Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle

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Carl Gustaf Recoilless Rifle
Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle
A Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle of the Norwegian Army, on display in September 2010.
TypeMultirole (anti-armor, anti-fortification, anti-personnel, illumination) recoilless rifle
Place of originSweden
Service history
In service1948–present
Used bySee Users
WarsFalklands War
Lebanese Civil War
Gulf War
Kargil War
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
Eelam War IV
Libyan Civil War
Syrian Civil War[1]
2013 Lahad Datu standoff
Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017)
Production history
DesignerHugo Abramson, Sigfrid Akselson and Harald Jentzen
Designed
  • M1: 1946
  • M2: 1964
  • M3: 1991
  • M4: 2014[2][3]
ManufacturerSaab Bofors Dynamics (formerly Bofors Anti-Armour AB), Howa (license)[4][5]
Unit cost
  • US$20,000
  • Ammo cost= US$500 to
    US$3000 per round[6]
Specifications
Mass(M2) 14.2 kg (31 lb)[7]
Length(M2) 1,130 mm (44 in)[8]
CrewTwo (gunner and loader), but may be used by a single operator at a reduced rate of fire.

Cartridge84×246 mm R
Caliber84 mm (3.31 inches)
Rate of fire6 rounds per minute
Muzzle velocity230–255 m/s (750–840 ft/s)
Effective firing range
  • 350 to 400 m against moving vehicles[9]
  • 500 m against stationary vehicles[10]
  • 1000 m using smoke and high explosive rounds[11]
Feed systemHinged breech
SightsOpen (iron) sights; optical 3× laser rangefinder; image intensification system

The Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈkɑːɭ ²ɡɵsːtav]) is an 84 mm man-portable reusable anti-tank weapon produced by Saab Bofors Dynamics (formerly Bofors Anti-Armour AB) in Sweden. Introduced in 1946, it was one of the many recoilless rifle designs of that era. While similar weapons have generally disappeared from service, the Carl Gustaf is still being made and remains in widespread use today. The Carl Gustaf is a lightweight, low cost weapon that uses a wide range of ammunition, which makes it extremely flexible and suitable in a wide variety of roles.

In Sweden, it is officially called the Grg m/48 (Granatgevär – "grenade rifle", model 1948). British troops refer to it as the "Charlie G", while Canadian troops often refer to it as "Carl G". In U.S. military service, it is known as the "M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System" (MAAWS) or "Ranger Anti-tank Weapons System" (RAWS), but is often just called the "Gustaf Bazooka", "Gustaf",[citation needed] or "Goose". In Australia, it is irreverently known as "Charlie Gutsache" (guts ache, slang for stomach pain), or "Charlie Swede".[12]

History[edit]

The Carl Gustaf M1 was developed by Hugo Abramson and Harald Jentzen at the Kungliga Arméförvaltningens Tygavdelning ("Royal Swedish Arms Administration") and produced at Carl Gustaf Stads Gevärsfaktori from where it derives its name. The weapon was first introduced into Swedish service in 1948 as the 8,4 cm Granatgevär m/48 (Grg m/48), filling the same anti-tank role as the U.S. Army's bazooka, British PIAT and German Panzerschreck. Unlike these weapons, however, the Gustaf used a rifled barrel for spin-stabilizing its rounds, as opposed to fins used by the other systems.

The use of the recoilless firing system allowed the Gustaf to use ammunition containing considerably more propellant, firing its rounds at 290 m/s (950 ft/s), as opposed to about 105 m/s (340 ft/s) for the Panzerschreck and Bazooka and about 75 m/s (250 ft/s) for the PIAT. The result was superior accuracy at longer ranges. The Gustaf can be used to attack larger stationary targets at up to 700 m (2,300 ft), but the relatively low speed of the projectile restricts attacks on moving targets to a range of 400 m (1,300 ft) or less.[citation needed]

The Gustaf was soon sold around the world and became one of the primary squad-level anti-tank weapons for many West European armies. An improved, lighter and slightly shorter version, the Carl Gustaf M2, was introduced in 1964 and quickly replaced the original version. The current Carl Gustaf M3 version was introduced in 1991. It reduced the weight even further by replacing the forged steel tube with a thin steel liner containing the rifling, strengthened by a carbon fiber outer sleeve. The external steel parts were also replaced with plastics and aluminium alloys.

