First in a short series of posts on fairly obscure Soviet weapons.
You do recall that the Soviet Union and China had a series of division sized clashes along their shared border back in the 1960s, right?
Well, they did. And at the time, the preferred Chinese tactic was much as it had been during the Korean War- massed human wave attacks. That’s pretty tough if you’re part of the wave. But its also pretty tough to defend against. The need to counter possible future attacks, along with reports from the Vietnamese about US automatic grenade launchers just entering service, prompted the Soviets to design their own.
It took a few years, and never saw action against Chinese forces, but by the early 1970s, the AGS-17 was in widespread use amongst Soviet forces. A fully automatic, blowback operated grenade launcher fired from a tripod, the launcher uses a 30mm x 29 casing, with high explosive fragmentation warhead. It’s fed by a non-disintegrating metallic link belt stored in a 29-round drum.
The launcher can be used in direct-fire mode against targets out to 800m for point targets, or area targets out to its maximum range of 1700m. Interestingly, it can also be used in high-angle fire, almost like an automatic mortar, to engage defilade targets.
The AGS-17 saw extensive use during Soviet operations in Afghanistan, where it proved quite useful firing against Mujahedeen positions, especially RPG and anti-tank teams. Variants were developed for mounting on vehicles, helicopters, and aircraft. It has also seen widespread use in Chechnya and other Russian operations.
A refined, lighter version, the AGS-30, has entered service and is slowly replacing the –17.