The New Carl-Gustaf M4: Lighter–Better–Smarter
ABOVE: Combat proven. More than 40 nations have Carl-Gustaf in their armed forces inventory. U.S. Special Forces soldiers fires a Carl- Gustaf grenade during a training exercise conducted in Basrah, Iraq. (Photo: William Hatton/U.S. Army/U.S. MoD)
US Army light infantry units are to be equipped with the Saab 84 mm Carl-Gustaf M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS) as a standard issue tactical support weapon. Originally, issue of the M3 in US service was restricted to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM); beginning with the Army Rangers in 1989, the US Navy SEALS in 1997 and later the rest of the US Special Operations Forces.
The M3 is now officially an organic weapon system within each army combat platoon and will initially be fielded within selected Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), which will now train, maintain and sustain the M3 as part of the IBCT organizational structure. Going forward, all brigade combat teams will receive 27 Carl-Gustaf launchers, about one per platoon. Select army active duty and National Guard components have already begun receiving the M3 MAAWS. PM CSW is also conducting an FCT on the lighter weight Carl-Gustaf M3E1 for SOCOM and the US Army. (Carl-Gustaf M3E1 is the US designation for the CG4-version.)
A Man-Portable Infantry Artillery Weapon
The Carl-Gustaf system is a true multi-role, man-portable, shoulder-fired weapon. A weapon’s multi-role capacity can mean the difference between combat success and failure. The system offers the soldier various types of ammunition, ranging from armor penetration and anti-personnel, area defense munition for short range combat, to ammunition for built-up areas like High Explosive Dual Purpose against light-armored vehicles, concrete and brick walls, field fortifications and bunkers as well as special ammunition like smoke and illumination. Saab’s new Carl-Gustaf M4 is a man-portable, multi-role weapon system that provides high tactical flexibility through its wide range of ammunition types. Built for 21st-century warfare, the Carl-Gustaf M4 launcher is lighter and shorter than previous models.
“A Dear Child Has Many Names”
The first prototype of the Carl-Gustaf was produced in 1946. The Carl-Gustaf (also known as Gustaf Bazooka and M2CG) was an 84-mm man-portable, reusable anti-tank recoilless rifle. The weapon was first introduced into Swedish service in 1948 as the 8.4 cm Granatgevär m/48 (Grg m/48), also filling the role as an anti-tank weapon. The Carl-Gustaf “artillery” system is also known as a multi-purpose, shoulder-fired recoilless weapon or “84 mm Carl-Gustaf Recoilless Rifle.” An improved version designated the Carl-Gustaf M2 was introduced in 1964 and quickly replaced the original version . The current M3 version was introduced in 1991, using a thin steel liner containing the rifling, strengthened by a carbon fiber outer sleeve. External steel parts were replaced with aluminum alloys or plastics, reducing the empty weapon weight considerably to 10 kilo compared to the M1’s weight of 14 kilo, although the M3 still is perceived as quite heavy by many users. It is today more accurate to refer to Carl-Gustaf as a shoulder-launched multi-role weapon.
Carl-Gustaf M3 Multi-Role Weapon System
Carl-Gustaf M3 is now used by more than 40 countries, across every continent. Its users cite its continuous evolution as one of the prime reasons it has remained so innovative and effective to this day. Several versions of the Carl-Gustaf are produced outside Sweden; however, as described before, the ammunition is interchangeable among the variants. The current M3 version has a thin steel liner containing the rifling, strengthened by a carbon fiber outer sleeve. External steel parts were replaced with aluminum alloys or plastics, reducing the empty weapon weight considerably. The gun is breech-loaded and can be fired from the standing, kneeling, sitting or prone positions. A built-in detachable bipod helps the shooter raise the weapon off the ground while shooting from the prone position. The propellant gas escapes through the rear of the weapon, which equalizes the force of recoil. Normally, the weapon is operated by a two man team, the gunner firing the weapon and the assistant gunner carrying ammo and handling reloads, but it can be used solo by the gunner if needed. The blast radius stemming from a High Explosive round is anywhere from 50 to 75 meters. After firing, the assistant gunner reloads it, and it can be fired again. Each round of ammunition weighs less than 4.5 kg. The user can usually load and fire four rounds within one minute.
