When the tank emerged as a viable warring platform during World War 1 (1914-1918), it fell to engineers to devise new methods of stopping these steel beasts. As these methods evolved, so too did the tank itself, culminating in the powerhouse offerings of World War 2 and the ensuing Cold War years. By this time, a new line had been drawn in European soil on one side stood the West against the might of the Soviet Union in the East. In 1962, the Soviet Union adopted an all-new recoilless gun - the SPG-9 "Kopye" ("Spear") - intended to provide a more modern hard-hitting, man-portable solution for anti-tank teams. The recoilless weapon preceded the wide-scale use of the Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) seen today. SPG-9 systems replaced the 1950s-era B-10 series in battlefield role and, despite its Cold War heritage, the SPG-9 continues to see combat service in modern conflicts.
The system featured an overall weight of 105lbs which grew to 130lbs when outfitted with its standard tripod mounting. Overall length was 6 feet, 11 inches with a caliber of 73mm through a smoothbore barrel. Loading was manual by the crew of two and the breech was accessible by way of an interrupted screw design. Sighting was through a mounted optics system that included either the base 4x PGO-9 scope or more specialized PGN-9 IR/passive sighting device. The optional tripod provided an elevation range of +7 to -3 degrees while having a traversal reach of 30-degrees. A trained crew could fire up to six rounds-per-minute with projectiles measuring a muzzle velocity of 1,425 feet per second. Effective firing range was listed at approximately 800 meters with an overall engagement range out to 1,200 meters. A typical operating crew was two personnel and transport was often by way of a mover vehicle due to the system's cumbersome length and weight - despite its man-portable classification.
The SPG-9 was eventually cleared to fire various projectile types. The PG-9 proved a standard HEAT-FS (High-Explosive, Anti-Tank, Fin-Stabilized) round penetrating up to 300mm of armor thickness. The OG-9V became a FRAG-HE (FRAGmentation, High-Explosive) projectile with a filling of TNT. There then arose a plethora of other HEAT-FS and FRAG-HE rounds which broadened the tactical value of the SPG-9.
The "recoilless gun" (sometimes, more generically referred to as called "recoilless rifle" despite the use of a smoothbore or rifled barrel) was named as such for its inherent dissipation of some of the propellant gasses seen during the firing action. This action that allowed the weapon system to retard some of the violent recoil effects to which the resulting gasses escaped out through specially-arranged ports usually found at the rear of the weapon. One of the earliest forms of recoilless gun was seen just prior to World War 1. In the scope of the SPG-9, the projectile was given a rocket motor which came into play once the munition had cleared the launcher some 20 meters away.
Since its adoption in the 1960s, the SPG-9 series has found homes in many Soviet-aligned, controlled or supported nations including Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Poland, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam (among others). The weapon has proven choice for the Taliban in fighting across Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. SPG-9 designates original base units while SPG-D became a lightweight airborne addition. SPG-9DNM was a Bulgarian Army model, SZPG-9 a Hungarian Army model and AG-9 becoming a Romanian Army designation.