Used by the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as many foreign militaries, the M47 Dragon was first fielded in January 1975 to U.S. Army soldiers stationed in mainland Europe. The effective range of the Dragon was about 1000 meters, with the missile traveling 100 meters per second, guided by an infrared sight. The operator had to continue to track the missile to its target, which exposed him to enemy fire.
The principles of flight and guidance were interesting. The first oddity was the delay between snapping the trigger and the ignition of the launch motor. This was due to a chemical battery charging the initiator circuit (the operator could hear a rising whine similar to the whine made by early integrated flash cameras when charging the flash circuit). This usually led to the operator tensing up in anticipation of the sudden explosion from the launcher that he knew was coming. The missile was discharged from the launcher tube by a "launch motor", which was a rocket motor that completely expended itself within the tube so as not to injure the operator with exhaust gas. The missile coasted away from the operator and a burning infrared flare was ignited at the rear of the missile.
After the missile was about 30–50 meters from the gunner, the missile was propelled forward and guided towards the target by 3 rows of rocket propellants aligned longitudinally along the missile body. The rocket spiraled as it moved forward, and the rocket propellants were fired in pairs to move the missile forward as well as keep the missile on target. These were activated by the sight controller which sent signals from the sight mechanism to the missile along the wire which spooled out behind the missile and remained connected to the sight. The operator kept the sight crosshairs on the target; the sight tracked the infrared flare and sent corrections to the missile service motor to bring the flight of the missile to the aim point. The service charges were fired as needed both to keep the missile correcting toward the aim point and to keep it up and moving forward. A missile moving towards a stationary target and tracked by a steady gunner would fire the rockets about every .5 to 1 second, resulting in its signature 'popping' sound as it moved downrange. If the operator over-corrected his aim point beyond the service motor's capability to keep up, the missile grounded itself. Conversely, if the guidance wire broke, the missile would fire its rockets rapidly, sending the missile into a rapid ascent. This was a recoilless weapon—the launcher did not "kick" per se when fired—but the sudden loss of the 30 lb missile weight from the shoulder caused many soldiers to flinch badly enough to lose track of the target, resulting in a missile grounding.
The M47 Dragon was not particularly popular with U.S. soldiers. Because of the missile's relatively short range and signature 'popping' sound as the missile was propelled towards the target, M47 Dragon crews were expected to take heavy casualties in the event of hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Designed and upgraded from Dragon in 1985 when its penetration effectiveness was increased.
Upgraded from Dragon II in 1990, it was capable of penetrating 18 inches (450 mm) of armor at a maximum effective range of 1,500 meters.
Iran has reverse-engineered a version of the Dragon, the Saeghe. They displayed it in 2002 at the Defendory exhibition in Athens, when it was in mass production. Hezbollah has acquired Saeghes for anti-tank and anti-armor uses.
Known versions include Saeghe-1 and Saeghe-2.