Saab to Supply Carl-Gustaf 84mm Recoilless Rifle System to the U.S. Army

Saab to Supply Carl-Gustaf 84mm Recoilless Rifle System to the U.S. Army

Saab has been awarded a contract for the supply of additional Carl-Gustaf portable weapon systems and ammunition to the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).  The new deal is worth $25.8m and follows the previous $31.5m one secured by the company in December 2011 for the delivery of 126 systems to the command for use in Afghanistan.  Saab North America President Dan-Åke Enstedt said: “Having this system in service and combat proven with U.S. Special Operations forces is yet another stamp of approval and proof of the continued confidence that the U.S. Special Operations command customer has in our company and our products.”  The number of units ordered has not been disclosed by the company, and the deliveries are scheduled to take place in July 2013.

Today’s ground forces are preparing for tomorrow’s demanding missions in which combat strategies and tactics must be seamlessly implemented – from open to urban terrain and through a three-block war scenario.  Saab has extensive experience in supporting ground forces with solutions designed to meet the need for enhanced operational capabilities at a higher level of effectiveness.  A weapon’s multi-role capacity can mean the difference between combat success and failure. In 1978 during a patrol mission in a valley in Lebanon, Norwegian soldiers were attacked vigorously by armed elements from a northern site area.  They answered the fire with their rifles but the attack was intense and they had to end the skirmish using their Carl-Gustaf 84mm recoilless gun.  The highly versatile Carl-Gustaf system is a true multi-role, man-portable shoulder-fired weapon.  The system offers the soldier various types of ammunition, ranging from armour penetration and anti-personnel, to ammunition for built-up areas as well as special features like smoke and illumination.  The M3 version of the launcher features significant weight reduction and improvements for urban operations.  In Afghanistan it is used with effective fire into caves and other covered positions.

Extremely High Versatility
Several different types of ammunition allow soldiers to rapidly respond to a wide range of ground threats in all environments.  The Carl-Gustaf system is designed and suitable for a wide range of missions.  It is light and ruggedized and its multi-purpose capability provides freedom of action for the commander in all environments.  There is a suitable type of ammunition for any kind of advanced operation, making the Carl-Gustaf the true multi-mission system.  Saab received a contract from the U.S. Army and the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) for the delivery of 126 Carl-Gustaf man-portable weapon systems.  The combined $31.5m contract is the first from the Army and follows the Urgent Needs Statement (UNS) to support the 3/10 Brigade Combat Team (BCT) and the 82nd Airborne Division, currently deployed in Afghanistan.  Under the contract, Saab will supply 84mm recoilless rifles to help troops in effectively engaging enemy RPGs and machine gun team attacks at ranges of 900 m or beyond.  The existing weaponry, including the M141 Bunker Defeat munitions, M72 light anti-tank weapon (LAW), M136 AT-4 and the shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon (SMAW) are only effective at a range of 500 m.  The system can be used as a viable anti-armour weapon against larger stationary targets at a range of 700 m, but the relatively low speed of the projectile restricts attacks on moving targets up to 400 m or less.

Aimpoint AB, the innovator and world leader in electronic red-dot sighting technology presented at DSEi a Fire Control System for handheld and crew-served weapons. The presentation of the Aimpoint FCS12 follows after a period of intense product development and initial deliveries on a contract for the Swedish Defense Forces. Record: The Aimpoint FCS12 is a unique product on the market and development has forced Aimpoint to take a huge step in research and development in order to meet customer requirements. FCS12 implies a dramatic increase in hit probability, and reduces time used for engagement, which in turn raise the overall effectiveness of the weapon system considerably. The Aimpoint FCS12 comprises a sight module with a Laser Range Finder, a ballistic computer and a state-of-the-art heads-up display as well as a wireless remote control. Despite the advanced technology and complexity of the product, operation in a combat situation is extremely user friendly and intuitive. In most cases, the operator only needs to push one button before pulling the trigger of the weapon. (Aimpoint AB)

The Carl-Gustaf is an 84mm reusable, shoulder-fired multi-role recoilless rifle that is normally operated by a two-man crew in armour-piercing to anti-personnel operations using high explosive (HE) as well as smoke and illumination rounds.  The weapon consists of a main tube with a breech-mounted Venturi recoil damper, a shoulder mount and iron sights with the attached 3x optical sight offering a 300 mrad field of view.  The iron sights are also equipped with luminous front and rear sight inserts along with an image intensification system for aiming during night or in low visibility conditions.

The Carl-Gustaf can be fired from standing, kneeling, sitting or prone positions with a bipod attached in front of the shoulder piece and a Venturi lock to move the hinged breech for reloading.  Currently, more than 40 countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, India, UK, Sweden, Germany and Malaysia have acquired the weapon.

