US Army Approves M3 Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle for General Use

    US Army infantry platoons will be getting a little more “boom” very soon. Jane’s, among other news outlets, report that the US Army has finally approved the M3 Carl Gustav 84mm recoilless rifle for general issue to the infantry platoon. From IHS Jane’s:

    US Army light infantry units are to be equipped with the Saab 84 mm Carl Gustaf M3 Multirole Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS) as a standard issue tactical support weapon, following completion of a Conditional Materiel Release (CMR) authorisation by the army in late 2015. In parallel, the army continues planning and tasking efforts to achieve Full Material Release (FMR) to the service in late 2016.

    With the CMR complete, the M3 is now officially an organic weapon system within each army combat platoon, and will initially be fielded within selected Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), which will now train, maintain, and sustain the M3 as part of the IBCT organisational structure. Going forward, all brigade combat teams will receive 27 Carl Gustaf launchers, about one per platoon.

    “The CMR allowed the system to be quickly fielded to operational units before the more exhaustive Type Classification [TC] FMR process is completed. This allows IBCT commanders to train and deploy with the M3 MAAWS, pending finalisation of the TC FMR progress,” Jack Seymour, marketing director for Saab North America, told IHS Jane’s.

    Select army active duty and National Guard components have already begun receiving the M3 MAAWS, and beginning this year units equipped with the system will be able to train and qualify on the weapon system in their home bases. The US Army’s Standards in Training Commissions (STRAC) allocations, outlined in the DA PAM 350-38, will authorise M3 MAAWS gunners and assistant gunners to qualify and maintain combat proficiency annually with live-fire exercises.

    The 84mm recoilless rifles fire a wide variety of warheads, including high explosive rounds for both personnel and structures, high explosive anti tank (HEAT), smoke, illumination, and high explosive dual purpose (HEDP) rounds. It has an effective range of 1,200 meters and very high accuracy, making it an ideal weapon to counter long-range ambushes by entrenched enemy machine guns, while reducing engagement time and the potential for collateral damage versus light mortars. Versus long-range inert-projectile small arms concepts like the General Dynamics LWMMG .338 Norma medium MG, the Carl Gustav offers high explosive firepower and greater versatility.

    Recoilless rifles operate by exploiting the principle of conservation of momentum; the weapons essentially eliminate recoil by ejecting propellant mass at high velocity from the rear of the gun, which allows the rifle itself to remain stationary. This allows an infantryman to use a weapon that would otherwise be far too large for a human to manage, at the cost of using propellant far less efficiently than a conventional artillery piece. Recoilless rifles provide higher accuracy and greater range than most rocket launching anti-tank weapons like the M72 LAW, while being far less expensive than more sophisticated systems like the Javelin missile.

    Fielding of the M3 CG to regular units has been in the works since at least 2013.

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]