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How Rocket-Propelled Grenades Work

        Science | Explosives

RPGs: The Future
A grenade is inserted into the muzzle of a Soviet RPG-7 portable rocket launcher.
A grenade is inserted into the muzzle of a Soviet RPG-7 portable rocket launcher.
Photo courtesy Department of Defense Defense Visual Information Center

Although over forty years have passed since the 1961 introduction of the RPG, the rocket-propelled grenade remains one of the most common and effective infantry weapons currently in use. Rugged and simple, suitable for downing helicopters, disabling tanks or attacking buildings at close range, in the hands of a skilled operator, the RPG is a lethal and versatile weapon that will remain popular for some time.

Despite this, there is always room for modification. Lighter weapons with greater range and destructive capability are always being developed, and there may even be the possibility of automatic or semi-automatic rocket-propelled grenade systems.

The accuracy of rocket-propelled grenades is another area where improvements can be made. Laser guidance systems, though expensive, would greatly increase accuracy. An encoded laser could be trained on the target -- providing reference information to the rocket, thereby allowing it to make appropriate in-flight corrections to its trajectory. Other systems, perhaps utilizing GPS satellite technology could also become incorporated in future versions of RPG weaponry.

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