The weapon has been used in a variety of roles. The Carl-Gustaf has, for example, been used in the Falklands War. The M3 was the first version the Americans fielded for use by US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) elements—including US Army Rangers in 1989 and Navy SEALs in 1997—as a replacement for the aging M67 series of 90 mm recoilless rifle or as a battlefield substitute for the Javelin anti-tank missile. The British Special Air Service (SAS), United States Army Special Forces and United States Army Rangers have used M3s in anti-vehicle roles and bunker-busting against Taliban defensive fortifications in operations in Afghanistan where the M3 proved vital for mounting counter offensives. It has also been used in some other fighting scenarios elsewhere in the world. In November 2011, the US Army began ordering the M3 for regular units deployed in Afghanistan. And the Carl-Gustaf M3 allows airburst capability of troops in defilade out to 1,250 meters and high explosive use out to 1,300 meters. Designated by the US as the M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Tank Weapon System (MAAWS), the weapon was subsequently adopted to meet the needs of a broader slice of US Army infantry units in 2011 and 2012. US Army sources credit the M3 MAAWS with an ability to engage lightly armored targets at ranges up to 700 meters and softer targets at up to 1,000 meters, with the possibility of reaching some target types at extreme ranges out to 1,700 meters when using a fire control system. While the weapon can be operated by one person it is better to have two—one to fire the gun and the other, the gunner assistant, to carry and load the ammunition. In addition to its antitank role, the weapon can be used as part of an illumination plan, to provide smoke or for bunker busting.
Saab’s model designation for the newest is Carl-Gustaf M4. In September 2015, during DSEI in London, Saab announced the first customer of the new Carl-Gustaf M4 will be the armed forces of the Slovak Republic which was a great milestone for Saab and the product family. In addition, Saab also announced that the system has been acquired by two other undisclosed countries for evaluation/qualification purposes.
The M4 model, which is an upgraded version of Saab’s combat-proven Carl-Gustaf M3, is designed to provide users with flexible capability and agility in any scenario. It is lighter and has a shorter design than its predecessor. The shorter length was in response to the need to wield the weapon in urban terrain; weight savings were achieved through using lighter components whenever possible by switching the steel components to titanium and improving the carbon fiber wrapping as well as a new bold design. Its operational flexibility and high accuracy offer a truly powerful combination, and the recoil force is as close to recoilless as one can get a weapon. Weighing less than 7 kg, the Carl-Gustaf M4 looks familiar to anyone acquainted with the earlier versions and is claimed to be the logical next step for users who already have experience with the Carl-Gustaf M3 system.
The Carl-Gustaf M4 has characteristics that are much appreciated, believes Saab. A feature that is introduced on the new one is an automatic rounds counter. One can keep track of how many rounds are fired to manage the weapon’s rifled launcher tube’s life which is relevant with the technical lifetime of the system. Saab guarantees that the weapon will stand up to 1,000 firings. Earlier experience shows that it can be hard for the user to keep track at all times of how many shots the weapon has fired. It has happened that weapons are set aside or taken out of service while the number of rounds fired has been no more than 6-700, which is way before the guaranteed capacity of the weapon has been used to the full. Particularly in connection with international operations, many operating units lacked insight into the remaining capacity of their Carl-Gustafs and chose to set aside fully usable weapons. That is not a rational way to handle a versatile and valuable weapon system. Now, the M4 also has a new firing system with an improved safety system with an improved safety handle and a travelling safety lock which makes it possible for the soldier to move with the weapon loaded with a grenade. That allows the gunner to have a higher readiness to fire a round much faster and not wait for the assistant gunner to load the tube since the weapon already is armed.
