U.S. Army weapons officials have awarded an $87 million contract to Saab for the latest version of its potent 84mm recoilless rifle, a devastating weapon against enemy bunkers as well as armored vehicles.
The seven-year deal is for an indefinite quantity of the M3E1 Carl Gustaf multi-role, shoulder-fired weapon, according to a Saab news release. Initial deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2021.
The M3E1 is lighter and more ergonomic than the M3 Carl Gustaf, a weapon system that's been a favorite for Army Special Operations Command units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment since the early 1990s.
Army light infantry units began using the M3 in Afghanistan in 2011 when the AT4 recoilless antitank weapon proved insufficiently effective. The breech-loading weapon can reach out and hit enemy targets up to 1,000 meters away. The M3 offers units various types of ammunition, ranging from armor penetration and anti-personnel to ammo for built-up areas, as well as special features such as smoke and illumination.
The Army announced in 2016 that it planned to permanently assign the anti-armor weapon to infantry platoons and approved a requirement for the M3E1 in 2017.
"The Saab M3E1 is optimized to meet the needs of today's warfighters," Erik Smith, president and CEO of Saab in the U.S., said in the release.
"This lightweight and effective recoilless rifle ensures readiness on the modern battlefield with multi-role capabilities through a wide array of munitions, including counter-defilade, anti-structure, and anti-armor."
At 14.8 pounds, the M3E1 is 28% lighter than the M3 version. By comparison, the AT4 weighs about 15 pounds, and the FGM-148 Javelin, with missile and reusable command launch unit, weighs roughly 50 pounds.
The M3E1 also features a wiring harness configuration that provides a foregrip controller and programmable fuse setter for an interchangeable fire control system.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.