The Nuclear RPG

Not really, but the impact that a new Chinese weapon can potentially have on our force posture in Iraq is not that far off.

Jane’s reveals that China’s Xinshidai Company is churning out thermobaric warheads for the venerable RPG-7. Thermobaric explosives are ‘volumetric’ – the explosion comes from a cloud rather than a point source, and produces a blast that lasts longer. Even though this increase in duration is measured in milliseconds, it makes thermobarics far more destructive than condensed explosives, against both buildings and people.

The Russians were first to produce a portable thermobaric rocket with the RPO-A Shmel (which seems to be one of these that produces many of the casualties in Beslan). The US followed with the SMAW-NE, which was used to great effect against buildings in Fallujah where one round “would incinerate the target or literally level the structure.”

[…] [T]hermobaric rounds represent a particular threat to US forces. The type of blast injuries they cause are much harder to treat in the field, and are not prevented by body armor — in fact, armor may even make injuries worse. Armored vehicles provide little protection unless they’re “buttoned up.” Buildings stop being cover and start being a liability. A study by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory’s Project Albert indicated that thermobaric weapons in enemy hands would significantly increase US casualties.

Even if Chinese leaders decided to hold this round back from global distribution the Chinese system is rife with corruption, and the demand for a force leveler like this so intense that one could easily imagine significant numbers getting “lost” on the way out of the factory. Thermobarics are not WMD’s, and the fact that we have used them against Iraqis will make the insurgents feel perfectly justified about using them back at us. The only real question is whether insurgents will get these rounds, and how much pain will come down when they do.

Needless to say Iran will have a hefty stockpile of these ready to greet an invasion force.






30 replies
  1. 1
    Dreggas says:

    Needless to say Iran will have a hefty stockpile of these ready to greet an invasion force.

    *channelling my inner “bushie”*

    this is y we must invade Iranistan now before the mad dictators I mean Mullah’s get their hands on these thermo-barbaric thing-a-majigs.

  2. 2
    Zifnab says:

    This assumes China is producing these weapons for sale, and not for their own military purposes. Big Red has been ramping up its military for the past five or six years, without much contention from local neighbors. With a nuclear stockpile and a population in the billions, I can definitely see a senario in which China goes to war with its 3rd-world neighbors while thumbing its nose at American diplomats under the shield of MAD and a few hundred billion in US trade and debt.

  3. 3
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    Needless to say Iran will have a hefty stockpile of these ready to greet an invasion force.

    To greet them as liberators, no doubt.

  4. 4
    pharniel says:

    eh, it’s neighbors are mostly communist and/or have nukes themselves.
    Communist intermurals are already ignored by most of the world AND have a tendancy to be the nastiest wars in the latter 20th century as none of the participants are signatories of the Geneva conventions nor particularly responsive to any sort of ‘moral warfare’.
    In short, china would most likely gobble up north Korea (or at least strongly remind the Communist Monarchy down there that they can and *will* crush them like a bug if they stop being useful and start being a liablility), maybe take back some of the siezed russian land (or trade for it, who knows, northern china is wacky) and prolly get some good concessions from the Indians after a few ‘boarder skirmishes’.
    but that’s assuming the world economy doens’t take a header. if shit starts to go downhill China will ensure a porsperous future by selling them on the open market for cold cash and/or oil.
    also these puppies look particularly good at dealing with insuragants in any of china’s cities, most likely as a ‘don’t fuck with teh Man or he will crushinate you’ message brining just in case any university students and/or filthy capitolist pig-fucking merchants who happen to be responsible for china not being a 3rd world country any longer get any ideas about who should be calling the shots.

  5. 5
    Andrew says:

    Fancy pants RPGs aren’t going to have much effect because the insurgents know that IEDs and car bombs are much more effective for small groups of attackers. They gave up on directly attacking our troops a long time ago.

  6. 6
    Tsulagi says:

    Yeah, China has some nifty, relatively cheap toys they’ve shared with their Iranian buds. For the right amount of oil of course.

