Development of the AGS-17 (Avtomatischeskyi Granatmyot Stankovyi - Automatic Grenade launcher) was inspired by the Soviet-Chinese border clashes of late 1960s, as well as initial experience with several U.S. automatic grenade launchers. Based on information gained from North Vietnamese troops who were often on receiving end of these formidable weapons, the automatic grenade launcher was one of the most effective infantry support weapons to be used against typical Chinese and North Vietnamese Army "human wave" attacks.

This lightweight weapon provided infantry with close to medium range fire support against enemy personnel and un-armored targets such as trucks, motor vehicles and other such equipment.

The manufacture of this weapon started in the USSR during 1967 by the OKB-16 design bureau (now known as KBP - Instrument Design Bureau) located in Tula. First prototypes entered trials in 1969 and mass production of the AGS-17 commenced in 1971. A special version of the AGS-17 was also developed for installation onto the Mi-24 D "Hind" gunship helicopters.

Although never used against Chinese Forces, AGS-17 was widely used by Soviet troops in Afghanistan as a ground support weapon or as a vehicle weapon on improvised mounts installed on armored personnel carriers and trucks. It is still in use with Russian army as a direct fire support weapon for infantry troops and has been installed in several vehicle mounts and turrets along with machine guns, guided rocket launchers and sighting equipment.

A special airborne version AG-17A was installed in the door mounts of several Mi-8 Hip combat transport helicopters, as well as on gun pods on later model Mi-24 D Hind gunships and is operated by an electric remotely controlled trigger. The AGS-17 is now manufactured in Russia by the Molot Engineering Plant JSC, in China by state factories as well as in Serbia (the former Yugoslavia).

AGS-17 is a light grenade launcher with a smaller muzzle velocity and slightly shorter range than its U.S. counterpart. In the ready to fire position, the AGS-17 is almost two times lighter than American Mk.19 mod.3 Grenade Launcher and can therefore be easily moved and maneuvered across the battlefield by the crew of only two men.

The selection of available ammunition is also much less versatile as the only mass-made 30mm rounds for the AGS-17 are VOG-17 and the improved VOG-30, fragmentation antipersonnel grenades. These projectiles have a lethal damage /kill zone radius of about 7 to 9 meters.

The AGS-17 is an air-cooled, belt fed, blowback operated grenade machine gun/launcher that fires from the open bolt position and uses non-disintegrating steel belts with open pockets. When the bolt closes, a fresh round is pushed forward into the barrel from its loading position while the empty cartridge cases are ejected from the bottom. The AGS-17 is fed from special belt drums that hold 29 linked rounds. A loaded belt drum weights about 14kg (31 lbs). To reduce rate of fire and decrease dispersion, the bolt of AGS-17 is fitted with hydraulic recoil buffer.

In its infantry applications, the gun is controlled by two horizontal spade grips with the trigger between them. A T-shaped charging handle is located at the rear of the receiver and is linked to the bolt by the steel cable and special carrier handle that does not move when gun is fired. The standard sight is a 2.7 x magnification PAG-17 optical sight equipped with a range-finding reticule. The top cover of each gun has a ballistic table for both direct and indirect fire.

Standard tripod mount is the 6T8 that has adjustable height and traverse and elevation mechanisms, including fine adjustment elements. The tripod can be folded and carried as a backpack using supplied slings.

For transportation, the AGS-17 is carried in a special backpack that allows the complete weapon to be transported on foot by the crew of two men. The fully assembled weapon can also be carried through the battlefield for shorter ranges.

Caliber: 30x29B

Type: Blowback Operated, Belt Fed Automatic Grenade Launcher

Overall Length: 840 mm

Weight: 18 kg gun plus 12 kg tripod 6T8

Effective Range: up to 800 m point targets; 1700 m maximum range

Rate of Fire: 350-400 rounds per minute

This particular AGS-17 Grenade launcher was one of a number of systems captured in Southern Angola by South African Forces and the were the first systems ever to be seen and evaluated in the Western World.