the GS-777. It is easy to see that the authors of new projects for some reason refused any hints on the basic model of the family.
The PSRL project was completed in 2015, and soon military-technical exhibitions began to demonstrate prototypes of two grenade launchers, differing in certain characteristics and capabilities. According to various sources, in the future, AirTronic USA managed to find customers and sell a number of serial grenade launchers. Thus, the original version of the existing weapon was able to confirm its potential to a certain extent.
One of the main goals of the PSRL project was to maintain full compatibility with all existing shots for the RPG-7. To this end, it was decided not to subject the existing design of the trunk to serious modifications. As before, the proposed use of a smooth barrel caliber 40 mm. The muzzle of this product has a cylindrical shape and a diameter corresponding to the caliber. In the middle of the barrel is a large charging chamber, necessary for the proper use of powder gases. The back of the barrel again has a reduced diameter and ends with a small nozzle-socket. The total length of this barrel - 915 mm. To increase the strength and increase the service life, it was proposed to manufacture the barrel of steel grade 4140 / 4150 without using casting.
On the outer surface of the barrel with the help of clamps and other fasteners are installed various additional devices. Some of the mounted units were already present in the basic design, while some were used for the first time. In its place, in front of the barrel directly in front of the charging chamber, a pistol grip with a trigger mechanism was preserved.
Charging camera has lost its standard wooden lining. On the upper and lower surfaces of the PSRL-1 stem, it is proposed to install Picatinny trims of different lengths. The top one is intended for mounting the sight, and the bottom one is suggested to be used for mounting the second vertical grip. Thus, like the Soviet grenade launcher, the updated weapon retains the two-handed grip, but now the grenade launcher can set the handles to the most convenient position in accordance with their wishes and requirements. A variant of a grenade launcher equipped with a rifle-type telescopic butt was also demonstrated. Such a butt makes it more convenient to rest the weapon on the shoulder.
The rear part of the charging chamber, the interfaced part of the barrel and the socket are equipped with a new heat shield. Instead of the tree used in the RPG-7, it is now proposed to use plastic. As before, the housing consists of two main parts of a semicircular cross section, fastened together with several clamps.
The trigger mechanism without significant changes is borrowed from the basic design. Like the RPG-7, the new PSRL should fire with a trigger type trigger. Actually the trigger is placed in the back of the handle and cocked manually. Fire control is carried out using the trigger, covered with a large protective bracket. A pistol grip fits under the trigger box. To simplify production, this part was borrowed from the AR15 series rifles.
Determining the appearance of a promising grenade launcher, the specialists of AirTronic USA considered the Soviet-developed standard sight insufficiently effective and inappropriate to modern requirements. To solve this problem, they created their own version of the sight with enhanced characteristics. As stated, the new PSRL 3.5 X 24mm riflescope allows firing at 2500 feet (about 800 m) with the likelihood of hitting the target with the first shot at 90%. In a press release, the manufacturer noted that the serial RPG-7 showed such efficiency only at half the distances. Acceptable accuracy is maintained at large distances, as claimed, up to 1000-1200 m.
From the very beginning, the most important requirement was put to the PSRL project: despite all the changes, the upgraded grenade launcher had to maintain full compatibility with the existing shots for the RPG-7. Preserving the caliber, the design of the barrel and the trigger mechanism allows US grenade launchers to use existing caliber grenades with different warheads.
The company-developer has previously announced its intention to develop a new ammunition that is compatible with a grenade launcher of its design. Such work was supposed to be carried out jointly with Chemring Ordnance. A new ammunition was supposed to be created on the basis of existing rocket-propelled grenades and equipped with guidance tools. Due to this, the effective firing range was supposed to bring to 1,5-2 km. New reports on the progress of such a project were not published. Probably, the project of a guided grenade encountered some difficulties and, as a result, it was not even brought to the test.
Later, AirTrinoc USA introduced a new version of the Precision grenade launcher, the Shoulder-fired Rocket Launcher, which had some differences from the previous development. Thus, the barrel underwent new modifications. Now his life has been brought to 1000 shots. In addition, the existing installation tools were added. The PSRL-2 project proposes the installation of a larger number of Picatinny planks. Now these devices are located on the upper, lower and lateral parts of the barrel, both near the muzzle and on the charging chamber.
In accordance with the idea of designers, the front plates can be used for mounting aiming devices (upper and side) or bipods (front lower). Similarly, you can use the four strips on the charging chamber. All this allows you to install additional equipment in the most convenient way.