    Sometimes they even sell the technology. In addition to buying sophisticated anti-ship missiles from Russia, Iran manufactures a couple of cheap Chinese knock-off versions of our Harpoon ASM. One version hit an Israeli patrol boat off Lebanon during that recent dust up. Iran said they didn’t know how Hezbollah got that missile, but it wasn’t from them. Yep.

    They also have some cool underwater mines China developed for the Taiwan Strait like the EM-53. An underwater mine that sits on the bottom and can be remotely controlled. Once activated, it uses a rocket motor to move toward its target at up to 70mph. In addition to things in the air, those mines could make the Strait of Hormuz fun.

  7. 7
    pharniel says:

    in short the game’d scenario where the Gulf turned into a giant graveyard for our boats there was pretty much right on the money.

    and today i just saw an AoS commenter talking about how we’d send thier navy 200 fathoms down. And i thougth to myself “Self, I don’t think anywhere in the persian gulf is 200 fathoms deep. that’s pretty much the problem with it”.

  8. 8
    Punchy says:

    Way to give the insurgents that idea, dumbass. Now every Tom, Dick, and Hairy Iraqi that reads Balloon Jews is have the heads-up.

    Why does Tim hate our military?

  9. 9
    Darrell, D'Souza, Delay and Strauss says:

    Why does Tim hate our military?

    Why does Punchy hate freedom?

    Condi just needs to keep her trap shut about Egypt

  10. 10
    BadTux says:

    If you look at China’s military posture, it is pretty much defensive in nature, and oriented more about keeping wayward provinces in the west and north from going AWOL than anything else. China isn’t going on any military adventures anytime soon. They’ve decided that the Japanese alternative — i.e., commercial warfare — is far more profitable for them at this point in time. Only once China’s economy and technological know-how gets to the point where it can create stealth bombers and aircraft carriers and such (things really useful only for offensive operations beyond one’s own borders) will they be interested in military adventures… and even there the likely target will be Taiwan, rather than any of the other surrounding states, none of which are interesting to China with the possible exception of Outer Mongolia (not interesting to China as such, but interesting to China in that it is a buffer between them and the Russians).

    As far as thermobaric warheads go, ones small enough to fit on a RPG really are only useful if you can lob them through a window into a building or vehicle. They’re basically the high-tech equivalent of a Molotov cocktail. So they’d definitely make life interesting for guys in Humvees, but less useful against armored vehicles — basically useful there only if you’re talking urban warfare where the round can be dropped in from above, and the U.S. tends to avoid putting armor into that situation. Besides, Iran has their own little tricks for dealing with armor, such as the tandem-warhead RPG’s that HA used so successfully against Merkava tanks in Lebanon (note that Merkavas are even more heavily armored than M1’s, though not as mobile).

  11. 11
    curtadams says:

    Not particularly new. Here’s a 6 year old article on a similar device – from Bulgaria, not typically known for being on the cutting edge of military technology. http://www.ciar.org/~ttk/mbt/a.....4_2_n.html

    I’m more concerned that the Iraqis will figure out how to make improvised thermobaric explosives. They’ve gotten pretty good at shaped charges, which are also difficult to make. Ambushes with thermobarics would get pretty ugly.

  12. 12
    Jon H says:

    China’s been very cuddly with African nations lately – they’d be a prime market for these. And from there… they could show up everywhere. Why, they might even make their way to Iraq via Niger!

  13. 13
    Tsulagi says:

    Why, they might even make their way to Iraq via Niger!

    Or from North Korea. The Wal Mart for arms. Always low prices. Always.

  14. 14
    Punchy says:

    Why does Punchy hate freedom?

    Cuz, ya know, freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose….see…nothing don’t mean nothing honey if it ain’t free, now now.

  15. 15

    I think this means we have to invade China now, before they start selling these weapons to the other enemies of freedom.

  16. 16
    jake says:

    To greet them as liberators, no doubt.

    Provided they have the FlowerznCandeez (TM) attachment. Upon impact the projectile releases a delightful assortment of chocolates and roses at speeds upward of 100 mph.

    Vicious. You hit me with a flower.