In recent years, the M3 has found new life in a variety of roles. The British Special Air Service, United States Army Special Forces and United States Army Rangers use M3s in bunker-busting and anti-vehicle roles, while the German Bundeswehr maintains a small number of M2s for battlefield illumination. Many armies continue to use it as a viable anti-armor weapon, especially against 1950s- and 1960s-era tanks and other armored vehicles still in use worldwide.[citation needed]

In November 2011, the U.S. Army began ordering the M3 MAAWS for regular units deployed in Afghanistan. Soldiers were being engaged with RPGs at 900 meters, while their light weapons had effective ranges of 500–600 meters. The Gustaf allows airburst capability of troops in defilade out to 1,250 meters, and high explosive use out to 1,300 meters. While the weapon provides enhanced effectiveness, its 9.5 kg (21 lb) weight burdens troops. On 28 March 2013, USSOCOM announced a call for sources to develop a kit to lighten the M3 MAAWS and reduce overall length without affecting handling or ruggedness. By that time, Saab was developing a weight-reduced version prior to the SOCOM release that demonstrated no decrease in performance, no increase in recoil, and nearly equivalent barrel life that could be ready for government testing in 2014. Saab has also developed a new high explosive round that has a direct fire range of 1,500 meters when using a fire control system.[13]

M4[edit]

M4 variant

At AUSA 2014, Saab Dynamics displayed its new Carl Gustaf M4 variant. Compared to the M3 MAAWS, the M4 is 3.4 kg (7.5 lb) lighter, weighing 6.6 kg (15 lb), and shorter with a 950 mm (37 in) overall length. The shorter length was in response to the need to wield the weapon in urban terrain, and weight savings were achieved through using lighter components whenever possible including a carbon fiber tube with titanium liner, as well as a new venturi design. Other new features include a red-dot sight, a travel safety catch to allow the M4 to be carried while loaded, an adjustable shoulder rest and forward grip for improved ergonomics, a shot counter to keep track of how many rounds have been fired to manage the weapon's 1,000-round barrel life, picatinny rails for grips and sight mounts, and a remote round management function so intelligent sights can "talk" to programmable rounds.[14][15] The Defense Department agreed to evaluate the shorter and lighter M4 version over the next two years;[16] testing and qualifications were planned to be completed in spring 2017, and the weapon type classified as the M3E1 in fall 2017, making the system available for procurement to all Department of Defense services.[17] The first unit is planned to be equipped with the M3E1 in 2018.[18] In April 2019, a contract of SEK168 million (USD18.1 million) was approved to supply the Australian Army with ammunition for the Carl-Gustaf M4 84 mm multipurpose weapon systems ordered by the service in September 2018.[19]

Description[edit]

In May 2009, U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers train with the Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle in Basra, Iraq, during the Iraq War. Note the firing position and backblast.

The basic weapon consists of the main tube with the breech-mounted Venturi recoil damper, with two grips near the front and a shoulder mount. The weapon is fitted with iron sights, but is normally aimed with the attached 3× optical sight with a 17 degree (300 mil) field of view. The most modern variants fielded by Swedish rifle companies have been fitted with the Swedish Aimpoint sighting system. Luminous front and rear sight inserts are available for the iron sights when aiming at night, and an image intensification system may also be used.

The Gustaf can be fired from the standing, kneeling, sitting or prone positions, and a bipod may be attached in front of the shoulder piece. An operating handle called the "Venturi lock" is used to move the hinged breech to one side for reloading. The weapon is normally operated by a two-man crew, one carrying and firing the weapon, the other carrying ammunition and reloading.

