The M72 LAW in extended position
Type Anti-tank rocket launcher
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1963–present
Used by See Operators
Wars Vietnam War
Falklands War
Bougainville Civil War[1]
Bosnian War[2]
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
Production history
Designer FA Spinale, CB Weeks and PV Choate
Designed Patent filed 1963
Manufacturer Norway: NAMMO (Raufoss, Norway)
U.S.: NAMMO Talley (Mesa, Arizona)
Turkey: under license by MKEK
Unit cost €670 or $754.19 US (Converted)
Weight 2.5 kg (5.5 lb)
Length 24.8 in (630 mm) (unarmed)
34.67 in (881 mm) (armed)

Caliber 66 mm
Muzzle velocity 145 m/s (475.7 ft/s)
Effective firing range 200 m (660 ft)
point-initiated, base-detonated
External image
1960s Weapons Similar to M72
SARPAC top, M72 LAW middle, MINIMAN bottom

The M72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon, also referred to as the Light Anti-Armor Weapon or LAW as well as LAWS Light Anti-Armor Weapons System) is a portable one-shot 66-mm unguided anti-tank weapon. The solid rocket propulsion unit was developed in the newly formed Rohm and Haas research laboratory at Redstone Arsenal in 1959,[3] then the full system was designed by Paul V. Choate, Charles B. Weeks, Frank A. Spinale, et al. at the Hesse-Eastern Division of Norris Thermadore. American production of the weapon began by Hesse-Eastern in 1963, and was terminated by 1983; currently it is produced by Nammo Raufoss AS in Norway and their subsidiary Nammo Talley, Inc. in Arizona.[4]

In early 1963, the M72 LAW was adopted by the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps as their primary individual infantry anti-tank weapon, replacing the M31 HEAT rifle grenade and the M20A1 "Super Bazooka" in the U.S. Army. It was subsequently adopted by the U.S. Air Force to serve in an anti-emplacement/anti-armor role in Air Base Defense duties.[5][note 1]

In the early 1980s, the M72 was slated to be replaced by the FGR-17 Viper. However, this program was canceled by Congress and the M136 AT4 was adopted instead. At that time, its nearest equivalents were the Swedish Pskott m/68 (Miniman) and the French SARPAC.[note 2]


The increased importance of tanks and other armored vehicles in World War II caused a need for portable infantry weapons to deal with them. The first to be used (with limited success) were Molotov cocktails, flamethrowers, satchel charges, jury-rigged landmines, and specially designed magnetic hollow charges. All of these had to be used within a few meters of the target, which was difficult and dangerous.

The U.S. Army introduced the bazooka, the first rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Despite early problems, it was a success and was copied by other countries.

However, the bazooka had its drawbacks. Large and easily damaged, it required a well-trained two-man crew. Germany developed a one-man alternative, the Panzerfaust, having single-shot launchers that were cheap and requiring no special training. As a result, they were regularly issued to Volkssturm home guard regiments. They were very efficient against tanks during the last days of World War II. However, the Panzerfaust was not a rocket launcher but instead a recoilless rifle.

The M72 LAW is a combination of the two World War II weapons. The basic principle is a miniaturized bazooka, while its light weight and cheapness rival the Panzerfaust.


1961 LAW prototype, showing the rejected front sight that also served as the front cover

The weapon consists of a rocket within a launcher consisting of two tubes, one inside the other. While closed, the outer assembly serves as a watertight container for the rocket and the percussion-cap firing mechanism that activates the rocket. The outer tube contains the trigger, the arming handle, front and rear sights, and the rear cover. The inner tube contains the channel assembly, which houses the firing pin assembly, including the detent lever. When extended, the inner tube telescopes outward toward the rear, guided by the channel assembly, which rides in an alignment slot in the outer tube's trigger housing assembly. This causes the detent lever to move under the trigger assembly in the outer tube, both locking the inner tube in the extended position and cocking the weapon. Once armed, the weapon is no longer watertight, even if the launcher is collapsed into its original configuration.

