Marine Corps Adds Laser Range Finder to SMAW

SMAW1The Navy and Marine Corps are working to update the shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon, or SMAW, to add a laser range finder and rid the weapon of its antiquated spotting rifle.

The SMAW is a shoulder-fired rocket system that is used to destroy bunkers, light armored vehicles and other fortified positions at ranges between 50 and 500 meters.

Marines currently use the SMAW MK 153 Mod O that weighs 16 pounds and still utilizes the spotting rifle, which shoots 9mm tracer bullets. Once the Marine hits the target with the tracer, the gunner then fires the rocket.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dalgren Division has developed the SMAW Mod 2 that is 3 pounds lighter and uses a modular ballistic sight, or MBS, that utilizes a laser range finder and thermal weapon site. The Navy and Marine Corps is currently test the upgraded version, the first update from the Mod 0 that was first introduced in 1984.

SMAW2Ryan Smith, Marine Corps Systems Command’s project officer for the SMAW, said the Corps has heard complaints from Marines who wanted to see the SMAW go away. However, he said he hoped the MBS upgrade will give Marines renewed faith in the weapon.

“Some would like to see the SMAW go away because it’s old,” Smith said in a release. “There are so many little hidden gems about the SMAW Mod 2 that will make it more user friendly, lighter in weight, easier to maintain and more available to the Marine.”

Daniel Ross, an engineer working on the SMAW project acknowledged that the spotting rifle had to go.

“The spotting rifle is the most maintenance intensive component of the weapon,” Ross said in a release. “The aiming process is trial and error…It’s obsolete.



  • Lance

    A much needed update tracers for a AT weapon give the shooters position away and forces them to move after firing. This can help conceal them better. Good to see the old SMAW doing well.

  • Might want to look at the Carl Gustav. Fires more types of munitions, twice the range, 3lb heavier (SOF version is 2lbs lighter), shorter when loaded . The only downside is the Rangers, SF, SEALs and Army use it.

    • Baby-Son

      Sir: I carried the old LAW (several at a time) in Vietnam (C/1/5) back in antiquity. Am aware of the Carl Gustav, but you’re more familiar with its present incarnation than I. Don’t fully understand the “downside” part of it, as DOD is so gung-ho on conformity of weapons, gear, etc. among the different branches – would it save the Corps money? Now when talking about BDUs, conformity is dumb, imho.

    • stefan s.

      Nice mature comment you putz! The only thing the Marines made that wasn’t given to them from Army R&D was MARPAT.

      • majr0d

        “The only thing the Marines made that wasn’t given to them from Army R&D was MARPAT.”

        Uh, you need to re-evaluate…
        OKC-3S Bayonet
        USMC Hot Weather Combat Boots
        Modular Tactical Vest
        Scalable Plate Carrier
        USMC Pack
        Lightweight Helmet

        I’m not the putz…

        Baby-Son – the conformity horse left the barn long ago (see above). That’s why we have eight different camo patterns while we are fighting the same enemy in the same theatre.

      • JP2336EOD

        Stefan s., I’ll bite….why don’t you please expound more upon all of the Army R&D systems that were “given” to the Marine Corps? You seem to be VERY knowledgeable on this and I would like to know…

        Or was this some stupid childish service rivalry comment? I stopped doing my 1st day out of boot camp.

        • artrain

          Great post. Most stopped that garbage as they were leaving boot!

        • stefan s

          M-1 Garand: Army. Guadalcanal you were still using M-1903 Springfield’s! M-16 Army, M-1 Abrams: Army. We gave you M-1’s after the Gulf War when you Marines were using M-60’s. BDU: Army, PASGT helmet: Army. The Marines very rarely develop anything on their own. face facts you’re at the mercy of the Navy…Army, Bigger service more budget. NATICK is Army. I was commenting on a post trashing Rangers, and SOC. Served since Reagan.

          • stefan s

            majrod: “The only downside is the Rangers, SF, SEALs and Army use it”. that is what I took exception too.

          • Allwet

            “The only downside is the Rangers, SF, SEALs and Army use it”.

            …sarcasm, irony “backwards claymore style”……and as to Guadalcanal, and a bad ass molehill called Suribachi, who gave em that? Who planted that flag, with all the “hand me downs”(and without all them cute little advertising patches pasted all over em?) you so freely speak of?….here’s hint if you don’t know…..I’ll just start this one …1,2,3,4………..wait for it!?…..wait for it…..

          • majr0d

            allwet – Interesting, the myth of “hand me down equipment”. There have been occasions where Marines used Army equipment (often because the Navy didn’t provide them enough stocks beforehand). Those items to my knowledge and anything I’ve ever researched was brand new when it was issued. No one went and gathered up old Army gear and gave it to Marines. There is no little old lady in sneakers stamping EGAs on “used” Army equipment.

            TODAY, the myth is even more absurd because the only thing shared between branches now is ammo and no, that’s not “used, hand me down” ammo.

