The bazooka is a portable shoulder weapon having an open breech smooth bore firing tube for launching armor piercing rockets. In hot launches ejection is by rocket power, i.e., by means of ignition and expansion of hot or burning gases, wherein relatively light and uncomplicated tubes are employed to contain the missile and guide it when fired and launched. In modern warfare, man-portable anti-tank weapons represent one of the greatest threats on the battlefield. These weapons are relatively light, easy to transport, and can defeat most AFV armor if the AFV is struck in a vulnerable location.
Armored fighting vehicles (AFVs), both tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs), first saw limited use in World War I. These early AFVs were little more than crude armor boxes built on caterpillar-tracked tractors. Both armor and weaponry have escalated dramatically since then. In the early 1930s, shaped-charged warheads were developed that offered vastly superior armor penetrating performance coupled with ease of use and employment. The basic principle of the shaped-charge warhead is a concave or cone shaped hollow area in one end of the explosive core of the warhead. This hollow area is lined with a metal, typically copper. Upon detonation, the metal liner is compressed into a jet of very dense, superplastic metal moving at a speed of approximately 30,000 feet per second. While the actual material properties and physical behaviors are still not very well understood, the hypervelocity jet of metal can punch a hole in steel plate armor many times thicker than the diameter of the shaped-charge warhead.
By the end of World War II, various anti-tank weapons had been developed and deployed that could be carried by one man to defeat AFVs, including hand-thrown grenades (e.g. Russian RPG-43) and warheads mounted on a rocket and launched from a rocket launcher (e.g. United States M7A1 - "Bazooka"). The Soviet RPG-7 is the probably the most ubiquitous of these weapons, because it has been produced by most Soviet client states including all of the former Warsaw Pact countries, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Iran, China, North Korea, and numerous other countries, and it has been widely disseminated by these numerous producing countries.
Anti-armor projectiles can be classified in three general categories: those employing solid penetrators, usually driven by mass/velocity consideration (HEP--high energy penetrator); those employing shaped charges to generate a high velocity rod formed by the explosive collapse of a metallic cone for penetration (HEAT--high explosive anti-tank) and those employing a different shaped explosive charge to promote spalling on the inside of the armor (HESH--high explosive squash head). Since World War II, HEAT rounds have become almost universal as the primary anti-vehicle weapon, because it can be used against all AFV and unarmored targets such as trucks and other general purpose vehicles or bunkers.
A subcategory of the solid penetrators also exists whereby incendiary materials are placed in combination with the penetrator to burn during penetration and after breaching the armor. These weapons are generally dependent upon achieving their penetrating and explosive effects more or less instantaneously with impact with the target. However, the need is apparent for more persistent weapons which are capable of penetrating armor of great thickness and/or novel designs to inactivate targets by combustion, chemical agents or the like.
Attempts to use armor-piercing hollow charge warheads against protective arrangements such as, in particular, concrete bunkers have proven to be not very promising, irrespective of whether the concrete structure is concealed by an axially damping and radially damming layer of earth or even when openly accessible. Even inertia projectiles of any design, when using normal steep-trajectory weapon kinematics, do not promise lasting success against protected locations under hardened fortifications.
The bazooka has been targeted through visual sights. It has been the experience of individuals using these devices that the visual sights do not provide sufficient accuracy and therefore potential targets have been ignored because of the uncertainty of striking the target with the first projectile. Additionally, these devices have necessitated their being positioned on the shoulder of the operator in order to utilize the visual sights. This position results in an unsteadiness which prevents the operator from observing the surrounding area while he is sighting along the barrel. Due to the expense and weight of large rocket projectiles such as bazookas, many strikes have not been made with the previously known artillery because of the inability to accurately sight the weapon.
In the field of recoilless antitank hand weapons, the requirement is being posed to an increasing extent of firing these weapons from closed spaces (e.g., rooms). However, a deterent to realizing this requirement is the problem of endangering the person firing the weapon; this danger, ensuing when firing from closed spaces practically and exclusively from the rearward opening of the recoilless weapon, can be divided into two categories; namely, danger on account of the firing noise and danger on account of the resulting shock waves. The noise can have such an intensity that even with the use of ear protectors adapted for field conditions, the person firing the weapon will suffer damage. Also, the shock waves can reach such an intensity that the gunner is injured and, in some instances, even the walls of the room are damaged.