Saab’s Latest Recoilless Rifle

Carl-Gustaf-M4-2

I thought they just made jets and discontinued automobiles. Saab Defense just unveiled their updated Carl Gustaf 84mm weapon system at AUSA 2014. It is called the M4 Multipurpose Weapon. It is to replace the more commonly known M3 Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-tank Weapon System (MAAWS). The M4 will be known as the M3A1 MAAWS.

According to Kit Up!, the new M3A1 will be lighter at only 15 lbs compared to its predecessor the M2 weighing in at 22 lbs. The M3A1 saves weight due to a titanium liner and carbon fiber wrapping. They also shaved off about 3 inches n OAL.

US_Special_Forces_soldier_fires_a_Carl_Gustav_rocket_during_a_training_exercise_conducted_in_Basrah_Iraq



Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • Anonymoose

    Is this for the Army’s Urban Assault Weapon program? I haven’t heard much of anything about it other than a stub on wikipedia.

    • No idea. When I was in we were still using LAW Rockets and a few AT-4’s.

    • dan citizen

      I thought the Urban Assault Weapon program was under DHS aegis?

      • Anonymoose

        lol

    • James Kachman

      http://www.army.mil/article/72402/
      The Army is considering some form of Charlie G for general purpose use to give the infantry organic firepower beyond the range of their rifles/carbines. The tests they’ve done used the older model, and I’m not surprised that Saab “just so happened” to create a new version since May, which is when the Army started this process.

      • ColaBox

        They trying to replace the AT4 and SMAW?

        • Geodkyt

          The SMAW, maybe. But the AT4 still has a place, being a disposable “wooden round” that can be issued to anyone.

          If you’ve got actual RCL rifles capable of high accuracy, you want to keep dedicated gunners on those, to maximize effectiveness. Even if *everyone* in the rifle company is supposed to know how to shoot it in a pinch.

  • Ryan

    The shoulder pad looks likes it’s just zip tied on, interesting. SAAB makes a lot of products for Military use. They make an improved MILES system that functions a lot better then the system provided by CDA.

    • BoB

      Haha I noticed that also. It literally looks like a piece of foam zip tied to the body. WTF is that about?

  • echelon

    Hey that looks just like my launcher in Destiny…

  • dan citizen

    I like it, though it does seem to have a lot of bits hanging off that could snag on stuff.

    Daddy likes his recoilless weapon systems smooooth.

    • Nicks87

      Gotta love the goose.

    • Ethan

      I just spit coffee on my keyboard reading your post… thanks

  • Joel

    I´ve fired about 200 “full charge” rounds with the M2, and lots of 20mm training ones. I´ve always wanted to shoot the M3, the M4 though… almost gives me ha hard on hahaha!

  • Lance

    Got to love it its a awesome tank killer. Glade to see the old Gustav roll on. Made to destroy a T-72 with one shot.

  • CalAnon

    Bringing this down to 15lbs is a good start – that makes it about equal to the RPG-7 launcher. The 84mm Ammo – for those uninformed – weighs about 6-7lbs per round compared to 5-6 lbs for RPG-7 rounds (10lbs for the RPG-7’s anti-tank rocket). Plus, SAAB is developing a boosted projectile with a 1.5km range. The mobility this allows is incredible, given that an M240 weighs about the same as the M3 (~22lbs for the 240L) – this brings it in a bit lighter than an M249 (~17lbs). With lighter-weight ammunition, this would really become the “Western RPG-7” equivalent.

    • Secundius

      @ CalAnon.

      The RPG-7 may have a weight advantage over the Carl Gustav. But, the latter has a 500-meter range advantage over the former. And at 1,000-meter, the RPG-7 is about as useful as a SPITWAD at Point-Blank Range.

      • Zapp Brannigan

        I’m not sure what you mean about the RPG-7 usefulness at maximum range. The RPG-7 is not a kinetic-kill round; it relies on its shaped charge to do damage so it’s ability to do damage is not dependent on how fast it’s moving.