When fired, the striker in the rear tube impacts a primer, which ignites a small amount of powder that "flashes" down a tube to the rear of the rocket and ignites the propellant in the rocket motor. The rocket motor burns completely before leaving the mouth of the launcher, producing gases around 1,400 °F (760 °C). The rocket propels the 66-mm warhead forward without significant recoil. As the warhead emerges from the launcher, six fins spring out from the base of the rocket tube, stabilizing the warhead's flight.[note 3] The early LAW warhead, developed from the M31 HEAT rifle grenade warhead, uses a simple, but extremely safe and reliable, piezoelectric fuze system. On impact with the target, the front of the nose section is crushed causing a microsecond electric current to be generated, which detonates a booster charge located in the base of the warhead, which sets off the main warhead charge. The force of the main charge forces the copper liner into a directional particle jet that, in relation to the size of the warhead, is capable of a massive amount of penetration.

A unique mechanical set-back safety on the base of the detonator grounds the circuit until the missile has accelerated out of the tube. The acceleration causes the three disks in the safety mechanism to rotate 90° in succession, ungrounding the circuit; the circuit from the nose to the base of the detonator is then completed when the piezoelectric crystal is crushed on impact.


M72 LAW's rocket
M72 demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia in the 1960s. Note the M1 rifle slung over the soldier's back.

The M72A2 LAW was issued as a prepackaged round of ammunition. Improvements to the launcher and differences in the ammunition were differentiated by a single designation. The most common M72A2 LAWs came prepacked with a rocket containing a 66-mm HEAT warhead which is attached to the inside of the launcher by the igniter. The standard M72A2 anti-armor HEAT warhead has an official stated penetration in 1977 of up to 20 cm/8 inches of steel plate, 600 mm (2.0 ft) of reinforced concrete, or 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) of soil.[6][note 4]

A training variant of the M72 LAW, designated the M190, also exists. This weapon is reloadable and uses the 35-mm M73 training rocket. A subcaliber training device that uses a special tracer cartridge also exists for the M72. A training variant used by the Finnish armed forces fires 7.62-mm tracer rounds.

The US Army tested other 66-mm rockets based on the M54 rocket motor used for the M72. The M74 TPA (Thickened Pyrophoric Agent) had an incendiary warhead filled with TEA (triethylaluminium); this was used in the M202A1 FLASH (FLame Assault SHoulder weapon) 4-tube launcher. The XM96 RCR (Riot Control Rocket) had a CS gas-filled warhead for crowd control and was used with the XM191 quadruple-tube launcher.

Once fired in combat, the launcher is required to be destroyed to prevent its use by the enemy as a booby-trap; the enemy could collapse the launcher to its original configuration, fill it with explosives, and rig it to explode if moved by a soldier believing it to be unused. Due to the single-use nature of the weapon, it was issued as what is called a "wooden round"[7] of ammunition by the Canadian Army and the United States Army, requiring no checks or maintenance, just as small-arms ammunition can be stored in the same manner for years without any problems.

Service history


The M72 rocket has been in Australian service since the Vietnam War.[8][9] Currently, the Australian Defence Force uses the M72A6 variant[10] as an anti-structure and secondary anti-armor weapon. The weapon is used by ordinary troops at the section (squad) level and complements the heavier 84-mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifle and Javelin missile, which are generally utilized by specialized fire support and anti-armor troops.[11]

Republic of China

The Republic of China Army (Taiwan) uses the M72 as a secondary anti-armor weapon. It is used primarily as a backup to the Javelin and M136 (AT4) anti-tank weapons. The weapon is known in Taiwan as the Type 66 rocket launcher due to its caliber.

Packing crates are used to demonstrate the danger of the M72 back blast


The M72 LAW is used in the Finnish Army (some 70,000 pieces), where it is known under the designations 66 KES 75 (M72A2, no longer in service) and 66 KES 88 (M72A5). In accordance with the weapon's known limitations, a pair of "tank-buster" troops crawl to a firing position some 50 to 150 meters away from the target, bringing with them four to six LAWs, which are then used in rapid succession until the target is destroyed or incapacitated. Due to its low penetration capability, it is used mostly against light armored targets. The M72 is the most common anti-tank weapon in the Finnish Army. Finland has recently upgraded its stocks to the M72 EC LAW Mk.I version. It is designated 66 KES 12.[12] Claimed penetration for the M72 EC LAW is 450mm of rolled homogeneous armor steel plate, nearly twice that of the M72A2.[13] It also fields the bunker-buster version, named M72 ASM RC, and locally designated 66 KES 12 RAK. The oldest version 66 KES 75 is now retired.


