A Carl Gustaf for every squad and an improved anti-tank rocket launcher with no back blast — these are on the Corps’ wish list as the Marines continue to retool its grunts.
The multimission 84 mm recoilless rifle known as the Carl Gustaf can hit targets at nearly 1,000 meters and comes with a wide selection of rounds for bunker busting to taking out armored vehicles.
The Corps plans to order 1,073 of the launchers to kit up every squad in the Corps, according to Barbara Hamby, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Systems Command.
But it’s not the only rocket launcher the Corps has its eyes on. The Marine Corps is also interested in Nammo’s latest iteration of a Vietnam War era rocket launcher known as the M72 light assault weapon, or LAW, which just wrapped up a new round of successful testing in June.
The new M72 is slightly heavier at 12.9 pounds, but comes with a forward firing trigger and has no back blast. This means Marines can fire the anti-tank weapon from inside of rooms or buildings without fear of injury.
That translates into more protection and added lethality for future grunts operating in urban environments.
Marines with Kilo Company 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment got to experiment with the new M72 during an urban exercise aboard Camp Pendleton, California, in March.
But the latest development came in early June for the 66 mm anti-tank system when Nammo successfully fired the M72 from inside an enclosed room at its Mesa Arizona desert range, according to Tim Clawitter, who works with the company’s business liaison unit.
“This included firings from inside a room with a simple drywall back wall and outdoor firing as well. No damage was witnessed on the drywall following the shots,” Clawitter told Marine Corps Times.
The system is currently undergoing joint ordnance test procedure and is expected to go through further tests that will wrap up sometime in early 2019.
“This testing includes numerous packaged and unpackaged drop and severe environmental, thermal shock, vibration, lighting strikes etc., culminating in late 2018 with Dynamic firings,” Clawitter said.
The new M-72 also has a smaller signature than a 9 mm during night firing, Clawitter claims.
As for the Gustaf, the Corps tested them during its experimental Sea Dragon 2025 exercises but has yet to fully field them with the grunts. Though the recoilless rifle has seen deployments with Marine Raiders to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Funding for the 84 mm launchers won’t kick off until fiscal year 2019 with the latest annual defense legislation, which cleared the Senate on Wednesday and is now headed to the President Donald Trump’s desk for signature.
The defense bill includes about $13.7 million for procurement of the Gustaf.
Marine Corps Systems Command says it expects a contract award in the second quarter of fiscal year 2019, or March-April of next year. “This is an Army led program and the Marine Corps will be leveraging their existing contract for the launchers,” Hamby said.
When will grunts get their hands on them?
“The earliest fielding is planned to begin either in the second half of fiscal 2020 or the first part of fiscal 2021,” Hamby told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.
The Gustaf will serve as a replacement to the MK-153 Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon, or SMAW.
The Corps just began doling out its latest version of the SMAW, known as the SMAW MOD 2, in November 2017. The first launchers were fielded to II Marine Expeditionary Force and I MEF on the West Coast received the new SMAW in January.
The new SMAW packs a new laser range finder and thermal sight for boasted accuracy and lethality.
But the launcher will be phased out by the Gustaf. The Corps has no plans to procure any more SMAW systems.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.