The QLZ87 (also known as Type 87) is the 35mm automatic grenade launcher developed by NORINCO in the late 1980s. Designed to provide direct fire support for infantry troops, the Type 87 is the first grenade launcher that has entered service with the PLA as a standard weapon equipment. The weapon was described as “mini infantry artillery” and has been serving with the PLA infantry (including airborne forces and the Marine Corps) at platoon and company level since the mid-1990s.
ProgrammeEditThe PLA began to study the use of grenade launcher in its infantry units in the 1970s. Reverse-engineering of the U.S. M-79 40mm grenade launcher and the Soviet AGS-17 35mm automatic grenade launcher was carried out in the late 1970s, but these weapons did not enter service. In the mid-1980s, NORINCO introduced the W87 35mm automatic grenade launcher for export market, and the weapon was widely seen as an indication of success in the Chinese indigenous grenade launcher programme. By the late 1980s, NORINCO introduced new improved version of the W87 for the use of the PLA. The weapon entered service with the PLA in the mid-1990s under the designation QLZ87.
The QLZ87 is available in two variants: the standard variant and the tripod-mounted heavy variant. The standard variant with a combat weight of 12 kg can be carried and fired by a single soldier and is mainly for the engaging targets within 600m distance. The heavy variant with a combat weight of 20 kg is carried by a crew of three and has a longer range (>1,750m). The weapon delivers 25 kg HE or HEAT grenades in either single or burst mode, with a sustained rate of fire of 45rds/min.
Compared to the U.S. MK19-3 40mm automatic grenade launcher, the QLZ87 is inferior in range, muzzle velocity, and rate of fire. However, the Chinese 35mm grenade, though lighter than the MK19-3’s 40mm grenade, has better performance in blasting radius (MK19-3: 7m; Type 87: 11m) and armour penetration (MK19-3: 51mm; Type 87: 80mm). Unlike the MK19-3, which can only be fired on tripod, the Type 87 can be carried and fired by a single soldier.
The QLZ87 is a manportable, gas-operated, air-cooled, fully automatic weapon. It fires 35mm HE and HEAT grenades in either single or burst mode. The grenades are fed to the weapon using 6-round (standard variant) or 15-round (heavy variant) cartridge drum. The weapon is equipped with an optical aiming sight. The standard and heavy variants are almost identical in basic designs. The standard variant has a foldable bipod for shooting, while the heavy variant is mounted on a tripod. If necessary, the weapon can also be mounted on vehicles or helicopters. As well as engaging ground targets, the weapon is claimed to be also capable of attacking low-flying airborne targets
- Calibre: 35mm
- Muzzle velocity: 200 m/s
- Firing mode: Single, burst
- Max range: (standard) 600m; (heavy) 1,750m
- Weight: (standard, with scope) 12 kg; (heavy, with scope) 20 kg
- Elevation: (heavy, mounted on tripod) -10~70 degrees
- Traverse: 360 degrees
- Rate of fire: (sustained) 45 rds/min
- Grenade weight: 250g
- Ammunition: HE, HEAT