The Turkish Army uses a locally built version by Makina ve Kimya Endustrisi Kurumu, called HAR-66 (Hafif Antitank Roketi, Light Antitank Rocket), which has the performance and characteristics of a mix of M72A2 and A3. Turkey also indigenously developed an anti-personnel warhead version of HAR-66 AP and called it "Eşek Arısı" (Wasp).[14]

United Kingdom

The British Army had previously used the NAMMO M72 under the designation "Rocket 66 mm HEAT L1A1" but was replaced by the LAW 80 during the 1980s.[15] The M72 rocket was reintroduced into British service under the Urgent Operational Requirement program, with the M72A9 variant being designated the Light Anti-Structure Munition (LASM).[16][17][18]

United States

M72 as used in Vietnam, 1968.
Modern M72 in use in Afghanistan with U.S. Marines, 2008.

During the Vietnam and post-Vietnam periods, all issued LAWs were recalled after instances of the warhead exploding in flight, sometimes injuring the operator. After safety improvements, part of the training and firing drills included the requirement to ensure that the words "w/coupler" were included in the text description stenciled on the launcher, which indicated that the launcher had the required safety modification(s).[note 5]

With the failure of the M72's intended replacement, the Viper, in late 1982 Congress ordered the US Army to test off-the-shelf light antitank weapons and report back by the end of 1983. In partnership with Raufoss AS, Talley Defense offered the M72E5, which offered increased range, penetration and better sights; this was tested along with five other light anti-armor weapons in 1983. Despite the improvements that the M72E5 offered, the AT4 was chosen to replace the M72.[19][note 6]

Although generally thought of as a Vietnam War–era weapon that has been superseded by the more powerful AT4, the M72 LAW found a new lease on life in the operations by the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marine Corps, and Canadian Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lower cost and lighter weight of the LAW, combined with a scarcity of modern heavy armored targets and the need for an individual assault weapon versus an individual anti-armor weapon, made it ideal for the type of urban combat seen in Iraq and mountain warfare seen in Afghanistan. In addition, a soldier can carry two LAWs on a mission as opposed to a single AT4.[20]

The U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Virginia placed a $15.5-million fixed contract order with Talley Defense for 7,750 M72A7s, with delivery to be completed in April 2011.[21][22] The M72A7 LAW is an improvement on previous versions, including an improved rocket motor for a higher velocity to accurately engage targets past 200 meters, an insensitive munitions warhead to reduce the likelihood of an accidental explosion, and a Picatinny rail to mount laser pointers and night sights. The LAW is useful in Afghanistan as a small and light rocket system for use against short- and medium-range targets by foot patrols in the difficult terrain and high elevations of the country.[23] The U.S. military is still purchasing LAW rockets as of January 2015.[24]

The Philippines

The Philippine Army uses an unknown number of M72 LAWs.


Several M72A1 and M72A2 LAWs captured from Vietnam War have been put into service with the Chemical Force of the Vietnam People's Army. The launchers are upgraded to be able to fire multiple times and are armed with M74 incendiary rounds.


Exposed M72A6 rockets (lower right) alongside M72A6 tubes and ammunition for 84 mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifles; awaiting destruction.

US variants

Designation Description
M72 66-mm Talley single-shot disposable rocket launcher; pre-loaded with HEAT rocket
M72A1 M72 variant; improved rocket motor
M72A2 M72 variant; improved rocket motor
M72A3 M72A1/A2 variant; safety upgrades
M72A4 M72 variant; rocket optimized for high penetration; uses improved launcher assembly
M72A5 M72A3 variant; uses improved launcher assembly
M72A6 M72 variant; warhead modified for low penetration but increased blast effect; uses improved launcher assembly
M72A7 M72A6 variant; US Army M72A6 variant for US Navy
M72E8 M72A7 variant; Fire-From-Enclosure (FFE) capable rocket motor; uses improved launcher assembly
M72E9 M72 variant; rocket with improved anti-armor capability; uses improved launcher assembly
M72E10 M72 variant; HE-Frag rocket; uses improved launcher assembly
M72AS 21-mm reusable trainer
External images
M72 Enhancements Early 1980s
M72E4, M72E5, M72E6 – Talley brochure
Pop-up "Rifle Sights" adopted from canceled Talley Viper brochure

