The M72 LAW in extended position
|Type||Anti-tank rocket launcher|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Designer||FA Spinale, CB Weeks and PV Choate|
|Designed||Patent filed 1963|
|Manufacturer|| Norway: NAMMO (Raufoss, Norway)
USA: NAMMO Talley (Mesa, Arizona)
Turkey: under license by MKEK
|Unit cost||670 € or $1,045US (Converted)|
|Length||• 24.8 In (unarmed)
• 34.67 In (armed)
|Muzzle velocity||145 m/s|
|1960s Weapons Similar to M72|
|SARPAC top, M72 LAW middle, MINIMAN bottom|
The M72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon, also referred to as the Light Anti-Armor Weapon or LAW as well as LAWS Light Anti-Armor Weapons System) is a portable one-shot 66 mm unguided anti-tank weapon. The solid rocket propulsion unit was developed in the newly formed Rohm and Haas research laboratory at Redstone Arsenal in 1959, then the full system was designed by Paul V. Choate, Charles B. Weeks, Frank A. Spinale, et al. at the Hesse-Eastern Division of Norris Thermadore. American production of the weapon began by Hesse-Eastern in 1963, and was terminated by 1983; currently it is produced by Nammo Raufoss AS in Norway.
In early 1963, the M72 LAW was adopted by the United States Army and United States Marines as their primary individual infantry anti-tank weapon, replacing the M31 HEAT rifle grenade and the M20A1 "Super Bazooka" in the US Army. It was subsequently adopted by the United States Air Force to serve in an anti-emplacement/anti-armor role in Air Base Defense duties.
It had been intended that, in the early 1980s, the M72 would be replaced by the FGR-17 Viper; but this program was canceled by Congress and the M136 AT4 was introduced in its place. In that time period, its nearest comparison was the Swedish Pskott m/68 (Miniman) and the French SARPAC.
During World War II, the prominence of tanks and other armored vehicles on the battlefield required the creation of weapons to allow an infantryman to deal with the threat. The first weapons tried were flamethrowers, satchel charges, jury-rigged landmines, and specially designed magnetic hollow charges. However, all of these required a foot soldier to be very close, which greatly endangered him.
The U.S. Army then introduced the bazooka, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, which proved effective against enemy armor. Other nations involved in World War II soon developed similar weapon systems.
Nevertheless, the bazooka had drawbacks. Large, cumbersome and easily damaged, it required a trained two-man team to be used efficiently. Germany developed a one man alternative, the Panzerfaust. These were cheap, one-shot launchers that needed no special training; they were even issued to Volkssturm home guard regiments. The Panzerfaust was not a rocket launcher but a recoilless rifle.
The M72 LAW is a combination of the two. The basic principle is a relatively inexpensive, light weight, disposable one-shot bazooka.
The weapon consists of a rocket packed inside of a launcher made up of two tubes, one inside the other. While closed, the outer assembly acts as a watertight container for the rocket and the percussion cap-type firing mechanism that activates the rocket. The outer tube contains the trigger, the arming handle, front and rear sights, and the rear cover. The inner tube contains the channel assembly, which houses the firing pin assembly, including the detent lever. When extended, the inner tube telescopes outward toward the rear, guided by the channel assembly, which rides in an alignment slot in the outer tube's trigger housing assembly. This causes the detent lever to move under the trigger assembly in the outer tube, both locking the inner tube in the extended position and cocking the weapon. Once armed, the weapon is no longer watertight, even if the launcher is collapsed into its original configuration.
When fired, the striker in the rear tube impacts a primer, which ignites a small amount of powder that "flashes" down a tube to the rear of the rocket igniting the propellant in the rocket motor. The rocket motor burns completely before leaving the mouth of the launcher, producing gases around 1,400 °F (760 °C). The rocket propels the 66 mm warhead forward without significant recoil. As the warhead emerges from the launcher, six fins spring out from the base of the rocket tube, stabilizing the warhead's flight. The early LAW warhead, developed from the M31 HEAT rifle grenade warhead, uses a simple, but extremely safe and reliable, piezoelectric fuze system. On impact with the target, the front of the nose section is crushed causing a micro-second electric current to be generated, which detonates the warhead. The fuse then detonates a booster charge located in the base of the warhead, which sets off the main warhead charge. The force of the main charge forces the copper liner into a directional particle jet that, in relation to the size of the warhead, is capable of a massive amount of penetration.
