Australia buys the M4 recoilless gun: the killer of T-90 tanks

The Swedish defense manufacturer, Saab, has recently revealed Australia’s acquisition of an additional set of the acclaimed Carl Gustaf M4 recoilless guns/grenade launchers. These high-tech weapons are set to be delivered in the 2024-25 period. 

Australia buys the M4 recoilless gun: the killer of T-90 tanks
Photo credit: SAAB

At a contract value of approximately USD 37 million, Australia is poised to upgrade its military arsenal by replacing older recoilless gun models with these state-of-the-art launchers. The forthcoming batch will be equipped with the newly updated FCD 558 fire control system, enhancing its operational efficiency. 

The Carl Gustaf system’s popularity has been on a steady incline, notably due to its impressive performance in the Ukraine conflicts. This robust weapon system demonstrated its potency by decimating the advanced Russian T-90M, a main battle tank mass-produced for modern warfare. 

The Carl-Gustaf M4 represents the latest evolution in Saab Dynamics AB’s line of portable, multi-purpose 84mm anti-tank/jet grenade launchers. Compared to its predecessor, the M3, the M4 is lighter by 3.4 kg [weighing only 6.7 kg] and slightly more compact with a total length of 950 cm. The weight reduction is an outcome of incorporating lighter structural components, and the reduced length improves its usability in urban warfare. 

Furthermore, the M4 launcher boasts a new red-dot sight, a safety mechanism for secure transport after disengagement, Picatinny rails, a front grip, a shot counter, and a remote management feature for programmable ammunition. Since the M4’s debut in 2014, Saab has secured contracts with thirteen countries, underlining the global demand for this advanced grenade launcher.

What is FCD 558?

The FCD 558 system is an upgraded fire control system that is integrated into the Carl Gustaf M4 recoilless rifle. It stands for Fire Control Device 558 and is designed to enhance the accuracy and effectiveness of the weapon system.

The FCD 558 system includes a laser rangefinder, ballistic calculator, and thermal sight. These components work together to provide the operator with precise targeting information, allowing them to engage targets at longer ranges and with greater accuracy.

The laser rangefinder uses a laser beam to determine the distance to the target. The ballistic calculator takes into account factors such as range, wind, and temperature to calculate the optimal firing solution. The thermal sight allows the operator to see targets in low-light conditions or through smoke and haze.

How does the M4 warhead work?

Australia buys the M4 recoilless gun: the killer of T-90 tanks
Photo credit: SAAB

The Carl Gustaf M4 recoilless gun warhead works by utilizing a shaped charge explosive. This explosive is designed to focus the energy of the blast in a specific direction, creating a high-velocity jet of metal that can penetrate armor.

When the trigger is pulled, the rifle fires a rocket-assisted projectile that carries the warhead toward the target. The rocket motor provides additional thrust to the projectile, increasing its velocity and range.

Upon impact with the target, the shaped charge explosive detonates, creating a high-velocity jet of metal that can penetrate armor. The warhead is designed to be effective against a wide range of targets, including tanks, armored vehicles, and fortified positions.

Carl Gustaf M4 and FGM-148 Javelin differences

The Carl Gustaf M4 and Javelin are both anti-tank weapons, but they differ in their design and principle of action. The Carl Gustaf M4 is a recoilless rifle that fires a variety of ammunition, including high explosive anti-tank [HEAT] rounds, armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot [APFSDS] rounds, and anti-structure rounds. The Javelin, on the other hand, is a fire-and-forget missile that uses a top-attack mode to penetrate the armor of tanks and other armored vehicles.

The principle of action of the Carl Gustaf M4 differs from the Javelin in that it relies on the recoilless effect to launch its projectile. When the weapon is fired, the propellant gases are expelled out of the back of the weapon, which creates an equal and opposite force that propels the projectile forward. This allows the weapon to fire a variety of ammunition types, as the recoilless effect can be adjusted to suit the specific round being fired. The Javelin, on the other hand, uses a rocket motor to propel the missile forward and a guidance system to steer it toward its target.

Another difference between the Carl Gustaf M4 and Javelin is their range and accuracy. The Carl Gustaf M4 has a maximum effective range of around 1,000 meters and can be fired from a variety of positions, including from the shoulder, from a bipod, or from a tripod. The Javelin, on the other hand, has a maximum range of around 2,500 meters and is typically fired from a tripod or vehicle mount. The Javelin is also more accurate than the Carl Gustaf M4, as it uses a guidance system to steer the missile towards its target, whereas the Carl Gustaf M4 relies on the skill of the operator to aim and fire the weapon accurately.


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