The Type 69 40mm rocket propelled grenade (RPG) is a Chinese copy of the famous RPG-7 developed by the Soviet Union. First introduced in the early 1970s, the Type 69 RPG is still the most common individual anti-tank weapon in service with the PLA. New types of grenade rounds have been developed in the 1980s/90s to meet the requirements of modern battlefield.
The Type 69, as well as its prototype RPG-7, is one of the most popular infantry anti-tank and general support weapon in the world. It is robust, cheap, easy to operate, and carries a lethal punch. From Afghanistan to Somalia, from Chechnya to Angola, the weapon is well liked by many infantrymen and guerrillas around the world.
The origin of the RPG can be traced back to the WWII German Panzerfaust, based on which the Soviets have developed a range of grenade launchers. Among these the most successful design is the RPG-7, which was first fielded by the Soviet Red Army in 1961. Since then, the weapon has entered service with over 40 countries’ armies, and is copied in many countries including Bulgaria, China, Iran, Iraq, Romania and Pakistan.
China first obtained the RPG-2 40mm anti-tank RPG in the early 1950s, and began to build its Chinese copy in 1957 under the designation Type 56. However, the rapid development of the new generation main battle tanks (MBTs) in the early 1960s has posed new threats to the PLA, which was later proven in the 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict. Because the Type 56 was unable to penetrate the armour of the new generation Soviet tanks such as the T-62, the PLA desperately needed a new individual anti-tank weapon to replace the ageing Type 56.
The reverse-engineering on the RPG-7 began in the early 1960s, and made demonstrations to the senior PLA officials in 1964. The Chinese copy of the RPG-7, designated Type 69, received its design certificate in 1970. The weapon entered service with the PLA in the mid-1970s, and took part in the 1979 Sino-Vietnam border conflict to provide platoon-level anti-personnel and anti-obstacle fire support. Its performance was well praised by the troops.
As well as being equipped by the PLA, the Type 69 has also been exported in significant numbers to many foreign customers, including the Mujahideen in Afghanistan under the covered co-operations between China and CIA in the 1980s against the Soviet Union.
A standard PLA infantry squad has two Type 69 RPG operators, each carrying one RPG launcher and three grenade rounds. There are also two assistant operators, each carrying three grenade rounds. A squad has a total of two launchers and 12 grenade rounds. In the light infantry troops deployed in the mountain and jungle regions in Southern China, the Type 69 RPG are equipped by the fire support platoon in the infantry company.
The production of the Type 69 RPG stopped in the mid-1980s. As the weapon become less effective in modern land battlefield, the Type 69 RPG is being gradually replaced by the PF89 40mm anti-tank grenade launcher and the 35mm automatic grenade launcher.
The Type 69 is a shoulder-launched, muzzle-loaded anti-tank and anti-personnel grenade launcher which launches a variety of fin-stabilised, over-sized grenades from its 40mm tube. The launcher has an optical daylight sight and (optional) infrared night vision to provide increased fire accuracy. In general, the Type 69 is a low-cost, easy-to-use weapon with a significant firepower. It is sometimes referred to as “infantry artillery” or “pocket artillery”.
Although the design of the grenade launcher hasn’t changed significantly since it was introduced nearly thirty years ago, many new types of grenade rounds have been developed over the years to provide enhanced capabilities, including:
Anti-personnel high-explosive (HE) round: This is specially designed for jungle and mountain warfare. The HE warhead contains 900 steel balls and 2,000 to 3,000 incendiary pellets that scatter over a 15m radius on detonation.
Bouncing anti-personnel round: This round works in a similar way to the bouncing anti-personnel fragmentation mines. On impact, it bounces off the ground to a chest to 2m height then airbursts over the target area. The airburst is much more effective than typical blast warheads especially toward entrenched troops. The airburst has a lethal radius of 18m.
Tandem-warhead anti-tank round: This has possibly entered service in the 1990s. The round is specially designed to penetrate the explosive reaction armour (ERA). Although it is not powerful to penetrate the armour of most modern main battle tanks, it is still effective in dealing with lighter targets such as infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and armoured personnel carriers (APCs).
Illumination round: The round is has a small parachute to suspend itself in mid air while it burns. The effective range is 600m with the braking ring and 1,500m without it.
Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher
40 mm (1.57") launcher; 40 - 105mm (1.57 - 4.13") warheads (depending on the grenade model)
5.6 kg (12.34 lb)
910 mm (35.82")