Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon

The Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) is a shoulder-launched rocket weapon with the primary function of being a portable assault weapon (e.g. bunker buster) and a secondary anti-armor rocket launcher. It was introduced to the United States armed forces in 1984.[1] It has a maximum range of 500 metres (550 yd) against a tank-sized target.

It can be used to destroy bunkers and other fortifications during assault operations; it can also destroy other designated targets using the dual mode rocket and main battle tanks using the HEAA rocket. Operations in Afghanistan and Iraq saw a thermobaric rocket added (described as NE—"Novel Explosive"), which is capable of collapsing a building.

Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon
Class Manportable
Type Rocket Launcher
Manufacturer Talley Defense Systems
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1984
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
China View
Pakistan View
United States of America View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Talley Defense Systems View
The Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon has an 83.5mm diameter tube and fires 83-millimetre (3.3 in) rockets. It is a man-portable weapon system consisting of the MK153 launcher, the MK 3 encased HEDP rocket, the MK 6 encased HEAA rocket, and the MK217 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 Day Sight and AN/PVS-17B night sights.

The SMAW MK153 Mod 0 launcher is an improved and enhanced development of the Israel Military Industries' B-300 weapon. The weapon consists of the launch tube, the spotting rifle, the firing mechanism and mounting brackets. The launch tube is made of fiberglass-epoxy composite material with a gelcoat on the bore. The spotting rifle 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, while 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 9 mm spotting round is ballistically matched to the rocket and serves to increase the gunner's first-round hit probability. Each round consists of a special 9×19mm tracer bullet, crimped into a 7.62×51mm NATO casing with a .22 Hornet blank cartridge for propellant.The system can be used in conjunction with the AN/PEQ-4 aiming light in place of the spotting rifle.

Training is accomplished with the MK7 Mod 0 encased common practice rocket and the MK213 Mod 0 noise cartridge. At 152.3 decibels, the weapon is one of the loudest on the battlefield, second only to a mine-clearing line charge.

As with all of these types of rocket weapons, the backblast that is created when it is fires is a primary safety concern. The backblast extends in a 90-meter, 60° cone to the rear of the weapon. The backblast is lethal out to 30 metres (98 ft), and still extremely dangerous to 90 metres (300 ft). The resultant shock wave can even cause sympathetic detonation of unsecured ammunition. Rounds are under development that would enable a user to fire the rocket from an enclosed building without risk of injury.

A newer MK153 Mod 2 variant is currently in development. It features a modular ballistic sight (MBS) in place of the 9 mm spotting system. The MBS has a laser range finder and thermal weapon sight to provide a firing solution using a displaced reticle, where crosshairs are adjusted for distance and environmental factors. The MBS is lighter, more reliable, and can be detached from the launcher. While the Mod 0 weighs 7.5 kg (16.5 lb), the Mod 2 weighs 5.9 kg (13 lb) with the MBS attached, and 3.9 kg (8.5 lb) with the MBS detached. Other improvements include increased pad size on the forward grip and foldable backup sights. Mod 2 improvements are to be ready for fielding by early 2017.


The High Explosive, Dual Purpose (HEDP) rocket is effective against bunkers, masonry and concrete walls and light armor. Initiated by a crush switch in its nose, the HEDP rocket is able to distinguish between hard and soft targets resulting in greater penetration into soft targets for increased damage potential. The HEDP round is capable of penetrating 20 centimetres (7.9 in) of concrete, 30 centimetres (12 in) of brick or up to 210 centimetres (6.9 ft) 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 and for maximum damage against armored targets. The HEAA round is capable of penetrating up to the equivalent of 600 mm of rolled homogeneous steel (RHA).

The Novel Explosive (SMAW-NE) rocket is effective against caves and bunkers. The SMAW-NE uses a thermobaric warhead, which produces an overpressure wave capable of collapsing a lightly constructed building. The Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center teamed with the Marine Corps Systems Command and Talley Defense Systems to responded to an urgent U.S. Marine Corps need for a shoulder-launched enhanced-blast warhead in 2003. It was used in combat during both the First and Second offensives in Fallujah 2004.

The SMAW system (launcher, ammunition and logistics support) was fielded in 1984 as a United States Marine Corps–unique system. The Mod-0 demonstrated several shortcomings, resulting in a series of modifications in the mid-2000s. These modifications include a re-sleeving process for bubbled launch tubes, rewriting/drafting operator and technical manuals, and a kit to reduce environmental intrusion into the trigger mechanism. This also includes an optical sight modification to allow the new HEAA rocket to be used effectively against moving armor targets. The U.S. military recently fielded new boresight bracket kits which, when installed, correct the loss of accurate boresight issues between the launch tube and spotting rifle. During Operation Desert Storm, 150 launchers and 5,000 rockets were deployed by the United States Army. Since then, the Army has shown increased interest in the system.

Follow-On To SMAW

In 2002, the Corps began a program to develop a successor to the SMAW system, tentatively titled "Follow-On To SMAW". The contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin and IMI and thus resulted in the enhanced FGM-172 SRAW. In combat operations, it was ultimately used to augment, rather than replace, existing SMAW inventories.

SMAW II program

In 2008, a replacement program was again initiated and titled the SMAW II. Developed in tandem with a round capable of being fired from an enclosed area without ill effects on the environment and personnel. It weighs a combined 13.5 kilograms (29.7 lb) — 5.3 kg (11.7 lb) for the launcher, 8.2 kg (18 lb) for the rocket — and the contract is worth US$51.7 million providing the U.S. Marine Corps is satisfied with testing and follows through with plans to buy 1,717 new launchers.

SMAW II Serpent

Raytheon is working in coordination with Nammo-Talley Defense Systems on the SMAW II project, with Raytheon developing the launcher and Nammo-Talley Defense Systems developing the new rounds. The SMAW II launcher is called "Serpent" by the developing companies, and is similar in many respects to the first SMAW launcher, except that it replaces the standard SMAW launcher's spotting gun with sophisticated fire control electronics built by Raytheon. The sighting unit on the launcher is enclosed in a unique roll-cage to protect it. From videos, the roll-cage also serves as a carry handle. The development aims to reduce the over-all weight by four and one half pounds from the older SMAW launcher. The "Serpent" fires the same rounds as the standard SMAW and supports new and improved/enhanced rounds. At the AUSA 2010 convention, Raytheon stated that it would be ready for deployment by 2012.

Crew - 2

Caliber - 83 mm

Sights - Iron, Telescopic, Night Vision

End notes