When members of the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division jump out of an aircraft on a mission, it’s crucial that they can depend on their equipment. Sergeant Raymond Miller, a small arms master gunner within the division, says the extremely challenging conditions involved in parachute assaults mean that the weapons troops carry must be rugged, durable and easy to operate. It’s one of the reasons he’s a fan of the Carl-Gustaf shoulder-launched weapon system – which, after a two-year roll-out period, is now being adopted across the division.
“The Carl-Gustaf’s simplicity is one of its biggest strengths,” Miller says. “When you’re in combat, batteries can go flat and screens and lenses can break. But I have never heard of a Carl-Gustaf having any of those kinds of issues.”
A 19-year veteran of the US military who has served in Iraq, Miller has no trouble listing what he regards as the most outstanding features of the Carl-Gustaf system, starting with its resilience.
“It’s a rugged system that we can use in airborne operations to achieve the objective rapidly,” he says. “Other systems aren’t quite as durable and can’t be dropped – they have to be air-landed in – so that right there is a huge benefit.”
Another big plus for the system is that it’s re-usable, greatly reducing the amount of equipment that paratroopers need to carry compared to single use weapons. “You only have the rounds, as opposed to a bunch of disposable tubes,” Miller says. “So, it’s much easier to pack, and it’s much easier to cross load across an organization that has to carry everything on its back.”
Flexibility crucial for paratroopers
Miller says once on the ground, the lightness and versatility of the Carl-Gustaf system makes it well suited to paratrooper operations, such as forced entry missions. “Once we insert, we have to sustain ourselves for 72 hours,” he says. “That means we have to be able to deal with any threat that comes our way. The Carl-Gustaf gives us the capability to deal with light anti-armour threats or entrenched personnel.”
Photo - US Department of Defense
Miller notes that since its introduction, the weapon has proved useful for the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan. “It has been used with great success,” he says. “The Taliban had been sending harassing fire out at long distance because previously, we did not have effective fires out past 650 yards. The capability that the Carl-Gustaf brought was a game changer; it gave us something that reaches out past 650 yards and is able to deter them.”
He says that while the division uses the M3 version of the Carl-Gustaf, he is very interested in the lighter-weight M4, which weighs about 15 pounds. That is more than 6.5 pounds less than the M3 version.
“Shedding weight from the soldier’s load is always a good thing in my opinion,” he says, “the reason being it makes them less fatigued over time and it makes them more ready to be combat effective for a longer period.”