The engineers at Saab have put much thought on ergonomics in order to make it a better weapon to operate for the soldier. Among other things the weapon has better adjustment possibilities for the shoulder rest and forward hand grip so that it easily can be accommodated all from the shortest to the tallest soldier and thereby able to place himself into a good firing position. All Carl-Gustaf versions have open aiming sights icons. The weapon has a flip out fore-sight and a rear sight with four different range scales on. Both front and rear sights are fitted with illuminated dots for night operation. There is a new remote control for an advanced sight unit that is linked with the use of munitions that are programmable, which increases hit probability and hence impacts effect. With the remote control, the gunner controls the sight’s functions without taking his eyes off the ocular and thus maintains control on the target. The advanced sight has an interface box which connects the loaded grenade via a contact in the breech. The advanced sight (nicknamed “Intelligent”) automatically knows what ammunition is loaded and also senses the propellant temperature automatically. The idea behind the state-of-art system was to have a method that reduces the weapon system’s weight if one looks at the amount of ammunition needed for neutralizing a target.
The Carl-Gustaf weapon is a one-man gunner weapon with an assistant gunner. A gunner can, thanks to the advanced sight, increase the hitting probability with the first shot. Thus the gunner and assistant gunner do not need to carry as much ammunition as before, and it also leads to lessen the burden the squad has to carry. Above all, it’s about increasing the weapon system’s firing effect and hitting probability with the ammunition they have. But there is still the ability to fire with the traditional telescopic sight like the one used on the M3, and it’s also possible to fire with the old ammunition with the new weapon; but the difference in this case is a lighter launch tube. Regarding the new ammunition with programmable fuze, it is inter alia possible as mentioned above, that the sight gets the information about the ammunition so that the correct ballistics are used for collimating the sight properly. A gunpowder temperature deviation of standard is also an important factor—the sight computes a correction and the position of the reticular (aiming red dot) seen in the ocular. The advanced sight also takes into account other influences such as air pressure and air temperature. It means that the weapon system gets a better ballistics base for calculation and thus increased precision results. A new high explosive grenade, the first version of the high explosive grenade or the first application of what will now be for the expendable system AT4 84 mm, was developed for use in Europe (more on that grenade later), but as mentioned before, in the same way one can fire all old ammunition or older types of ammunition in the new Carl-Gustaf launcher system, one can likewise shoot the new ammunition in older Carl-Gustaf systems. The central point is that it should be fully usable on all sides to fit as many customers as possible.
There is more to mention on the new weapon. When it comes to ergonomics, the M4 has a bigger carrying handle with space for finding the right grip. With the lengthened handle, the soldier can easily hold the weapon when he walks with the weapon loaded. That’s new. Different munitions have different point of gravity, and the soldier can easily move his hand on the handle to find the balance of the loaded weapon. There are many small details that should make the users quite happy when it comes to the M4 version. If the gunner uses the standard telescope sight, or a reflex sight is chosen as a standard sight, the range must be determined and set in some way. However, there are a number of sights that are qualified for the M4 family including the advanced sight from Aimpoint. But Saab has also looked at options for customers’ needs and can offer some sights that fit well. The weapon has a Picatinny rail (MIL-STD-1913) a laser rangefinder can be mounted. Why is the Aimpoint’s advanced sight really an “intelligent sight?” The idea behind this sight, although the sight unit is “intelligent” or advanced in terms of its inside content, is that from the gunner’s perspective, it shall be easy or easier to use. The sight has an integrated built in rangefinder, and it is used as follows: Aim at the target, measure the distance; aim the red dot on the middle of the target and fire. Both range and chosen ammunition type is visible indicated in the ocular. Used on the M4, the sight automatically knows what ammunition is loaded and also senses the propellant temperature automatically (no need as with the telescopic sight to insert the distance manually and then select the appropriate ballistics and calculate corrections as needed when used on M3). The advanced sight makes the work easier (what’s to be done sits inside the capsule of the sight). It was and is an important criteria for Saab’s policy on this particular weapon: Make it simpler and enable the gunner to hit with the first round fired.