Depending on the configuration and modification, the PSRL anti-tank grenade launcher has a length of no more than 950 mm (excluding grenades) and weighs 14 pounds (6,35 kg). Thus, in its dimensions, the modernized grenade launcher hardly differs from the basic weapons of the Soviet development.
In some situations, such weapons may not be easy to use. In this regard, on the basis of developments in the PSRL program and some new ideas, AirTronic USA created another option for developing the RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher. This product has received the designation GS-777. Such weapon differs from the previous American development in reduced weight.
The main ideas of the GS-777 project were related to the design of the trunk. At preservation of the form and other parameters, this part should now be made of a lighter metal alloy and differ in reduced weight. Some other measures have also been taken to reduce the weight of the weapon assembly. Thus, the "light" grenade launcher lost a plastic lining in the rear of the barrel. Safety arrow should now be provided only Picatinny rail, prominently protruding above the surface of the trunk. To install the sight is intended for one long bar on the upper or left surface of the barrel. The additional handle can be mounted on a single bottom plate, located under the charging chamber.
The GS-777 hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher is almost the same as the base RPG-7 and PSRL. However, its mass does not exceed 8 pounds - about 3,5 kg. This greatly facilitates the transportation and use of weapons, but does not adversely affect the fighting qualities.
The company-developer has already opened acceptance of orders for the production of several types of grenade launchers. The existing production capacity allows it to produce up to 1000 products per month, in accordance with the schedule established in the contract. The grenade launchers are given a two-year limited warranty, valid in case of detection of factory defects.
In addition to the actual weapons, the American company offers potential customers a large number of different accessories to it. Covers and cases for grenade launchers, special backpacks for carrying shots, extra cleaners, spare parts, etc. are produced.
The main goal of the Precision program, the Shoulder-fired Rocket Launcher, was to create an updated and revised version of the RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher with the subsequent launch of mass production at the AirTronic USA plant. The main customers were considered the military departments of the United States and friendly states. The fact is that within the framework of assistance programs to third countries, the Pentagon purchases some inexpensive weapons, including RPG-7, and transfers them to friendly armies. According to this principle, assistance is provided by the armed forces of Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.
For objective reasons, weapons for friendly states are purchased, first of all, from Eastern European countries - Poland, Bulgaria, etc. The situation with ammunition for such weapons is similar. The new PSRL grenade launcher, fully compatible with existing shots, was planned to be offered to the US military as a good alternative to foreign products. In this case, orders for the production of grenade launchers and grenades for them could receive a domestic enterprise, and not foreign factories.
According to available data, AirTronic USA has already managed to receive and execute several orders for the production of grenade launchers of the new family. PSRL and GS-777 serial products were transferred to several foreign countries, but the exact list of operators has not yet been disclosed. Apparently, the new grenade launchers were sold or transferred to the closest allies of the United States, still using Soviet-made weapons.
A few days ago, there was information about the receipt of a certain number of PSRL-1 grenade launchers by one of the armed formations of Ukraine. How and in what quantity these products fell into the neighboring country is unknown. The published information suggests that for the time being we are talking only about familiarizing personnel with a foreign novelty.
The Precision program, the Shoulder-fired Rocket Launcher, implemented by US companies AirTronic USA and Chemring Ordnance is of particular interest. Based on the desire to select future orders from foreign manufacturers of weapons, US companies have developed several of their own versions of an existing grenade launcher. For competitive advantage, the base sample has been upgraded. The result of this was the emergence of weapons with increased resource and, in one of the modifications, with a reduced mass. In addition, according to the developer, with the help of a new sight it was possible to improve the accuracy of shooting.
In the initial configuration, American-made grenade launchers retain basic characteristics at the level of the base RPG-7, although it has certain advantages over it. In the course of the subsequent development of the existing structure, it was planned to create a guided munition capable of increasing the range and accuracy of shooting. Messages about the successful solution of this problem have not yet appeared.
The American modernized version of the Soviet grenade launcher is designed to fill a specific niche, while it is mainly occupied by products of Eastern European production. To obtain its share of such a market and provide an advantage over its competitors, the basic successful design has undergone a certain modernization. As far as we know, the grenade launchers of the new family have already been the subject of several orders, which makes it possible to consider the PSRL project a good one.
On the materials of the sites:
Hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher AirTronic PSRL (USA / USSR)
- Ryabov Kirill
- Photos used:
- AirTronic USA / airtronic-usa.com