Just before the end of the Soviet Empire in 1991, the Red Army adopted its newest anti-tank measure - the 105mm RPG-29 rocket-propelled grenade system. The Soviet Army has long been a believer in economical, easy-to-use methods for defeating enemy armor beginning with the original "RPG-2" of 1949. The Soviet Army took on the brunt of German armored formations in the bloody fighting along the East Front during World War 2 and the RPG series was developed as a result of these encounters with enemy tanks. The most popularized form of the RPG went on to become the "RPG-7" series which debuted in 1961 and continues use even today with over 9 million believed to have been produced. The RPG-29, therefore, went on to carry this proven pedigree into the inventory of the revamped Russian Army of the new millennium. In NATO nomenclature, the RPG-29 was afforded the designation of "Vampir" and adoption took place in 1989. The weapon still remains in operational service as of this writing (2012) though it has been joined by the newer "RPG-30" and "RPG-32" systems now in circulation - both appearing in or around 2008. The RPG-29 has been primarily manufactured by the Russian concern of Bazalt while local-license production has also been undertaken in Brazil through Avibras and in Mexico through SEDENA.
Rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers differ highly from their anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) counterparts principally in the technology utilized. RPGs are a most utilitarian battlefield weapon requiring little training and in-the-field support and are relatively inexpensive to produce in large numbers while requiring one operator to use successfully. Conversely, anti-tank guided missile weapon systems are technologically-laden, making them expensive to procure in large numbers and usually requiring the services of two or more well-trained personnel in their use. These weapons tend to be heavier and larger in dimension than the RPG weapons but also offer up unprecedented armor-defeating capabilities at longer ranges. As such, the RPG has proven the weapon of choice with guerilla forces and irregular army combatants the world over - particularly in war-torn areas that were proliferated by Soviet weaponry in the Cold War. RPGs also make for ideal urban weapons where enemy armor tends to lose much of its tactical advantage in more confined areas.
Design of the RPG-29 is highly basic and characterized by the long-running body making up the launch tube. A shoulder support is integrated for some comfort when firing and a pistol grip manages the action. Standard day optics include the 1P38 series of 2.7 magnification of targets though a night sight can be substituted in its place. The weapon system weighs 27lbs unloaded and 40lbs loaded. Despite this weight, the weapon is designed to be managed by a single operator which is of extremely valuable tactical value in a running fight or ambush setting. Rockets are loaded through the breech and the system is laid upon the shoulder. The operator need only squeeze the trigger to fire the projectile which burns of all of its propellant while within the launch tube itself. The RPG-29 is, therefore, a simple "point and shoot" weapon and is relatively transportable.
The RPG-29 series is afforded two specialized types of projectiles made up of the "PG-29V" and the "TBG-29V". PG-29V is the anti-armor projectile of choice intended to be used against armored vehicles and even against fortified structures. The type makes use of a "tandem-charge" High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warhead for the role. The tandem-charge nature ensures that the main detonation is preceded by a smaller penetrative detonation function which is useful in defeating such preventative measures as Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks. The TBG-29V is classified as the RPG-29's "anti-personnel" projectile. As such, this form is utilized against concentrations of enemy troops or "soft targets" where its thermobaric formula creates a fuel-air explosive effect at the intended area - proving lethal to anyone around the detonation area at the moment of impact. Eight spring-loaded fins maintain the rocket's flight trajectory. Recoil is inherently violent but manageable with exposure and training.
The RPG-29 lists a rated muzzle velocity of 920 feet per second which provides for excellent penetration value at range while effective range is out to 1,600 feet. Visual ranging is accomplished by way of the integrated optics package or through use of the basic iron sights which requires that the target or target area be "line of sight" from the firer. When set up for firing with the rocket placed in the breech, the weapon showcases a running length of 6 feet. The weapon can then be broken down into a more compact 3 foot length for transport and a shoulder strap facilitates carrying. An operator can, therefore, still managed his basic assault rifle/light machine gun with the RPG-29 launcher held across his back, the weapon ready to be used as needed. Since the launch tube is reusable, the operator can carry several reloads into the fight.
RPG-29 rocket launchers were known to be utilized in the 2003 American invasion of Iraq by Iraqi military personnel. Their ongoing use eventually showcased the weapon's ability to defeat even the most stoutly armored American M1 Abrams and British Challenger 2 tanks in service - these once deemed impervious to all known anti-tank instruments of war. In 2006, Hezbollah guerilla forces in Lebanon found success with their RPG-29s against Israeli armor with these weapons believing to have originated from Syria - a historically Soviet/Russian military ally in the region. Such combat experiences has certainly shown the value of the RPG-29 against all other preceding Soviet rocket propelled grenade weapons to this point.
The RPG-29 was eventually issued to Soviet allies Czechoslovakia and East Germany. Other operators of the type went on to include Bulgaria, Brazil, Cuba; Iran, Mexico, Pakistan, Syria, Ukraine and Vietnam as well Hezbollah forces.