New rocket rounds give Marines ways to stay hidden while firing

by Tommy Grant

Marines will soon carry an upgraded shoulder-fired rocket that they can launch from inside buildings or bunkers, giving them more options for devastating firepower.

Marine Corps Systems Command announced in May the acquisition of the M72 light assault weapon fire from Enclosure Munition.

The new munitions are the M72A8 anti-armor and M72A10 multipurpose, anti-structure munition.

The anti-armor option has a high-explosive charge warhead that improves armor penetration and the multipurpose round packs more punch to take out enemy structures.

The two rounds will replace the existing M72A7 light assault weapon anti-armor round. The five-year contract award amount has a ceiling of $498 million.

The light assault weapon, a 66 mm single-shot, unguided, disposable rocket launcher, will see its own upgrades. Those include an enhanced in-line trigger mechanism and improved sling design, according to the command’s release.

The new trigger allows users to “exert trigger pressure in the same direction as the round is fired,” Systems Command Media Chief Morgan Blackstock told Marine Corps Times.

“The operator no longer has to aim straight while pushing down, causing a ‘jerk’ or overcorrection of aim,” she wrote in an email response.

The key difference between the new and legacy systems is the ability to fire the weapon from an enclosure.

The current version of the launcher creates a bright flash and large smoke cloud when fired, potentially giving away the position of Marines.

Due to severe backblast and other safety concerns, Marines had to have an exposed area to fire the light assault weapon in the past.

The light assault weapon, also called the light anti-armor or anti-tank weapon, first was fielded in 1963 and has seen service in all major U.S. conflicts since, including the Vietnam War, Gulf War and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is widely used by numerous nations and has seen active use in the recent Yemeni Civil War, Israel-Hamas War and Russian-Ukrainian War.

But the new rounds allow shooters to fire multiple shots daily from inside a room. That allows users to remain concealed while firing.

The system has less flash and less backblast than the M9 pistol, according to the release.

“This new capability removes the Marine from exposure to enemy engagement by introducing the [Fire From Enclosure] capability,” said Scott Adams, product manager, Ammo. “The FFE and the reduced thermal signature provides the Marine with an added layer of protection.”

There are more than 18,000 light assault weapon systems currently in the Marine Corps inventory. The new system and rounds will begin fielding in 2024 and is expected to be fully fielded by 2027.

The Marines are still determining how many light assault weapon systems to issue at various unit levels, Blackstock said.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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