Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Marine Corps will deploy the improved M3E1 Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-tank Weapon System (MAAWS) in each 13-man Marine rifle squad.
The move is part of the Marines’ plan to vastly increase the lethality of each Marine rifle squad in the more probable scenario of a war against either the Russian Ground Forces in Europe or the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force in Asia. The M3E1 will replace the MK153 Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW).
The M3E1 MAAWS is an 84 mm man-portable, reusable anti-tank recoilless rifle derived from the Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle that entered service with the Swedish Army in 1948. The original Carl Gustaf was produced by Saab Bofors Dynamics.
New and deadlier rounds will be used by the M3E1. One of these munitions is the Massive Overmatch Assault Round (MOAR), which is a precision guided round that will better allow the M3E1 to destroy enemy targets on the move using advanced seeker technology.
The M3E1can also fire multipurpose rounds effective against armored vehicles and “soft targets” such as infantry sheltering behind walls. It fires high-explosive air burst rounds; close combat rounds and general support rounds like the smoke and battlefield illumination.
Air burst rounds use a programmable fuze to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the round’s effect against enemy infantry in defilade. The effective range of the M3E1 is 1,300 meters, which still outranges the Russian-made RPG whose effective range is 900 meters.
The M3E1 consolidates a series of improvements made to the M3 MAAWS. It’s 3.4 kg lighter at 6.6 kg than the M3 MAAWS, and its 950 mm overall length is shorter than the older version.
The lighter weight and shorter length allows the M3E1 to be more suitable in urban combat. The lighter weight was accomplished by using lighter components, including a carbon fiber tube with a titanium liner.
The Marine Corps in late 2017 announced plans to acquire 1,200 M3E1s. In addition to the weapon being used by rifle squads, the weapon might also replace the SMAW in combat engineer squads. The Marines have since reduced the buy to 1,073 M3E1s.
The M3E1s are meant to supplement the explosive power of the improved M72E Light Anti-Tank Weapon (LAW) in squad arsenals. The Marines believe transitioning to the M3E1 will translate in “more protection and added lethality for future grunts operating in urban environments.”
M3E1 won’t replace any existing elements of the squad, but will function as an additive capability for any squad member to operate.
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