International versions

Designation Description
M72 EC LAW Mk.I M72 variant (Enhanced Capacity); rocket with improved anti-armor capability; uses improved launcher assembly; 450mm RHA penetration
M72 ASM RC M72 variant (Anti Structure Munition-Reduced Caliber); HE-Frag rocket; uses improved launcher assembly

International designations

Designation Nation Description
66 KES 75 Finland Designation for the M72A2
66 KES 88 Finland Designation for the M72A5
66 KES 12 Finland Designation for the M72 EC LAW Mk.I
66 KES 12 RAK Finland Designation for the M72 ASM RC
HAR-66 Turkey Turkish variant incorporating M72A2 rocket improvements and M72A3 safety improvements
Rocket 66-mm HEAT L1A1 United Kingdom Designation for the M72
Light Anti-Structures Missile (LASM) United Kingdom Designation for the M72A9

Specifications (M72A2 and M72A3)



Maximum effective ranges


Map with M72 operators in blue with former operators in red

Current operators

Former users

See also

Similar weapons


  1. The U.S. Army partially replaced the Super Bazooka not only with the M72 LAW, but also M67 recoilless rifle and U.S. Marines kept the Super Bazooka in service till the late 1960s
  2. SARPAC was never adopted by the French Army; export only.
  3. note: no matter what you see in the movies, training films show that there is no "Whoosh!" on launch, but rather more of a loud "BANG!!" or "BLOOP!" for the training versions – and there is no smoke trail behind the rocket as it heads towards the target
  4. Note: before publication of FM-7 September 1977, various penetration specifications were given for the M72A2 and the M31 HEAT, ranging from 250 mm to 305 mm. In the mid-1970s, the US Army decided to determine the armor penetration under battlefield conditions against Soviet-made tanks captured in 1973. The result was 20 cm/8 inches; the preceding penetration specification is stated as it appears in FM-7 1977.
  5. Some reports state these instances were caused by misfires due to water in the flash tube and by unproven rumors of sabotage at the manufacturing plant during the Vietnam War
  6. Various reports in 1983 stated that during the Congressionally mandated tests the first M72E5 tested had an accuracy problem, because its larger-diameter rocket motor interfered with the deployment of all the stabilizing fins after leaving the launcher. The manufacturers have since made modifications that have solved that problem.


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  5. Mary T. Cagle "History of the TOW Missile System" page 10, U.S. Army 1977 Redstone Arsenal Pdf file of official TOW history that discussed the new family of antitank weapons, the M72 LAW, the Dragon and the TOW
  6. 1 2 US Army publication, September 30, 1977 "FM-7 The Mechanized Infantry Platoon/Squad Section B-21"
  7. "Space and Electronic Warfare Lexicon". Archived from the original on March 15, 2010. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
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  19. D. Kyle, Armed Forces Journal International, November 1983, "Viper Dead, Army Picks AT-4 Antitank Missile", page 21
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  21. John Antal. "Packing a Punch: America's Man-Portable Antitank Weapons". page 88 Military Technology, 3/2010 ISSN 0722-3226
  22. "Light Assault Weapon (LAW)". FBO.gov.
  23. Modernizing and equipping the force (Part 1) – Army.mil, 30 December 2010
  24. Nammo awarded contract to supply M72 Lightweight Assault Weapon variants to the U.S. DoD - Armyrecognition.com, 6 January 2015 Archived January 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  25. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Jones, Richard D. Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009/2010. Jane's Information Group; 35 edition (January 27, 2009). ISBN 978-0-7106-2869-5.
  26. "El Salvador". Military Technology World Defence Almanac. Bonn : Wehr & Wissen: 60. 2005. ISSN 0722-3226.
  27. IDF - Israel Defense Forces : Special weaponry of the Nahal Brigade
  28. "Armament of the Georgian Army". Geo-army.ge. Archived from the original on 2012-03-09. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
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  33. "Same Difference – The 66 is Back".
  34. "Home Guard weapons through time". histsamling.dk. p. Danish. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
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  36. "David Thompkins Interview". GWU. 14 February 1999. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  37. https://ospreypublishing.com/army-of-the-republic-of-vietnam-1955-75. Missing or empty |title= (help)
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