This article is prepared by admin and head writer of Safar Publishing.
During the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989), Soviet paratroopers used a variety of weapons and equipment, some of which were specifically designed for airborne operations. The weapons of choice for Soviet paratroopers during this conflict included:
⦁ AKS-74 assault rifle. The AK-74 was the standard issue assault rifle of the Soviet Army during the 1980s and was used by Soviet paratroopers in Afghanistan. It fired the 5.45x39mm round and had a magazine capacity of 30 rounds. Soldiers would usually modify their rifles by adding first aid kit into the hollow stock or by getting and using 45 round magazines. The AKS-74 is an iconic weapon of the Soviet-Afghan war.
⦁ RPG-16 rocket launcher. The RPG-16 was a Soviet-made anti-tank rocket launcher designed specifically for airborne troops. It was possible to disassemble it into two parts which was required for safe parashooting. This rocket launcher was higher calibre than a standard RPG-7, which had both pros and cons. For Afghanistan, where Soviet paratroopers faced no threat of the enemy armour, this rocket launcher was more suitable than a regular RPG-7 – the effect it had against buildings and fortifications was much greater. It could fire effectively up to around 400 meters when using optical scope.
⦁ PKM machine gun. This is by far the most powerful and useful weapon that a single section could have and use effectively in Soviet-Afghan war. With the weight of just 7.5kg, which is a regular weight for a light machine gun, PKM fired the full on 7.62x54mm rifle round and had a range of up to 1000 meters. All in all, it is a magnificent machine gun when issued without a tripod and used on a section level.
⦁ RPKS-74 light machine gun. The RPKS-74 was a unique weapon designed specifically for the airborne forces. The only difference with the regular RPK was a folding stock. Otherwise, it was a light machine gun that was generally based on the AK design, but it featured longer barrel and a better receiver. It fired the same 5.45x39mm round as the AK-74 and was supplied with 8 magazines with the capacity of 45 rounds each. While being unable to provide greater firepower than a regular AK-74, it was somewhat better in distance and precision – longer barrel and bipod turned out to be very helpful in the mountains.
⦁ SVD sniper rifle. The SVD was a semi-automatic sniper rifle that fired the 7.62x54mm round. By the book is has a range of up to 1,300 meters. It seen limited use during the Soviet-Afghan war, as the higher rate of fire on a closer distances was quite often more important than precision at high ranges. Yet, given that all SVDs were equipped with pretty good PSO-1 scopes, there was still at least one SVD per a platoon on a regular operation. Sometimes SVD would be stored in a vehicle used by the unit and the designated marksman would only use it, when necessary, simultaneously having the AKS-74 by his side at all times.
⦁ NSV “Utes”. This 12.7mm heavy machine gun was quite a new weapon system in the Soviet Army. It was designed to replace a famous DShK. And it did this job really well. While DShK is just too heavy to be carried by hand (around 80kg with the tripod), Utes can be disassembled and carried around. Of course, 12.7mm round is very powerful and can destroy the majority of self-made fortifications. This machine gun was used very often on any scale of operations.
⦁ AGS-17. This grenade machine gun was produced in big numbers and was primarily intended to be used from a tripod, which is very different to NATO doctrine, where most of the Mk19 GMGs are installed on vehicles. Paratroopers really liked this weapon, as it had absolutely unbeatable range of fire and burst of 30mm grenades were absolutely devastating for the enemy.
These were some of the main weapons of choice for Soviet paratroopers during the Soviet-Afghan War, but there were many other weapons and equipment used by the Soviet military during this conflict as well. If you want to find out more about Soviet Paratroopers in Afghanistan – we recommend getting your hands on one of the best guides on Soviet-Afghan war – Uniforms and history of the Soviet Ariborne – the 345th Regiment in Afghanistan.