Where does “Nepryadva” flow?

Where does “Nepryadva” flow?
Viktor Rebriko, personal archive photos, Soldier of Fortune (Russia) #10, 1998 (Via Atrina, a section of Otvaga)

Translated by MicroBalrog

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To this very day “Nepryadva” remains a unique weapon.
*It is named after the river Nepryadva, flowing across Kulikovo Field, the field of Russian battle glory, and entering the Don there.

In January 1988, the Tula Design Bureau received a telegram. A grenade had exploded in the barrel of the ‘Duel’ grenade launcher, and a representative of the designer was requested to immediately report to the Baltic Fleet.

Immediately I envisioned terrible things – torn-apart guns, injured sailors, and the like. Of course, I knew that no launcher, no cannon can be designed to take an internal grenade explosion and it was not our fault, but I was still concerned. At that time I led the Anti-Saboteur Weapons Section, where ‘Duel’ and ‘Ogonyok’ launchers have been developed by Borisov and Stepunin – both men had already retired.

At the Kaliningrad train station I have met with the grenade developer – State Award laureate Suprunov and Dryzhak, a representative of the Navy.

At the proper (ammunition) department of the Fleet Headquarters we were told the accident occurred in July 1987, in Luanda (Angola). The ship had just returned and reported the accident, and we were telegrammed. There had, thankfully, been no victims.

In the morning we arrived in Baltiysk, rushing to the heavy tank landing ship. An ensign showed us a grenade launcher, its barrel visibly inflated and bent. We were also shown the torn hull from an RG-55 grenade’s engine. After inspecting the exhaust attachment point we found a clear sign of corrosion which caused the engine to tear itself apart and be ejected onto the deck.

The explosion occurred at night. The ensign noticed where hull fell and located it with matches. The grenade warhead flew overboard and detonated in the water. The exhaust was never found.

We heard many interesting things about the Angola deployment. THe sailors explained that South African frogmen already used charges to sabotage five ships – two of them ours (one of them, the “Donbass Comsomoletz” was even mentioned in the papers) and three from the GDR. But they did it “painlessly but annoyingly”, with small charges, to remind us who ruled the local waters.

The Luanda harbor was protected by Cuban divers, but there were many places along the shore for saboteurs to enter the water. At night the leader of Angola left for the Cuban camp 20 kilometers away from the city. When the darkness of African night descende on the city, South African agents, malcontents against the regime and simple robbers climbed out of their day-time hiding places. Through the entire night, gunfire and explosions rang in the city.

Our men put out all the lights to avoid attracting sniper fire. Along the perimeter of the deck, hand-grenade crates and ‘Duel’ rocket grenade packages were placed. All night long the sailors randomly threw hand-grenades off the deck, while ‘Duel’ gunners equally randomly fired rocket grenades at the far approaches to the shore, risking attracting a sniper bullet to the muzzle flash. Our ensign was risking his life when he lit matches to look for the grenade hull.

Laughably Simple and Funny to Tears

This practice explained everything. The only thing that was unclear was the origin of rust in a hermetically sealed grenade – especially as Suprunov quoted documents that stated all unsealed grenades had to be fired during one guard shift or training exercise, especially in tropical climate. Of course, this rule was sometimes broken.

After deploying to Angola, the ship received excess ammunition from a deporting North Sea Fleet ship. This included unsealed grenade packages. We couldn’t prove it, but now we had a general clue where the rust could come from.

After returning to Kaliningrad, to file a report at the fleet headquarters, I picked up some freshly-printed album, and I felt I was going insane. Just next to me Suprunov is decrying the thoughtless unsealing of grenades, and the book says – “Open the hermetic seal… unwrap the grenade… inspect contact rings… where the paint-lacquer layer is disturbed…. bursh… emaille…”

This was printed – and was a veritable sabotage manual – at a respectable Fleet unit. I hand the book to Suprunov and say: “Just look at this…” He looked on – and when he realized what it was he literally howled.

Later on we discovered that this manual was used to “inspect” several thousand grenades. All of them have been used during research to increase the durability of “Ogonyok”.

The Fierce Fire of “Ogonyok”

At that time the most common anti-saboteur weapon on ships was the aforementioned MRG-1 “Ogonyok” rocket launcher, deployed in 1976. This was made up of seven slightly dispersing barrels in 55mm, on a tall tripod, equipped with a horizontal and vertical aiming mechanism. On the deck, rapid-mounting locks have been made for the launcher. It was fired from shelter by means of a cable and a remote control.

When the target was located, a combat alarm would ring, and the crew, excepting the launcher gunners, would go into shelter. The launcher was aimed and loaded manually, and then fired from shelter. Fire, thunder, the electric ignition parts would be ejected and then the salvo would repeat. But “Ogonyok” was stationary. What if one needed to fire from a boat or from the shore?

Thus it was decided to mount one of the barrels on the “Ogonyok” in a single shoulder-fired launcher. Thus was born the ‘Duel’ – but it transpired that the freedom of movement thus granted was a dangerous thing – the exhaust could damage the ship, injure a man or, if the gunner stood in front of a wall, fling him overboard outright. Thus it was understood that the launcher would have to be of a closed type.