Specifications[edit]

  • Calibre: 84 mm rifled (24 lands, progressive twist)[20]
  • Crew: 2 optimal, 1 minimal
  • Weight:
    • (M2) 14.2 kg (31 lb)[21]
    • (M3) 10 kg (22 lb)[22]
    • (M4) 7 kg (15 lb)[23]
  • Length:
    • (M2) 1,130 mm (44 in)[24]
    • (M3) 1,065 mm (41.9 in)[25]
    • (M4) 1,000 mm (39 in)[26]
  • Effective firing range
    • 350 to 400 m against moving vehicles[27]
    • 500 m against stationary vehicles[28]
    • 1000 m using smoke and high explosive rounds[29]
    • 2000 m using rocket-boosted laser guided ammunition
  • Breech: Hinged
  • Rate of fire: 6 rounds per minute
  • Sights: Iron sights, optical 3×, laser rangefinder, image intensification system
  • Service life:

Ammunition[edit]

Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle round ammunition on display in 2007.

Improvements to the ammunition have been continual. While the older HEAT rounds are not particularly effective against modern tank armor, the weapon has found new life as a bunker-buster with an HEDP round. In addition, improved HEAT, high explosive (HE), smoke and illumination (star shell or flare) ammunition is also available. For full effectiveness, illumination rounds have to be fired at a very high angle, creating a danger for the gunner as the backblast from firing can burn him. For this reason, several armies have retired the illumination rounds, while the U.S. Army requires that they be fired from a standing position.

Note that the following are Swedish designations (other countries use similar terminology, replacing the "FFV - Försvarets Fabriksverk")

  • FFV401 is an Area Defence Munition designed as a close-range anti-personnel round. It fires 1100 flechettes over a wide area.[33]
  • FFV441 is an HE round, useful in a "lobbed" trajectory to 1,000m, which can be fused to either detonate on impact or as an airburst.
  • FFV441B is an HE round with an effective range against personnel in the open of 1,100 m. The round arms after 20 to 70 m of flight, weighs 3.1 kg, and is fired at a muzzle velocity of 255 m/s.[20]
  • FFV469 is a smoke round fired like the FFV441, with a range of about 1,300 m. The 3.1 kg round is also fired at 255 m/s.[20]
  • FFV502 is an HEDP round with the ability to be set to detonate on either impact or one-tenth of a second afterwards. Effective range is 1,000 m against dispersed soft targets such as infantry in the open, 500 m against stationary targets and 300 m against moving targets. Minimum range is 15 to 40 m to arm the warhead. Penetration exceeds 150 mm of rolled homogeneous armour (RHA). Ammunition weight is 3.3 kg and muzzle velocity is 230 m/s.[20]
  • FFV509 is an ASM (Anti-Structure Munition), designed especially for destroying buildings and other types of urban constructions. The fuse has two modes, impact or a delayed function.[34]
  • FFV545 is an illuminating star shell, fired up to 2,300 m maximum range, but with an effective envelope of 300 to 2,100 m. Suspended by parachute, the star shell burns for 30 seconds while producing 650,000 candela, providing a 400 to 500 m diameter area of illumination.
  • FFV551 is the primary HEAT round and is a rocket-assisted projectile (RAP). Effective range is up to 700 m (400 m against moving targets) and penetration up to 400 mm of RHA. Ammunition weight is 3.2 kg and muzzle velocity is 255 m/s.[20]
  • FFV552 is a practice round with the same ballistics as the 551.
  • FFV651 is a newer HEAT round using mid-flight rocket assistance for ranges up to 1,000m. In theory, it has less penetration than the FFV551, but it includes a stand-off probe for the fuse to improve performance against reactive armour.
  • HEAT 655 CS (Confined Spaces) "high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) round that can be fired by the 84 mm Carl Gustaf recoilless weapon from within small enclosures."[35][34]
  • FFV751 is a tandem-warhead HEAT round with an effective range of 500 m and ability to penetrate more than 500 mm of armour. Weight is 4 kg.[20]
  • FFV756 is an MT (Multi Target) ammunition, designed for combat in built-up areas and for incapacitating an enemy under cover inside a building or some type of fortification. The MT 756 uses a tandem charge.[34]
  • Guided Carl Gustaf Munition (GCGM) is a laser guided projectile developed between Saab and Raytheon, featuring a multi-target warhead capable of defeating bunkers and moving light armored vehicles at a range of 2,000 m and capable of being fired from enclosed spaces; demonstrations planned for 2020.[36][37]