The M3 Carl-Gustaf 84mm recoilless rifle has long been a favorite of Special Operations Forces for its ability to destroy enemy targets out to 1,000 meters.  The Army fielded 58 M3s and 1,500 rounds of ammunition to units in Afghanistan late last year after commanders complained that their disposable AT4s were ineffective at engaging the enemy at long ranges.  It’s still unclear how many M3s and ammo the $31 million will buy.  The M3 has enjoyed success with units such as the 25th Infantry, 10th Mountain and 82nd Airborne divisions in Afghanistan.  The launcher weighs approximately 22 pounds with each round of ammunition weighing just less than 10 pounds.  There is an effort to lighten the load of the rifle by five to six pounds, Army officials say.  By comparison, the AT4 weighs about 15 pounds and the Javelin’s launcher with missile and reusable command launch unit weigh roughly 50 pounds.

If the ubiquitous Russian RPG family is removed from the picture, Sweden’s Saab Bofors Dynamics has earned a strong niche, with 2 of the most popular shoulder-fired rocket systems in the world.  Its 84mm offerings include the Carl-Gustaf/Gustaf, whose core design dates back to 1946 and whose most recent M3 version dates to 1991.  The less-expensive AT-4/M136 is also 84mm, but swaps the rifled metal/carbon fiber launch tube for cheaper reinforced fiberglass, among other changes.  Both systems offer a variety of rocket types, but the Carl-Gustaf M3’s Area Defence Munition (ADM) flechette rounds are a uniquely useful capability in infantry fights.  The U.S. military has used both weapons for some time, but until now, the Carl-Gustaf M3 Ranger Antitank Weapons System had been fielded exclusively by U.S. Special Operations units, while the M136 Lightweight Multipurpose Weapon was fielded to both U.S. SOCOM and regular U.S. Army units.

Block Buster. (Saab AB)

Multi-Role Anti-Armour/Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS)
The MAAWS, previously known as the Ranger Anti-Armour/Anti-Personnel Weapon System (RAAWS), and also known as the M3 MAAWS, is shoulder-fired, air jumpable, and swimmable 84mm recoilless rifle system.  The system is a non-developmental item consisting of the Carl-Gustaf M3 reusable recoilless rifle/launcher compatible with standard optical devices and other accessories.  The weapon weighs approximately 25 pounds and is 42 inches in length.  The system can utilize a wide variety of ammunition types including: high explosive anti-tank (HEAT), high explosive dual purpose (HEDP), high explosive (HE), smoke, and illumination rounds.  Full and subcaliber training systems are also available.  The Carl-Gustaf M3 recoilless rifle and the supporting family of ammunition were manufactured by SAAB Defense and Security.  The MAAWS is a primary anti-armour and anti-personnel weapon for U.S. Army Special Operations Command and U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command users within the U.S. Special Operations Command.  The primary mission is to defeat lightly armoured vehicles, soft skinned vehicles, personnel in the open or defilade, and field fortifications.  Secondary missions include marking threat targets with smoke for supporting weapons, obscuring threat weapons and illuminating threat targets.  It is employed by Army Rangers and Navy SEALS during special operations missions, infiltration, exfiltration, raids, ambushes and defensive operations.

The Special Operations Forces Modernization Action Plan indicated need for a Ranger Anti-Armour/Anti-Personnel Weapon System (RAAWS) to replace the M67 recoilless rifle in use by the 75th Ranger Regiment.  A market survey conducted by Headquarters, Department of the Army in 1987 indicated that the 84mm Carl-Gustaf M3 recoilless rifle, then manufactured by FFV Ordnance of Sweden, was the best candidate for satisfying the RAAWS requirement and the Special Operations Division was the Army Materiel Command focal point for coordinating the $20 million RAAWS acquisition program.  The Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) negotiated a loan agreement with FFV for nine M3 weapons for an Army Development and Employment Agency (ADEA) appraisal.  Army Materiel Command’s DCS for International Cooperative Programs provided International Materiel Evaluation funds used to purchase ammunition for the M3, including High Explosive Anti-Tank, High Explosive, Smoke, illumination, target practice, and 7.62mm ammunition for the subcaliber device for the Carl-Gustaf M3.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Agency concluded the ADEA appraisal satisfied the Operational Test requirements for RAAWS.  In July 1988, the Headquarters, Department of the Army issued a message that constituted a Department of the Army Requirements Document, after receipt of an Operational Need Statement from the 75th Ranger Regiment in May 1988, endorsed by the 1st Special Operations Command (SOCOM).  The M3 was selected as the RAAWS on 29 September 1988 from candidate proposals submitted in response to the market survey compiled by ARDEC.

A Swedish Carl-Gustaf team. (Saab AB)

The AT-4 weapon jump pack was to be used for the RAAWS.  Replacement parts for 50 of M3 weapons would be managed and stocked by USA SPSA in accord with an agreement between the Special Operations Division, Program Manager RAAWS, U.S. Army Special Operations Agency, Program/Budget/Resources Division, Logistics Support Branch, and Army Materiel Command ADCS for special operations forces.

