Shoulder-launched missile weapon
Overview
 
A shoulder-fired missile, shoulder-launched missile or man-portable missile is a projectile
Projectile
A projectile is any object projected into space by the exertion of a force. Although a thrown baseball is technically a projectile too, the term more commonly refers to a weapon....

 fired at a target
Targeting (warfare)
Targeting is the process used to select objects or installations to be attacked, taken, or destroyed in warfare.Technologically advanced countries can generally select their targets in such a way as to minimize collateral damage and civilian casualties. This can fall by the wayside, however, during...

, small enough to be carried by a single person, and fired while held on one's shoulder
Shoulder
The human shoulder is made up of three bones: the clavicle , the scapula , and the humerus as well as associated muscles, ligaments and tendons. The articulations between the bones of the shoulder make up the shoulder joints. The major joint of the shoulder is the glenohumeral joint, which...

. The word missile in this context is used in its original broad sense which encompasses all guided missiles and unguided rockets.
There are two kinds of shoulder launched weapons. The first is the recoilless gun, which is essentially an open tube.
Encyclopedia
A shoulder-fired missile, shoulder-launched missile or man-portable missile is a projectile
Projectile
A projectile is any object projected into space by the exertion of a force. Although a thrown baseball is technically a projectile too, the term more commonly refers to a weapon....

 fired at a target
Targeting (warfare)
Targeting is the process used to select objects or installations to be attacked, taken, or destroyed in warfare.Technologically advanced countries can generally select their targets in such a way as to minimize collateral damage and civilian casualties. This can fall by the wayside, however, during...

, small enough to be carried by a single person, and fired while held on one's shoulder
Shoulder
The human shoulder is made up of three bones: the clavicle , the scapula , and the humerus as well as associated muscles, ligaments and tendons. The articulations between the bones of the shoulder make up the shoulder joints. The major joint of the shoulder is the glenohumeral joint, which...

. The word missile in this context is used in its original broad sense which encompasses all guided missiles and unguided rockets.

Types

There are two kinds of shoulder launched weapons. The first is the recoilless gun, which is essentially an open tube. When fired the reaction gases (with a momentum equal to the projectile) expelled out of the back of the weapon compensate the force exerted on the projectile.

The other type uses rocket
Rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

 propelled projectiles; these typically also use a small recoilless charge or compressed gas system to get the projectile out of the barrel and to a distance where the operator will not be hurt by the rocket's backblast; when the rocket ignites at a safe distance, it further accelerates the projectile or at least keeps it from decelerating in its trajectory.

Shoulder launched weapons may be guided
Missile
Though a missile may be any thrown or launched object, it colloquially almost always refers to a self-propelled guided weapon system.-Etymology:The word missile comes from the Latin verb mittere, meaning "to send"...

 or unguided
Rocket (weapon)
A rocket is a self propelled, unguided weapon system powered by a rocket motor.- Categorisation :In military parlance, powered munitions are broadly categorised as follows:* A powered, unguided munition is known as a rocket....

.

Missiles can either have a disposable launcher (e.g. M72), or a reusable launcher (RPG-7).

Roles

Shoulder launched weapons typically fire at one of two main target types - ground targets or air targets. Weapons for use against ground targets come in a wide variety of types and sizes, with smaller, unguided weapons generally used for close range combat and larger, guided systems for longer ranges. Most of these weapons are primariy designed for anti-tank warfare
Anti-tank warfare
Anti-tank warfare was created by the need to seek technology and tactics to destroy tanks and their supporting infantry during the First World War...

, although they are also effective against structures and a number of weapons have been designed specifically for such targets.

Anti-aircraft
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

 weapons, known as man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs), are small surface-to-air missile
Surface-to-air missile
A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

s. They are typically infrared homing
Infrared homing
Infrared homing refers to a passive missile guidance system which uses the emission from a target of electromagnetic radiation in the infrared part of the spectrum to track and follow it. Missiles which use infrared seeking are often referred to as "heat-seekers", since infrared is just below the...

 weapons and used to target helicopter
Helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

s and other low-flying aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

.

