|Type||Recoilless rocket launcher|
|Place of origin||France|
|Used by||France and other unnamed nations|
|Number built||over 450,000|
|Cartridge||HEAT antiarmour warhead|
|Cartridge weight||615 g|
|Rate of fire||single-shot|
|Muzzle velocity||250 m/s|
|Effective firing range||20 - 400 m|
|Soldier shown with first Wasp 58 design|
|First Wasp 58 launcher design|
The Wasp 58 is a 58-mm recoilless antitank weapon developed in France in the late 1980s. The weapon was originally a private developed by the French firm Luchaire SA. In the early 1980s, Luchaire's sales department had noted the rising costs of light individual anti-armour/assault weapons were to the point that fewer and fewer could be purchased and that there was a need for a one man anti-armor/assault weapon which could be purchased for a cost slightly higher than that of a rifle grenade, but with the greater accuracy and ease of use of a one-man rocket launcher.
The world export markets was the major considerations behind the development of the Wasp 58 by Luchaire.
The Wasp 58 is a direct-fire weapon used to attack lightly armored vehicles at ranges up to 400 meters. It can also be used against bunkers or as a fire support weapon. The Wasp 58 is a one man disposable weapon system based on the recoilless principle. On ignition the propellant fires the 58-mm projectile forward while at the same time ejecting a counter mass of plastic chips to the rear to achieve a recoilless effect. The plastic chips due to their size and weight lose any velocity after 1 meter of travel from the back of the launcher. The projectile is stabilized by six fins that unfold and lock into place after leaving the tube.
The designers of the Wasp 58 made it compact and simple to operate with a small launch signature. This enables it to be fired from enclosed spaces including from small rooms in buildings and protects the user from having his position revealed. The Wasp 58 is composed of a sealed launch tube manufactured from fiberglass reinforced plastic. The Wasp 58's HEAT antiarmour warhead is 58-mm in diameter and is based on the Grenade à fusil antichar de 58 mm Mle F1 PAB rifle grenade's warhead, also designed and manufactured by Luchaire and in service with the French military and other armies worldwide. The antiarmour warhead of the Wasp 58 can penetrate 400 mm of rolled homogeneous armor (RHA) or up to 800 mm of reinforced concrete. And while insufficient in penetration for frontal engagements of today's modern main battle tanks is more than adequate for side and rear engagements against older pre-1980s main battle tanks still in widespread service in the Third World, and can engage other armoured targets (wheeled armour vehicles or light tanks) from both frontal and side. The Wasp 58 requires no annual maintenance or special storage other than that which would be required for other small arms munitions. The Wasp 58 has a hit probability of over 90% when fired against stationary targets at ranges of 250 meters and less.
The Wasp 58 has been a commercial success with over 450,000 produced, including licensed production in Greece for the Greek Army. Today, the Wasp 58 is among the lowest cost of any light anti-armor/assault weapons in production in the West. It is also in service with French military special operation units.
References and notes
- which later was merged with other French defence firms to form Nexter
- while many rifle grenade manufactures give various effective ranges, in reality antitank rifle grenades are limited to extremely close engagement ranges of 50 meters or less
- today a frontal engagement of a modern main battle tank -- without reactive armour boxes/tiles -- requires between 650mm to 750mm penetration
- Janes Information Group, Anti-Tank Weapons: Wasp Light Anti-Armor Weapon System (France) (2008)
- There are reports that the Greek production agreement with Nexter has been canceled.
- Jane's Infantry Weapons 1995-96, p. 316, Jane's Information Group, Coulsdon: 1995