  17. 17
    Zifnab says:

    I think this means we have to invade China now, before they start selling these weapons to the other enemies of freedom.

    No no. This is cool. China is just engaging in military capitalism. So long as US stockholders (and Republican Congressmen) can get in on this deal, its totally legitimate. Selling weapons to terrorists is protected under the newest free-trade agreement, if I’m not mistaken.

  18. 18
    MNPundit says:

    Nuclear RPG? You mean like our own Davy Crockett?

  19. 19

    No no. This is cool. China is just engaging in military capitalism. So long as US stockholders (and Republican Congressmen) can get in on this deal, its totally legitimate. Selling weapons to terrorists is protected under the newest free-trade agreement, if I’m not mistaken.

    Oh yeah, I forgot we have to make friends with Al Qaeda and use them against Iran. That’s smart diplomacy, if you ask me. China, Al Qaeda, and Uzbekistan are welcome in a “Coalition of the Willing” against Tehran.

    Plus, China can maybe help us with Kim Jong-Il, maybe.

  20. 20
    Ellison, Ellensburg, Ellers, and Lambchop says:

    the fact that we have used them against Iraqis will make the insurgents feel perfectly justified about using them back at us.

    How far up your own ass must your head be to make such a moronic point? “Bush used them first!”

    As if first use has meant anything to the insurgents. Did we start bombing markets first? Did we start chopping the heads off kidnap victims first?

    But we used these rounds first, so it’s partially, hell, mostly our fault that they get used against us, right? Maybe Evan Sayet was right, after all. Pathetic and transparent and par for the course.

  21. 21
    Hyperion says:

    I think this means we have to invade China now, before they start selling these weapons to the other enemies of freedom.

    no, no, thomas barnett (of “the pentagon’s new map” fame”) assures us that china is NOT the problem.

  22. 22
    Tim F. says:

    As if first use has meant anything to the insurgents. Did we start bombing markets first? Did we start chopping the heads off kidnap victims first?

    Entirely missing my point. Are you trolling, or just a bit slow?

  23. 23
    Ellison, Ellensburg, Ellers, and Lambchop says:

    Entirely missing my point. Are you trolling, or just a bit slow?

    Non-responsive, of course. I got your “point” perfectly, and it was breathtakingly moronic. An honest person would admit it was dumb, but you, on the other hand…

  24. 24
    pharniel says:

    e^l seriously
    it’s a valid point.
    the insurgants, who are operating on the same maturity level as yourself, are going to go “bush did it first”
    it was a statement of speculative fact, and quite likely how they are thinking.
    They’re also prolly gonna think “why fire 18 shells into the backs of the heads of the [opposeing sect we’re trying to purge] when one of these puppies will flambe the entire building”

    judas priest, are you intentionaly dense or just trying to replace darrel?

  25. 25
    Ellison, Ellensburg, Ellers, and Lambchop says:

    the insurgants, who are operating on the same maturity level as yourself, are going to go “bush did it first”
    it was a statement of speculative fact, and quite likely how they are thinking.

    Silly ad hominem aside, you must have some evidence (mind-reading doesn’t count!).

    Let me offer the counter-evidence: Did the Iraqi terrorists look to the US’s first use for “justification” to behead people on the internet, to carbomb markets, to use kids as human shields, to use retarded people as triggermen? I could name fifty more if you want.

    Isn’t it true that, no matter what method they can think of to kill their enemies, they quickly decide that it is justified, whether that method has been used against them or not?

    To kvetch that our first use gives “justification” to those who have time and time again demonstrated to everyone that they neither require nor seek any justification to kill in any particular fashion is one of the lamest attempts at a “Blame Bush First” gotcha that I’ve ever seen.

    They’re also prolly gonna think “why fire 18 shells into the backs of the heads of the [opposeing sect we’re trying to purge] when one of these puppies will flambe the entire building”

    That’s all they’ll think. What Bush has done first is obviously and demonstrably the furthest thing from their twisted minds. For you guys to assert differently is dishonest and/or ignorant.

  26. 26
    grumpy realist says:

    Whether or not the insurgents think “well, he used them first”, there are certainly other people sitting on the sidelines thinking that.

