In 1988, U.S. Special Operations units identified the need to replace the aging M67 recoilless rifle used primarily as an anti-tank weapon.  The SAAB Dynamics M3 proved to be the answer to their request, and were first delivered to Army Rangers and Navy SEALS in 1994.

The M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System, or MAAWS, has seen use by the U.S. Army in conflicts around the world since its introduction force wide in 2001.  Most weapon systems, even if they prove valuable and resilient in combat operations, require updating from time to time in order to continue to serve their purpose, and the MAAWS has been no exception in the 26 years since it first saw service wide distribution, and the latest upgraded version just received approval to order more than a thousand of these newly improved platforms.

The newly updated M3E1 is not only shorter, lighter and easier to use than its predecessors thanks to longer handles and improved grips, it has also been designed to use a number of different kinds of ordnance.

The current system that the Army uses is the AT4, which only allows Soldiers to fire one shot, and then they have to throw the system away. With the M3E1, Soldiers can use different types of ammunition which gives them an increased capability on the battlefield,” said Randy Everett, Foreign Comparative Testing, or FCT, project manager.

A key benefit of the M3E1 is that it can fire multiple types of rounds, giving Soldiers increased capability in battle. (Photo: U.S. Army photo )

The Army is so confident that this updated launcher will add combat capabilities to America’s warfighters that it is currently working to expedite its order for 1,111 M3E1 platforms by filing the contract under an “Urgent Material Release,” intended to get these launchers into the hands of soldiers as soon as possible.

The M3E1 is reportedly six pounds lighter than its predecessor, as well as 2.5 inches shorter.  It also boasts an improved carrying handle, extra shoulder padding, and an upgraded sighting system designed to permit adjustments for comfort without compromising accuracy.  Because these new platforms are designed to be able to fire multiple times, a round counter has also been added to help track the service life of each weapon.

(Photo: U.S. Army photo )

The U.S. Army contracted the updated platform from Sweden, where the platform underwent a series of tests at IMT Materialteknik AB in Sundsvall.  The tests were overseen by U.S. Army Test & Evaluation Command and other subject matter experts, but by conducting the tests at the vendor’s facility in Sweden, the Army was able to dramatically reduce the overall expense of procurement.  Likewise, by simply adopting a technology developed by a third-party vendor through the Army’s FCT program office, which specializes in procuring equipment that was developed internationally or via commercial endeavors, the Defense Department didn’t have to foot the bill for development.

Our original investment of $3 million has led to an approximate $40 million procurement for the Army, which is a great return on investment. But, most importantly, the M3E1 can be reused so it gives Soldiers increased flexibility and capability on the battlefield,” Everett said.