        • Saferight

          perhaps he was talking about accuracy at that range.

          • William_C1

            Indeed, your chances to hit something at that range (or anything near it) are pitifully low with the RPG-7.

          • Joe Schmoe

            You do all realize that the RPG-7 self-destructs at around 920 meters, right?

            So your arguments of 1,000 meter accuracy are kind of pointless…

          • Saferight

            this is true

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            As they are with any recoilless weapon of the genre, the Carl Gustaf included.

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        As a former user of the Carl Gustaf, I can tell you that the perceived advantage is not as great as one might imagine in practice when subject to the pressures and exigencies of the battlefield. In addition, you seem to be comparing the direct-fire anti-tank range of the RPG-7 ( 200m ) against moving targets using the standard PG-7VL single-stage HEAT round with the indirect-fire range of the Carl Gustaf against stationary targets using a Rocket-Assisted Projectile Type FFV 551 ( 700m ), which is basically an apples-to oranges comparison. The effective direct-fire anti-tank range of the RPG-7 at 200m against moving targets is actually much closer in practice to the claimed 400m for the Carl Gustaf under similar circumstances, and armor penetration is also greatly superior, the former able to penetrate >500mm of Rolled Homogenous Armor ( RHA ) viv-a-vis 400mm of RHA for the latter. The newer PG-7VR tandem HEAT warhead of the RPG will penetrate up to 750mm of RHA at the same effective range, while the Carl Gustaf has no comparable round available as yet. Where the Carl Gustaf has an advantage ( for now ) is in the indirect fire role against personnel behind cover using the HE Air-Burst round out to 1250m. and the conventional HE warhead out to 1300m., whereas the RPG-7 round self-destructs at 920m.

        In summary, the RPG-7, particularly the modernized version with tandem HEAT warhead, excels is in the close-range anti-armor and anti-material role ; it is also lighter, much more compact and can be safely fired from a confined space and tight cover. The Carl Gustaf is different in that it doesn’t do as well in these particular categories, but makes up for this in overall versatility, wider range of ammunition types and longer range for general usage ( and don’t even think of trying to fire it from a confined space, unless you have a penchant for burst eardrums, severe concussion, flash burns and possibly death ). Both weapons have distinct signatures when fired, but the RPG’s is a good deal less of a giveaway than the Carl Gustaf’s.

        Another disadvantage of the Carl Gustaf that the latest versions ( particularly those slated for U.S. Army service ) have only partially addressed is the sheer bulk of the weapon. Even with the commendable extra lightening that the newer models have incorporated, the physical size has diminished only a little. It is still a relatively clumsy and bulky weapon to carry for long periods in the field.

        In the end, I would say that one’s choice of either weapon would depend more on the combined arms TO & E, as well as the tactical doctrines of the end user — to take maximum advantage of the characteristics of the chosen weapon — rather than anything else.

        • Ripley

          The C-G did put a hole in the Argentinian corvette Guerrico in 1982, from 500 meters. A three day drydock repair was the result. It’s something, as they say.

          I’ve fired it a lot with HEAT and I think it is excellent for medium range medium armor targets. A squad with this could probably take out a whole road convoy if used correctly and avoiding making any MBT angry. Because the projectile is fast and not as smoky as RPG, and the reload is fast for a trained crew, I think the signature is pretty low. I don’t know if RPG fires well from a laying down position but the C-G does. So, good for ambushing.

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            Very good points about the Carl Gustaf — thanks very much! You are correct about using the CG to deal with a wide range of targets, including medium armor or lighter — this is part and parcel of the CG’s overall versatility that makes it so useful, but at the expense of being able to deal head-on with modern MBT’s. The RPG-7 is a bit different from a tactical and philosophical standpoint in that it is intended primarily for close-range head-to-head usage against MBT’s, with a secondary function as a multi-purpose weapon courtesy of alternative warheads. Basically, different doctrines giving rise to equally effective but very different weapons with some overlap in their respective roles.

            The RPG works well from a prone position if one applies oneself to it, even though standard doctrine seems to emphasize firing from the kneeling position.