History

Rocket-based weapons have a long history, from the black powder fire arrow
Fire Arrow
Fire arrows are an early form of gun powder rocket which were attached to a stick. The Chinese are credited with the first use of fire arrows in a military application, they may have developed fire arrows from their use of fireworks.- Design :...

s used by the ancient Chinese to the Congreve rocket
Congreve rocket
The Congreve Rocket was a British military weapon designed and developed by Sir William Congreve in 1804.The rocket was developed by the British Royal Arsenal following the experiences of the Second, Third and Fourth Mysore Wars. The wars fought between the British East India Company and the...

 referenced in "The Star-Spangled Banner
The Star-Spangled Banner
"The Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem of the United States of America. The lyrics come from "Defence of Fort McHenry", a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships...

," the national anthem
National anthem
A national anthem is a generally patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people.- History :Anthems rose to prominence...

 of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. They have always been prized for the portability of their launch systems.

Shoulder-launched rockets have a launch tube. In order to prevent the user from being burned by the exhaust, the rocket (or at least its first stage) must burn out before it leaves the tube, and if present the second stage must fire once the rocket is well clear of the launcher. Even if the operator is safe, there is a sizeable blast effect to their rear.

Also, the rocket must have a reliable ignition system. In modern systems, this is almost always a percussion cap
Percussion cap
The percussion cap, introduced around 1830, was the crucial invention that enabled muzzleloading firearms to fire reliably in any weather.Before this development, firearms used flintlock ignition systems which produced flint-on-steel sparks to ignite a pan of priming powder and thereby fire the...

. This system was not fully developed until the German Panzerfaust
Panzerfaust
The Panzerfaust was an inexpensive, recoilless German anti-tank weapon of World War II. It consisted of a small, disposable preloaded launch tube firing a high explosive anti-tank warhead, operated by a single soldier...

 of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, an early one-shot design that however also was the first practical recoilless antitank-gun and thus used no rocket. The Bazooka
Bazooka
Bazooka is the common name for a man-portable recoilless rocket antitank weapon, widely fielded by the U.S. Army. Also referred to as the "Stovepipe", the innovative bazooka was amongst the first-generation of rocket propelled anti-tank weapons used in infantry combat...

 was an early rocket-propelled development which could be reloaded.

Usage

From their first conception during the First World War, many portable missiles have been used to give infantry a weapon effective against armored vehicles and fortified structures. The power of the shaped charge meant that the effectiveness of the weapon was not limited by a gun barrel bore nor size of weapon as for example a conventional armor-piercing shell from an artillery piece. As such these manportable weapons could be used to equip infantry units with their own anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.

Shoulder-launched rockets or recoilless guns are a favored anti-technical weapon. They permit otherwise lightly or poorly armed troops (e.g. militia
Militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

s) to destroy modern sophisticated equipment such as close air-support aircraft, helicopters, and lightly armored vehicles.

Attacks come from ambush for the element of surprise and attempt to immobilize a convoy of vehicles, then destroy its defenders, then destroy its contents, then escape before air or artillery support can arrive.

Normally, the militia will plan to have two to four shooters per attacked vehicle. Reliable attack ranges are 50 to 100 m, although attacks can succeed out to 300 m. Self destruct ranges of common rocket weapons such as RPG-7
RPG-7
The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...

s are about 900 m.

The usual response to such attacks is to suppress the shooters, with saturation anti-personnel fire, artillery or aerial barrages in area-denial attacks. Submunition and thermobaric weapon
Thermobaric weapon
A thermobaric weapon, which includes the type known as a "fuel-air bomb", is an explosive weapon that produces a blast wave of a significantly longer duration than those produced by condensed explosives. This is useful in military applications where its longer duration increases the numbers of...

s are often used to clear landing zones (LZ) for helicopters.

In modern anti-insurgent operations in misty, dusty or night-time situations, advanced optics, such as infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 telescopes, permit helicopter gunships to surveil convoys from beyond human-visible range, and still attack insurgents with inexpensive anti-personnel fire. This approach is more economical than area-denial. Protecting as little as 20% of the convoys rapidly depletes an area of active insurgents.

Anti-tank

  • RPG-2
    RPG-2
    The RPG-2 was the first rocket-propelled grenade launcher designed in the Soviet Union.-Development:The RPG-2 , was a man-portable, shoulder-launched rocket-propelled grenade anti-armor weapon...

  • RPG-7
    RPG-7
    The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...