M3 MAAWS[edit]

M3 variant with a variety of ammunition

The M3 Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-tank Weapon System (MAAWS) is the U.S. military designation for the Carl Gustaf M3 recoilless rifle. It is primarily used by United States Special Operations Command such as the Army Rangers, Army Special Forces, Marine Raiders, Navy SEALs, and JSOC operators. When used by the U.S. Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, the M3 is known as the Ranger Anti-tank Weapons System (RAWS).[citation needed]

In the late 1980s, the Special Operations Forces Modernization Action Plan indicated need for a Ranger Anti-Armor/Anti-Personnel Weapon System (RAAWS) to replace the M67 recoilless rifle in use by the 75th Ranger Regiment. A market survey in 1987 indicated that the Carl Gustaf M3 was the best candidate for satisfying RAAWS requirements. On 29 September 1988, the M3 was selected as the RAAWS from candidate proposals submitted in response to the market survey compiled by ARDEC. A subsequent review of the contractor-supplied fatigue test data determined that the data did not meet U.S. Army requirements. Benét Laboratories conducted fatigue test of two tubes to establish an interim safe service life for the weapon. Tests were conducted in 1993. The manufacturer’s recommended life for the weapon was 500 rounds, but bore surfaces showed no indications of erosion until 2,360 rounds. The U.S. Navy SEALs became interested in the program and moved it to a Joint Integrated Product Team. The program name subsequently changed from the RAAWS to the Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS).[38]

Army Rangers found the M3 was best employed using a two-man team. One person would carry the launcher and be armed with a pistol for personal protection, and the other would carry 5–6 rounds of ammunition and act as a spotter for the gunner. Although the single-shot AT-4 is lighter and can be carried by one person, a Gustaf team with the heavier recoilless rifle can reload and fire more rounds.[39]

The M3 MAAWS fires the following ammunition:[citation needed]

  • High Explosive Dual Purpose (HEDP) round
  • High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) round
  • High Explosive (HE) round
  • Illumination round
  • Smoke round
  • High Explosive Anti-Tank - Rocket Assisted Projectile (HEAT-RAP/551)

In late 2012, the Army fielded 58 M3s and 1,500 rounds of ammunition to units deployed to Afghanistan to destroy enemy targets out to 1,000 meters. This was because RPG and machine gun teams could attack 900 meters away, while existing weaponry like the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, M72 LAW, M136 AT-4 and MK153 SMAW had effective ranges of only 500 meters. The AT-4 is lighter and cheaper but is made of reinforced fiberglass, while the M3's rifled metal/carbon fiber launch tube allows for reloading. Employing the 22 lb M3 is easier than the 50 lb FGM-148 Javelin with its launcher with missile and reusable command launch unit, is faster than waiting on mortars, and is cheaper than the Javelin and artillery shells for engaging targets in hard cover.[38] Although Special Operations forces had been using the M3 since the early 1990s, light infantry unit commanders in Afghanistan had to submit operational needs statements to get the weapon. The M3 became an official program of record in the conventional Army in 2014, and a conditional materiel release was authorized in late 2015 to equip all brigade combat teams with one M3 launcher per infantry platoon.[40]

M3-E1[edit]

The M3E1 is an updated M3, by using titanium, the weapon system is six pounds lighter, 2.5 inches shorter and has an improved carrying handle, extra shoulder padding and an improved sighting system that can be adjusted for better comfort.

In 2017, the U.S. Army approved a requirement for 1,111 M3E1 units to be fielded to soldiers as part of an Urgent Material Release. The M3E1 is part of the Product Manager Crew Served Weapon portfolio. A key benefit of the M3E1 is that it can fire multiple types of rounds, giving soldiers increased capability on the battlefield. By using titanium, the updated M3E1, based on the M3A1 introduced in 2014, is more than six pounds lighter. The M3E1 is also 2.5 inches shorter and has an improved carrying handle, shoulder padding and an improved sighting system that can be adjusted for better comfort without sacrificing performance. The wiring harness was included in the M3E1 configuration that provides a foregrip controller and programmable fuze setter for an interchangeable fire control system. For added safety and cost savings, an automatic round counter enables Soldiers and logisticians to accurately track the service life of each weapon. The M3E1 uses the same family of ammunition as the M3, which has been successfully tested.[41]