An Urgent Need

When we visited them in the Baltic, our friends in the Fleet did not know yet that, in July 1987 in Sebastopol, preliminary testing was already complete for a new, closed-breech anti-saboteur rocket launcher, TKB-0171 Nepryadva. State testing was scheduled for 1988.

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An over-an-under barrel configuration allowed us to make the Nepryadva fairly flat, comfortable to carry behind one’s back during the forced marches that were expected to form part of foot patrols on the shore.
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Pressing the locking lever unlocks the barrels, allowing one to move back the chamber and remove the spent charge containers or entire unused rockets from the barrels.

The development started in 1981, when we were issued an full R&D order. Already 1-2 years before we had an order to develop a rocket launcher that shared 90-95% of its parts with ‘Duel’ – effectively a closed-breech ‘duel’. A single desinger drew all this, an overall look sketch was sent to the ordering party and the general secretary of the design bureau, and the issue was closed.

At first we were ordered to develop and produce a 50mm rocket launcher and a twin-barreled 45mm rocket launcher. Of the two, only one could remain. I was appointed to the project, and various errors ensued. The first task included mounting the closed-breech barrel to the 1.5-meter tall, flimsy tube tripod for Ogonyok. I went to Moscow to discuss with with Suprunov, deisgner of the new grenade for Nepryadva. He said cheerfully we had no work to do – since a 55mm enclosed ‘Duel’ already was drawn and we only needed to rechamber it in 45mm and 50mm. I responded with a brief sketch that concluded that given the caliber and chamber pressure the first shot would flip the tripod over. A man firing an enclosed ‘Duel’ would either be thrown off his feet or forcibly made to sit down on his deck. It became clear we needed to do entirely new work.

In Spring of 1983 we produced the first samples of two types of grenade launchers – 50mm rocket launchers for firing up to 1500 meters and 45mm double-barreled launchers for firing up to 400 meters. Together with the ballistic launchers they’ve been shipped to Sevastopol. Only the ballistic launchers have been fired, and all work on the 50mm rocket grenade had been ceased. The sailors asked us to remove the combination direct-fire sight and carry handle. Not other requests were made and the process was put on a two-year hold.

Only in early 1985 did we receive an R&D order for ‘Nepryadva’. In May 1985 Minister Finogenov appointed me head designer for the launcher, and we approved the 45mm double-barreled launcher for development. At our Moscow Oblast branch, Suchkov was appointed to design the grenade.

While deciding on the details of the order an issue rose. What part was to protect the shooter’s face from powder gas breakthrough? This seems to be insane in a small arm – how is it accomplished in rifles, assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, machineguns, cannons, for the love of God? By using the cartridge of course, why invented anything else? But no! The lead design bureau pushed through another solution: “the body of the launcher”. Thus the design had to be made more complex, using more parts and making it more difficult to load and unload.

Design and manufacturing documents were developed for both the sample arms and various auxiliaries, like rubber mounts to fix the guns on battle station walls on other locations where a guard or any other sailor could rapidly unsnap the launcher and use it.

A minor detail, but…

A major problem turned out to be finding a place to place the sling attachment and figuring out the sling – although we thought that since we chose the AKM sling we’d be safe. Only a few years later, watching the TV show “I Serve The Motherland” I saw M.T. Kalashnikov explain how hard it was to find a proper place for the mounts and design the sling.

An over-an-under barrel configuration allowed us to make the Nepryadva fairly flat, comfortable to carry behind one’s back during the forced marches that were expected to form part of foot patrols on the shore. It was comfortable when we fixed the sling on mounts at the barrel end and the end of the rubber stock cover on axis passing through a center of gravity – and ten kilos was quite some weight!

But of course the breech moves when reloading. Thus, when shooting the sling had to be fixed elsewhere – to the barrel block, to allow firing from a sling. Thus this part of the belt is detachable. The other end of the sling had to have a small chain attached to it to avoid it covering your field of view when shooting.

What are you doing?

One of the grenade launchers was sent to Leningrad for testing to evaluate sound and recoil levels. The noise was quiet enough to avoid needing ear protection, while the recoil force was 45 joules – lower than the 59 joules design requirements. While this was higher than the norm of 35 joules, recoil was easy to bear due to the design of the round and the perforated rubber stock elements. Night-shooting at sea, which showed it had a light, non-blinding and non-demasking muzzle flash.

In preliminary (factory) testing Suchkov was the shooter. I was the loader, which allowed me to inspect the spent cartridges for hammer traces, and to see and hear everything standing a meter away from the gun. Later on I fired the gun myself, as did the Navy representatives on the commission.

It was very interesting to shoot it – which provided circumstantial evidence as to the high effectiveness of the grenade. When we opened a series of shots at angles of -75 to +45 degrees, the first near-vertical shot into the water was accompanied by a terrible noise, as if a loaded KAMAZ truck has rammed our diver-carrying vessel. An ensign leaped out onto the deck and shouted: “What are you doing?! You will tear up all the piping!” With a guilty look we moved to the stern and fired another shot “under the ship’s tail”. Once more a terrible noise, and a new ensign: “What are you doing?! You will dislodge all my seals!” At these seconds, a combat diver’s job did not appear at all attractive.


