Saab Dynamics’ new M4 recoilless rifle is compact, lightweight, and fires programmable rounds.
Dynamics used its first ground combat systems demonstration day here to show the newest iteration of the Carl-Gustaf M4 recoilless rifle, a man-portable, multirole weapon system. Also on display at the event last month were new rounds for the 84-mm weapon and its sister system, the disposable, shoulder-launched AT4 anti-armor weapon.
The M4 is the latest in a family of 84-mm recoilless weapons from Saab that dates to 1948. The M4 will be on display at the Association of the U.S. Army show in Washington, Oct. 13-15.
The M4, which is finishing qualification trials and should be available for sale in 2015, has major product improvements over the M3 version. At 6.6 kg (14.5 lb.) for the basic system (without advanced sights), the M4 is 3.4-kg lighter.
It is also shorter than the M3—950 mm (37.4 in.), as opposed to 1,065 mm. Peter Hellekant, who provides technical support for the Carl-Gustaf program, explains that the shorter length was partly driven by the need for a weapon that is easier to wield in urban areas.
The weight saving was achieved by analyzing each component of the weapon and using lighter-weight parts where possible. A titanium tube liner, for example, saves 1.1 kg; the carbon fiber tube saves 0.8 kg; and a new venturi design saves 0.9 kg. Ongoing developments in materials aided in the lightweight design, and this process is likely to continue.
New options have also been added. A red-spot sight is one addition to the firing capabilities. There is also a travel safety catch, which allows the Carl-Gustaf to be carried loaded, thus saving time in firing the weapon. A shot counter lets armorers know how many rounds have been fired, to better manage the weapon’s 1,000-round barrel life. There is a remote round management function, so intelligent sights can “talk” to programmable rounds in the barrel and create greater targeting accuracy. And Picatinny rails for grips and sight mounts permit options for better operator ergonomics, as well as a wide range of sighting systems.
There have, as well, been improvements to ammunition for the AT4 and the Carl-Gustaf. At the firing demonstration, both the new AT4 high-explosive round and extended-range HEAT (high-explosive anti-tank) round were on display. The former has a 1,000-meter (3,281-ft.) range and a lethal blast area of 400 sq. meters (4,300 sq. ft.); the latter has a 600-meter range and enhanced armor penetration. For the Carl-Gustaf, the 655CS round was displayed, which reportedly achieves more than 500 mm of armor penetration, although with confined space-firing options.
These follow developments of the last few years that have seen customers ask for rounds capable of tackling the mud walls of Afghan compounds, either to deal with enemy troops taking cover behind them, or to make entrance holes. Saab Dynamics executives note that European forces are showing a renewed interest in anti-armor capabilities.
Increasingly, rounds for both the AT4 and Carl-Gustaf are being made confined-space-capable. And work is underway to ensure that future rounds will be compliant with insensitive munitions directives.
Saab Dynamics demonstrated the future direction of the Carl-Gustaf and AT4 with a concept project, the Ultra-Light Missile (ULM). At this stage, two years into development, areas where elements are being refined include the handling and storage systems, which are planned to be as similar as possible to the current Carl-Gustaf version. Packaging for the ULM uses the tube that packs the simulator system. The ULM’s range is about 1,500-2,000 meters. Apart from these areas, most options—including warhead and guidance—are very much open.
“You could have an anti-armor role,” says Johan Ekroot of Saab Dynamics, about the ULM. “But it is easier to see a system that has greater range, greater accuracy and lower collateral damage possibilities. You can see this as useful for countering, say, snipers at range.”
Although work so far has focused on the Carl-Gustaf, as with so many areas of development at Saab, there are options to adapt such technologies to future versions of the AT4. Increasingly, the company sees the two products as complementary, rather than rivals, although as several executives admit, this has not always been the case.
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