The Infantry Soldiers’ Multi-Purpose Shoulder-Launched Munitions
ABOVE: Firing an RPG-7—During a three-day cross training program, designated personnel from the HDF 25th Klapka György Infantry Brigade (Tata) conducted joint weapon familiarization training with the U.S. Apache Troop, 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment on the Szomód firing range in Hungary.
Many of today’s “shoulder-launched munitions” are capable of taking out armored Infantry Fighting Vehicles, even MBTs, having a breakthrough effect on building structures and covered targets and acting as an Area Denial weapon. These types of weapons are used with day/night optics as well as a fire control system. Even on the lightest disposal weapons there are reflex sights, laser range finders and fire control available. Independent of that, there are two categories: Reusable launchers and Disposal launchers.
The reusable RPG-7, loaded from the muzzle, is one of the world’s most widely used weapons of its kind to date. The RPG-7 was introduced into the Soviet Armed Forces in 1961. The “Ruthnoy Protivotankovy Granatomyot” (RPG stands for hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher) has undergone numerous modifications since then. The Russian Armed Forces operate the variants RPG-7V2, besides ammunition (PG-7VL) and tandem hollow charge projectiles (PG-7VR), thermobaric (TBG-7V, splitter (OG-7V) and anti-structural warheads (GSh-7Vt). Of the RPG-7, there are some licensed products and modernized versions. These include a version manufactured by AirTronic USA.
Launched in 1989, the larger-caliber RPG 29 “Vampir” fires the PG-29V tandem-shaped charge warhead, which itself is capable of penetrating Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA); it’s said to have disabled combat several Merkava Mk.3 in the Second Lebanon War.
For the RPG-29 there is also the thermobaric warhead TBG-29V.
The Kornet anti-tank missiles with their lethal tandem laser-beam warheads were also penetrating the advanced armor of the Merkava Mk.4.
Panzerfaust 3 Family
Panzerfaust 3 (Pzf 3) is one of the most powerful shoulder-fired, anti-armor weapons currently available. The launcher is the only Davis Gun in full series production introduced in many armies that can truly be fired from small enclosures (Davis Gun principle: uses only a small amount of propellant together with a gel counter mass). The reusable firing device with a high resolution, high quality optical sight contributes to the excellent accuracy of the weapon system.
The Dynarange is the fire control device for the Pzf 3 family’s rounds. Using the control button on its front handle, the gunner can acquire targets with a laser range finder, measure the speed of a moving target and compensate for wind and temperature influences. The ballistic computer provides a red dot aiming mark for the gunner in the high quality, high resolution sight and greatly improves the accuracy at ranges out to 600m. The Dynarange provides the gunner with an excellent first-shot-hit probability. Night operation is achieved using an image intensifier device fitted on the sight.
Panzerfaust 3-IT (Improved Tandem) is the latest version of the famous Pzf 3 family of anti-armor shoulder-launched weapons developed for the defeat of Main Battle Tanks (MBT). Its powerful tandem-shaped charge warhead has been designed to defeat all current types of ER, including the most resistant types. The large amount of high explosives in the dual mode warhead of Pzf 3-IT has significant performance against secondary targets like field fortifications, buildings made from concrete or brick and sand bag walls. Pzf-IT is fired with the standard firing device suitable for all Pzf rounds. The weapons weight is 14.3kg with the 110mm-caliber AT Tandem (HESH—High-explosive anti-tank/High-explosive squash head) warhead. The effective range is from 15m to 400m, but with the standard firing unit and Dynarange the effective range is 600m against moving targets.
Panzerfaust 3-T (Multi-purpose Tandem Warhead) combines an innovative precursor charge in telescopic stand-off spike with the proven shaped charge of Pzf 3 for the defeat of MBDs fitted with ERA, as well as secondary targets. A special feature of the tandem-shaped charge warhead is the incorporation of the so-called not-detonating design principle: the precursor charge punches a hole through the ERA without initiating its explosive content thus avoiding dangerous ERA fragments that could be harmful to the gunner especially at short firing ranges. The dual mode warhead in combination with the firing from confined space feature of the round make Pzf 3-T ideal for urban operations. The effective range is from 11m to 400m (600m with Dynarange). The weapon’s weight is 13.3kg with 110mm AT Tandem (HESH) warhead. Panzerfaust 3 with its High Performance HEAT, multi-purpose warhead with an extendable stand-off spike provides optimum stand-off for the shaped charge to defeat heavy MBT armor. With retracted spike the warhead is highly effective against light-armored vehicles, field fortifications and all kind of masonry including reinforced concrete. This multi-purpose feature makes Pzf 3 ideal for Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) and Rural Operations.
The effective range is from 15m to 400m (600m with Dynarange), and the weapon’s weight is 12.9kg with 110mm HEAT/HESH warhead.
Bunkerfaust (BKF) this bunker burst ammunition fired with Pzf 3 is designed to enable troops to defeat targets behind cover. The tandem warhead with a penetrating charge and a follow-through grenade has a high performance against a variety of structures ranging from reinforced concrete to the armor of infantry fighting vehicles. With retracted spike, the BKF is highly effective against light-armored vehicles. The multi-purpose feature of the warhead, the effective range of 15m to 400m, as well as the fire from enclosure (FFE) capability makes BKF a powerful weapon to meet the threats in MOUT and Rural Operations.