A unique mechanical set-back safety on the base of the detonator grounds the circuit until the missile has accelerated out of the tube. The acceleration causes the three disks in the safety mechanism to rotate 90 degrees in succession, ungrounding the circuit; the circuit from the nose to the base of the detonator is then completed when the piezo-electric crystal is crushed on impact.
The M72A2 LAW was issued as a prepackaged round of ammunition. Improvements to the launcher and differences in the ammunition were differentiated by a single designation. The most common M72A2 LAWs came prepacked with a rocket containing a 66 mm HEAT warhead which is attached to the inside of the launcher by the igniter. The standard M72A2 anti-armor HEAT warhead has an official stated penetration in 1977 of up to 20 cm/8 inches of steel plate, 600mm (2 feet) of reinforced concrete, or 1.8 meters (6 feet) of soil.
A training variant of the M72 LAW, designated the M190, also exists. This weapon is reloadable and uses the 35 mm M73 training rocket. A subcaliber training device that uses a special tracer cartridge also exists for the M72. A training variant used by the Finnish armed forces fires 7.62 mm tracer rounds.
The US Army tested other 66 mm rockets based on the M54 rocket motor used for the M72. The M74 TPA (Thickened Pyrophoric Agent) had an Incendiary warhead filled with TEA (triethylaluminium); this was used in the M202A1 FLASH (FLame Assault SHoulder weapon) 4-tube launcher. The XM96 RCR (Riot Control Rocket) had a CS gas-filled warhead for crowd control and was used with the XM191 quadruple-tube launcher.
Once fired in combat, the launcher is required to be destroyed to prevent its use by the enemy. Due to the single use nature of the weapon, it was issued as what is called a "wooden-round" of ammunition by the Canadian Army and the United States Army, requiring no checks or maintenance, just as small arms ammunition can be stored in the same manner for years without any problems.
The M72 rocket has been in Australian service since the Vietnam War. Currently, the Australian Defence Force uses the M72A6 variant as an anti-structure and secondary anti-armor weapon. The weapon is used by ordinary troops at the section (squad) level and complements the heavier 84 mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifle and Javelin missile; which are generally utilized by specialized fire support and anti-armor troops.
Republic of China
The Republic of China Army (Taiwan) uses the M72 as a secondary anti-armor weapon. It is used primarily as a backup to the Javelin and M136 (AT4) anti-tank weapons.
The M72 LAW is used in the Finnish Army (some 70,000 pieces), where it is known under the designations 66 KES 75 (M72A2, no longer in service) and 66 KES 88 (M72A5). In accordance with the weapon's known limitations, a pair of "tank buster" troops crawl to a firing position some 50 to 150 meters away from the target, bringing with them four to six LAWs, which are then used in rapid succession until the target is destroyed or incapacitated. Due to its low penetration capability, it's mostly used against light armored targets. The M72 is the most common AT weapon in the Finnish Army. Finland has recently upgraded its stocks to the M72 EC LAW Mk.I version. It is designated 66 KES 12. It also fields the bunker buster version, named M72 ASM RC, and locally designated 66 KES 12 RAK. The oldest version 66 KES 75 is now retired.
The Turkish Army uses a Turkish-built version by Makina ve Kimya Endustrisi Kurumu, called HAR-66 (Hafif Antitank Roketi, Light Antitank Rocket), which has the performance and characteristics of a mix of M72A2 and A3. Turkey also indigenously developed an anti-personnel warhead version of HAR-66 AP and called it "Eşek Arısı" (Wasp).
The British Army had previously used the NAMMO M72 under the designation "Rocket 66mm HEAT L1A1" (colloquially known as LAW-66) but was replaced by the LAW 80 during the 1980s. The M72 rocket was reintroduced into British service under the Urgent Operational Requirement program, with the M72A9 variant being designated the Light Anti-Structures Missile (LASM).
During the Vietnam and post-Vietnam periods, all issued LAWs were recalled due to instances of the warhead exploding in flight, sometimes injuring the operator. After safety improvements, part of the training and firing drills included the requirement to ensure the words "w/coupler" were included in the text description stenciled on the launcher, which indicated the launcher had the required safety modification(s).