There is a large portfolio for the Carl-Gustaf M4 with different tactical ammunition to choose between, above all anti-armor ammunition. There are a number of types which are used to combat fighting vehicles and the sides of a tank such as the (4 kg) HEAT 751 (High Explosive Anti-Tank) with a tandem warhead that produces a penetrating force exceeding 500 mm after having detonated the Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) to get through the reactive plates protection. This is more than enough to defeat any existing tank’s side even when equipped with add-on ERA. The effect from the shaped charge does the devastating job inside the vehicle. The HEAT 551 has a single HEAT warhead, and an evolved variant, designated 551C RS (Reduced Sensibility), has a less sensitive explosive charge which makes it reliable, flexible and efficient. It knocks out almost any armored vehicles as well as being effective against other hard targets such as concrete bunkers and buildings. All three are rocket-propelled for an increased range out to 600 m or more, with rocket-boosted ammunition. The HEAT 655 CS (Confined Space) is the first Carl-Gustaf ammunition that is fully optimized for launch from confined spaces, i.e. from inside a building. It is used against armored targets mainly during urban scenarios. In the borderline comes the multi-role/anti-structure ammunition. For rapid response forces that must have the ability to combat many types of threats, the (3.3 kg) HEDP 502 (High Explosive Dual Purpose) is effective against light-armored vehicles, concrete and brick walls, field fortifications and bunkers. The gunner or gunner assistant can choose either to set it for IP (impact-point detonating) for shaped charge impact effects inside the vehicle or turning the fuze 180o to delay mode to fight a combat vehicle with a delayed detonation effect inside the vehicle; for example, a wall where the detonation makes a destructive effect behind the wall.
Furthermore, there is ammunition called anti-structure ammunition MT 756 for the Carl-Gustaf. This is a multi-target grenade designed for combat in built-up areas and for incapacitating an enemy undercover inside a building or some type of fortification. The gunner does not need to fire the round through a window or a door. The MT 756 has tandem warheads. The first warhead in full caliber breaks a hole in a wall to get the second charge through. It also has a certain shaped charge effect with effect against lighter armored combat vehicles. The anti-structure ASM 509 round fired through a window or a door has a greater pressure effect inside a building. If, for example, the intended effect is to tear down a smaller building, the difference between these two grenades is that if one has go into the building afterward, one must choose the MT 756. A round fired with the ASM 509 gives a risk that the explosion has damaged the structure of the building. Then soldiers going into the building afterward would be at risk. For combating troops in the open, behind cover or in slit trenches as well as unarmored vehicles and similar types of targets, the 84 mm HE 441D (High Explosive) can be set for impact or air burst detonation. It has a range of approximately 1,200–1,300 m depending on whether it’s fired with impact mode (“point detonating”) or the fuze is set for air burst. The fuze setting is made manually.
As mentioned earlier, Saab is developing the next generation HE-grenade for an 84 mm tube (the expendable AT4). On this new HE-grenade with the AT 4 or the Carl-Gustaf M4 the fuze is set automatically by the advanced sight when the gunner aims at the target and uses the laser for range finding or puts the range data manually into the sight. The grenade will then get a computed ballistic flight with time setting for detonation effect at right range and at right height. The new grenade has a much more effective warhead than the old one. Sweden has a policy according to the shooting rules for the Carl-Gustaf M3 that in order to neutralize a target effectively, the target normally must be shot at with three grenades. With the new HE- grenade it will do it with one or two rounds. This also results in a weight reduction for squads carrying ammunition to execute a combat task. All this, to put it this way, is about reducing weight. In the ammunition range there is also an area defense munition for short-range combat; for example, in urban warfare or in tight conditions of a jungle, the ADM 401 contains 1,100 flechettes (small-pointed steel projectiles). For instant smoke the grenade 469C instantly develops an effective smoke cloud for screening, blinding and spotting targets. An 84 mm ILLUM round enables fighting units to supply their own battlefield illumination. The 84 mm ILLUM 545C round will rapidly illuminate target areas, making it easier for ground forces to complete their mission. Lastly, there are full-caliber practice rounds, sub-caliber trainers and simulators available to meet different training objectives such as gunnery training and combat training, including participating in force-on-force exercises.
