This Iconic Vietnam-Era Rocket Launcher Just Got A Major Upgrade, And Marines Say It’s A ‘Game Changer’

Military Tech

First adopted by the Army and Marine Corps at the height of the Vietnam War, the M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon (LAW) has remained a staple of infantry arsenals and action movies for over a half-century. Lightweight and reliable, the 66mm rocket system has a reputation for fantastic results. When Dirty Harry and Rambo are in the mood to make an explosive entrance, they lay down the LAW.


Now, Marines may get their chance to test a new and improved version of the tried-and-true M72 round. Defense News reports that arms maker NAMMO is working on an upgrade that wouldn’t just offer a suite of adjustments to fire control but purportedly all-but eliminate backblast, the heat and overpressure created by each round that can limit the use of anti-tank weapons like the M72 in combat.

Marines with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, hold a new variant of the M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon (LAW) during the Urban Advanced Naval Technologies Exercise 2018 (ANTX18), March 20, 2018U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Robert Alejandre

While there’s no explicit request for additional M72 LAW systems in the Corps’ fiscal 2019 budget request, troops with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment reportedly got a chance to test out the new rockets during the Urban-ANTX 18 urban warfare exercise and deemed the new rounds “a game changer,” as Lance Cpl. Sam Elichalt told Defense News:

Because the new upgrade has no backblast Marines no longer have to worry about overpressurization when firing from inside a building or a room.

That reduces the chance of injury and now Marines can fire the rockets without “having to expose themselves” to enemy fire, Elichalt said.

Backblast occurs when pressure builds inside the chamber of the launch tube after a rocket is fired. The gases that create that pressure rupture out the back end of the launcher.

For the shoulder-fired AT-4 — manufactured by Swedish company Saab Bofors Dynamics — a backblast area can extend nearly 300 feet. Before firing, Marines are trained to check and yell “backblast are all clear” to ensure no Marines are directly behind the weapon.

This is a very good description! But here’s a more visceral picture of what it looks like when you don’t check to make sure your backblast area isn’t clear:

And that’s not even involving standing directly behind someone! Backblast in an enclosed area, deflected by walls and other structures, and catch combat troops unawares. Observe:

Of course, it’s not like NAMMO suddenly found a way to neutralize the laws of physics: As The War Zone notes, the upgrade only makes it “safer” to use, with potential danger within 230 feet of the M72’s booty during operations. But the reduced backblast allows troops to unleash on light armored vehicles from fortified, enclosed positions without extra risk; considering that the new system is lighter, quieter (by 12 decibels), and “has less flash than a pistol,” as Defense News reports, the upgrade ostensibly offers an increase in lethality with less risk of opening troops up to enemy fire.

It’s unclear exactly what the Corps’ future re-embrace of the M72 will look like. But if the new system offers the departure from previous anti-tank rockets that NAMMO says it does, it certainly won’t look like this:

A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.

Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.

"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."

Read More
Photo illustration by Paul Szoldra

Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.

However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:

Read More

Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.

Read More
Protesters and militia fighters gather to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces), outside the main gate of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2019. (Reuters/Thaier al-Sudani)

With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

Read More
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to the East Africa Response Force (EARF), 101st Airborne Division, board a C-130J Super Hercules, assigned to the 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, on January 5, 2020. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Daniel Hernandez)

The Defense Department has remained relatively tight-lipped regarding the brazen Jan. 5 raid on a military base at Manda Bay, Kenya, but a new report from the New York Times provides a riveting account filled with new details about how the hours-long gunfight played out.

Read More