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.