USMC Looks to SMAW-II Rocket Launcher
Confronting tanks can be a terrifying experience for dismounted infantry, and armies around the world have looked for ways to equalize the odds ever since tanks were invented during World War I. The trick is making that equalizer light enough to carry, while giving it enough punch to stop a tank. In Vietnam, the disastrous inability of Talley’s 66mm M72 LAW rockets to deal with even old Soviet tanks forced the US military back to a more sensible set of design decisions. One of the offshoots was the Mk 153 SMAW, which was based on the Israeli B-300 design.
LAW rockets went out of production for a while, but the disposable rocket launchers are back in production now. The lightweight, disposable LAWs will be used against fixed strongpoints and lightly armored vehicles. The SMAW has carved out its own niche in the mean time, but the most frequent victims haven’t been enemy tanks. In the urban fight, reinforced enemy position in buildings can be at least as dangerous – and equally difficult to defeat. The 29-30 pound SMAW system’s combination of portability and penetrating power, and the SMAW-NE thermobaric warhead, offer a devastating combination that proved its worth during the Second battle of Fallujah in November 2004.
Now the US military is looking to develop the next generation SMAW-II Launcher…
At this point, details are sketchy. Initial reports indicate that the SMAW II launcher will weigh about 10.5 pounds, instead of the Mk153’s 17 pounds – a weight reduction of close to 40%. The launcher will continue to follow the SMAW system’s principles, in which the main launcher unit can be reused a few hundred times, while the rockets come packaged in disposable tubes that clip onto the back and ready the unit for firing. All existing SMAW ammunition loads will remain compatible with SMAW-II.
Since SMAW is an unguided rocket rather than a guided missile, current SMAW launchers also carry a 9mm “spotting rifle” that fires an initial targeting round to confirm correct aim. It is not known whether this will remain part of the system, as plummeting price of modern lasers and electronics makes this aspect of the system a candidate for weight-saving removal.
The SMAW-II’s rockets are expected be more accurate, and have an official range of about 600 meters instead of the current 500. A new high-reliability electronic fuze will improve the rockets’ reliability. The SDD contract also calls for “fire from enclosure” rounds, which means rockets that can be fired from inside a building or other confined area without barbecuing one’s own squad. This rocket motor is already a proven feature.
Contracts and Key Events
Note that Talley is now Nammo Talley, after the Scandanavian Nammo firm acquired Talley Defense Systems in 2007. The new contract continues Talley’s tradition of manufacturing the USMC’s SMAW systems.
Unless otherwise noted, these cntracts and managed by the US Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA.
Aug 22/08: LAW/SMAW manufacturer Nammo Talley, Inc. in Mesa, AZ won a $51.8 million base and options, cost-plus-fixed-fee with fixed-price incentive (firm target) line items SMAW-II contract.
This contract covers System Development and Demonstration (SDD) and Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of the Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW II) launchers and Fire From Enclosure (FFE) assault rounds and associated data rights. The SDD phase will consist of 18 Launchers and 165 FFE assault rounds; the LRIP phase will consist of 130 launchers and 750 FFE assault rounds; the data rights consists of associated Government Purpose Rights.
- GlobalSecurity – Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW)
- Military.com – Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW)