Next Generation Light Anti-Armour Weapon (NLAW)
NLAW (Next generation Light Anti-tank Weapon) is a man-portable, shoulder-launched, short range, light anti-armor weapon effective at short and very short ranges against modern armored vehicles. The Finns designate the type as the "102 RSLPSTOHJ NLAW", while the Swedish designation is Pansarvarnsrobot 57, or RB 57. This anti-tank missile system that attacks the tank from above. NLAW is a soft-launch, and confined-spaces (saltwater countermass) system, allowing the missile to be fired from almost everywhere. The system is originally developed for Sweden and Great Britain and it meets the requirements for a modern anti-tank weapon system in international operations as well as national defence. The point is that NLAW, held by men and women who have a basic, infantry-type role, can sort out a Russian attack that is highly technology driven.
Tanks are playing an increasingly decisive role in complex battle environments. Tanks have traditionally allowed their operators to hunt opponents in relative safety. NLAW turns the tables by removing this safety level, earning its name as the ultimate tank killer. The NLAW gives the enemy something to think about – they can no longer employ traditional tactics when faced with NLAW weapons. Their change in behavior will force them onto the backfoot and put the odds in your favor. It is best in class for dismounted troops in all environments and terrain, providing the power when needed.
Tanks have traditionally allowed operators to hunt down the opposition in relative safety. NLAW turns the tables. Because it is man portable and flexible, it allows tanks to be attacked from almost any position – from high up in a building, from behind a tree or from within a ditch. It can also be fired safely from within enclosed spaces, such as rooms, even with other soldiers present. Operators can be anywhere. They can fire down 45 degrees and can shoot from inside a building, from a basement or from the second floor of a building, out of the range of most tanks. The system is equally effective day or night.
The unjammable and man-portable system can be deployed in around five seconds by a single soldier, day or night. With a combat range of 20–800 m and a single shape charge, NLAW is the best anti-tank weapon for infantries and dismounted troops in complex terrain. Extremely flexible, NLAW can attack from almost any position, from up high in a building to behind a tree or in a ditch. It can be fired down 45 degrees and can shoot from inside a building, from a basement or from the second floor of a building out of the range of most tanks.
Various methods for compensating for recoiling forces occurring subsequent to firing of projectiles in weapons such as anti-tank weapons and anti-armor weapons are known in the art. If no oppositely directed impulse is created, recoiling forces may render the weapon unusable to the operator for security reasons. One way of coping with this problem is to arrange a conical compression/expansion Laval nozzle at the rear end of the weapon ventilating combusted propellant gases at high supersonic velocity to provide for a counterforce. Another way of coping with this problem is to use a counter mass that is accelerated backwards at sonic velocity in the barrel when a projectile is fired under gas pressure created by gun powder (propellant) expanding between the projectile and the counter mass. This principle is used for example in the original recoilless Davis Gun design.
Over time, much work has been devoted to the selection and consistency of the countermass used in the different types of weapons, because one can state from an early stage that the selection of the countermass affects the pressure increase around the countermass weapon fired as well as the backflash behind the weapon. An additional advantage of countermass is the radically reduced weapon heat signature due to the extinguishing of the backflash behind the weapon to a greater or lesser extent. A special problem in relation to attempts at achieving lower pressure increases around the gunner have concerned the unacceptability of lower pressure increases being achieved at the cost of gross reductions in the range of the weapon, thus reducing general usability in the open.
In order to increase the backward momentum and thus make possible an increase in the weight of the ammunition part without excessively high pressure being created behind the weapon, it has been known for many years to introduce what is known as a countermass. When the countermass leaves the rear part of the barrel, it expands and disintegrates. A liquid cloud is formed, which is braked rapidly and produces a pressure-reducing effect adjacent to the weapon.
The NLAW system combines the simplicity of light anti-armor weapons with the advantages of heavy, crew-operated guided missile systems. With NLAW, a single soldier can destroy a heavily protected modern Main Battle Tank (MBT) with one shot. The soldier can within and beyond the normal dismounted combat range, immediately upon target detection, regardless of attitude, without having to mount the system, load the weapon and complete a lock-on before launch.
With selectable Overfly Top Attack (OTA) against armored targets and Direct Attack (DA) for non-armored opponents and troops inside buildings, NLAW fires perfectly in confined spaces. The system takes a top-attack flight profile against armored vehicles (attacking the top armor, which is generally thinner). The fly over system focuses on a two dimensional target which is a relatively large area extending in a plane vertically above the actual target. The steep top attack requirement is eliminated, the autotracker can avoid the difficult climb out phase of the missile trajectory, and the requirement to autonomously adapt to the top of the target after climb out. NLAW’s OTA function is effective at just 20 m, making it ideal for short-range combat, even where the tank is behind cover.
Its armor-piercing warhead can destroy heavily protected MBTs in a single shot. The system is also extremely effective when the operator can only see a tiny portion of the target. The operator can simply aim at the visible part and fire. The missile will travel one metre above the line of sight before it takes the tank out from above. In DA mode, NLAW can be used against soft targets like trucks, buses, cars and helicopters. When fired directly through a window into a building, fragments will cause significant damage.
The ideal mix of PLOS guidance and OTA delivers easy handling, great accuracy and high kill probability, every time. Weighing just 12.5 kilograms, NLAW is a portable, shoulder-launched system that can be used by a single operator. Its armour-piercing warhead can destroy a heavily protected modern battle tank with one shot, and the system is effective at ranges between 20 and 800 metres.
In the field, this combination of mobility, flexibility and destructiveness is a game-changer. With NLAW, operators don’t need a platoon to attack tanks. They can train an ordinary soldier to use the system in an hour. And then you can have NLAW-equipped soldiers across the entire environment waiting for a tank to advance. There could be an NLAW equipped solder behind any rock or bush. Where tank operators and advancing forces could once track down anti-tank platoons to neutralise the opposition, they now face a threat that is far harder to locate – and more lethal. NLAW forces tanks to change course so they can be herded them into ambushes.
One of the major challenges anti-tank weapons face in complex environments is hitting the target despite countermeasures and obstacles including other vehicles, heat sources and power lines. Unlike many other anti-tank weapons, NLAW does not rely on active target seeking system. Instead, it uses ‘predicted line of sight’ targeting, incorporating magnetic and optical sensors to rapidly travel to the target location. No lock on signature is required. The operator simply tracks the target for a few seconds before firing and NLAW does the rest. NLAW also allows operators to quickly select the distance at which the missile arms itself. In complex terrain where a number of vehicles have been hit, If there is a burning vehicle 50 metere in front and the true target is 150 metres away, the operator would switch over the arm distance to 100 meters. The missile will fly blind over the first target and then start looking for the target.
While many anti-tank missiles need to first gain altitude before launching a top attack, NLAW’s Overfly Attack function is effective at a range of just 20 meters making it effective at short range and even in situations where a tank in under cover. The missile flies about a metre over the top of the tank and launches devastating attack on the roof. The system is also extremely effective in situations where the operator can only see a tiny portion of the tank. If a tank is concealed behind cover with a hatch or antenna visible, the NLAW operator simply aims at the visible part of the tank. The missile then travels one metre above the line of sight before taking the tank out from above.
Experience has shown that there are many circumstances and missions in which disposable weapons – designed to be used just once and then thrown away – can deliver a significant tactical advantage. It’s the reason that many armed forces across the planet choose to equip their infantries and special forces with a blend of reloadable weapons and carefully selected disposable weapons systems. Modern warfare increasingly takes place in complex terrain. Troops are operating in situations such as partially destroyed urban areas, with rubble, wires and damaged vehicles creating a range of obstacles that need to be navigated to gain a favorable position. In such circumstances, unneeded weight can hinder movement and reduce the risk of mission success. Due to the fact that it will only be used once, a single-use weapon may help to reduce weight. Lighter materials are often used in construction and there are no separate rounds to carry.
A single-use weapon typically constitutes a lower cost, weight and training burden than the corresponding reloadable weapon with a single round. Because the weapon system will not be fired multiple times, lighter materials can be used while still maintaining safety and effect. In some cases, this lower price point and ease of use will allow a weapon such as a disposable recoilless rifle to be distributed to every soldier or every second soldier, greatly increasing a platoon’s ability to cause major damage to the enemy.
The wide distribution of a weapon system across a platoon also creates greater potential for troops to work together to create greater effect. For example, multiple NLAW rounds fired simultaneously can have a devastating impact. Operators might have a platoon spread out along a stretch of road. When a group of enemy vehicles comes along, users then have multiple NLAWs firing at the same time and producing a really good effect.
More weapons in the field also means troops with support weapons can be positioned in a wider range of strategic positions, increasing the chances of taking the enemy unaware. There are tactical benefits of feeling free to discard a weapon after use, rather than taking it apart it and packing it away. There’s a good chance operators will get responsive fire from the enemy, a few seconds after they have fired a recoilless weapon. Not having to think about anything besides keeping your head down can be a good thing in the moment. Being able to easily shed weight as you move to a rendezvous or extraction point can also be advantageous.
Another benefit of disposable weapons is the absence of any maintenance requirements. Even the best designed re-useable weapons require ongoing service and maintenance to ensure they are functioning correctly and fit for purpose. This takes up operational time, adds cost, and introduces the potential for a servicing error on the part of personnel. Disposable weapons don’t have this issue. Systems such as NLAW never need servicing. Provided, they have been transported correctly, a soldier can remove either system from its packaging and feel confident of it firing correctly and achieving the desired outcome.
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