  27. 27
    Ellison, Ellensburg, Ellers, and Lambchop says:

    Whether or not the insurgents think “well, he used them first”

    Not.

  28. 28
    Tim F. says:

    Non-responsive

    Experience has taught me that time spent on angy hysterics like yourself is time wasted. For example, let’s say that you utterly missed my point by looking at it exclusively from the perspective of an insurgent. They will kill us using whatever they have at their disposal, of course. In that sense they are basically a fixed quantity. That you insist on focusing on nothing but their opinions shows either a weak mind or a manic need to prove a political point. Consider the other opinions which might matter – our own. China’s. The international audience which might or might not support and supply the insurgents.

    Say that insurgents attempt to aquire these warheads. On what grounds do we complain? They are obviously not egregious violations of wartime conduct or we wouldn’t have used them. We can complain on the same basis that we try to stop rifles and RPGs, for all the good that has done us.

    Say that insurgents use them against us. The casualties will be heinous. Can we make the case that they have crossed some line of decency? Of course not. Same argument. Our strategic posture will shift and we will have to shrug our shoulders and deal with it.

    By my watch, that’s five minutes wasted. You may now go on insisting that I meant some stupid crap and I will go back to ignoring your dumbass provocations.

  29. 29
    Ellison, Ellensburg, Ellers, and Lambchop says:

    Experience has taught me that time spent on angy hysterics like yourself is time wasted.

    So calling you on something utterly stupid that you wrote qualifies as “hysterical.” Hey, if dishonest posturing helps you minimize opposition in your own mind — well, whatever gets you through the night…

    That you insist on focusing on nothing but their opinions shows either a weak mind or a manic need to prove a political point.

    Seriously. Do you even read your own posts? Dude, it was your point about the terrorists’ justification, not mine. The fact that I can clearly show that this point is worthy only of ridicule doesn’t show anything about my focus. It just shows that I find your focus on the opinion of the terrorists with regards to first use to be laughable.

    Say that insurgents attempt to aquire these warheads. On what grounds do we complain?

    You are fucking joking. You are absolutely having me on. So if we hadn’t used the enhanced-blast warhead on Fallujah, you’re saying that the big benefit accruing to us would be…that we could complainabout how — what? — unfair their new non-WMD rocket would be? Jeebus. Words fail, and Patton rolls over in his grave.

    The casualties will be heinous. Can we make the case that they have crossed some line of decency? Of course not. Same argument. Our strategic posture will shift and we will have to shrug our shoulders and deal with it.

    Yeah, that’s the silliest part of your point, as I’ve shown. So suppose we’d never ever used the new warhead, and the insurgents get them. The outcome would be exactly the same for our troops as if we had used the SMAW-NE (except, of course, we wouldn’t get to employ our key anti-insurgency weapon — whining!). Our strategic posture would still shift, we’d still have to shrug our shoulders, and we’d still have to deal with it. Why?

    Because, and I can’t stress this totally unrefuted point enough, it doesn’t matter what we use or do not use first. The terrorists have shown time and time again that they will use every weapon at their disposal, no matter how reprehensible. They’ve beheaded, they’ve used retarded kids, etc. They wouldn’t bat an eyelash for a microsecond at upgrading RPGs, even if no one had ever used them before.

    By my watch, that’s five minutes wasted. You may now go on insisting that I meant some stupid crap

    Yeah, what was I thinking? Reading the words you actually write! Pure folly. Look, I’ll give you a chance to rewrite that bit so it’s not stupid crap anymore, but I doubt you’ll be able to do it.

  30. 30
    Jonathan says:

    Because, and I can’t stress this totally unrefuted point enough, it doesn’t matter what we use or do not use first. The terrorists have shown time and time again that they will use every weapon at their disposal, no matter how reprehensible. They’ve beheaded, they’ve used retarded kids, etc. They wouldn’t bat an eyelash for a microsecond at upgrading RPGs, even if no one had ever used them before.

    As would we if we were in their position.

    Don’t forget who firebombed Tokyo and nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki..

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