TOW, AT4, M4: the US Army will strengthen its anti-tank firepower

Faced with the increased risks of so-called high-intensity conflicts, and the possibility of having to face adversaries equipped with armored vehicles, the US Army undertook to modernize its anti-tank arsenal, both in the field of small arms as medium-range missiles. Today, the American forces employ 5 types of anti-tank weapons: the light AT4 rocket and the Carl Gustaf M4 recoilless gun of Swedish origin, the FGM-148 Javelin infantry missile, as well as the TOW medium range missile and the AGM-114 Hellfire heavy missile for armored vehicles and armed helicopters. To modernize this fleet, the US Army has undertaken to simultaneously develop a new medium-range missile which will succeed the TOW, and a light guided missile intended to replace the unguided rockets of the AT4 and M4, to increase their range and precision, while retaining the main attributes of these weapon systems, namely their use by the infantry, and a reduced cost of use.

Indeed, if the FGM-148 Javelin missile has shown itself to be very efficient since it entered service in 1996, in particular thanks to its infrared firing and forgetting seeker allowing it to take part in mobile vehicles up to 2000 m away, its unit price of $ 80.000 remains very high, knowing that an American infantryman costs less than $ 100.000 per year to the US Army in terms of equipment. Until now, the anti-tank, but also anti-bunker, firepower of the US infantry was provided by the AT4 anti-tank rocket launcher and its unguided rocket, whose mass of 8 kg ammunition included and the unit price of the order of $ 1500 was perfectly suited to the needs of the US infantry in the conflicts of the past 30 years. At the same time, it acquired Carl Gustaf 84mm recoilless guns, after the US special forces appreciated their effectiveness in combat in Afghanistan. Designated M3 then M4 in its latest version, the Carl Gustaf weighs 11 kg, and can also hit fixed targets at 500 m, or mobile at 350 m, thanks to its unguided rockets that can be anti-armor, fragmentation, thermobaric or even smoke, and the unit price of which is equivalent to AT4.

The Carl Gustaf recoilless gun M4 saw its weight reduced to only 7 kg without ammunition thanks to the use of titanium and composite materials. The ready-to-fire firing station weighs only 11 kg, barely more than an AT4

The return of the risk of high intensity engagement, and the progress made by weapon systems produced in China or Russia, led the US Army to consider that the engagement distance of these systems was now too low, even in an urban environment. This is the reason why the Swedish Saab and the American Raytheon were mandated within the framework of the Rapid Innovation Funding or RIF device, to design a new light anti-tank munition which could replace the AT4 and M4 rockets, but with a laser guidance system and a range extended to 2000 m even against moving targets, like the new light anti-tank missile Enforcer of the European MBDA. This new missile, designated Guided Multipurpose Munition, has been successfully tested by manufacturers, both from an AT4 rocket launcher and the Carl Gustaf M4, in November 2020, according to a joint statement from Raytheon and Saab. 5 shots thus made it possible to validate the accuracy of the system with distant targets of 1500 to 2500 m, and the capacity of destruction of the military charge, as well against entrenched and concrete targets as against an armored vehicle.

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