France is one of the most strategic-thinking countries in the world when it comes to developing defence capabilities. As a result, more than 10 years ago - long before its current range of shoulder-launched weapons were due for replacement, the country was already hard at work, studying what features would be needed in the next generation.
The result of this careful planning can be seen in the Roquette Nouvelle Generation, France’s new general-purpose shoulder-launched weapon system, being supplied by Saab and scheduled for delivery in 2017.
Saab Dynamics’ Head of Business Management for Ground Combat Systems, Anders Wahlström, says the new system builds upon Saab’s proven AT4 suite of shoulder-launched weapons and reflects the need for flexibility in modern combat situation. The new capabilities deliver efficiencies by replacing two previously distinct weapons: the Anti-Blindé Leger system and the Eryx short-range anti-tank missile. A single weapon system now takes their place, delivering expanded multi-mission capability.
“The system is designed to meet France’s new approach to anti-tank and fire support capability requirements, reducing the number of weapons needed,” he says.
Wahlström explains that France’s current anti-tank and support weapons capability is divided into four categories according to operational range, with dedicated weapons used for each range and duplication of training, maintenance and spares programs.
Following extensive research and a rigorous tendering process, France selected Saab to replace its short-range and very-short-range categories with one weapon system that will offer expanded capabilities. The Roquette NG range provides anti-tank capabilities through a weapon tentatively designated AT4 CS ER HP, anti-structure and breach capabilities through Saab’s AT4 CS AST weapon, and anti-personnel capabilities through the AT4 CS HE weapon. The weapons utilizes the same trainer and logistic support.
“France is gaining multi-mission capability with these three weapons,” says Wahlström. “You can use them in close combat in urban situations and in more open scenarios such as the desert plains where you meet the armoured front. It can be used as a general-purpose heavy infantry support weapon serving as the infantry commander’s own artillery, replacing or complementing light mortars.”
Based around Saab’s AT4CS AST
Wahlström says the weapons in the range are based around Saab’s AT4CS AST, lightweight recoilless, disposable anti-structure weapon. Weighing less than 10 kilograms and capable of being fired by a non-specialist soldier, the system has Blast and Breach modes meaning it can take out targets behind a wall or create a point of entry for soldiers fighting through a built-up area.
The anti-tank version, which Saab designates AT4CS ER HP (extended-range high-penetration) provides a high penetration warhead capable of penetrating more than 450 millimetres of rolled homogenous armour. Meanwhile, the anti-personnel version, AT4CS HE will provide the soldier with a direct-fire support capability capable of engaging enemy troops in air-burst or impact mode out to a distance of 1,000 m.
“You get a very controlled dispersion of fragments, giving a very high probability of knocking out troops, even if they are wearing body armour,” says Wahlström.
The weapons system will be used across France’s military services.
Tailored to France’s needs
Wahlström says Saab works closely with France to tailor the weapons system to the nation’s needs. To supply the higher level of performance required for the extended range anti-armour capability and the anti-personnel capability, Saab made use of the shared features of its 84 mm range. “We employed the launch system from the latest version of the AT4, the AT4CS AST to achieve the muzzle velocity required for the increased range of the ER and HE version,” says Wahlström. “We also applied the modular warhead design of the High Explosive Modular Generation round, under development for the 84 mm Carl-Gustaf, and tailored it for use in a disposable launch system. The end result was to produce a cost-effective solution within a very short time frame.”
Similarly, developing the AT4CS ER HP anti-tank weapon required the introduction of a new advanced sight. The sight incorporates a ballistics computer, laser range finding and inertial measurement system measuring the gunners tracking of the target. The sight automatically compensates for the target’s angular speed and acceleration and adjusts the aiming point. This means that users don’t need to adjust for the expected location of the target at the time of impact.
According to Wahlström, the project shows the importance France attaches to ground forces and ground warfare. “They have seen that readily available heavy infantry support is highly important to ground force commanders,” he says. “If you have situations where you urgently require fire support, it’s best to carry it by yourself in the lightest possible package.”