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Military Parade
The Magazine of the Military Industrial Complex
Contents  Military Parade 2002. November: Army

AGS-30 Automatic Mounted Grenade Launcher System

Issue Contents  
Table 1

 ·  Vyacheslav Dudka · (none)

The modern system of small arms and grenade launcher weapons was mainly formed after World War II and since then has not changed much, although specific models of armament have underwent certain changes. The system comprises two large groups of arms: individual and crew weapons.

The modern system of small arms and grenade launcher weapons was mainly formed after World War II and since then has not changed much, although specific models of armament have underwent certain changes. The system comprises two large groups of arms: individual and crew weapons.

Fig.1 Exoatmospheric kill vehicle, which failed its recent test

The first group includes pistols and (rarely) revolvers, assault rifles, light machine guns, standard-caliber sniper rifles, hand-held antitank, and antipersonnel grenade launchers. This group also comprises submachine guns, smoothbore combat shotguns, and other less rarely used types of individual weapons.

The second group (crew weapons) is comprised of general-purpose and mounted machine guns, largecaliber sniper rifles, mounted antitank grenade launchers (now practically replaced by ATGMs) and automatic mounted grenade launchers

For quite a long time, the most powerful small arms intended to engage enemy manpower were mounted large-caliber machine guns, such as the Browning M2, developed before WWII, and the Soviet DShK. Their effective range is up to 2,000 m, while the bullet killing power is sufficient to inflict damage upon unsheltered or lightly sheltered personnel, as well as soft-skinned and lightly armored vehicles. However, effectiveness of firing these weapons at dispersed personnel, especially at long ranges, was evidently insufficient. Although mounted large-caliber machine guns had redundant bullet energy to defeat manpower, they could not provide sufficient fire density.

Fig.2 Testing SM-2 interceptor missile from board the Monterey cruiser of the U.S. Navy

Therefore, a new type of antipersonnel weapons, automatic mounted grenade launcher, was developed in the 1960s. Today these launchers are the most effective light weapons to fight enemy manpower. A radical increase in the effectiveness, compared to large-caliber machine guns, was achieved through the use of fragmentation grenades that produce plenty of splinters and form a lethal zone in the area of their explosion. Another advantage of automatic grenade launchers, compared to mounted machine guns and other small arms, is that they can engage personnel, entrenched or located on reverse slopes of terrain obstacles, by curved fire due to the lower muzzle velocity of grenades reducing the recoil pulse and, respectively, the weapon weight. Combat employment of these weapons in the armed conflicts has confirmed their high effectiveness. Thus, the Iraqi army suffered the heaviest losses in personnel during the Persian Gulf war from the fire of automatic grenade launchers.

The in-service first-generation grenade launchers developed in the 1960s through the 1980s have similar characteristics. Their effective firing range is 1,500 m (LAG 40 SB-MI, Spain) to 2,200 m (HK GMG, Germany), their caliber (foreign models) is 40 mm, and their weight (mount inclusive) is 40 kg and more. During this period, the AGS-17 Plamya automatic grenade launcher was adopted for service with the Soviet Army. Today it remains in the inventory of Russian and a number of foreign armies. Until recently, the AGS-17 has been the lightest automatic grenade launcher (weighing 31 kg with the mount). It engages targets by the 30mm fragmentation grenade at a range of up to 1,700 m. Despite a smaller caliber, the 30mm grenade has a higher effectiveness compared to foreign ammunition. For example, the VOG-30 fragmentation grenade body is 60 percent heavier than that of the M384 grenade (USA), while its effective lethal area is 50 percent larger, as shown in the diagram below.

The change in the nature of modern combat (high mobility of troops, lack of a clear forward edge of the battle area, activity of mobile low-strength units) has increased the role of light powerful antipersonnel weapons. At the same time, the high effectiveness of automatic grenade launchers has made them priority targets. Under the circumstances, the best way to improve their survivability is to reduce their giveaway factors (crack and flash of the weapon, its dimensions, and crew) and enhance their mobility which is mainly determined by their weight. All these requirements were taken into consideration by the Instrument Design Bureau in developing the second-generation AGS-30 mounted grenade launcher system.

The main feature of the AGS-30 grenade launcher distinguishing it from its domestic AGS-17 counterpart, let alone foreign systems, is its record low weight Ц 16.5 kg (mount inclusive, less ammunition box and sight). In the firing configuration (with an ammunition box attached), it can be carried by one soldier to let him quickly change positions, rapidly open fire from a new position, follow the forward formations the troops, and use the weapon during maneuverable house-to-house fighting. The reduced weight of the the AGS-30 grenade launcher has left its combat and operational characteristics intact. Furthermore, the AGS-30's operation and maintenance have been considerably simplified.

The second-generation AGS-30 automatic grenade launcher system comprises a grenade launcher proper, a tripod mount, an ammunition box containing 30mm rounds loaded into a metal belt, and an optical sight.

Fig.3 Su-32 reconnaissance/strike aircraft

The grenade launcher operates to the blowback principle and uses a counterrecoil effect with the locking provided not only by the inertia of the massive breechblock but also by its kinetic energy. This is one of the reasons for its extremely low weight. One more positive factor of the counterrecoil effect is that the discharge occurs while the breechblock continues its forward motion thereby excluding the sharp blow in the frontmost position. The energy of breechblock recoil is completely absorbed by the return spring; so, the automatic machanism operates shockless. As a result, the AGS-30 grenade launcher equals its heavier predecessor in terms of fire consistency.

One of the unique engineering solutions incorporated in the grenade launcher design is the arrangement of the depressor and the sear on the breechblock: their weight is included in the weight of the moving parts; they provide locking while maintaining their main functions.

The above design features have made it possible to abandon a rather complicated braking device used in the AGS-17 grenade launcher, which, without doubt, positively affected the weapon's reliability and ease of maintenance.

The AGS-30 grenade launcher is placed on a light tripod mount weighing no more than 6 kg, which ensures the weapon's stability on any surface (sand, clay, snow, asphalt, etc.) and allows firing from deployed positions. The mount is provided with a traverse and an elevation mechanism. The front and rear legs are adjustable to provide for changing the height of the bore line depending on the terrain and firing position (prone, sitting, kneeling). The system's light weight has made it possible to reduce its crew to two men, thereby minimizing one of the giveaway factors. The system has considerably smaller dimensions than its counterparts.

The trigger mechanism allows automatic fire. The weapon is controlled by two horizontal handles located in the rear of the receiver and is cocked by several motions of the lever located on the right side of the grenade launcher. The weapon is laid on a target with the aid of a x2.7 optical sight. Provision is also made for an auxiliary iron sight. The weapon fires 30mm rounds provided with highly sensitive fuzes and self-destructors that operate 30 seconds after firing. The rounds are loaded into a metal belt, 30 pieces each, and stowed in ammunition boxes. With a fire unit of 120 rounds, the full load on each crewmember is 36 to 38 kg.

The AGS-30 automatic grenade launcher system has successfully passed all the tests to comply with stringent Russian standards. It is currently series-produced and exported.

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