Carl Gustaf: The Recoilless Rifle, The Indian Army Loves In A Fight

Simple equipment, accurate, easy to maintain, variety of ammunition, longer life, sturdy. Indian army has used it for decades in CT operations and in war. Carl Gustaf proved a very potent weapon against transportation vehicles, bunkers, and tanks.

Over the years, the Indian Army has banked on the Carl-Gustaf as its weapon of choice, ever since the 1970s when the first M2s came to India and were being manufactured here. Most commentators in India attribute the army’s choice of Carl-Gustaf to its versatility and multi-role ability along with its ruggedness, easy deployment and being virtually a “one man artillery.” Experts writing on the Carl-Gustaf’s deployment in the Indian army point out that it has better range, accuracy and its rifled barrel and recoil-less mechanism results in good weapon stabilization.

Carl Gustaf is the name of a supergun for the Indian military that is part recoilless rifle and part rocket launcher. And it has a rich, 40-year legacy. This Swedish-made brute fires a powerful 84mm round. It can take out light enemy tanks, thinly-armored personnel carriers, or bunkers. Popular in special operations forces units (Specially counterterrorism units like RR, Para SF, and COBRA), it has matriculated over to regular Army and Para military units.

Let’s take a look at why the weapon is becoming so ingrained with warriors around the globe.

Indian army with carl gustaf mk-3
Indian army special force preparing to fire Carl Gustaf MK-3 on terrorist hids out

Carl Gustaf: Remember the Name  

The official name is a mouthful. In the technical manual, it’s called the M3E1 Carl Gustaf Multi-Role Anti-Armor/Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS). The Gustaf was originally based on the well-known bazooka from World War Two fame.

Quick Rate of Fire Has Advantages

It’s shoulder-fired and re-usable with a laser range finder. This beats the one-shot AT4 rocket launcher. It takes a two-person crew, one to fire, and the other to spot and carry ammunition.

The sustained fire of the Gustaf is six-rounds per minute. But a single user can also fire it, although this slows down the operation. Personnel can shoot while standing or kneeling, or they can get down into the prone position for deadly strikes.

Many Different Rounds Can Light Up the Enemy

The ammunition is diverse. It can launch High Explosive, High Explosive Anti-Tank, and High Explosive Dual Purpose rounds, as well plus smoke and illumination projectiles. There is even a laser-guided munition in the works. The large 84mm round is helped by the recoilless design that is necessitated by sending a counter-recoil blast of propellant to keep the launcher steady.

It Can Reach Out and Touch Something from 1300-meters Away

The Gustaf can engage targets from 200 to 1300 meters. The titanium barrel helps with range and accuracy. It weighs 15 pounds and is nearly three feet long.

Indian army Rashtriya Rifles unit with Carl Gustaf MK-III
Indian army Rashtriya Rifles unit with Carl Gustaf MK-III
While the latest Carl-Gustaf M4 range can vary between 400m and 1000m.  Carl-Gustaf M4 is less than one meter in length and weighs less than seven kilos, making it that much more easy to carry and deploy fast.

The Army Thinks It’s Worth the Money

It cost $20,000 Ammo cost= US$500 to US$3000 per round. The new variant 84 mm Carl-Gustaf M4 was first showcased in India at the Aero Show 2017 and subsequently also exhibited Defence Expo 2018 in Goa. Currently, India co-produces this next-generation Carl-Gustaf M4 under the ‘Make in India’ program for the Army.

Let me tell you during the recent surgical strikes (2016) on terror launch pads across the LoC against Pakistan, the Army Para special force had used shoulder-fired Carl-Gustaf rifles to destroy terrorist bunkers.

Para special force soldier with Carl Gustaf M4
Para special force soldier with Carl Gustaf M4

Also, the new variant M4 can communicate with ammunition, and the ammunition can be programmed from an advanced site. This enables it to give feedback to the site. It is also capable of ballistic calculation.

The Carl Gustaf is a good weapon to suppress the enemy. If they are fortunate to live through the blast, their heads are going to be down for a while as the main element of attack from friendlies moves forward to complete the mission. It’s good the testing went to special ops units first, so they could judge it in battle and then let it filter down to regular line units. This is a lesson that could have made the choice to cancel the XM-25 Punisher bullpup grenade launcher much easier to save the military time, money, and resources. But the Gustaf passed the combat smell test and looks like it will have a long life in the U.S. military.

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