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For diver hunters

The main part of the DP-65 is a block two thin-walled, smooth barrels 600mm long, fixed in the breech and tied together with a sighting block at the middle and a yoke at the barrels. They are locked with a bolt equipped with a large rubber-padded stock. Under the barrels are mounted a foregrip and a pistol grip with a trigger and trigger guard. Above and at the left rides a square sight. Pressing the locking lever unlocks the barrel and enables the user to open the chamber, which allows one to remove unspent grenades by hand or allows empty cartridges (which are shorter) to fall out under gravity. Loading occurs in reverse order.

We already mentioned the existence of an HE and flare grenade. Before loading, the grenade is set to a shallow or deep detonation by twisting the protective cone, which is then removed (with it the grenade will not enter the barrel). Given that the grenade has a radius of underwater effect is 14 meters, it is easy to calculate that when the grenade is set to shallow detonation it is  sufficient to disable divers as deep as 28-30 meters, and at high depth it can reach 60 meters.

State testing at flare light

The state testing in Sebastopol, in October 1988, started with horrible weather. After several days of fruitless waiting our diver ship had to be repainted. And when our mission was scheduled for October 12th, we had to use a small flat-bottomed testing ship, which we shared with a Leningrad team with their own device. Technically, the “Nepryadva” could not be used at a sea state of over 4 degrees. Wheen we arrived at the testing point, some of the sailors insisted it was over 5, and the head of the State comission approved the testing.

Now it was not the various members of the commission, but five select sailors that did the shooting. They had a technical education, comprehended everything instantly, and only at first groaned meaningfully when they first put on the sling with the hefty launcher. Later on, after the stormy day when each of them fired practically a case of ammo from a bouncing deck and comission members asked them “Is it too heavy?” – they replied: “It’s all right!”

In a break in the shooting the Leningraders lowered some device overboard from a rope on one side of the ship, then began throwing explosives overboard from the other side. Eventually the rope got tangled in our propeller and the engine died. The waves tossed us so hard that unattached items in deep boxes on the upper shelves in the mess room started getting thrown out, like rocks out of a sling. The Captain’s mate – a senior ensign – appeared on the deck in a rubber suit, he was given a knife to carry on his belt and another one he took on his hand. Then they lowered him off the stern and into the water, where he began cutting the Leningraders’ rope. It took a lot of time, but eventually they raised him back up, spun up the engine, turned the ship into the waves and the shooting commenced anew.

Tactics of “Nepryadva” use suggested that, during an attack from the direction of open sea, one of the barrels would be loaded with a flare to mark the target location on the featureless water surface. After target information and fire orders were received, the signal round would be fired, and the burning red signal fair would rise to the surface. HE grenades would be fired at the flare with a few flares mixed in. The flares boiled excellently, even as they danced madly on the storm waves.

The testing was unrealistically cinematic. Big white-crested waves, “holes” between them into which our flat-bottomed boat “fell”, five sailors pressed to the railings and staircases with grenade launchers on slings – and above, on the bridge, the State Commission, struggling to look brave but clearly quite pale – and the Tula grenade launcher maker, Cherkzhanov, running into the belly of the ship and up again with cases full of grenades and clearly enjoying this struggle with Nature.

Ten Years – And Nothing

Later on, in Tula, when we received the state testing act, complete with colored cut-offs of the grenade and launcher, we read it with great interest – especially the conclusion of the Black Sea Commander, Admiral Khronopulo, to deploy our complex – but only in June 1990 did the MoD issue order #125 to accept grenade launcher DP-64 and its armament, and consider it and its ammunition unclassified.

On 07.12.1996, “Red Star” newspaper printed an article titled “A Double-Barreled Gun For Diver-Hunters” with a table of specs for the DP-64 and its ammo. A photo depicted one of our testing samples, ruled “resource exhausted” by committee. A twin of the gun from the same testing body was sent to the first Abu-Dhabi arms expo to include Russians – and never returned to our bureau. They didn’t seem to shoot it there but at least they told about it to specialists and visitors from all over the world – otherwise there wouldn’t be a point to sending it that far.

In July 1998 the incident in Angola was 11 years old. Nepryadva passed testing 10 years ago – but still the defense against combat divers consists of hand-grenades and nets. Perhaps somewhere there are still a few ‘Duels’ – they were manufactured in very small amounts – with all their drawbacks. DP-64 is not being mass-produced – and strange seems the newspaper phrase: “the grenade launcher is being produced at the state scientific-manufacturing plant ‘Bazalt’”

And what of us, the Central Design Bureau for Sporting and Hunting Arms? We are part of the Tula Design Bureau, and the new, luxuriously printed book published for its 70th anniversary, the DP-64 has an entire page to it..

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One Response to Where does “Nepryadva” flow?

  1. Peter says:

    Since I was one of those helping to spread alarm and despondency in Angola at the time, it’s nice to read about the effectiveness of some South African operations from the other side’s perspective.

    :-)

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