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SOCOM Seeks Lighter Carl Gustaf

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Release of a recent “sources sought” announcement has highlighted U.S. interest in obtaining a “lighter” version of the 84mm Carl Gustaf weapon system from Saab Dynamics. Employed for many years by the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment and other elements within United States Special Operations Command as the M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti- Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS), the weapon system began entering broader U.S. Army inventories at the end of 2011.

In late November of that year the company announced the first U.S. Army order for the weapon system, with an initial Army requirement for 126 weapons and 3,000 rounds of ammunition. The 126 weapon total was sufficient to field approximately two brigades’ worth of systems.

In terms of enhanced combat capabilities, Saab representatives noted at the time that U.S. forces were employing shoulder-fired weapons and light machine guns with 500-600 meter capability, but were being engaged by RPGs at ranges out to 900 meters. They pointed to the fact that the Carl Gustaf provided an organic weapon that could immediately return fire at those ranges and beyond, with a high explosive round that will go out to 1300 meters or 1250 meters for airburst capability – the latter capability allowing for the engagement of troops in defilade.

The new tactical capabilities, however, came with at a weight of just over 21 pounds for the weapon, and Saab representatives acknowledged that the company was funding internal weight reduction developments in an effort to decrease that weight burden.

Special Forces soldier fires Carl Gustaf

As a U.S. Special Forces soldier with Special Operations Task Force – Central fires a Carl Gustav recoilless rifle during a training exercise conducted in Basrah, Iraq, May 2, 2009.
U.S. Army photo by Spc. William Hatton

In apparent recognition of those efforts, U.S. Army Contracting Command, on behalf of USSOCOM, released a March 28, 2013 announcement calling for information “to identify potential sources for immediate procurement or rapid development of a kit to lighten the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS) M3 Carl Gustaf Rifle,” adding, “The current MAAWS program is the Non-Developmental Item (NDI) acquisition of the Saab Dynamics Carl Gustaf 84mm recoilless rifle system.”

“USSOCOM is considering a weight reduction of the M3 Carl Gustaf System,” it stated. “The overall weight reduction of the M3 would be a minimum of 3 lbs. with a desired weight reduction of 5 lbs. The weight reduction would need to be accomplished without affecting the overall Center of Gravity (CG) of the rifle. In addition, an overall length reduction of approximately 3 inches is sought. The lightening of the M3 shall not affect its safety or ruggedness when exposed to the rigors normally associated with military operations, including air delivery and salt water submersion. A fully developed kit with production configuration would be delivered no later than 16 months from the onset of performing the desired tasks.”

Asked about the current status of their weight reduction efforts, company representatives emphasized their ongoing support of USSOCOM as well as the U.S. Army’s Armament Research Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), which serves as the “user representative” for all U.S. military users. They add that ARDEC provides the guidance as to desired capabilities for the lightweight system and both threshold and objective requirements for materials, dimensions and weight.

They explained that current solutions weigh “about 15 lbs.” and are approximately two inches shorter than the current design. Early live firing tests conducted to date have demonstrated no decrease in performance, no increase in recoil, and nearly equivalent barrel life.

“The system will be ready for developmental testing at the government level in [FY]’14,” added one person familiar with the effort.

In addition to lightening the weapon, other company activities have led to the company advertising maximum engagement ranges out to 1500 meters with a new high explosive round with impressive direct fire accuracy when coupled with a Fire Control System (FCS).

Asked if the company was working with any specific FCS design, program representatives declined to discuss “a particular vendor,” adding, “There are three systems out there that we know of, that different user groups are fielding for their own weapon systems. We assume that USSOCOM is going to ultimately field an FCS that they prefer, but we don’t know which one that is going to be.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...

  • Steve Vilicich

    Hey Scott,
    Interesting stuff. Glad to see that the army is not giving up on
    something because it’s not complicated. My rifle platoon
    in Berlin had 2 90 mm RRs. I liked them a lot.
    take care,
    Steve Vilicich

  • Scott Gourley

    Great to hear from you, Steve.

    Agreed. The M67 90 mm was/is pretty impressive, but at 37 lbs. it must have been a monster to “carry.” There was a small mod program to shorten the tube / lighten some of the weapons for the 75th Ranger Regiment back in the early 1990s, but it was still pretty heavy. Interesting to see the reports in early 2011 that a few of the 90mms were reintroduced on some selected U.S. bases in Afghanistan. Also interesting that the desired weight reduction on the 84mm would take it down to less than half the weight of the 90mm.

    Best,

    Scott