            By the way, based on the tone of your post, I am guessing that you might be a veteran of the 1982 Falklands Campaign — it’s always good to be able to share these discussions with fellow veterans, regardless of nationality or ethnicity.

          • Kivaari

            I was hoping someone would mention the British hitting the Argentine ship. If I remember right the round actually hit short of the target, continued on underwater for a short distance and hit like a torpedo.
            From memory it traveled 10-20 meters as a torpedo.

        • Secundius

          @ DiverEngrSL17K.

          At 1,000-meters, the RPG-7 has a 4% chance of hitting it’s intended target.

    • gunsandrockets

      Yes, but…

      The RCL is more expensive than the RPG. And there is now an American made non-steel version of the RPG which is half the weight. And non-steel versions of the RCL will have a very restricted round count before overheating. And the RPG has the ability (within limits) to fire from inside a building without injury. And the nature of the RPG allows greater potential for different diameter warheads for different purposes.

      Now I agree that there is a place for the RCL in the infantry. I just don’t think the infantry squad level is that place. I would prefer a steel RCL at the company level. Heck I would even argue to bring back the old M-18a1 57mm RCL gun for the job of a general purpose support weapon.

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        I agree. The cultural biase against the RPG is, unfortunately, still with us today. In reality, the RPG platform is an extremely cost-effective and versatile weapon that, with modern upgrades such as tandem HEAT warheads, can easily kill modern hard targets, technologically-advanced MBT’s included, when used properly. Granted, it does have a limited effective range, but so does every other weapon of the same genre.

        • n0truscotsman

          Thats my thoughts exactly.

          Sophisticated ATGM may be more useful against tanks at long standoff distances, but, real world experience over the past 20 years has highlighted the need for infantryman to have lightweight, versatile, hard hitters.

          The M72 LAWs were pressed back into service for this very reason, despite many in the army clamoring for their replacement by the SRAW, TOW, and Javelin. Ditto on the Carl Gustavs and M67.

      • Geodkyt

        I agree that the best place for assignment of the RCL teams would be the company level. Detail the teams out as needed from there.

        And I don’t care if they are RCL or RPGs, frankly. Even though I think the RPG design offers more flexibility for system growth, the Gustav has shown quite an ability to grow.

        But, yeah, sometimes you just need a cheap large HE type round to blow apart a stationary object. And using a missile is a waste of resources on a nonmanuvering target.

    • Secundius

      @ CalAnon.

      In theory using a HE-F round, indirect “Skipping” range is ~1,200-meters. At 86-Deg. elevation indirect range is ~2,000-meters.

  • The “Charlie G” has been in service worldwide in one form or another since 1948. That’s not too shabby.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    I used the original Carl Gustaf 84mm RR back in the 1970’s. It was, and still is, one of the most versatile weapons of its type — a testimony to both the design itself and the foresight of the designers. The Carl Gustaf may not be the very best in any single category of performance in a head-to-head comparison with its competitors, but it does well in almost all categories and therefore excels as a great multi-role weapon.

  • Wetcoaster

    I imagine a lot of potential customers aren’t thinking so much about busting T-80s as they are about putting holes into sturdy and inconveniently-located walls or buildings

  • BattleshipGrey

    I can’t wait for it to hit the civilian market.

    • wetcorps

      Me too, as long as there is aftermarket support so I can stick some KeyMod and an M4 stock on it.

      • JW

        How about some Magpul furniture?

  • don lavery

    Great weapon used by the many countries including the Irish Defence Forces since 1962.
    Irish soldiers used it against armoured vehicles and to take out snipers firing from houses during operations in the Congo.

  • JW

    And it blows smoke rings for free! What a deal!

  • n0truscotsman

    I have always believed that the recoilless rifle had plenty of room to grow technology wise, except the US military “forgot” about it due to the cold war/fulda gap mentality of centering the infantryman’s anti-armor capabilities around missiles.