In November 2017, the U.S. Marine Corps announced they planned to procure the M3E1 MAAWS. 1,200 M3E1s would be acquired with one fielded to every infantry squad. In addition to infantry use, the Marines are considering it to replace the SMAW in combat engineer squads. While the SMAW weighs 2.5 lb (1.1 kg) less loaded, the MAAWS has a greater variety of ammunition available and a maximum effective range of 1,000 meters, twice that of the SMAW; the Marines plan to test both weapons' effectiveness against bunkers to inform their decision.[42]

Risks to users[edit]

Soldier fires a Carl Gustaf. Note the significant back-blast.

The overpressure or blast wave generated by the Gustaf, will cause blast and burn related injuries to those behind the gun, and is dangerous to 30 meters[43] and hazardous to about 50 to 75 meters.[44] Repeatedly firing the Gustaf can also cause related shock wave injuries to gunners and those nearby.[45][46][47][48] As a result, during training, gunners are only allowed to fire six rounds a day.[49] The assistant gunners would also often move away from the overpressure zone, so that they too can fire six rounds a day.[50]

Comparison to similar weapons[edit]

Weapon Diameter Muzzle Velocity Warhead Armor penetration (est.) Effective Range Sight
M2 Carl Gustaf 84 mm 310 m/s 1.70 kg HEAT 400 mm 450 m
M67 recoilless rifle 90 mm 213 m/s 3.06 kg HEAT 350 mm 400 m
LRAC F1 89 mm 300 m/s 2.20 kg HEAT 400 mm 600 m N/A
RPG-7 93 mm 120 m/s 2.60 kg HEAT 500 mm 500 m 2.5×
B-300 82 mm 280 m/s 3.00 kg HEAT 400 mm 400 m N/A

Data is from Jane's Infantry Weapons 1984–85

Users[edit]

JGSDF Western Army Infantry Regiment soldiers operating the Howa 84RR in February 2014. The Howa 84RR is a Japanese-made version of the Carl Gustaf.
Home Guards Used Granatgevär m/48

Former users[edit]

  •  Netherlands: The M2 was in service with the Royal Netherlands Army since 1964, known as the Terugstootloze vuurmond (TLV) 84 mm, Carl Gustaf M-2. It is used in combination with the Kijker, richt, recht, 2x12 Wöhler scope.[81] The same model was also used in the Dutch Marine Corps, where it was known as the Terugstootloze vuurmond (TLV) van 84 mm, Carl Gustav, M2.[82] It was replaced by the Panzerfaust 3.[83]
  •  Singapore: Replaced by MATADOR in 2013.[84]
  •  United Kingdom: M2 variant was used from the 1970s until the early 1990s.[85] AEI Systems Ltd. – a British defence products manufacturer headquartered in Ascot, Berkshire – offers a variant of the platform dubbed the AE84-RCL designed to fire the M540/M550 line of 84×246 mm R ammunition manufactured in Belgium by Mecar.[86]
82nd Airborne Division soldiers during familiarization training of M3 recoilless rifle at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in December 2011.

See also[edit]

  • NIVA XM1970, early 1970s attempt to produce a lower cost alternative to the M2 version of the Grg m/48 then in Swedish Army service
  • Panzerfaust 3 (German, 1992, man-portable)
  • AT4, a Swedish one-shot rocket/recoilless-rifle assault weapon
  • SMAW, an American 83 mm rocket assault weapon
  • M72 LAW, an American 66 mm light anti-tank weapon
  • RPG-2 (USSR, 1947, man-portable)
  • 55 S 55 (Finland, 1947, 55 mm, man-portable)
  • M40 recoilless rifle (USA, 1947, 106 mm, tripod mounted)
  • B-10 recoilless rifle (USSR, 1954, 82 mm, tripod mounted)
  • M67 recoilless rifle (USA, 1960s, 90 mm, man-portable)

References[edit]

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