            The myth is largely due to the fact that on occasion the Corps has been slow to replace equipment (e.g. when the Army went and rebuilt and bought new SAWs a decade ago the Marines did not which also provided ammo for the argument that SAWs were getting unreliable and the M27 needed to be bought). When a past Marine has looked at a rare very worn piece of equipment that the Army and Marines both happen to share (highly uncommon now) it’s worn out not because it was an Army hand me down but because the Corps didn’t replace it. That’s not the Army’s fault though some Marines can’t help but blame someone else.

            It’s gotten a tremendous amount of mileage a USMC lore and I guess survives because it implies an accomplishment. The truth is there are MANY things for the Corps to be proud of. It doesn’t have to make up ones.

          • majr0d

            My reference of Army, SOF etc. was sarcasm. I’ve commented at length about our lack of focus and teamwork in the areas of defense. There was a time we shared the best developments now folks are more interested in boasting and service specific solutions.

            The Army had ZERO impact on the Marines decision to field the M1. That was a self inflicted wound. The Marines were slow to adopt it (four years behind the Army) because of traditionalism, concerns about reliability, accuracy and the impact of ammo expenditure by issuing the average grunt a semi-auto rifle.

          • FL5001

            Money is only half of it. It’s down to philosophy and mission, you don’t see the Army developing AMTRACs as they don’t do beaches, and likewise a MAGTF isn’t engineered to do sustained land offensives against heavily armored opponents so they don’t develop tanks. Harriers and Hornets are more expensive than tanks so budget priorities lie elsewhere.

            BTW, 4th Tank Bn USMCR used the M1A1 during Op Desert Storm, although those ‘outdated’ M60A1s still did a good job against T-72s.

            The Marines also adopted the M1 Garand long before WW2 let alone operations on Guadalcanal. Logistics were the issue, not adoption (which they left until the bugs were ironed out at cost to the Army). The Army was training recruits with the M1903 for most of the war, and it wasn’t uncommon to see units deploying overseas with it due to a shortage themselves. The Army used plenty of M1903s for exactly the same reason as the USMC during the early years of WW2. The Army however had priority given the requirement for a bigger number required.

          • majr0d

            FL5001 – There is no doubt that mission has an impact on different equipment but the list I created above isn’t mission unique. Agree money is a big part of branch specific answers (vendors will hit different branches until one bites) but so is ego/branch partisanship which I try to point out whomever is doing it.

            You can call it “philosophy” but there is little need for different camo, bayonets, boots etc. to fight the same enemy on the same ground.

            The Corps was not waiting for bugs to be fixed to adopt the Garand which they finally did in Mar ’41 eight months before WWII started (not “long before”).… Logistics didn’t have an impact except that the Marines got a late start which was not caused by bugs. The attitude was the M1 Garand was more complicated than a bolt action making it prone to malfunctions and less accurate than the 1903.… It was a very traditional opinion. The same that caused the Marines to be slow in adopting optics and the M4.

            There is an especially strong tendency to forget bad decisions or rationalize them when it comes to the Corps (note the “hand me down” equipment myth). Everyone knows the story about MacArthur ordering the Garand to go from .276 to .303 caliber. Hardly anyone knows how vigorously the Marines resisted the M1.

    • orly?

      I thought the Carl Gustav was never an army-wide issue item, just as the SMAW isn’t USMC “everywhere.”

      I thought the AT4s and LAWs fulfilled that role.

      • majr0d
        • orly?

          Yes, I understand that.

          I still don’t see the possibility of every squad having one. I believe most will still go with grabbing an AT4/LAW (Why have we been using so many Javelins?).

          Same with the SMAW, especially with the sequester. Go to war with what you have right?
          Hell its lighter that the Carl Gustav. Rather wait for that huge leap in making a better Carl Gustav/SMAW/RPG out of entirely new lighter material for commonality to occur.

          I feel the upgrade as fine unless we are facing another invasion of the Fulda Gap scenario.

          • majr0d

            Where did anyone say one per squad? These weapons are usually assigned to the weapons squad of a platoon. (I thought you were a Marine officer)

            “Why have we been using so many Javelins?” Ans. Range AT4/LAWs are out ranged by RPGs which is why the Army started fielding Gustavs.

            You do go to war with what you have. We’ve been at war over a decade… The SMAW has half the range of the Gustav and is heavier than the SOF version. The conventional one is a whopping three pounds heavier and offers more types of rounds.

            The enemy is shooting at us TODAY with RPGs that outrange our similar weapons. No need to wait till a Fulda Gap scenario (where they sent the Army anyway). BTW, a Fulda Gap scenario would be for Javelins. The SMAW and Gustav aren’t as effective (think killing tanks).

            Justifying poor decisions is part of the problem and why branches have so many unique items to address the exact same problems. You’re making my original point.

          • Jack

            I think you have been left out of the info trail. the Carl G is an Army Program of Record with the Army infantry as well as SOCOM. The new M3A1 is 14 1/2 pounds, two pounds lighter than the SMAW launcher and the rounds for the Carl G are half the weight of the SMAW with twice the range

        • orly?

          From your own words:

          “Greg, the logic behind it is training and weight. The AT4/LAW are very simple, light, one type round weapons.

          One Goose and round is 32lbs. Two AT4’s weigh 30lbs.

