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RPO-A Shmel
RPO-A missile and launcher.jpg
RPO-Shmel and Launcher
Type Rocket launcher
Place of origin Soviet Union
Service history
In service Late 1980s
Used by See Operators
Wars Soviet-Afghan War
First Chechen War
Second Chechen War
Syrian Civil War[1]
War in Donbass
Production history
Designer KBP
Designed 1980s
Manufacturer KBP
Produced Late 1980s
Variants RPO-A, RPO-Z, RPO-D, Shmel-M, MRO, MGK Bur
Weight 11 kg (24 lb)
Length Launcher: 920 mm
Rocket: 700mm

Caliber 93 mm
Muzzle velocity 125 ±5 m/s
Effective range 20 m – 1000 m (sighting range is 600 m)
RPO-M is 1700 m (sighting range is 800 m)
Sights iron

The RPO-A Shmel[2][3] (Russian: реактивный пехотный огнемёт-А Шмель (РПО-А Шмель), Rocket-propelled Infantry Flamethrower-A Bumblebee) is a man-portable rocket launcher, although it is classified as a flamethrower by its manufacturer KBP.

The Shmel is designed, produced and exported by the Russian Federation and previously by the Soviet Union. It entered service with the Soviet Armed Forces at the end of the 1980s as the successor for the RPO Rys.


The RPO-A is a single-shot, self-contained tube shaped launcher that operates much like some RPG and LAW rocket launchers. a sealed tube, carried in a man-pack in pairs. The same person can remove the tube, place it in firing position, and launch the weapon without assistance. After launch, the tube is discarded. All models are externally similar.


Each weapon contains a single rocket, of which there are three varieties. The basic rocket is the RPO-A, which has a thermobaric warhead and is designed for attacking soft targets under moderate cover. The RPO-Z is the incendiary warhead (Rus. зажигательный / Zazhigatel'nyy, Incendiary) designed to spread fire and ignite targets. There is a smoke-producing warhead (Rus. дымовой / Dymovoy, Smoke) offered, the RPO-D.


RPO-A Shmel (fourth from the bottom) with comparable Soviet/Russian rocket launchers

Specifications provided by Jane's:[4]

  • Calibre: 93 mm
  • Length:
    • Launcher: 920 mm
    • Rocket: 700 mm
  • Weight:
    • Single weapon: 11 kg
    • Transit pack of two: 22 kg
  • Range:
    • Minimum: 20 m
    • Effective: 200 m
    • Sighting: 600 m
    • Maximum: 1,000 m
  • Initial velocity: 125 ±5 m/s
  • Warhead:
    • RPO-A: 2.1 kg thermobaric
    • RPO-Z: 2.1 kg incendiary
    • RPO-D: 2.3 kg smoke
  • Operational temperature range: −50 to +50 °C
  • Shelf life: 10 years



An updated development is the improved RPO-M "Shmel-M" that was shown for the first time at Eurosatory 2006. This version is similar to the original weapon, but has a calibre of 90 mm, a weight of 8.8 kg (19 lb), and an overall length of 940 mm. The system has better ergonomics, an improved rocket, and better ballistics and terminal effects. It consists of a disposable launching tube attached to a reusable fire control unit that includes the pistol grip, electronic trigger and safety, and a folding base with an optical sight and additional rail for an infrared/night vision sight. Effective range is 300 m, maximum sighting range is 800 m, and maximum range is 1,700 m. The thermobaric warhead's blast effect is equivalent to 5.5 kg (12 lb) of TNT, comparable to a 155 mm artillery shell. The "Shmel-M" is also known as RPO PDM-A (Rus. Повышенной Дальности и Мощности / Povyshennoy Dal'nosti i Moshchnosti — "enhanced range and lethality") and is produced for the local and export markets. Version with a mechanical sight adopted on 24 December 2003.[5][6][7][8][9]

The MRO-A is a smaller development of the RPO-series with caliber reduced to 72.5 mm, similar to the RShG-2. It is self-contained, disposable, single-shot recoilless launcher with an overall length of 900 mm, weight of 4.7 kg (10 lb), and has a folding forward grip. The sights are RPO-based, with a fixed front and folding ladder-type diopter rear, giving an effective range of 90 m and maximum range of 450 m. The MRO-series includes different versions, again based on RPO versions: MRO-A thermobaric; MRO-D white phosphorus smoke; and MRO-Z incendiary. It was adopted by the Russian Army around 2002 and issued to chemical troops to supplement the larger RPO-A.[10][11][12][13]

