On Track for Demonstrations by September 2019
Just about 11 months ago, Raytheon announced a developing partnership with Saab to co-develop solutions for infantry weapons. Initial concentration was to be on an upgrade of the venerable but immensely capable CARL-GUSTAF manportable anti-tank weapon system and the exploration of opportunities to enhance the Saab AT4 disposable anti-tank rocket.
Speaking at the AUSA meeting in Washington DC on 10 October, company executives explained to MONCh some of the progress that has recently been made with the CARL-GUSTAF project. “It’s important to recognise that we are not talking about replacing any ammunition type here – this is about an additional capability,” explained Director, Soldier Systems, Land Warfare Systems at Raytheon Missile Systems, Brad Barnard. And quite impressive capability it is too: with semi-active laser guidance and a multipurpose warhead, capable of breaching 8in of reinforced concrete, 36in of adobe and “at least 35mm of rolled homogenous armour (RHA),” according to Senior Manager, Land Warfare Systems, Ty Blanchard, the new round will extend the weapon systems’ range from the traditional 4-800m at which a platoon fire team might seek to engage an appropriate target to a rather more significant range for small unit action – 2,000 metres.
Asked whether that range had been a component of the specification against which the development had taken place, Mr Blanchard explained that, although there was no such stipulation (hardly surprising, given the glacial pace at which doctrinal and operational changes sometimes filter through to solutions development), the US Army had reviewed progress to date and, on the subject of range, had told Raytheon “you’re on the right track.” Which is a sobering thought for your reporter, who once spent part of his youth hauling an older (and much, much heavier) M2 “Charlie G” around sundry British and German training areas.
Range is not the only thing that is impressive with regard to progress on this project, however. So, too, is the speed of development. Barely 18 months into the programme (which is funded and workshared on a 50/50 basis by the partners), a successful ballistic test was held at the beginning of October and the team is “on track for a demonstration firing by September 2019 and a full systems test by Spring 2020,” Mr Barnard told MONCh.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense has now awarded the industrial team a Rapid Innovation Fund contract to complete the development and the eventual operators (US Army and US Marine Corps, who aim to deploy the weapon at platoon and squad levels respectively) have both recognised the need for increased precision and lethality as preparations continue to ensure readiness to fight a near-peer adversary. The advantages of a precision round with the destructive effects noted above and the ability to reach well beyond the range of current peer weapon systems are obvious – as, too, is the ability to fire the round in enclosed spaces with minimal backblast risk. And all this without the necessity to buy a new launcher! No wonder the development and potential acquisition programmes are being pushed!