USMC Buys In to Swedish Carl Gustaf Tank-Busting Recoilless Rifle

    Original caption: "U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Luis Arana fires the Carl Gustav rocket system during live fire training at Range 7 aboard Camp Hansen, Oct. 25, 2017." U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson, public domain.

    The United States Marine Corps is following in the US Army in the procurement of the Saab M3A1 MAAWS (Multi-Role Anti-Armor/Anti-Personnel Weapon System) recoilless rifle. The M3A1 is a lightweight multipurpose explosive projector weapon which can engage targets at much longer ranges than weapons currently in service with the USMC. The previous MAAWS version, the heavier M3, has been in US Army service since 2011, and was approved for general issue to Army platoons in early 2016.’s Hope Hodge Seck reports:

    The Corps is planning to collaborate with the Army to purchase the M3E1 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapons System, or MAAWS, a new version of the 84mm Carl Gustaf made to be lighter, more compact and easier to wield, Chris Woodburn, deputy for the Marine Corps’ Maneuver Branch, told

    While the Army and U.S. Special Operations Command have used previous versions of the Carl Gustaf, it’s a new weapons system for the Marine Corps.

    “Right now, we have a registered capability gap for multiple-effects rocket fire,” Woodburn said. “So the Army and SOCOM have the MAAWS, and we are looking to get the resourcing we need to pursue the next iteration of MAAWS.”

    The service expects to field one of the recoilless rifles per squad, he said. The weapon will not replace any existing elements of the squad, but will function as an additive capability for any squad member to operate.

    Teaming up with the Army will allow the Corps to purchase the MAAWS at lower cost, said Kevin Finch, product director for the MAAWS at PM Soldier Weapons at the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal.

    Finch said he expects the Corps to order about 1,200 of the weapons, a number roughly equivalent to the Army’s planned purchase of 1,111 M3E1 rifles.

    The Army plan would contract for the weapons this fiscal year and begin fielding around 2023. The Marine Corps could “jump on board” and join the contract by 2019 or 2020, Finch said.

    Whether the M3A1 MAAWS will be used in concert with, or to replace the SMAW is not yet decided. While the MAAWS is considered a safer weapon for the operator (due to lower exposure), and is potentially more accurate and longer ranged, the SMAW has recently received an upgrade in the form of the SMAW MOD 2, which replaces the spotting rifle of the original weapon with a laser rangefinder and boresight. The USMC’s SMAW is a derivative of the Israeli B-300 rocket-propelled multipurpose anti-tank weapon, and was adopted in the mid-1980s. Although a powerful and capable weapon, it is short-ranged and requires time to hit accurately with. To aim, the gunner uses a spotting rifle mounted to the side which fires a 9mm tracing explosive projectile that produces approximately the same trajectory as the rocket. Once the projectile has exploded and marked the target, the SMAW can be dialed in, and fired. This system can produce accurate hits, but requires continuous exposure from the operator over a significant period of time, a disadvantage that neither the MAAWS nor the SMAW MOD 2 suffer from. Ironically, the M3A1 descends from a line of 84mm Carl Gustaf rifles dating back much further than the SMAW/B-300 itself: The first 8,4 cm Granatgevär m/48 entered Swedish service in 1948!

    Original caption: “Lance Cpl. Jared P. Baker looks down range with the Carl Gustav rocket system during live fire training at Range 7 aboard Camp Hansen, Oct. 25, 2017.” U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson, public domain.

    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]