          Every Infantryman is trained to fire the AT4. Not so for the goose. The AT4 is also an individual weapon so it doesn’t require a change to the unit’s organization. When you add a crew served weapon to the Infantry platoon you’re adding some more complexity.”

          • majr0d

            Context IS important. We were discussing AT4s in the other thread. We are discussing SMAW/Gustav and different branch solutions for the same problem here.

            If you want to address the squad makeup and the AT4 you might consider commenting in the other thread or referencing the whole discussion here.

            If you look hard enough I’m sure you can find me making a comment about M1 tanks. Inserting it here doesn’t follow or mean I’m saying we should issue a tank to every squad.

            BTW, NEVER said the Gustav should be fielded at Rifle Squad level. In fact I argue the opposite.

            What is your point? What are you trying to say besides making excuses for branch specific solutions.

          • Jack

            One Carl G weapon is 20 lbs, the HE round is 6.8Lbs , the HEDP is 7lbs

    • KRanger

      Use by SF and Rangers sounds like a recommendation to me…..not a “down side”. We need to move past inter-service rivalry that impedes performance: example…Army might think about adopting marine camo,patterns thatbhave prove effective. Me should move towards commonality, not away from it. We maintain our service and unit heritage, character and pride by maintaining our history and accomplishments,even in our dress uniforms, but not on the battlefield, where we are all one team, including common weapons ( it’s even cheaper that way….sequestration?).

      • majr0d

        If you do a “camo” search in the kitup search box you’ll come across a couple of dozen articles done here on the subject or you can read mine here

        The short answer is that the Corps has for the only time in our history blocked other branches use of MARPAT.

        FWIW, it looks like AOR is slightly more effective though and whatever is announced coming out of the Army trials will be the most rigorously tested. The other light at the end of the tunnel is that Congress might mandate our return to common patterns (how we did business for over half a century) because DoD has refused to make branches work together.

  • Vincent

    I’ve been waiting for this one. It’s quite a logical step up as far as I’m concerned.

  • I still want to know why the conventional Army doesn’t have any kind of non-disposable heavy weapon. I am glad to see the Goose making its way to the 10th Mountain, though.

  • JP2336EOD

    While I love the SMAW/SMAW-D, the Gustav or newer M3 are programs of record that, just as the many other “service specific platforms/items” that has been better received over the last 5-6 years. The SOC community has had them in the inventory and I’ve spoke to a few from 3 services and first-hand accounts tell of great effects.

    The Army and MC (sometimes the Navy), speaking on land weapon systems, are eternally screwed. One service wants it in red, the other in blue. One wants to call is one thing, the other wants to make it “theirs” by changing one small, component that isn’t critical. While the final one will take all that and then say they want it all black with polka-dots that give off IR signature when exposed to sea water.

    Its not going to end until….well, money is the root of the problem so it won’t end. Money as in “hey man, I have a deal for you to make money off of the (insert service) and present a system similar to the (xxx) but not….”. Politicians and senior Officers line themselves up for jobs and $$$ by making crooked deals every day…sometimes every other day.

    From an EOD POV…The A7 LAW/fuzing is money, awesome effects on target (though obviously extremely limited on Type by function) and they are disposable; carry 2 in A-Stan and not be bothered by weight. The AT-4…eh, not impressed, seen too many duds and projectiles actually punch through targets w/o functioning, plus it’s not the ideal dismounted system. SMAW’s I wish I had 5 on the end of each arm, far far lower dud rate than AT-4s and HEAT and NE rounds are money when it was needed offensive situations; but like the Gustav, when you’re out of rounds you are still carrying the paperweight platform. Gustav’s round selection is fantastic, but can easily be done with the SMAW if the decision was ever made for the capabilities to be present.

    Would love the Army, Navy and MC to agree on one “med/heavy” recoilless portable system, taking the best from the SMAW and Gustav, but until someone mans the ‘F’ up and puts a stop to redundant programs it will never happen.

    • majr0d

      Agree with much of what you said but at twice the range the Goose has a huge advantage (and the ammo already exists) not to mention other services are already using it (to include MARSOC).

  • Timothy Yan

    1) The original weapon trail was rigged to disqualified the Carl Gustav with the add-on requirement of self-containing ammo. All because of it was not invented here. Noted that the SMAW is based on British and Isreali designs.

    2) For the first 20 years in service, the Marine Corps was not allow to have HEAT ammo for the SMAW (beside the small 5000 or so in storage) because of the Army’s Dragon ATGM program. Due to the very small production of the SMAW HEAT round, it cost something like $20,000 each to make.

  • Timothy Yan

    Noted the the original Brit spot rifle was designed to have a 5-round life and be throw away with the empty rocket launch tube after fired. GD over engineering it by adding a heavier barrel and the steel support braces. Didn’t I mentioned it was designed to last only 5-round.

    Another issue is the launcher tube on the SMAW. Anyone noticed that other reloadable rocket launcher systems use metal tube or metal lined tube. Well on the SMAW is plastic coated fiber wraps.

  • top dog

    Kinda late ain’t it Marines?…Well, better late than never.