Carl Gustaf: From Armored to Multi-Purpose
The 84mm Carl Gustaf (CG) weapon was developed in the late 1940s and is now being produced by Saab Defense. The weapon has undergone several modifications and is in use by more than 40 nations. Saab introduced the latest generation M4 in October 2014. The CGM4 weighs less than 7kg. A considerable amount of weight is saved (28%) thanks to new materials and a shorter tube that measures less than 1 meter. Other major improvements include modernized ergonomics, an integrated shot counter and faster deployment handling because the CGM4 can be transported safely while loaded. The predecessor model M3, in use in the USA as a Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System, has a weight of 10kg and a length of 1,065mm. One of the biggest M3 users is the USSOCOM (US Special Operations Command), but even there they are about to introduce the M4 with more than 1,000 pieces under the name M3E1 MAAWS (Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System). Their older M3 models are being transferred to the regular U.S. Army. Thanks to the extensive ammunition range which can be fired from the launcher, the CGM4 is suitable for nearly all target scenarios. The ranges are at just over 1,000 meters against semi-hard targets.
In addition to the famous 84mm Carl Gustaf, Saab Defense also has their AT4-CS family ready, in the 84mm caliber. CS stands for “Confined Spaces” and indicates the possibility of using the weapon from confined spaces. Its ammunition family is to be merged more closely with the CGM4. The AT4-CS weapons follow a different principle; they are pure disposable weapons. Among the AT4-CS users is the U.S. Army, who introduced this weapon as M136A1.
In December 2014, French forces ordered the supply of the “Roquette NG” weapon system from Saab and Nexter. It includes three AT4 variants: AT4-CS ER (anti-armor extended range), AT4-CS AST (anti-structure and breaching) and AT4-CS HE (high explosive anti-personnel). You can read more about the Carl Gustaf M4 online in the Small Arms Defense Journal article “The New Carl-Gustaf M4: Lighter-Better-Smarter” (www.sadefensejournal.com) and read about the 84mm AT4 in the Small Arms Defense Journal article, “The Soldier’s One-Man Low Weight, Heavy Impact Weapon–The New 84mm At4,” Vol. 9, No. 3.
The M72 LAW family is smaller in caliber, 66mm. The M72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon is also referred to as the Light Anti-Armor Weapon, or for short: LAW). American production of the weapon began in 1963 and was terminated by 1983. Currently it is produced by Nammo in Norway and their subsidiary Nammo Talley, Inc., in Arizona. The handy disposable weapon is available in many designs today, including anti-structural variants that can be fired from confined spaces/ FFE. The Nammo M72 LAW combines decades of innovation and Nammo expertise to deliver a world-leading, close-combat weapon. The system is disposable, easy to operate and extremely lightweight; it offers precision, power and capability in a single system.
M72A5 LAW is effective against armor vehicle, concrete walls and light-armored personnel carriers (APCs).
M72A6 LAW is used by the warfighter as a multi-purpose weapon and is effective against concrete walls, APCs and technical vehicles.
M72A7 is used by the warfighter as a multi-purpose weapon and is effective against concrete walls, APCs and technical vehicles.
M72A9 LAW is an Anti-Structure Munition (ASM) suitable for defeating brick, adobe, solid core and steel fire doors as well as earthen fortifications and technical vehicles. This variant offers more payload on target with optimized blast effects.
M72 ASM RC variant is an Anti-Structure Munition Reduced Caliber suitable for defeating brick, adobe, earthen fortifications and technical vehicles. The carbon fiber warhead gives low collateral damage. The dual safe fuze and on-axis trigger equip the warfighter with an improved weapon system that is both safe and effective.
M72 EC LAW is an enhanced capacity variant which may penetrate up to 450mm RHA (Rolled Homogeneous Armor). It has a dual safe fuze and on-axis trigger as on the M72 ASM RC.
M72 Training System with the 21mm subcaliber rocket gives a truly similar experience as the live round.
Status NATO qualified, combat-proven and in production NATO qualified, combat-proven and in productionUS Type Classified, combat-proven and in production Limited Release, combat-proven and in production NATO qualified, combat-proven and in production NATO qualified, combat-proven and in production.
Nammo’s Bunker Defeat Munition (BDM) M141
BDM is the first lightweight, shoulder-fired weapon system with true multi-purpose effectiveness and uses the same High Explosive Dual Purpose (HEDP) rocket as in the USMC SMAW. The HEDP rocket is packaged in a rugged, compact telescoping, disposable launcher that has all gunner controls needed to aim and fire the weapon. The BDM is highly effective against double-reinforced concrete, triple brick, solid adobe, earthen fortifications, caves and technical vehicles.
SMAW Ammunition has proven combat performance, providing accuracy and reliability to demolish bunkers, breach fortifications and defeat armored vehicles. Ammunition variants include HEDP, Novel Explosive (NE), High Explosive Anti-Armor (HEAA) and the Common Practice Round (CPR). The served, man-portable, reusable launcher weapon system is lightweight, versatile and effective.
Grenade Weapons “Shmel-M” and “Bur”
The traditional Russian arms company KBP (Instrument Design Bureau) from Tula has presented in recent years two handy disposable rocket launchers. The RPO-M PDM “Shmel-M” (bumblebee) has an improved version of the late 1980s thermobaric agent RPO-A. Caliber and weight have been lowered, increasing effectiveness allegedly up to ~518m (1,700 feet). Even more handy is the 62mm Malogabaritny Granatomyotny MGK “Bur” (compact grenade-launching system), first shown in the West at Eurosatory 2014. Grenades with thermobaric or explosive/splinter-effect cargo are available in the disposable launch tubes. The effective range is 650 meters.
Combat leadership of the future may be able to provide versatile means of action with joint tactical fire support, and there are already concepts for loiter-capable or quick-call on effectors. Nevertheless, the grip-ready, multi-purpose shoulder-launched effectors remain indispensable for dismounted fighting warriors.