    This is flawed for a multitude of reasons

    1.) Missiles, especially the Javelin, are very expensive. More expensive ammunition means less training (live fire) which means less effectiveness when the tanks need busting in real time

    2.) Missiles are vulnerable to active protection systems, which are fielded in modern Russian tanks and any buyers of Russian military hardware. Relikt? Thats another interesting subject.

    3.) Missiles, especially the laser guided type, are vulnerable to counter measures like Shtora, which largely diminish their effectiveness

    4.) They require large and complex infrastructures to manufacture, and their complexity makes them inferior in reliability under harsh conditions.

    There is a role for ATGMs definitely, but I think we have been shoving aside recoilless rifles for far too long and their advantages in simplicity, reliability, and inexpensive overall cost should be attractive for western forces to come. Newer HEAT rounds are also capable of busting older tanks, IFVs, and anything else in between.

    • Joe Schmoe

      1)- There is little need to train in live ammunition on a weapon like Javelin, a simulator does the same thing for all intents and purposes.

      2)- So are the rounds the Carl fires. And Russian tanks are NOT fielded with active protection systems. And Relikt is a relatively ancient Russian ERA, the modern ones are “Knife” and “Dublet”.

      3)- And the Carl Gustav is vulnerable to the simple fact that it can’t see through a basic smoke screen.

      4)- The Javelin boasts a <93% reliability rate, but an even higher effectiveness rate. Which means that you are almost certain to hit the target you aim for.

      It's like my instructor told me in my sniper course, "The only reason that you all haven't been replaced by soldiers carrying around SPIKE missiles that will always hit the target is because the SPIKE costs $XX,XXX dollars a round, while you just cost the training a around a $1 a bullet. In other words, you're cheap."

      • n0truscotsman

        1.) I disagree and real world experience disproves this. If this were the case, simulators would be equivalent to real world flight hours for fighters. This is obviously not the case. Just ask any Canadian or Swiss pilot that has wargamed with their US counterparts.

        2.) The rounds of the carl are, except developments have been made for tandem type HEAT rounds, not to mention the fact that such weapons aren’t ideal for tanks anyways.

        Ancient compared to what? and Knife and Dublet aren’t even fielded in large numbers yet.

        3.) Guess what? thermal optics dont fare well in certain smoke screens either. Thermal optics aren’t all seeing eyes of mordor. As optics have developed, smoke screens will do to incorporate further IR deterrence.

        4.) Im dubious of those claims of reliability, for the same reason im skeptical of the figures for Beyond visual range air-to-air missiles. Technocrats always overestimate effectiveness rates because their pocketbooks become jeopardized.

        There are multiple reasons why missiles launchers haven’t replaced snipers. Collateral damage is among them, alongside the inconvenient fact that missiles can be bested by jamming and existing countermeasures when fighting against a well equipped adversary.

        So color me unconvinced. Missiles aren’t a bad thing and they certainly are useful, although the US has placed a disproportionate reliance on them for reasons other than concerns about combat effectiveness.

        • Joe Schmoe

          1)- Pilots are subjected to G-Forces as well as other factors. A simulated lock on and launch scenario is just as effective (if not more so) for an ATGM operator, especially considering the cost of those missiles.

          2)- Tandem HEAT missiles/rounds are intercepted by APS systems as easily as none-Tandem.

          And I said *relatively* ancient, as there are several superior East-Bloc options currently available for fielding (considering the fact that you said anyone buying new).

          3)- Several modern ATGM’s, like SPIKE, offer top-attack ability with the ability to be guided the entire way through (a kind of lock-on after launch), therefore rendering most traditional smoke screens ineffective.

          4)- Be dubious all you like, until you have some information that proves otherwise, the manufacturer’s claim stands.

          • n0truscotsman

            Simulations will never “simulate” firing live rounds. End of story. Western military analysts have hypothesized the same thing for decades, and nothing has come of it. We can argue all day long, but that is a fact.

