Today´s global security situation is extremely fluid. Threats change rapidly and re-assessments of which weapon systems are need are taking place constantly.
This process is currently underway in Europe where, after many years of down-prioritising anti-tank weapons, governments are again seeing such measures as a priority. Systems such as Saab’s NLAW are attracting significant interest from nations across the region.
“We previously saw a downdown-prioritising anti-tank weapons because many nations were involved militarily in countries like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan where there wasn’t a significant armoured threat,” says Lars-Örjan Hovbrandt, the Director of Product Management within Saab Dynamics. “Now, suddenly, governments are more interested in taking care of their own countries instead of activities such as hunting terrorists in other parts of the world.”
Hovbrandt says with conflicts within Europe likely to involve armoured vehicles, many nations are looking at updating their defensive technology. “The anti-tank systems that many countries have are now very old, and lots of countries are now interested in having the newer lighter and more effective systems,” he says.
Saab’s NLAW system offers an unbeatable range of features including an operating range of between 20 and 800 metres, a weight of just 13 kilograms, and confined space capability. The system is currently being used nations including Sweden, Finland and the United Kingdom, with significant interest from Baltic region countries.
Hovbrandt says interest in the system isn’t restricted to Europe, and it attracted considerable attention at the recent DSA 2016 defence services trade fair in Malaysia. “The European market is very strong and we’re also seeing quite strong interest in this kind of weapon in Asia and also the US,” he says. “There’s not a strong threat from tanks in the US, but the US is interested in having tank-killer capabilities for its troops, wherever they are in the world.”
Hovbrandt says one of the key benefits of the NLAW system is ease of handling and training. “A couple of weeks ago, I trained two new gunners in the simulator for less than an hour,” he says. “Around lunchtime they carried out two firings using the combat weapons and scored perfect hits.”
Weighing just 13 kilograms, the weapon is extremely portable and can be used by a single operator. “The enemy doesn’t know whether there’s a single soldier out there or a whole platoon,” says Hovbrandt.
Since it was first launched in 2006, the NLAW system’s maximum operating range has been increased from 600 to 800 metres. It is safe to be fired from within a building and has a shelf life of 20 years.
Unlike many other anti-tank systems, NLAW doesn’t require a target lock-on before firing. “If you see a hatch or an antenna and you know that the target is behind cover, you just aim at the lowest part of the antenna or hatch and the missile will go one metre above the line of sight and take out the tank from the top.”
Hovbrandt adds that switching from Overflying Top Attack mode to Direct Attack mode makes the system an extremely effective weapon against soft vehicle targets.