RPG Boom-Boom

The iconic weapons by which insurgents attack Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq are the IED and suicide bomb.  A third weapon haunting the memories of those who have experienced ground combat is the “RPG,” or Rocket Propelled Grenade, a bazooka-like grenade launcher of Soviet origin. Since returning from Afghanistan I have read many memoirs written by war on terror vets, and almost every one documents an encounter with this sinister, dangerous, and omnipresent weapon.  Today in fact marks the anniversary of my own closest encounter with the RPG–a horrible event in which one of our American ETTs was killed.  

An RPG-wielding tribesman.

In Afghanistan, both the ANA and the insurgents employ RPGs and fire them readily at one another, often at distances less than 100 meters. At such close range, the explosion of the discharge and the explosion at the impact sound very similar and quickly follow one another, thus creating a cacophony of boom-booms that is disorienting and frightening to say the least. Further, I can testify from my limited but terrified experience that you can observe the warhead as it approaches, much as you might observe a line drive foul ball coming right at you at a baseball game: slow enough that you can see it, fast enough that you can’t get out of the way. And since the RPG firer must expose his body to shoot, you can bet his targets are shooting back at him as fast as they can pull their triggers, trying desperately to knock him down before he launches another round.

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8 Responses to “RPG Boom-Boom”

  1. SGT Kennedy Says:

    You still over there Sir?

    • petermolin Says:

      SGT Kennedy: Good to hear from you. I’ve been back from Afghanistan since November last year. Are you back now, too? If I remember correctly you extended for six months or a year–how did that go? -LTC M.

  2. SGT Kennedy Says:

    Im back too, Left in April. We got into a few tics, but everyone that was on the Zormot mission came home, which is all you can ask for. Good luck with whatever your future may bring. For me it will be fishing and spending quiet summer days on the lake until I return to work this fall.

    • petermolin Says:

      SGT K: Glad to know everyone is OK. I didn’t know you were assigned to Zormat, but that place is pretty dangerous to say the least. Thanks for all you did with the Roughriders–I was always glad to have you as the gunner in my truck. Let me know if there is anything I can ever do for you. -LTC M.

  3. Chris Brown Says:

    Hey Pete,

    Did you see that Tom Hanks movie _Charlie Wilson’s War_? Is that RPG the same type that the Afghans used on that Soviet helicopter? That scene stands out to me because of the exultant response of the Afghans when they shot an enemy helicopter down for the first time.

    (Since I don’t have military experience, I have to relate your readings to what I’ve read or seen through different media! Hopefully, they’re not too frivolous!)

    Best,
    Chris

    • petermolin Says:

      Chris: Those were Stinger missiles, which are used specifically to shoot down aircraft. RPGs can be used to shoot down helicopters and sometimes do, but not as effectively. As far as I know, Stingers have not been used against American helicopters in the current war. I don’t know if the insurgents still have any in reserve–if they started employing them it would make a tough mission even tougher. -Pete

  4. JM Says:

    I think the helicopter in Black Hawk Down was taken down with an Rpg.
    I think Mark Bowman commented that, untill it happened in that instance, nobody was even sure it could be done.

  5. Peter Molin Says:

    I have no doubt that a helicopter, especially one hovering just off the ground, could be taken out by an RPG. I don’t think it would be hard at all.

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