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RGW-90 MATADOR, Wirkmittel 90, RGW-60, RGW-110 grenade launcher (Germany)

The RGW-90 grenade launcher (Recoilless Grenade Weapon 90mm), also known as the MATADOR (Man-portable Anti-Tank, Anti-DOoR) and Wirkmittel 90, is a joint development of the Dynamit Nobel Defence from Germany, the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems from Israel and the  DSTA agency from Singapore. It is manufactured in all three countries in a number of variants.

 

The RGW-90 HH / MATADOR grenade launcher
The RGW-90 HH / MATADOR grenade launcher with added night sight

 

Development of the new disposable multi-purpose (anti-tank and anti-structure) weapon, intended to replace the old Armbrust grenade launcher, was indicated around the year 2000. First deliveries to the armed forces of Singapore commenced around 2005 and since then the RGW-90 grenade launcher in many versions has been adopted by Belgium, Germany, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and several other countries. The smaller and lighter version of the system, known as the RGW-60, is in use by the German and Israeli Special Forces.

 

The RGW-90 HH / MATADOR grenade launcher
The RGW-90 HH / MATADOR grenade launcher with the Hensoldt Dynahawk fire control / sight system

 

The Dynamit Nobel Defence also is working on a bigger caliber, heavier, and more effective version, known as the RGW-110, but as of 2022, it is still in development. The RGW-110 grenade launcher is intended to eventually replace the Panzerfaust 3 launcher now in use with the Bundeswehr (German armed forces).

The RGW-110 grenade launcher
The RGW-110 grenade launcher

 

The original RGW-90 grenade launcher variant, known as the RGW-90 HH, is a versatile system with a dual-mode warhead. In the HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) mode it operates as a shaped charge with a stand-off fuse and can defeat up to 500 mm of rolled steel armor. In the HESH mode (High Explosive Squash Head) it is intended to defeat structures such as brick and concrete walls, light fortifications and improvised covers, and light armor, and create large holes using its blast effect. The mode of employment is manually selected by the operator before firing by setting the nose rod. If the activation rod is left in the storage position (retracted back into the warhead) the warhead will explode in the HESH mode. If the nose rod is extended forward for about 15 cm, it will serve as a stand-off initiator to provide a shaped charge HEAT effect.

 

RGW-90 HH grenade launcher
The cut-out model of the RGW-90 HH grenade launcher and demonstration of its warhead at the moment of impact in HEAT and HESH modes. DND photo.

 

At present, the RGW-90 launcher family includes several other versions, such as the following:

The RGW-90 HH-T with tandem (dual) warhead for improved effectiveness against the targets protected by ERA. It can defeat up to 600 mm of steel armor behind the ERA unit. It also features the dual-mode (HEAT/HESH) option.

 

RGW-90 HH  RGW-90 HH-T
the RGW-90 HH grenade launcher (top) and the the RGW-90 HH-T grenade launcher with the tandem warhead and optional electronic sight (bottom)

 

The RGW-90 LRMP (Long Range Multipurpose) is primarily an anti-personnel round with secondary anti-vehicle and anti-structure capability. It uses an explosive fragmentation warhead loaded with small tungsten balls. The warhead can be initiated upon impact with the target or can be used in the timed air burst mode when the launcher is employed with the optional computerized Dynahawk fire control unit.

The diagram of the RGW-90 LRMP grenade launcher
The sectional diagram of the RGW-90 LRMP grenade launcher

 

The RGW-90 ASM / MATADOR-AS (Anti Structure Munition) is intended to destroy bunkers or engage enemy personnel inside the buildings or lightly armored vehicles. It is equipped with tandem warhead. The leading warhead is designed to blow through the obstacle (building wall or vehicle skin), and then the second follow-through warhead explodes inside the building or vehicle for maximum effect.

 

The RGW-90 WB / MATADOR-WB (Wall Breaching) is a dedicated “entry” munition developed and produced in Israel by Rafael. It is intended to blast large (man-sized) holes in the building walls or doors with minimal collateral effect. It features an oversized warhead which protrudes from the front of the launcher tube. The maximum effective range for the MATADOR-WB is only 120 meters.

 

The RGW-90 WB / MATADOR-WB grenade launcher
The RGW-90 WB / MATADOR-WB grenade launcher

 

Other versions also include variants with the smoke and illumination warheads.

 

 

The smaller RGW-60 grenade launcher is also available with several types of warheads, but without dual-mode capability. So, it’s either the HEAT version with the shaped charge that can penetrate up to 300 mm of steel armor, or it’s a HESH version intended for use against light armor, vehicles, and structures. Other RGW-60 versions include the HEAT-MP (multipurpose with added fragmentation effect) and the ASM (Anti-Structure). The effective range of the RGW-60 grenade launcher is also shorter and is up to 200-300 meters, but the system is usually 2-3 kg lighter than a similar RGW-90 variant.

 

RGW-60 grenade launcher
RGW-60 grenade launcher

 

All RGW-60, RGW-90, and RGW-110 variants are similar in design and layout and differ primarily in the diameter of their warheads (nominal calibers of 60mm, 90mm, and 110 mm, respectively), and in the type of warhead (see above).

The sectional diagram of the RGW-90 HH grenade launcher
The sectional diagram of the RGW-90 HH grenade launcher with folded controls (in storage / transportation position)

 

Each unit is a disposable, single-shot launcher that uses the fiber-reinforced plastic launcher tube (barrel) with thin aluminum liner inside as a backbone. The trigger unit with folding grips and shoulder rest is permanently attached to the bottom of the launcher tube. The integral optical sight on a folding base is attached to the top of the tube. The standard optical sight offers 1.5X-3X magnification and has a reticle with range and lead scales. The launcher tube is also equipped with a Picatinny rail which can be used to mount reusable night-vision adapters (IR or image-intensifiers), or computerized fire control units. So far, the most widely encountered fire control unit for the RGW-60 and RGW-90 launchers is the Dynahawk sight, developed and manufactured by the Hensoldt company from Germany. The Dynahawk is equipped with a laser rangefinder, an electronic gyroscope for computation of the lead when firing on laterally moving targets, and a ballistic computer. It also can be used to program the air-burst fuses for the RGW-90 LRMP variants. The weight of the sight is about 2,2 kg.

 

firing the RGW-90 LRMP grenade launcher
firing the RGW-90 LRMP grenade launcher

 

The RGW-90 grenade launcher and its variants use a recoil-less launch system with a sustained rocket motor attached to the projectile. To achieve minimal firing signature, limit backblast and allow firing from confined spaces, RGW-90 uses the Davis principle. The initial propelling charge is located inside the launcher tube between two pistons. Upon firing, the front piston propels the projectile (rocket-assisted grenade) toward the target. The rear piston expels the recoil-compensating counter-mass, which consists of plastic granules. Once the grenade reaches a safe distance from the shooter, the rocket motor cuts in, accelerating the grenade to the sustained velocity of about 250 meters per second. Inflight stabilization is achieved by the switch-blade fins and projectile rotation. Depending on the caliber and type of warhead, the maximum effective range may vary from 200 (RGW-60) to 1200 (RGW-90 LRMP) meters. For all versions except the smoke and illuminating rounds, the minimal effective range is only 20 meters.

 

RGW-60 grenade launcher, technical specifications

  • Caliber: 60 mm
  • Length: 880 – 1040 mm depending on the variant
  • Weight: 5.8 – 6,8 kg depending on the variant

 

RGW-90 grenade launcher, technical specifications

  • Caliber: 90 mm
  • Length: 960-1080 mm depending on the variant
  • Weight: 7,5 – 9,2 kg depending on the variant