RPO-A Shmel

The RPO-A Shmel[5][6] (Russian: реактивный пехотный огнемёт-А Шмель (РПО-А Шмель), Rocket-propelled Infantry Flamethrower-A Bumblebee) is a man-portable disposable rocket-assisted flamethrower,[7][8] although it is classified as a rocket launcher by some in the West.

RPO-A Shmel
RPO-A missile and launcher.jpg
RPO-Shmel and Launcher
Place of originSoviet Union
Service history
In serviceLate 1980s
Used bySee Operators
WarsSoviet–Afghan War
War in Afghanistan
First Chechen War
Second Chechen War
Kivu conflict[1]
Syrian Civil War[2]
Iraqi Civil War[2]
War in Donbass[3]
Production history
ProducedLate 1980s
VariantsSee Variants
Mass11 kg (24 lb)
LengthLauncher: 920 mm
Rocket: 700mm

Caliber93 mm
Muzzle velocity125 ±5 m/s
Effective firing range20 m – 1000 m (sighting range is 600 m)
RPO-M is 1700 m (sighting range is 800 m)

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 the 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.[8]

Designed to defeat concealed enemy firing positions, disable lightly armored and automotive vehicles, destroy enemy manpower. The aiming range of a flamethrower with a diopter sight is 600 meters, with an OPO optical sight - 450 m, OPO-1 - up to 850 m.


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.



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 power") and is produced for the local and export markets. A version with a mechanical sight was adopted on 24 December 2003.[9][10][11][12][13]

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.[14][3][15][16]

MGK Bur [17] (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.[18][19][20][21][22][23]

Service historyEdit

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. 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.[24] It was used by Indian Army para-commandos in September 2016 for surgical strike against terrorists in Pakistan's part of Kashmir successfully. It was also used on 8 February 2017 in Ukraine, killing DPR commander Mikhail "Givi" Tolstykh.[25]


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

Current operatorsEdit

Former operatorsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Small Arms Survey (2015). "Waning Cohesion: The Rise and Fall of the FDLR–FOCA" (PDF). Small Arms Survey 2015: weapons and the world (PDF). Cambridge University Press. p. 203. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-01-28. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  2. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-02-15. Retrieved 2018-02-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b c d Smallwood, Michael (1 June 2014). "Russian MRO-A Rocket Launchers in Ukraine". armamentresearch.com. Archived from the original on 29 November 2016. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  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 copy". Archived from the original on 2016-12-15. Retrieved 2016-12-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-02-15. Retrieved 2018-02-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ a b Sergeev, S. G. (1989). Weapon handling manual. 93mm rocket assisted infantry flamethrower (RPO-A) [In Russian]. Ministry of Defence. USSR.
  9. ^ http://kbptula.ru/eng/atgw/shmelm.htm Archived March 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Modern Firearms". Archived from the original on 20 December 2014. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  11. ^ David Crane (19 July 2006). "New RPO Shmel-M Infantry Rocket Flamethrower Man-Packable Thermobaric Weapon". DefenseReview.com (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. Archived from the original on 27 October 2014. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  12. ^ "Rocket Flamethrower Shmel-M (Огнемет Шмель-М)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 24 June 2014. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  13. ^ "ОАО "Конструкторское бюро приборостроения" - РПО ПДМ-А Шмель-М". Archived from the original on 15 December 2014. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  14. ^ MRO-A small disposable thermbaric grenade launcher /rocket propelled flame-thrower (Russia) Archived 2016-12-24 at the Wayback Machine - Modernfirearms.net
  15. ^ Russian MRO-A thermobaric rocket launchers in Syria Archived 2017-07-09 at the Wayback Machine - Armamentresearch.com, 30 October 2015
  16. ^ Russian MRO-A Rocket Launchers in the Ukraine Archived 2016-12-24 at the Wayback Machine - SAdefensejournal.com, 1 January 2016
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-02-11. Retrieved 2018-02-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ (in English) http://kbptula.ru/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=309&Itemid=653&lang=en#spoiler_0 Archived 2013-10-22 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Впервые на IDEX-2013 КБП рекламирует многоцелевой ракетный комплекс дальнего действия "Корнет-ЭМ"". ЦАМТО (in Russian). Moscow: Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade. 18 February 2013. Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  20. ^ "ТАСС: Армия и ОПК - В Туле налажен серийный выпуск гранатометов "Бур"". ТАСС. Archived from the original on 29 October 2014. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  21. ^ BUR grenade launcher Archived 2016-12-24 at the Wayback Machine - Modernfirearms.net
  22. ^ Small-size grenade launcher in production Archived 2016-12-24 at the Wayback Machine - Janes.com, 6 November 2014
  23. ^ Bur small-sized grenade launcher entered in service with Russian anti-terrorist units Archived 2016-12-24 at the Wayback Machine - Armyrecognition.com, 29 June 2016
  24. ^ "Погранзаставу в Меловом обстреляли из огнеметов с территории РФ". Liga News. 9 August 2014. Archived from the original on 12 August 2014.
  25. ^ "Separatist commander Mikhail Tolstykh, 'Givi', killed in eastern Ukraine". CBCNews. Archived from the original on 20 March 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  26. ^ Bhatia, Michael Vinai; Sedra, Mark (May 2008). Small Arms Survey (ed.). Afghanistan, Arms and Conflict: Armed Groups, Disarmament and Security in a Post-War Society. Routledge. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-415-45308-0. Archived from the original on 2018-09-01. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2019-02-02. Retrieved 2019-02-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ Small Arms Survey (2003). "Making the Difference?: Weapon Collection and Small Arms Availability in the Republic of Congo" (PDF). Small Arms Survey 2003: Development Denied. Oxford University Press. pp. 262–263. ISBN 0199251754. Archived from the original on 2018-08-29. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  29. ^ ":: Rosyjska broń dla Fidżi" (in Polish). altair.pl. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-02-21.
  30. ^ "Armament of the Georgian Army". Georgian Army. Archived from the original on 2012-03-09. Retrieved 2007-06-25.
  31. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-02-03. Retrieved 2018-02-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  32. ^ Green lemon [@green_lemonnn] (17 December 2015). "#Syria RPO-A Shmel Thermobaric rockets used by NDF/SAA in Jabal Al Nuba against rebels /JN" (Tweet) – via Twitter.

External linksEdit