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17 June 2016

Saab Shoulders the Ground Combat Burden

Shoulder launched infantry weapons – notably the AT4, Carl-Gustaf M4 and NLAW – form the core of the ground combat offering from Saab’s Dynamics business unit and at Eurosatory 2016 company executives provided a detailed update on these three programmes.

The inspiration for continued development, according to Anders Wahlström, Head of Business Management, Business Unit Ground Combat, centres on the evolution of , “a complex and fragmented security situation.”

The need to cater simultaneously for expeditionary operations and national territorial defence and the stretching of existing military resources to confront an ever wider variety of challenges, ranging from hybrid warfare to anti-terrorist operations, requires units down to the lowest organisational level to be equipped, trained and supported for multiple missions.

Coupled with reducing numbers of military personnel and the emergence of new, heavily armoured vehicles (such as the Russian T-14 Armata) this means that organic fire support – flexible and immediate – becomes an increasingly essential requirement for infantry squads, platoons and companies, particularly when air sovereignty and therefore close air support can no longer be automatically assumed.

The AT4 already provides anti-armour, anti-structure and anti-personnel effect out to 1,000m (600 in the anti-armour role) for the individual soldier. Combat proven, in service with 15 nations and with over one million rounds manufactured, according to Anders Haster, Director of Business Management, Marketing and Sales, the AT4 is lightweight and flexible, with a common training programme capable of being customised to user-specific needs.

An enhanced version, the AT4 Roquette NG, is now in production for the French armed forces, with delivery scheduled to begin in 2017. Providing anti-armour, breaching and anti-personnel effect at extended ranges, the AT4 Roquette NG adds the capability of being fired from confined spaces, thus enhancing tactical flexibility and survivability. The weapon is attracting considerable attention from other European nations and the testing and qualification programme has provided considerable data for the US Individual Assault Munition (IAM) programme, according to Wahlström, who states it is showing signs of life again, “after 15 years as something of a ghost programme.”

Light weight is also a theme extending to the Carl-Gustaf M4, for which the ultimate aim is to provide the user with a loaded weapon under 10 kilogramme. Compatible with intelligent sights and ready to accept programmable ammunition, the shoulder launched weapon embodies sufficient development margin to take full advantage of planned enhancements in range, precision and rapidity of response.

The Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon (NLAW) shoulder fired anti-armour weapon already provides the soldier with the capacity to defeat any current armoured target out to 800 metres in the NLAWi variant, and Wahlström indicated further range increases are currently in development, although not yet specifically requested by current end users. With recent selection by Switzerland and significantly increased interest from European and Asia-Pacific nations, the NLAW programme continues to provide powerful effect at the squad and platoon level. Well over 20,000 missiles – which have a maintenance free shelf life of approximately 20 years – have already been delivered, says Haster.

Saab’s range of shoulder fire weapons provide a flexible tactical toolbox and empowers tactical commanders to be able to select appropriate organic anti-armour and obstacle breaching firepower rapidly and with no requirement for intra-unit tasking or the delays associated therewith.