On 4 August 1989, Major General Rigby sent a memorandum stating that Army Materiel Command would negotiate a contract to the point of award.  If the EUC was still required at that time and the signature authority was not provided, the program could not proceed.  On 15 August 1989, another memorandum was sent to the Program Manager, RAAWS granting the RAAWS Procurement Contracting Office a “onetime, non-precedence setting, authority to sign End User Certificates” for RAAWS on behalf of the Army.

A subsequent review of the contractor-supplied fatigue test data determined that this data did not meet U.S. Army requirements.  Therefore, it was determined that Benet Laboratories should conduct a fatigue test of 2 tubes in accordance with the International Test Operations Procedure (ITOP) 3-2-829 in order to establish an interim safe service life for the weapon.  Normal procedure for fatigue life testing required that the tubes be fired prior to laboratory hydraulic cycling in order to produce metallurgical damage, i.e., small cracks at the bore surface (heat checking) that initiate the fatigue process.  Since the manufacturer’s recommended life for the weapon was 500 rounds, it was decided that the 2 tubes selected for fatigue testing (Serial numbers 14002 and 14003) would each be fired with 500 rounds by FFV at the Hugelsta Proving Ground, Sweden, and then shipped to Benet Laboratories for hydraulic fatigue testing.  These rounds were not used in the calculation of the interim safe service life of the weapon because they were fired below the extreme service condition pressure.

The tests, conducted in 1993, indicated a high quality of materials and workmanship in the manufacturing process.  The stresses calculated by the finite element analysis were in close agreement with those measured in the composite jacket during testing.  These stresses were low compared to the normal tensile strength of the type of material tested.  The bore surfaces showed no indications of erosion after firing 500 rounds.  The interim fatigue life resulting from these tests was one-third of the lowest number of cycles or 2,360 rounds.  This was over 4 times the recommended life of 500 rounds.  However, if a fatigue life greater than 500 rounds was to be established, the tests recommended that 4 additional weapons (for total of 6) be tested to establish a full safe service life.

Complete compatibility between older versions of the launcher with new munition types and vice versa. For training activities, Carl-Gustaf offers sub-calibre trainers, full-calibre practice rounds and simulators to meet different training objectives such as gunnery training and combat training. A cost effective training solution can be tailored. (U.S. Army)

U.S. Navy SEAL interest in the system led to the program being moved to a Joint Integrated Product Team to manage all efforts.  The program name subsequently changed from the RAAWS to the Multi-Role Anti-Armour/Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS), to reflect the joint service nature of the system.  Tests and further evaluation were subsequently conducted to support Naval Special Warfare Command’s fielding of the MAAWS.

A Picatinny Fire Control Device (PFCD) was also developed for the MAAWS at the U.S. Army’s Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey for the MAAWS.  The PFCD was used as a mount for optical/night sights.  It was used to address trajectory differences between HEAT, HE, and HEDP rounds.  The PFCD contained a dual function knob that could be used to select round type and range.  The original fire control device from Bofors was a 2-cam design, which could address only the trajectories of the HEAT and HE rounds.  A second knob with a third cam was provided for the HEDP firing.  The idea of switching knobs was not favourable by the Rangers and Picatinny was tasked to design a 3-cam fire control device to replace the factory supplied unit.

The request for 126 launchers came as part of an Urgent Needs Statement from the Afghan theatre to support the efforts of the currently deployed 3/10 Brigade Combat Team and the 82nd Airborne Division, which is an on-deck unit in the OEF deployment cycle.  The UNS addresses the need to effectively engage enemy rocket propelled grenade and machine gun teams that are beyond 900 meters or fighting from hard cover.  Existing systems in the Y, S, armoury, such as the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, M72 LAW, M136 AT-4 and the SMAW, are only effective inside of 500 meters.  The Army says the Carl-Gustaf is more effective than waiting on mortars and less expensive than artillery or Javelin missiles.

The Carl-Gustaf M3 has extremely high versatility.  A weapon’s multi-role capacity can mean the difference between combat success and failure.  The highly versatile Carl-Gustaf system is a true multi-role, man-portable shoulder-fired weapon.  The system offers the soldier various types of ammunition, ranging from armour penetration and anti-personnel, to ammunition for built-up areas as well as special features like smoke and illumination.  The M3 version of the launcher features significant weight reduction and improvements for urban operations.  Several different types of ammunition allow soldiers to rapidly respond to a wide range of ground threats in all environments.  The Carl-Gustaf M3 version represents a system that has been successively modernized and adapted to meet new requirements for a multi-role, man-portable shoulder-fired weapon.  The system is in use in over 40 countries.