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KBP RPO-A (Shmel)

Shoulder-Fired Rocket-Propelled Flamethrower Weapon System

The KBP RPO-A Shmel was introduced during the late 1980s and serves Russian forces today as an infantry-level, shoulder-fired flamethrower weapon.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 8/16/2018
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Year: 1988
Manufacturer(s): KBP - Soviet Union / Russia
Roles: Specialized Role;
Action: Shoulder-Fired; Rocket-Propelled
Caliber(s): 93mm
Sights: Iron or Integrated Optics Set.
Overall Length: 920 mm (36.22 in)
Barrel Length: 920 mm (36.22 in)
Weight (Unloaded): 24.25 lb (11.00 kg)
Muzzle Velocity: 410 feet-per-second (125 meters-per-second)
Rate-of-Fire: 4 rounds-per-minute
Effective Range: 1,970 ft (600 m; 657 yd)
Operators: Belarus; Fiji; Georgia; India; Kazakhstan; North Korea; Russia; Soviet Union; Syria; Vietnam; Yugoslavia
During the late-Cold War period (1947-1991), the Soviet Army introduced a terrifying new anti-infantry weapon known as the RPO-A "Shmel". This shoulder-fired rocket launcher, considered a flamethrower by Soviet categorization, was designed around use of several rocket types including a primary thermobaric warhead-equipped type (RPO-A). There was also an incendiary rocket introduced (RPO-Z) as well as a general smoke-generating round (RPO-D). The series was introduced during the late 1980s and saw first-actions in the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989), both Chechen Wars, and - more recently - in the ongoing Syrian Civil War (beginning 2011) and the War in Donbass (versus Ukraine).

The RPO-A was used to succeed the aging, outgoing line of flame-oriented RPO "Rys" launchers then in circulation.

The Shmel continues in service today and fires a 93mm caliber, 700mm long rocket from a shoulder-fired launch tube measuring 920mm out to an effective range of 200 meters. Minumum range is 20 meters and maximum range reaches out to 1,000 meters (though sighting is only up to 600 meters). The system weighs 11 kilograms and consists of the launch tube (with integral optics set and trigger unit), the spin-stabilized rocket and a launching canister component.

The RPO-M "Shmel-M" (PDM-A) is a modernized form of 2006 and differs in its 90mm caliber, 940mm length, and 8.8kg weigh load. The MRO-A is a disposable compact form of 72.5mm caliber with simple iron sights. The MGK "Bur" is a compact grenade-type weapon system of 62mm caliber based on the RPO-M.

The Shmel rocket launcher series is used (or has been used) by elements in Belarus, Fiji, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Russia (as well as the former Soviet Union), Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Syria. The former Yugoslavia is a former operator of the series.

Variants / Models

• RPO-A "Shmel" - Base Series Name; 93mm caliber; thermobaric rocket warhead.
• RPO-Z - Incendiary rocket warhead.
• RPO-D - Smoke rocket warhead.
• RPO-M "Shmel-M" (RPO PDM-A) - Modernized version of 2006; 90mm caliber; improved rocket and general performance.
• MRO-A - Compact form; 72.5mm caliber; disposable.
• MGK "Bur" - Compact grenade launcher; 62mm caliber.
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