With the failure of the M72 replacement the Viper, Congress in late 1982 ordered the US Army to test off-the-shelf light antitank weapons and report back by the end of 1983. In partnership with Raufoss AS, Talley Defense offered the M72E5, which offered increased range, penetration and better sights, which was tested along with five other light anti-armor weapons in 1983. For all the improvements the M72E5 offered the AT4 was chosen to replace the M72.
Although generally thought of as a Vietnam War era weapon which has been superseded by more powerful AT4, the M72 LAW has found a new lease of life in the ongoing (2006) operations in Iraq by the US Army, the US Marine Corps and Canadian Army in Afghanistan. The lower cost and lighter weight of the LAW, combined with a lack of modern heavy armored targets and the need for an individual assault vs an individual antiarmor weapon, make it ideal for the type of urban combat seen in Iraq and mountain warfare seen in Afghanistan today. In addition, a soldier can only carry one AT4 a mission, but with the LAW he can carry two.
Recently, the US Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Virginia placed a 15.5 million dollar fixed contract order with Talley Defense for 7,750 M72A7s, with delivery to be completed in April 2011.
The Philippine Army uses an unknown number of M72 LAWs.
|M72||66 mm Talley single shot disposable rocket launcher; pre-loaded with HEAT rocket|
|M72A1||M72 variant; improved rocket motor|
|M72A2||M72 variant; improved rocket motor|
|M72A3||M72A1/A2 variant; safety upgrades|
|M72A4||M72 variant; rocket optimised for high-penetration; uses improved launcher assembly|
|M72A5||M72A3; uses improved launcher assembly|
|M72A6||M72 variant; rocket with low penetration, improved blast effect; uses improved launcher assembly|
|M72A7||M72A6 variant; US Army M72A6 variant for US Navy|
|M72E8||M72A7 variant; Fire-From-Enclosure (FFE) capable rocket motor; uses improved launcher assembly|
|M72E9||M72 variant; rocket with improved anti-armor capability; uses improved launcher assembly|
|M72E10||M72 variant; HE-Frag rocket; uses improved launcher assembly|
|M72 Enhancements Early 1980s|
|M72E4, M72E5, M72E6 - Talley brochure|
|Pop-up "Rifle Sights" adopted from canceled Viper - Talley brochure|
International variants and designations
|66 KES 75||Finland||Designation for the M72A2|
|66 KES 88||Finland||Designation for the M72A5|
|66 KES 12||Finland||Designation for the M72 EC LAW Mk.I|
|66 KES 12 RAK||Finland||Designation for the M72 ASM RC|
|HAR-66||Turkey||Turkish variant incorporating M72A2 rocket improvements and M72A3 safety improvements|
|Rocket 66mm HEAT L1A1 (LAW-66)||United Kingdom||Designation for the M72|
|Light Anti-Structures Missile (LASM)||United Kingdom||Designation for the M72A9|
Specifications (M72A2 and M72A3)
- Extended: less than 1 m (34.67 in).
- Closed: 0.67 m (24.8 in).
- Complete M72A2: 2.3 kg (5.1 lb).
- Complete M72A3: 2.5 kg (5.5 lb).
- Firing mechanism: Percussion.
- Front sight: reticle graduated in 25 m range increments.
- Rear sight: peep sight adjusts automatically to temperature change.
- Caliber: 66 mm (2.6 in)
- Length: 508 mm (20 in)
- Weight: 1.8 kg (4 lb)
- Muzzle velocity: 145 m/s (475 ft/s)
- Minimum range (combat): 10 m (33 ft)
- Minimum arming range: 10 m (33 ft)
- Maximum range: 1,000 m (3,300 ft)
- Penetration: 250 mm (10 inches)
Maximum effective ranges
- Stationary target: 200 m (220 yd)
- Moving target:165 m (180 yd)
- Beyond these ranges there is less than a 50% chance of hitting the target.
- Australia: M72A6 variant.
- Chile: M72A3 variant.
- Egypt: Purchased 5,000.
- El Salvador
- Indonesia
- Malaysia
- Bosnia & Herzegovina: Delivered by the British army in the NATO excercise Quick Response 2013.
- New Zealand
- Portugal
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
- Spain: M72A3 variant.
