RPG Threat to Merchant Shipping

RPG Threat to Merchant Shipping

The 31st May 2017 saw another attack on a Merchant Vessel where an RPG has been used, whether the attack was Piracy or Terrorist related is unclear, however this makes little difference to the risks such attacks present to masters and crews and actions need to be taken in order to mitigate the risk and minimize the possibility of loss of life and/or assets.

File Photo

RPG 7 Technical Information

Maximum Effective Range: 200 meters

Maximum Range: 920 meters

The RPG-7 is a shoulder fired, single-shot, smoothbore recoilless launcher. Grenades are loaded from the front, and the rear of the barrel is fitted with venturi nozzle. Because of the recoilless design, there is a dangerous backblast zone, more than 20 meters making it dangerous to fire from a small skiff. Accuracy is also difficult to achieve when not fired from a steady position and the projectile becomes highly unpredictable. However in trained hands, the RPG 7 can be used to devastating effect and proof of this is the Pasdaran’s naval campaign during the Iran-Iraq war where RPGs where fired from fibreglass hulled Boston whalers .

Why is the RPG 7 a pirate’s weapon of choice?

  1. Easily found on the weapons black market
  2. Both weapon and projectiles are cheap to source out
  3. Adds firepower and intimidates vessel’s crew


Recommendations to Mitigate Risks from an RPG Attack

  • BMP 4 should be followed at all times when transiting the HRA
  • Practice anti-piracy drills before entering a High Risk Area
  • Make sure reporting system procedures are in place and that all officers of the watch are aware
  • Maintain good lookout and radar watch
  • Raise a double layer of chain link or anti RPG mash. Careful consideration should be given to the placing of chain link fencing to allow as great a standoff distance as possible to limit the effects of the exploding warhead or not angled such that warheads deflected to detonate on to the deck area which on some vessels may cause secondary explosions.
  • Body armour and helmets should be readily available for crew on watch

To Consider

It takes roughly 10 seconds to reload an RPG 7, take this opportunity to raise the alarm to rest of the crew.

Raising the Alarm of an Imminent RPG Attack

Indicate the side the threat is coming from clearly and immediately to allow personnel to seek example; ‘ROCKET ATTACK STARBOARD’ ‘ROCKET ATTACK STARBOARD’ ‘TAKE COVER PORT’ ‘TAKE COVER PORT’

Bridge teams should take cover away from the side of the threat, and behind something solid and get as low as possible.

Crew should take cover in pre designated areas away from the side of any threat if possible and be prepared to fight any fires caused by an exploding warhead.

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