Friday 24 June 2016

World of Tanks History Section: Grenade Launchers

In late 1943, news of a new dangerous German anti-tank weapon started coming in from the front lines: handheld grenade launchers. In the hands of a trained user, this weapon was no less dangerous than a shell from a cannon. Soon, the Faustpatrone themselves fell into Soviet hands. When available information reached critical mass, Soviet command decided to hurry its engineers in development of close range weapons.

This task was formally announced in February of 1944 during a special GAU meeting. High Command agreed: development and mass production of anti-tank grenade launchers for the Red Army was an urgent and important task. Among others, KB-30 answered the call, a previous developer of rifle grenades. Here is what they achieved.

A Cocktail of Parts

According to new requirements, the new weapon had to have a range of 75-100 meters and penetrate 100 mm of armour. Designers from KB-30 reasoned that the main difficulty was not to successfully solve the design or technical issues. The biggest effort was expended on manufacturing of the new weapon and its ammunition.

Because of this, KB-30 proposed the PG-6 grenade launcher, made up of parts and assemblies that were already in production. The barrel came from the 50 mm company mortar. The receiver came from a rifle, the stock and bipod from the Simonov anti-tank rifle, etc. The ammunition used was an RPG-6 anti-tank grenade, but the launcher could fire normal HE-fragmentation rounds if necessary.

At first glance, the result was good. The system weighed 14 kilograms and was 1.2 meters long. The ammunition, an RPG-6 grenade with a special sabot, weighed 1650 grams. And then, in July of 1944, the PG-6 began trials...

Red Light

Since a large amount of inventions go through the hands of testers, they have a good eye for details. Even before tests began, there was some doubt about the PG-6 being a simple and universal weapon. For instance, the following actions had to be taken to fire from the new grenade launcher:
  • Screw off the handle from the grenade.
  • Insert the fuse.
  • Screw the handle back into the grenade.
  • Insert the sabot into the barrel.
  • Remove the safety pin from the grenade.
  • Insert the grenade into the barrel.
  • Load the launcher with a blank cartridge.
  • Aim and fire.
Once can only guess what specific terminology the testers used during trials. In their official reply, the reaction was as follows: "Despite the use of components from existing weapons (7.62 mm rifle mod. 1891/30, 50 mm company mortar, PTRS), the grenade launcher is complex and clumsy. Due to its significant weight, the grenade launcher cannot be a maneuverable close quarters weapon, and the difficulty and slowness of preparing to fire puts it at a disadvantage on the battlefield. In practice, it would only be possible to fire one shot at a moving target, and only then with preparation."

The results of firing the launcher were also no cause for celebration. Not only was the dispersion of he grenades unacceptable, when the range was increased from 50 to 75 meters, all eight grenades fired did not reach the target. The report said "results shown are indicative of poor precision of the grenade launcher: it is impossible to fire directly at moving targets." KB-30 hurriedly produced improved sabots for the grenades, but they did not result in a serious improvement.

When it came to penetration testing, it turned out that in the event that the grenade striked armour (the target was 100-120 mm thick), the chances of penetration were high, on the condition that the safety will work in a timely manner and the grenade explodes. Sadly, the percentage of duds was high.

As a result, the commission was forced to admit that the current state of the grenade launcher did not pass trials. After careful study, GAU determined that correction of these drawbacks will require so much modification of mass production parts that they might as well make a whole new system.

Original article available here.

1 comment:

  1. "Faustpatrone" not "Faustratrone" I believe. ;)

    Also technically a recoilless "rifle" (smoothbore) rather than a grenade launcher - the closest they got to one of *those* was the experimental and unsuccessful "Sturmpistole" derived from a naval flare gun.