During a series of late-September firing demonstrations held at the Saab Bofors Test Center outside Karlskoga, Sweden, the defense and security arm of Saab unveiled the latest model in its internationally popular Carl-Gustaf weapon system. Described by the manufacturer as “a future-proof design that provides users with flexible capability and helps troops to remain agile in any scenario,” the new “M4” model is an extension of a battle-proven weapon system now in service with more than 40 countries around the world.
The 84mm Carl-Gustaf is a man portable, multi-purpose “recoilless rifle” weapon system that has been under constant improvement since the introduction of the M1 model in 1948. Tactical capabilities are supported by a range of ammunition options, including anti-armor, multi-role / anti-structure, anti-personnel, and support (smoke and illumination).
Elements within United States Special Operations Command have employed the “M3” Carl-Gustaf under the U.S. designation of MAAWS [Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System] for several years. More recently, in late 2011 the M3 entered broader U.S. Army inventories with the acquisition of more than 500 systems and deployment of more than 120 to Afghanistan.
The M3 Carl-Gustaf deployment provided U.S. forces with a weapon with 1200-1300 meters range, approximately double that of other fielded shoulder-fired weapons and light machine guns. More importantly, the M3s had significantly greater range than the 900 meters of the RPGs they were facing.
While the M3 met the range requirements, it was large [1065 mm in length] and rather heavy for combat patrols [10 kg]. As a result, in April of 2013, the U.S. began looking for a “lighter” version of the Carl-Gustaf.
It would appear that the newly-unveiled M4 was developed to satisfy that requirement. Although only somewhat shorter than its predecessor [< 1000 mm], the new M4 uses a number of materiel and design changes to decrease its overall weight to less than 7 kg. Moreover, as with all Carl-Gustaf weapons, the M4 is compatible with all existing and future ammunition.
In addition to the size and weight benefits, other enhancements in the M4 design include the following: compatibility with new “intelligent sight” systems; improved gunner ergonomics through an adjustable shoulder rest and forward grip; a new safety that reduces tactical reaction time by allowing the weapon to be carried “loaded”; and an integrated “shot counter” that improves logistics and maintenance.
Sources close to the program are quick to acknowledge that the M4 design would meet the needs identified by the U.S. and note that the special operations community is exploring the possible acquisition of the new design under the designation of M3A1.
The new design will receive its formal “US unveiling” on 13 October 2014 at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) annual meeting in Washington, D.C.