Saab debuted a new variant of its Carl Gustaf 84 mm shoulder-fired recoilless rifle, the M4, during a series of demonstration firings at the Bofors Test Center at Karlskoga, Sweden, on 24 September.
The latest version of the nearly 70-year-old weapon system has been designed to offer significant weight savings over its predecessors, as well as improvements to other aspects of the system.
The M4 weighs 6.7 kg, some 3 kg lighter than the earlier Carl Gustaf M3 and half the weight of the 14.2 kg M2 version still in service with many nations. This has been achieved by constructing the recoilless rifle's barrel out of titanium, saving 1.1 kg (compared to the M3's steel barrel), building its outer casing our of carbon fibre (saving 0.8 kg), and by redesigning the weapon's venturi to save a further 0.9 kg. The redesign has also served to decrease the size of the Carl Gustaf, bringing the M4's total length down to under 1,000 mm.
The company has completed development of the new variant and it hopes to have completed qualification of the system in 2015 - when it also hopes to receive orders for the M4 - to allow for deliveries to customers to begin in 2016.
Saab has also built provision for an intelligent sighting system into the M4's design to allow it fire programmable ammunition. This is currently a future-proofing measure, as at this stage the company does not have any (non-manual) programmable ammunition types on the market. However, it aims to be able to be able to offer such ammunition to customers in the next few years.
The Carl Gustaf M4's current default sight is the same telescopic sight used on the M3, although it can also mount a red-dot sight or, through its integrated 1913 Picatinny rail mounts, be fitted with a variety of other sighting options.
Additionally, Saab has for the first time added a safety mechanism to the Carl Gustaf. The dual mode safety is intended to allow for the M4 to be safely carried when loaded, something not possible with previous versions, thus allowing for faster engagement times when on the move.
Besides weight savings, the M4's user functionality has also been improved by fitting both onto Picatinny rails, allowing both the recoilless rifle's front grip and shoulder rest to be adjusted. This also allows the front grip to be replaced with a remote-control system for operating an intelligent sighting system, if fitted to the weapon system and desired.
Meanwhile, the addition of a shot counter to the latest version of the Carl Gustaf enables greatly simplified, and more accurate, accounting of weapon usage and remaining service life. The new titanium/carbon fibre construction of the M4 additionally retains the same 1,000 round service life of the steel/fibreglass of the M3 version, despite its lighter weight.
Saab officials acknowledge that given the use of new materials the M4 will cost more than the M3 version. As a result the company intends to be running a dual production line of both variants for some time before production eventually shifts to just the M4 version.
There are currently 11 different ammunition types available for the Carl Gustaf weapon system, providing considerable operational flexibility. Programmable 'smart' ammunition types for use with the M4 are expected to be the next to reach the market. Saab officials also disclosed they are working on a new concept of ammunition for the Carl Gustaf: and 'Ultra-Light Missile' that would feature lock-on before launch guidance, feature several attack modes, and have a range of 1,500-2,000 m - approximately doubling the range of the existing Carl Gustaf ammunition types.
Saab unveils Carl Gustaf M4 - IHS Jane's 360