            Yes, I know APS can defeat tandem rounds, although you are arguing against the wrong point. The focus of the use of tandem munitions is against ERA, which was my original point. There is a way to defeat the APS too, now that we’re on that subject: http://www.army-technology.com/projects/kornet-em-anti-tank-guided-missile-system/

            And top attack doesn’t render most traditional smoke screens ineffective. Not even remotely. That is not even considering the fact that APS and ERA *also* are rock, paper, scissors counters to top-attack munitions.

            Manufacturers have been wrong countless times (such as the case with the AIM7 Sparrow and AMRAAM), so their track record when it comes to missile accuracy isn’t exactly inspiring. My information is backed by established historical fact rather than personal anecdotes.

            If you want a force armed with missiles that are only practically ideal against tanks (we haven’t faced real tanks in a long time), then you are in good company with big US Army. They seem to dislike inexpensive, practical weapons that can be used to support infantry, instead focusing on their erotic fetish with kursk-like tank on tank battles (and the cold war is over; they seem to have missed that memo).

          • Commonsense23

            While I will say that the Carl G is a far more versatile weapon than the Javelin. The Javelin has probably gotten far more kills at this point in Afghanistan than the Carl G.

    • BattleshipGrey

      I fully agree with your assessment, but I think there’s a reason we forgot the recoilless rifle. While we have always had enemies with conventional armor, we weren’t at war with them. With the exception of Iraq, most of our post WW2 conflicts have been against more unconventional enemies with much less access to tanks. Not that we shouldn’t have been fielding these during those conflicts and investing more into those systems for future wars, because we should.

    • gunsandrockets

      I think the real problem is the failure by the U.S. Military to appreciate how often infantry anti-tank weapons are used against targets which are not armored vehicles, and how infrequently those same anti-tank weapons are used against tanks.

      It’s most certainly a very good thing for infantry to have integral anti-tank capability and the Javelin is a very good weapon for that purpose. But the fact is infantry should be the very last line of defense against a tank attack and the primary nemesis of tanks is airpower.

      • n0truscotsman

        I think so too. That is the very problem with being ATGM centric.

        Recoilless rifles also work profoundly well against infantry and entrenchments. Some of the rounds available to the goose are pants soiling in their level of awesomeness.

        Your point about infantry’s role against tanks has always been my very argument against the Stryker brigades.

  • Jean Luc Picard

    I wonder if they still have a place for the new M4 for a round like the Heat from the M2 which is pretty much a similar round as the RPG
    The MAAWS is such a versatile weapon that I think it’s close to be a swiss knife in the rocket / recoilless launchers in history the only thing that the RPG 7 do possess and that Carl G doesn’t have is the thermobaric round. I’m no weapon’s expert BTW but I got good documentation about the Carl G (M2 and M3 respectively) and RPG 7 that are useful at least to know about the characteristics even if they aren’t up to date though.

    Carl G M2 have the same but it had this one
    FFV597 Heat round which is like an RPG equivalent with front placed visible warhead which isn’t made anymore and haven’t been improved since the M3 and now M4
    Also I don’t know the rounds that were available at the M1 and M2 era even if I believe some like HEDP, Smoke, illumination and the airburst ones were certainly avaiable

    Carl G M3 got many
    HEAT 551 C RS
    HEAT 655 CS Heat round for confined spaces
    Heat 751 Tandem Warhead against reactive armour
    MT 756 Multi target
    ASM 509 Anti Structure, I believe it’s like the SMAW anti bunker round
    HEDP 502 Dual purpose round
    HE 441D which is Airburst Fragmentation
    ADM 401 which is a flechette round just like a giant shotgun
    Smoke 469 for creating smoke screens obviously
    Illum 445 which allows the illumination of the battlefield at night

    RPG 7 have its whole lot too
    -PG7V which is very light Heat round
    -PG7VL which is the big Heat round
    -PG7VR which is the Tandem round
    -TBG7V which is the Thermobaric Round
    -OG7V which is the anti infantry 40mm rocket

    I don’t put Training Rounds here because they don’t count and also because I only have Carl G ones

  • Paul

    Will us Texas CHL holders be allowed to OC them?