Strange Weapons.
   (Ver 1)

Please keep in mind that these are only my recollections and opinions based on 16 years in the military.

How about a man-pack MLRS (Multiple Rocket Launcher System)? I can't remember the nomenclature, but, when I was going through Anti-Tank/Assault training in the Marine Corps, one of the weapons that were taught about, and tested on, although we were told that we would never see one because they were too dangerous to have out in the open air, was a four-shot rocket launcher that fired rockets the same size as the LAAWS anti-tank rocket.

These were basically assault weapons and the launcher was not reload able, as I remember it. The launcher was square on the ends with fold down lids at each end and less than four feet long. It had a sight of some sort (can't remember) and a pistol grip towards the front. It was fired from the shoulder. I also don't remember whether it had to be extended, like a LAAWS, or not.

The problem was that the warhead contained a mixture of, I think, gelled kerosene and aluminum flakes, which, when burning, was probably at least as nasty as NAPALM. They were supposed to have some amount of penetrating effect as well, but were mainly designed for incendiary work. Unfortunately, the lowest bidder got the contract to make them and the warheads had a tendency to leak inside the launcher. There really wasn't any way to inspect them without popping the end cap, which broke a seal, so any unit that had been inspected could no longer be issued for use. If you fired one and another one had leaked, it would probably explode. If a bullet hit a warhead, it would probably go off, and set the other three off. It is not possible to throw one of those things far enough away to survive the unexpected explosion or launch of four of those warheads.

We were also told that these weapons appeared to suffer from the Monday/Friday syndrome, common in American industry, where anything made on a Monday is suspect because the people making it were probably hung over, and anything made on Friday was equally suspect because the people making it couldn't keep their minds on what they were doing rather than what they planned to do at the bars later. These things were designed to fire the rockets in sequence so that any trigger pull would fire one, and only one rocket until the launcher was empty, without the 'gunner' having to select which one to fire. Supposedly, there were a statistically significant number of cases where all, some combination, or none actually fired when the trigger was pulled.

I'm afraid that, if I had ever had to take one of those into combat I would have had to have a sign made up that said, "Please shoot me in the head first."

I have fired the LAAWS, and couldn't hit a damned thing with it, and the old 3.5-inch 'Bazooka' that I hit one for one with, but we never fired these particular objects.

I had heard that the Carl Gustav was pretty good. Oh well. All of those ATGWs had dangerous back blast. I'll never forget an officer in a jeep pulling up behind one of my TOW launchers just before we were going to fire during a CAX once. I mentioned it in one of the TOW platoon series. It was difficult to believe that he didn't realize the danger. Fortunately, this was a rare occasion when this particular gunner listened to his loader when the loader said that the back blast area was NOT clear.

The one thing I really hated about the 3.5" was that we had to wear helmets when firing them, and it was very difficult to get my eye directly behind the sight because of interference between the helmet and the launch tube. Since then, I've noticed that, in the old movies, 'bazooka' gunners all seemed to wear their helmets tilted far over to the left. I always thought was just an affectation. Maybe not.

Recoilless guns are an interesting concept. The Marines really liked them because of the light weight (of the gun) for the projectile size. Two of my favorite implementations were the 'Mule' mount and the ONTOS. The 'Mule' was that little four-wheel flatbed vehicle with the engine mounted under the rear and started with a pull cord. The ONTOS had six 106 recoilless rifles mounted to it's hull in fixed mounts. I think the vehicle weighed 6 tons and was tracked, with a crew of two. The 106s couldn't be reloaded from inside the vehicle. One question I've always had is what kind of sights, if any, the ONTOS had. The 106s were aimed the same way as that Swedish turret less tank. I don't think that these 106s had spotting rifles like some did.

My thanks yet again to Rory.


  sig - logo