- United Kingdom: Used by the British Army from the 1970s to the early 1990s. The M72A9 variant was reintroduced into service for the Afghanistan War.
- United States
- Rocket-propelled grenade
- Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon
- List of U.S. Army Rocket Launchers By Model Number
- E. T. DeRieux et al "Final Report - Development of LAW Propulsion Unit," R&H RARD, Technical Report No. S-12, Dec. 1959
- Mary T. Cagle "History of the TOW Missile System" page 10, US Army 1977 Redstone Arsenal Pdf file of official TOW history that discussed the new family of antitank weapons, the M72 LAW, the Dragon and the TOW
- The US Army partially replaced the Super Bazooka not only with the M72 LAW, but also M67 recoilless rifle and US Marines kept the Super Bazooka in service till the late 1960s
- SARPAC was never adopted by the French Army - export only
- note - no matter what you see in the movies, training films show that there is no "Whoosh!" on launch -- ie more of a loud "BANG!!" or a "BLOOP!" for the training versions -- and there is no smoke trail behind the rocket as it heads towards the target
- US Army publication September 30, 1977 "FM-7 The Mechanized Infantry Platoon/Squad Section B-21"
- Note - before the publication of FM-7 September 1977, various penetration specifications were given for the M72A2 and the M31 HEAT. Anywhere from 250mm to 305mm. In the mid 1970s, the US Army decided to determine the armor penetration under battlefield conditions again Soviet-made tanks captured in 1973. The result was 20cm/8 inches; the proceeding penetration specification is stated as it appears in FM-7 1977.
- "Space and Electronic Warfare Lexicon". Retrieved 30 October 2010.
- REL22751 - M72 (L1A2F1) Rocket Launcher - Australian War Memorial. Accessed December 2010.
- Weapons Used by Infantry Rifle Sections - diggerhistory.info. Accessed December 2010.
- "Air Force technology: Equipment - Defence Jobs Australia". Defencejobs.gov.au. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
- [dead link]
- Ruotuväki 5/2013
- "MKEK Makina ve Kimya Endüstrisi Kurumu / Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation". Mkek.gov.tr. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
- "Jane's Infantry Weapons 1995-1996" page 686
- "LASM - British Army Website". Army.mod.uk. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
- Oh, the Horror, the Horror at the Wayback Machine (archived March 26, 2008)
- "M72 Light Anti-tank (sic) Weapon System (LAW)". Gary's U.S. Infantry Weapons Reference Guide.
- some reports state it was over water in the flash tube causing dangerous misfires and unproven rumors of possible sabotage at the manufacturing plant during the Vietnam War
- D. Kyle, Armed Forces Journal International/November 1983 "Viper Dead, Army Picks AT-4 Antitank Missile" page 21
- Various reports in 1983 stated that during the Congressional mandated tests the first M72E5 tested had an accuracy problem, because of its larger-diameter rocket motor, interfered with the deployment of all the stabilizing fins after leaving the launcher. The manufactures have since made modifications that have worked that problem out.
- "Marines Fought the LAW, and the LAW Won". Defenseindustrydaily.com. 2005-03-10. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
- John Antal "Packing a Punch: America's Man-Portable Antitank Weapons" page 88 Military Technology 3/2010 ISSN 0722-3226
- "Light Assault Weapon (LAW)". FBO.gov.
- Jones, Richard D. Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009/2010. Jane's Information Group; 35 edition (January 27, 2009). ISBN 978-0-7106-2869-5.
- "El Salvador". Military Technology World Defence Almanac (Bonn : Wehr & Wissen): 60. 2005. ISSN 0722-3226.
- "Armament of the Georgian Army". Geo-army.ge. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
- [dead link]
- Owen, William F. (2007). "Light Anti-Armour Weapons: Anti-Everything?". http://asianmilitaryreview.com - Asian Military Review. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
- "Same Difference – The 66 is Back".
- "David Thompkins Interview". GWU. 14 February 1999. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: M72 LAW|
- Gary's U.S. Infantry Weapons Reference Guide
- Article on the reintroduction of the LAW in Iraq by the USMC
- Canadian Military Page On the M72
- Patent for sights of M 72 Patented by Paul V. Choate of Milton, MA.
- Patented by Paul V. Choate of Milton, MA.
- 1960s US Army M72 Training film