  • RPG-18
    RPG-18
    The RPG-18 Mukha is a Russian short-range, disposable light anti-tank rocket launcher.-History:The RPG-18 is very similar to the US M72-series LAW anti-tank rocket and was developed after the Soviet military obtained M72s from its allies in Vietnam...

  • RPG-22
    RPG-22
    The Soviet RPG-22 Netto is a one-shot disposable anti-tank rocket launcher first deployed in 1985, based on the RPG-18 rocket launcher, but firing a larger 72.5 mm fin stabilised projectile. The weapon can be prepared to fire in around 10 seconds, and can penetrate 400 mm of armour, 1.2 meters of...

  • RPG-26
    RPG-26
    The RPG-26 Aglen is a disposable anti-tank rocket launcher developed by the Soviet Union. It fires a single-stage rocket with jack-knife fins, which unfold after launch...

  • RPG-27
    RPG-27
    The RPG-27 is a Soviet disposable rocket launcher.-History:The RPG-27 Tavolga was developed by the State Research and Production Enterprise, Bazalt as a modern anti-tank grenade launcher designed to defeat modern and future tanks with advanced reactive and composite armor as well as fortified...

  • RPG-28
    RPG-28
    The RPG-28 is a Russian handheld anti-tank rocket launcher.-History:The RPG-28 was unveiled in 2007 at IDEX Abu Dhabi by the State Research and Production Enterprise, Bazalt as a modern anti-tank rocket launcher designed to defeat modern and future tanks with advanced reactive and composite armour...

  • RPG-29
    RPG-29
    The RPG-29 is a Russian rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Adopted by the Soviet Army in 1989, it was the most recent weapon of its type to be adopted by the Russian military before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The RPG-29 has since been supplemented by other rocket-propelled systems, such...

  • RPG-32
    RPG-32
    The RPG-32 Hashim is a Russian hand held anti-tank grenade launcher.The RPG-32 multipurpose grenade launcher was developed between 2005 and 2007 by Russian state-owned FGUP 'Bazalt' organization on request and under contract from Jordan...

  • Carl Gustav recoilless rifle
    Carl Gustav recoilless rifle
    The Carl Gustav is the common name for the 84 mm man-portable reusable multi-role recoilless rifle produced by Saab Bofors Dynamics in Sweden...

  • B-40
    RPG-2
    The RPG-2 was the first rocket-propelled grenade launcher designed in the Soviet Union.-Development:The RPG-2 , was a man-portable, shoulder-launched rocket-propelled grenade anti-armor weapon...

     Rocket Propelled Grenade
  • GIAT
    Nexter
    Nexter is a French government-owned weapons manufacturer.-Products:...

     Wasp 58
    Wasp 58
    The Wasp 58 is a 58-mm recoilless antitank weapon developed in France in the late 1980s. The weapon was originally a private developed by the French firm Luchaire SA...

     Light Anti-Armour Weapon
  • Panzerschreck
    Panzerschreck
    Panzerschreck was the popular name for the Raketenpanzerbüchse , an 88 mm calibre reusable anti-tank rocket launcher developed by Nazi Germany in World War II. Another popular nickname was Ofenrohr ....

  • Panzerfaust
    Panzerfaust
    The Panzerfaust was an inexpensive, recoilless German anti-tank weapon of World War II. It consisted of a small, disposable preloaded launch tube firing a high explosive anti-tank warhead, operated by a single soldier...

  • Panzerfaust 3
    Panzerfaust 3
    The Panzerfaust 3 is a modern and disposable recoilless RPG anti-tank weapon developed between 1978 and 1985 and put into service by the Bundeswehr in 1992...

  • PIAT
    PIAT
    The Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank was a British hand-held anti-tank weapon developed during the Second World War. The PIAT was designed in 1942 in response to the British Army's need for a more effective infantry anti-tank weapon, and entered service in 1943.The PIAT was based on the spigot...

     Anti Tank Rocket
  • PF-98
    PF-98
    The Type 98 is a 120 mm anti-tank rocket system developed by Norinco for the People's Liberation Army as a successor to the Type 78 and Type 65 recoilless gun.-Development:...

     Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher "Queen Bee"
  • Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon
    Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon
    The Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon is a shoulder-launched rocket weapon, based on the Israeli B-300, with the primary function of being a portable assault weapon and a secondary anti-armor rocket launcher. It was introduced to the United States armed forces in 1984...

