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SMAW (Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon)

SMAW Launcher

Other Pictures:
SMAW Launcher outlay

SMAW Encased assault rocket

SMAW Rocket types

SMAW Warhead and propulsion schematic

Marines fire a SMAW at an enemy position in Fallujah, Iraq, November 2004

The Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon is a shoulder-launched missile weapon with the primary function of being a portable anti-armor rocket launcher. It was introduced to the U.S. armed forces in 1984. It has a maximum range of 500m against a tank-sized target.

It can be used to destroy bunkers and other fortifications during assault operations as well as other designated targets with the dual mode rocket and to destroy main battle tanks with the HEAA rocket.


The Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon is an 83mm man-portable weapon system consisting of the MK153 Mod 0 launcher, the MK 3 Mod 0 encased HEDP rocket, the MK 6 Mod 0 encased HEAA rocket, and the MK217 Mod 0 spotting rifle cartridge. The launcher consists of a fiberglass launch tube, a 9mm spotting rifle, an electro-mechanical firing mechanism, open battle sights, and a mount for the MK42 Mod 0 optical and AN/PVS-4 night sights.

The High Explosive, Dual Purpose (HEDP) rocket is effective against bunkers, masonry and concrete walls, and light armor. Making use of a crush switch in the nose of the rocket, the HEDP round is able to distinguish between a hard and soft target, allowing for greater penetration on soft targets for increased damage potential. The HEDP round is capable of penetrating 8 inches of concrete, 12 inches of brick, or up to 7 feet of wood-reinforced sandbags. The High Explosive Anti-Armor (HEAA) rocket is effective against current tanks without additional armor, and utilizes a standoff rod on the detonator, allowing the explosive force to be focused on a small point, allowing for maximum damage against armored targets. The HEAA round is capable of penetrating 22 inches of homogeneous steel. The 9mm spotting rounds are ballistically matched to the rockets and increase the gunner`s first round hit probability. The spotting rounds consist of a .22 hornet blank cartridge, crimped into a NATO 7.62 casing, with a 9 mm tracer bullet as the projectile. Training is accomplished with the MK7 Mod 0 encased common practice rocket and the MK213 Mod 0 noise cartridge. At 187 decibels, the weapon is the loudest on the battle field, second only to a mine-clearing line charge.

The SMAW MK153 Mod 0 launcher is based on the Israeli IMI B-300 and consists of the launch tube, the spotting rifle, the firing mechanism, and mounting brackets. The launch tube is fiberglass/epoxy with a gel coat on the bore. The spotting rifle is a British design and is mounted on the right side of the launch tube. The firing mechanism mechanically fires the spotting rifle and uses a magneto to fire the rocket. The mounting brackets connect the components and provide the means for boresighting the weapon. The encased rockets are loaded at the rear of the launcher. The spotting cartridges are stored in a magazine in the cap of the encased rocket.


The SMAW system (launcher, ammunition and logistics support) was fielded in 1984 as a Marine Corps unique system. At that time, the SMAW included the MK153 Mod 0 launcher, the MK3 Mod 0 HEDP encased rocket, the MK4 Mod 0 practice rocket and the MK217 Mod 0 9mm spotting cartridge. The MK6 Mod 0 encased HEAA rocket is being added to the inventory. The MOD 0 has demonstrated several shortcomings. A series of modifications is currently planned to address the deficiencies. They include a resleeving process for bubbled launch tubes, rewriting/drafting operator and technical manuals, a kit that will reduce environmental intrusion into the trigger mechanism, and an optical sight modification to allow the new HEAA rocket to be used effectively against moving armor targets. Recently fielded were new boresight bracket kits that, when installed, will solve the loss of boresight problem between launch tube and spotting rifle. During Operation Desert Storm, 150 launchers and 5,000 rockets were provided to the U.S. Army. Since then, the Army has shown increased interest in the system.

The system can be used in conjunction with the AN/PAQ-4 aiming light as an alternative to the spotting rifle.


When preparing to fire, gunner takes his firing position, most often kneeling. The assistant gunner (A-gunner) unscrews the rocket cap, screwing the round into the rear of the launcher. While the A-gunner extricates the spotting rifle rounds, the gunner charges the charging lever on the launcher. The A-gunner then inserts the spotting round cartridge into the spotting rifle, and the gunner cocks the rifle. Taking aim, the gunner fires the spotting rifle until the tracer rounds are on target, with the A-gunner acting as spotter. Once on target, the A-gunner clears the backblast area, ensuring no one is in the backblast, and shouting, 'Backblast area all secure!' The gunner then says, 'Rocket,' denoting that a rocket is about to go downrange. The A-gunner repeats, and the gunner depresses the launch lever and pulls the trigger.

When used in the assault of a fortified postion, 2 man SMAW teams are often assigned to rifle platoons, or under the direct command of the company commander. SMAWs are often positioned on the flanks of formations, as backblast is a significant safety concern. The backblast extends in a 90 meter, 45 degree cone to the rear of the weapon. The backblast is lethal out to 30 meters, and merely dangerous from the 30 meter mark to 90.

Although the weapon can be fired from the off-hand, kneeling, and prone positions, the prone position is generally not used, as the shockwave from the weapon tends to form a "bubble" around the weapon, and one's legs, when subject to the shockwave, become very sore.

When used in the defense, a two-man, v-shaped fighting hole is generally utilized. Overhead cover on flanks is used for ammunition storage, to protect rounds from the elements, and to guard against sympathetic detonation. Positions are interspersed throughout the rifle platoon, where they have maximum visibility along the most likely avenues of approach, the better to serve as company-level anti-armor weapons.

Portable anti-armor rocket launcher.

83mm (3.26")

7.54 kg (16.6 lb) unloaded, with optical sight and bipod; 13.39 - 13.85 kg (29.5 - 30.5 lb) loaded and ready to fire depending on rocket

1371 mm (54") ready to fire; 759 mm (29.9") disassembled for carry / airdrop

Effective range:
500 meters (1640 feet)


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