What is the Real Name for RPG? An In-Depth Look at This Iconic Weapon

Hey there! Terry here, your resident tech geek and data analyst. Today I want to dive into the iconic RPG, or rocket-propelled grenade launcher. This shoulder-fired beast has been around for decades, striking fear into the hearts of tank crews everywhere. But what exactly is an RPG, and what‘s the real story behind its name and origins? Sit back and relax as I break it all down for you!

Backstory – The Rise of the RPG

Firstly, let‘s talk about what prompted the creation of the RPG in the first place. Back in the 1950s, the Soviets were struggling to give their infantry forces a way to take out heavy NATO tanks. Their first anti-tank rifles and light cannons weren‘t cutting it anymore against the latest armor.

So the Soviet General Staff issued a requirement for a simple, inexpensive, and portable anti-tank weapon that ordinary soldiers could use. RPG stands for Ruchnoy Protivotankoviy Granatomyot (Ручной Противотанковый Гранатомёт) in Russian, which translates to "handheld anti-tank grenade launcher".

The RPG-2 was the first mass produced RPG model, entering service with the Soviet Army in 1949. But it was the later RPG-7, first produced in 1961, that really became iconically associated with the RPG name.

The RPG-7 was a huge success, being adopted by the militaries of over 40 countries. It also saw widespread use with irregular forces and insurgents. Relatively cheap, easy to use and maintain, and packing a lethal punch against armor, it fit the Soviet design goals perfectly.

So where did the term "RPG" actually come from? Well, here‘s where things get interesting.

The Backronym Controversy

RPG is an acronym that stands for "Rocket Propelled Grenade" right? Not quite! This is actually an American backronym – sort of like trying to turn an already existing acronym into a meaningful phrase.

The original Russian name contains no direct reference to "rocket" or "grenade". It seems the "Rocket Propelled Grenade" backronym originated within the US military, perhaps through mistranslation or misunderstanding.

This has led to some debate over whether RPG really means "Rocket Propelled Grenade" or should simply be treated as a letter acronym. Purists argue it should just be "RPG" since the original Russian contains no mention of "rocket" or "grenade".

But the backronym has taken on a life of its own and is now commonly used to refer to shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons, including the iconic RPG-7. Language evolves after all!

Breaking Down the Iconic RPG-7

The RPG-7 design is basically a reusable launcher tube with a 36mm diameter muzzle opening. The grenade inserts into the front of the tube. Pulling the trigger releases the cocked striker, igniting the booster charge in the grenade.

This propels the grenade out of the launcher tube, and the sustainer motor ignites. A rocket-assisted flight stabilizes it in flight before impacting the target.

Warhead types include classic high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) and newer tandem charges to penetrate reactive armor. Effective range is around 200 meters maximum, but accuracy really drops off past 100-150 meters or so.

Later RPG models like the RPG-29 feature larger warheads, extended range, and the ability to defeat modern explosive reactive armor (ERA). But the classic RPG-7 is still widely used around the world today due to its simplicity and low cost.

The Legal Status of RPGs in the US

Now I‘m sure you‘re curious – can you actually legally own an RPG in the United States as a civilian?

The short answer is…technically yes, but under very strict regulations. The National Firearms Act classifies grenades and rocket launchers like the RPG-7 as "destructive devices".

To legally own one requires submitting ATF Form 4, paying a $200 tax stamp fee, undergoing FBI background checks, and complying with state laws. RPGs are very rarely issued to civilians due to their inherently destructive capabilities.

In other words, it‘s possible but extremely difficult unless you have very specialized permitting. And you definitely aren‘t going to be able to stroll around with an RPG on your back!

RPG vs Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM)

Shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons can be divided into unguided rocket-propelled grenades like the RPG, and guided missiles like the US FGM-148 Javelin.

Unguided RPGs have some advantages – they are significantly cheaper (RPG-7 costs ~$500 vs $150k for a Javelin!), simpler, and can be used more responsively. But modern ATGMs generally have superior range, accuracy, and penetrative abilities against modern tanks.

Javelins use an infrared targeting system and then "fire and forget" capability where the missile guides autonomously to the target. This allows attacking from concealment at much longer ranges.

So while RPGs are cheaper and more accessible, guided ATGMs often have the edge in modern mechanized warfare. But RPGs are still very deadly, especially against lighter vehicles, structures, infantry, and low-flying aircraft.

The RPG‘s Legacy

Well, I hope this gave you an in-depth overview of the iconic RPG! It‘s an interesting weapon with a fascinating history and status as a game-changing infantry weapon.

While ATGMs may have surpassed RPGs in some respects, the RPG is still seeing widespread use after 60+ years and will likely continue being a staple weapon of militaries and insurgent forces alike for decades to come.

The signature blast of smoke trailing behind an RPG rocket is instantly recognizable. And who knows – we may even see futuristic directed energy or railgun RPGs someday! But for now, the basicSmoke trailing behind an RPG rocket is instantly recognizable. And who knows – we may even see futuristic directed energy or railgun RPGs someday!

But for now, the basic RPG design proved by the Soviets in 1961 continues to soldier on as an iconic weapon. Let me know if you have any other topics you‘d like me to cover! This is Terry signing off for now.

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