|Industry:||Tally Defense Systems|
|Region of Origin:||United States|
|Armor of Penetration:||
|Users:||Gas-operated, rotating bolt|
|Type:||recoilless launch + rocket booster|
The M72 LAW is a portable one-shot 66 mm unguided anti-tank weapon, designed in the United States by Paul V. Choate, Charles B. Weeks, and Frank A. Spinale et al. while with the Hesse-Eastern Division of Norris Thermadore, currently produced by Nammo Raufoss AS in Norway. United States production of the weapon began in 1963 and it terminated in 1983.
In early 1963 the LAW was adopted by the United States Army and United States Marines as their primary individual infantry anti-tank weapon, replacing the M31 HEAT rifle grenade and the M20A1 "Super Bazooka" in the US Army. It was subsequently adopted by the United States Air Force to serve in an anti-emplacement/anti-armor role in Air Base Defense duties.
It had been intended that in the early 1980s that the M72 would be replaced by the FGR-17 Viper, but this program was canceled by Congress and the M136 AT4 was introduced in its place. In that time period its nearest comparison was the Swedish Pskott m/68 (Miniman) and the French SARPAC.
During World War II, the sudden prominence of tanks and other armored vehicles on the battlefield led to the creation of man-portable weapons that would enable the humble infantryman to successfully deal with the new threat. The first such weapons to be used with limited success were flamethrowers, satchel charges, jury-rigged landmines and specially designed magnetic hollow charges, but all these weapons needed to get within a couple of meters from the target to be effective, which severely limited said effectiveness and greatly endangered the user.
The U.S. Army then introduced the bazooka on the battlefield, the first true rocket-propelled grenade launcher, which proved an effective novel weapon against enemy armor. Despite early problems, it was such a success that many involved nations during World War II soon copied or developed weapon systems in concept like the bazooka for extensive use on all fronts.
However, the bazooka had its drawbacks. Being large, cumbersome and rather fragile, it needed a dedicated and trained two-man team to be used efficiently. Hard-pressed on all fronts, Germany developed one man alternative to the bazooka type weapons: the Panzerfaust family of weapons. These one-shot launchers were relatively cheap to manufacture and needed no specialized training; they were so simple to use that they were regularly issued to Volkssturm regiments. They proved remarkably efficient against any tanks they were used against during World War II. Noticeably, they were not rocket launchers but recoilless rifles.
The M72 LAW is a descendant and combination of the two World War weapons; the basic principle is that of a miniaturized bazooka, while its low weight and cheap build allows for general issue and disposability akin to the Panzerfaust.
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, 600mm (2 feet) of reinforced concrete, or 1.8 meters (6 feet) of soil.