After several years of testing, Marines have finally fielded the updated Mk 153 Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon, or SMAW Mod 2.

The new version of the shoulder-fired bunker buster was fielded to II Marine Expeditionary Force in November and is being fielded to I MEF this month, according to Barbara Hamby, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Systems Command.

“SMAW Mod 2 improvements increase system accuracy, reliability and maintainability, and increase gunner survivability,” Hamby said.

The new SMAW has been in development for some time, with a prototype going through initial testing and evaluation back in 2013 at Range 15 Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

Marines have improved on the original SMAW by removing the spotting rifle and adding a thermal sight and laser range finder, which has reduced the weight from 16 lbs. to 13 lbs.

The new laser range finder “has increased the probability of hit over the SMAW Mod 0,” Hamby said.

Marines introduced the original SMAW to bridge “a capability gap in breaching and provided a Marine-portable capability to defeat bunkers, breach urban structures and destroy lightly armored vehicles,” Hamby explained.

The updated SMAW is supposed to phase out the older version of the weapon system.

However, the development comes as the Marine Corps is pushing to replace the Mk 153 with the 84mm recoilless rifle known as the Carl Gustaf.

That weapon already has seen deployments with Marine Raiders to Iraq and Afghanistan and a new smarter, lighter and more lethal Gustaf currently is undergoing testing. The new recoilless rifle will have a ballistics computer, fire control system, and users will be able to adjust the rounds for proximity, airburst or impact delay.

Moreover, the Corps is ending the O351 occupational specialty known as infantry assault Marines ― trained in employment and proficiency of the Mk 153 ― freeing up Marines for other billets within the Corps.

After several years of development and millions of dollars in spending, the Marines finally are getting their hands on the updated SMAW, which will eventually be phased out by the Gustaf.

Nevertheless, initial operating capability for the new SMAW will be achieved in January, according to Hamby, and “full operating capability is planned to occur sometime during the 4th quarter of fiscal 2019.”

This year’s annual defense legislation signed by President Trump back in December included more than $25 million for the follow on SMAW.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

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