MGK Bur [14] (Rus. Малогабаритный Гранатомётный Комплекс "Бур" / Malogabaritnyy Granatomotnyy Kompleks "Bur" — Compact Grenade-launching System "Auger") is a 62 mm version of the RPO-M consisting of two major components: the disposable launch tube and reusable fire control unit. Described as "the most compact grenade launcher in the world," the weapon has an overall length of 742 mm and weighs 5 kg (11 lb). Loaded tubes weigh 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) and can fire thermobaric (blast yield similar to 6 kg (13 lb) of TNT, or a 122 mm artillery rocket) or fragmentation warheads. The fire control unit is the same one used on the RPO-M, weighing 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) and enabling ranges of 25–650 m with the baseline day sight; night and thermal systems are also available. Maximum range is 950 meters, with a firing mechanism service life of at least 500 rounds. It can be fired in confined spaces with a volume of at least 30 cubic meters. As of October 2014, it has been accepted into service and serial production has been started.[15][16][17][18][19][20]

Service history

RPO weapons have seen use by the Soviet Army in Afghanistan and by both the Russian and the separatist forces in the First and Second Chechen Wars.[citation needed] According to state Duma member Yuri Savelyev the first explosion prior to the exchange of gun-fire during the Beslan school siege on 1 September 2004 was most likely a thermobaric RPO-A Shmel. On 9 August 2014, during the Donbass War, the Ukrainian border checkpoint of Milove was attacked using RPO flamethrowers. The main building was hit by five incendiary rockets.[21] It was used by Indian Army para-commandos in September 2016 for surgical strike against terrorists in Pakistan's part of Kashmir successfully. Also used on 8 February 2017 in Ukraine, killing DPR commander Mikhail "Givi" Tolstykh.[22]


Map with RPO-A operators in blue and former operators in red

Current operators

  •  Russia
  •  Belarus
  •  Fiji[23]
  •  North Korea
  •  Sri Lanka
  •  Kazakhstan
  •  Georgia[24][25]
  •  India
  •  Ukraine
  •  Vietnam
  •  Syria[26][27]

Former operators

  •  USSR
  •  Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

See also


  4. Gander, Terry (2001-01-05). "RPO-A Shmel rocket infantry flame-thrower". Land Forces. Jane's. Archived from the original on July 9, 2006. 
  5. Archived March 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. "Modern Firearms". Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  7. David Crane (19 July 2006). "New RPO Shmel-M Infantry Rocket Flamethrower Man-Packable Thermobaric Weapon". (DR): An online tactical technology and military defense technology magazine with particular focus on the latest and greatest tactical firearms news (tactical gun news), tactical gear news and tactical shooting news.. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  8. "Rocket Flamethrower Shmel-M (Огнемет Шмель-М)". YouTube. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  9. "ОАО "Конструкторское бюро приборостроения" - РПО ПДМ-А Шмель-М". Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  10. MRO-A small disposable thermbaric grenade launcher /rocket propelled flame-thrower (Russia) -
  11. Russian MRO-A Rocket Launchers in Ukraine -, 1 June 2014
  12. Russian MRO-A thermobaric rocket launchers in Syria -, 30 October 2015
  13. Russian MRO-A Rocket Launchers in the Ukraine -, 1 January 2016
  15. (English) Archived 2013-10-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. "Впервые на IDEX-2013 КБП рекламирует многоцелевой ракетный комплекс дальнего действия «Корнет-ЭМ»" (in Russian). ЦАМТО. Moscow: Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade. 18 February 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  17. "ТАСС: Армия и ОПК - В Туле налажен серийный выпуск гранатометов "Бур"". ТАСС. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  18. BUR grenade launcher -
  19. Small-size grenade launcher in production -, 6 November 2014
  20. Bur small-sized grenade launcher entered in service with Russian anti-terrorist units -, 29 June 2016
  21. "Погранзаставу в Меловом обстреляли из огнеметов с территории РФ". Liga News. 9 August 2014. 
  22. "Separatist commander Mikhail Tolstykh, 'Givi', killed in eastern Ukraine". CBCNews. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  23. ":: Rosyjska broń dla Fidżi" (in polish). Retrieved 2016-02-21. 
  24. "Armament of the Georgian Army". Georgian Army. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  26. Green lemon [green_lemonnn] (17 December 2015). "#Syria RPO-A Shmel Thermobaric rockets used by NDF/SAA in Jabal Al Nuba against rebels /JN.". 

External links

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