     (SMAW)
  • M72 LAW
    M72 LAW
    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...

  • RPG-76 Komar
  • AT4
    AT4
    The AT4 is an 84-mm unguided, portable, single-shot recoilless smoothbore weapon built in Sweden by Saab Bofors Dynamics...

  • LRAC F1
    LRAC F1
    The LRAC F1, officially called Lance-Roquettes AntiChar de 89 mm modèle F1 is a French reusable rocket launcher developed by Luchaire Defense SA, and manufactured in cooperation with Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Saint-Étienne and was in the 1970s marketed by Hotchkiss-Brandt...

  • Instalaza C90-CR (M3)
    C90-CR (M3)
    The Instalaza C90 is a 90 mm disposable, shoulder-fired and one-man operated grenade launcher which can be fitted with a VN38-C night vision device for full night combat capability...

  • C-100
  • Bazooka
    Bazooka
    Bazooka is the common name for a man-portable recoilless rocket antitank weapon, widely fielded by the U.S. Army. Also referred to as the "Stovepipe", the innovative bazooka was amongst the first-generation of rocket propelled anti-tank weapons used in infantry combat...

  • MBT LAW
    MBT LAW
    The Main Battle Tank and Light Anti-tank Weapon is a disposable, shoulder fired, short range fire-and-forget anti-tank missile system.-Overview:...


Anti-aircraft

  • FIM-92 Stinger
    FIM-92 Stinger
    The FIM-92 Stinger is a personal portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile , which can be adapted to fire from ground vehicles and helicopters , developed in the United States and entered into service in 1981. Used by the militaries of the U.S...

  • Igla
  • 9K32 Strela-2
    Strela 2
    The 9K32 “Strela-2” is a man-portable, shoulder-fired, low-altitude surface-to-air missile system with a high explosive warhead and passive infrared homing guidance...

  • 9K34 Strela-3
    9K34 Strela-3
    The 9K34 Strela-3 man-portable air defence missile system was developed in the Soviet Union as a response to the poor performance of the earlier 9K32 Strela 2 system. "9K34" is its GRAU designation and its NATO reporting name is SA-14 Gremlin. The missile was largely based on the earlier Strela...

  • Anza
    Anza (missile)
    Anza is a series of shoulder-fired, man-portable surface-to-air missiles produced by Pakistan. Guided by an infra-red homing seeker, Anza is used for low level air defence....

  • FIM-43 Redeye Anti-aircraft Missile
    FIM-43 Redeye
    The General Dynamics FIM-43 Redeye was a man-portable surface-to-air missile system. It used infrared homing to track its target. Production was terminated in September 1969 after about 85,000 rounds had been built - in anticipation of the Redeye II, which later became the FIM-92 Stinger...

  • GROM
    Grom (missile)
    The Grom is a man-portable air-defense system produced in Poland. It consists of a 72 mm anti-aircraft missile set with a flight speed of 650 m/s, as well as a single-use launcher, re-usable gripstock and thermal battery coolant assembly electric unit...

  • Shorts Blowpipe
    Blowpipe missile
    The Shorts Blowpipe is a man-portable surface-to-air missile which was in use with the British Army and Royal Marines from 1975. It was superseded by an interim design, Javelin, and later the greatly improved Starstreak missile.-Description:...


See also

  • Anti-tank guided missile
    Anti-tank guided missile
    An anti-tank missile , anti-tank guided missile , anti-tank guided weapon or anti-armor guided weapon is a guided missile primarily designed to hit and destroy heavily-armored military vehicles....

     (ATGM)
  • Surface-to-air missile
    Surface-to-air missile
    A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

     (SAM)
  • List of missiles
  • List of rocket launchers
  • Gyrojet
    Gyrojet
    The Gyrojet is a family of unique firearms developed in the 1960s named for the method of gyroscopically stabilizing its projectiles. Gyrojets fire small rockets, rather than inert bullets, which have little recoil and do not require a heavy barrel to resist the pressure of the combustion gases. ...

  • Recoilless rifles
  • Rocket launcher
    Rocket launcher
    A rocket launcher is any device that launches a rocket-propelled projectile, although the term is often used in reference to mechanisms that are portable and capable of being operated by an individual....

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