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M-72 Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW)

Today's light infantry and Special Operations Forces must rely on weapons they can carry into battle without degrading their mobility to effectively engage and defeat the enemy. The improved M72 satisfies these important requirements by delivering increased lethality and reliability at longer standoff ranges, while retaining the battle-proven design and operational features of the combat-tested original M72 LAW. Propelled by higher velocity rocket motor and armed with a variety of more effective warheads, the Product Improved LAW provides the individual soldier with the capability to defeat the wide spectrum of targets likely to be encountered on today's battlefields.

Although the new M72 family of weapons is designed primarily to defeat light armor, these weapons retain a moderate capability against main battle tanks when engaged from top, side and rear angles of attack. They are also effective against concrete and brick walls, as well as both hasty and prepared field fortifications.

These next generation M72LAWs are affordable, highly proliferable weapon systems, compatible with the needs of most modern armed forces. The new M72LAWs offer greater lethality, increased range, better accuracy, and more versions of the M72. These improved capabilities are provided without significantly increasing system size, weight, complexity, or cost.

Prior to the fielding of the AT-4 the M-72 Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW) was the Army's primary shoulder-fired, man-portable, light anti-tank rocket. The M72 66mm LAW (Light Anti-armor Weapon) was developed in the 1960s. It was a revolutionary idea: a pre-packaged rocket which could be fired and the launcher then thrown away. Like the RPG-7, the M72 is capable of penetrating a foot of armor, but its effective range is only 170 to 220 meters. Manufactured by Talley Industries in the U.S. and under license in Norway, it not only became a NATO standard but was copied and produced in Czechoslovakia and Russia (as the RPG-18 and RPG-26). Early versions were frequently inaccurate, corrected by an improved sight and a more powerful rocket motor.

The M72-series LAW is a lightweight, self-contained, antiarmor weapon consisting of a rocket packed in a launcher. It is man-portable, may be fired from either shoulder, and is issued as a round of ammunition. It requires little from the user--only a visual inspection and some operator maintenance. The launcher, which consists of two tubes, one inside the other, serves as a watertight packing container for the rocket and houses a percussion-type firing mechanism that activates the rocket.

  • Outer Tube. The trigger housing assembly (which contains the trigger assembly) is on the upper surface of the outer tube. So are the trigger arming handle, front and rear sight assemblies, and the launcher's rear cover.
  • Inner Tube. The inner tube telescopes outward toward the rear, guided by a channel assembly that rides in an alignment slot in the outer tube's trigger housing assembly. The channel assembly also houses the firing pin rod assembly, which includes a detent lever assembly. The detent lever assembly moves under the trigger assembly in the outer tube, locking the inner tube in the extended position and cocking the weapon. All this must occur before the weapon can be fired.
  • Rocket. The rocket is a percussion-ignited, fin-stabilized, fixed munition. It is attached by the igniter to the inside of the launcher. The rocket consists of a 66-mm HEAT warhead, a point-initiating, base-detonating fuze, and a rocket motor. Six spring-loaded fins are attached to the rear of the rocket motor. These fins are folded forward along the motor when the rocket is in the launcher. When ignited, the propellant in the rocket motor burns completely, producing gasses about 1,400F(760C). The gas pressure pushes the rocket toward the target and exits to the rear of the launcher as the backblast.

The M72-series LAW is issued as a round of ammunition. It contains a nonadjustable propelling charge and a rocket. Every M72-series LAW has an integral high-explosive antitank (HEAT) warhead. The warhead is in the rocket's head (or body) section. The fuze and booster are in the rocket's closure section. The propellant, its igniter, and the fin assembly are in the rocket's motor. No inert versions are available. Although the M72-series LAW is mainly used as an antiarmor weapon, it may be used with limited success against secondary targets such as gun emplacements, pillboxes, buildings, or light vehicles.

The four methods of engagement with a LAW are single, sequence, pair, and volley firing. The two best methods of engagement are volley firing and pair firing.

  • Single firing. In single firing, you fire at a target with only one LAW. This method is used only at ranges of 50 meters or less. Beyond that range, single firing is ineffective, as the chance of a first-round hit is low.
  • Sequence firing. In sequence firing, you prepare several launchers for firing. After firing the first LAW, note its impact. If you get a hit, continue to fire, using the same sight picture, until the target is destroyed. If the first round is a miss, adjust the range and lead of succeeding rounds until you get a hit. Then continue to fire until the target is destroyed.
  • Pair firing. In pair firing, you and another gunner prepare two or more LAWs each, and fire at a target one at a time. You swap information when firing at the target. The gunner seeing a target identifies it and gives the estimated range and lead he will use (for example, TANK, 150 METERS, FAST TARGET), then fires. If the first gunner misses, the second gunner quickly announces a revised estimate of range and lead (as appropriate) and fires. Both gunners continue exchanging range and lead information until one gets a hit. Once the range and lead are determined, gunners fire at the target until it is destroyed. Pair firing is preferred over sequence firing, as it lets the gunners get hits fasten the gunner firing the second round can be ready to fire as soon as the first round impacts. In sequence firing, you must get another LAW, establish a sight picture, and fire. Pair firing also has the advantage of having two gunners track the target at one time.
  • Volley firing. In volley firing, you and one or more other gunners fire at once. Before firing, each gunner prepares one or more LAWs Gunners fire on command or on signal until the target is destroyed for example, TANK, 100 METERS, SLOW TARGET, VOLLEY FIRE, READY, AIM, FIRE. Volley fire is used only when the range to the target and the lead have been determined. Range can be determined by map, by pacing, or by the results of pair firing after a target has been hit. The volley method is best because more rounds are fired at a target at one time. That increases the chance of a hit.


The following data apply to the M72A2 and M72A3 LAWs:

      a. Launcher.
        -Length (Extended) ........ Less than 1 meter (34.67 inches)
        -Length (Closed) .......... 0.67 meters (24.8 inches)
        -Weight (Complete M72A2) .. 2.3 kg (5.1 pounds)
        -Weight (Complete M72A3) .. 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds)
        -Firing Mechanism ......... Percussion
        -Front Sight .............. Reticle graduated in 25-meter range increments
        -Rear Sight..... Peep sight adjusts automatically to temperature change
      b. Rocket.
        -Caliber .................. 66 mm
        -Length ................... 50.8 cm (20 inches)
        -Weight.................... 1.8 kg (2.2 pounds)
        -Muzzle Velocity........... 144.8 mps (475 fps)
        -Minimum Range (Combat).... 10 meters (33 feet)
        -Minimum Arming Range...... 10 meters (33 feet)
        -Maximum Range............. 1,000 meters (3,300 feet)

        Maximum Effective Ranges
        -Stationary Target ...... 200 meters (660 feet)
        -Moving Target........... 165 meters (541 feet)

      (Beyond these ranges, there is less than a fifty percent chance of hitting the target.)

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:46:51 ZULU