The advanced Aimpoint FCS12 is a sight and fire control system for use with multiple weapon platforms like the 84 mm Carl-Gustaf weapon system, the AT4 84 mm disposable single-soldier-operated support weapon, the Panzerfaust infantry handheld anti-tank weapon and automatic grenade launchers. The FCS12 system comprises an eye-safe 1,550 nm laser range finder, a ballistic computer with the capability to store up to 50 different ballistic algorithms and a parallax free optical channel with unlimited eye relief. Terrain angle compensation is measured by an integrated inclinometer. The FCS12 automatically compensates for the ballistic drop of projectiles at measured distances, factoring in variables such as rotational (spin) drift, propellant temperature and terrain angle. The design is small and rugged. The rear of the sight has an interface with push buttons for settings. FCS12 has compatibility with all generations of night vision devices. Its power supply consists of quick-change battery power packs containing six standard AA batteries (Alkaline or Lithium). The battery pack will last for 6 months operation for more than 200 combat sequences. FCS12 implies a dramatic increase in hit probability and reduces time used for engagement, which in turn raises the overall effectiveness of the weapon system considerably. Despite the advanced technology and inside 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. As mentioned earlier, the FCS12 automatically compensates for the ballistic drop of projectiles at measured distances, factoring in variables such as rotational (spin) drift, propellant temperature and terrain angle. When the distance is measured, the ballistic is calculated and compensated immediately. The aiming red dot reticule changes position in the optical channel electronically, and no motors or sensitive moving parts are used within the system. If ammunition type is changed, the ballistic algorithm is entered and utilized automatically, so no new measuring of the distance is required. The FCS system comes with a remote grip interface which communicates with the sight via a wireless link. The remote grip interface is designed to control the most important functions for operating the system during engagement, allowing the operator to utilize and adjust the system without changing position or losing sight of the target. A short list of up to five different ballistic algorithms (types of ammunition) can be chosen directly from the remote grip interface. The system’s solid-state design ensures reliable operation and sustainability under actual field conditions.
The lineage of the Carl-Gustaf weapon system begins nearly 70 years ago with the introduction of the original “M1” version into the Swedish Army in 1948. The Carl-Gustaf was soon sold around the world and became one of the primary infantry squad-level anti-tank weapons for many West European armies. The new Carl-Gustaf M4 is a man-portable multi-role weapon system that provides high tactical flexibility through its wide range of ammunition types. Built on almost 70 years’ experience, Saab’s thinking edge has been to make the weapon system better, smarter and lighter. The M4 offers enhanced agility and tactical flexibility allowing military forces to engage multiple tactical targets. The weapon system features improved ergonomics and is equipped with an adjustable shoulder rest and front grip. It is also fitted with an integrated shot counter for enhanced logistics and maintenance and is provided with dual-mode safety features. A crew of two including a gunner and an assistant gunner can operate the system. The Carl-Gustaf M4 system is attached with standard clip-on telescopic sight and open sight front and rear sight. On a Picatinny rail the users can install thermal sights or image intensifiers for combat during the night. Additional sighting systems, including red dot and intelligent sights, can be optionally mounted based on specific needs of the customer. The Aimpoint FCS12 is the optimal sight for the M4 and gives the gunner the ability to hit the bullseye with the first round. The Carl-Gustaf M4 is flexible with a wide range of existing and future ammunition types including anti-armor, anti-structure, multi-role, anti-personnel and support rounds such as smoke and illumination to allow soldiers to rapidly respond to a wide range of ground threats in all environments. The M4 is also compatible with programmable ammunition to provide dismounted soldiers with advanced capability.
“Intelligent” sight—Compatible with intelligent Sight systems, ensuring maximum effect in any tactical situation. Lighter—Builds upon the success of its predecessor by offering an even shorter length and a weight of less than seven kilos. Round counter—Integrated shot counter for Improved logistics and maintenance .Improved ergonomics—Overall improved ergonomics enables soldiers to adjust the weapon to suit them. Includes an adjustable shoulder rest and front grip Reduced action time—Can be carried safely loaded to enable the gunner to act faster.
Carl-Gustaf M4 Facts—(comparison with previous models)
M2 Weight: 14.2 kg, Length: 1,130 mm
M3 Weight: 10 kg, Length: 1065 mm
M4 Weight: 7 kg, Length: 1,000 mm