An M72 LAW in extended position
TypeAnti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher[1]
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1963–present
Used bySee Operators
Production history
DesignerFA Spinale, CB Weeks and PV Choate
DesignedPatent filed 1963
Mass2.5 kg (5.5 lb) (M72A1–3) / 3.6 kg (7.9 lb) (M72A4–7)[5]
Length630 mm (24.8 in) (unarmed)
881 mm (34.67 in) (armed)

Caliber66 mm (2.6 in)
Muzzle velocity145 m/s (480 ft/s)
Effective firing range200 m (660 ft), 220 m (720 ft) (A4–7)
Point-initiated, base-detonated

The M72 LAW (light anti-tank weapon, also referred to as the light anti-armor weapon or LAW as well as LAWS: light anti-armor weapons system) is a portable one-shot 66 mm (2.6 in) unguided anti-tank weapon. The solid rocket propulsion unit was developed in the newly-formed Rohm and Haas research laboratory at Redstone Arsenal in 1959,[6] and the full system was designed by Paul V. Choate, Charles B. Weeks, Frank A. Spinale, et al. at the Hesse-Eastern Division of Norris Thermador. American production of the weapon began by Hesse-Eastern in 1963, and was terminated by 1983; currently it is produced by Nammo Raufoss AS in Norway and their subsidiary, Nammo Defense Systems (formerly Nammo Talley Inc.) in Arizona.[7]

In early 1963, the M72 LAW was adopted by the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps as their primary individual infantry anti-tank weapon, replacing the M31 HEAT rifle grenade and the M20A1 "super bazooka" in the U.S. Army. It was subsequently adopted by the U.S. Air Force to serve in an anti-emplacement and anti-armor role in airbase defense.[8][note 1]

In the early 1980s, the M72 was slated to be replaced by the FGR-17 Viper. However, the Viper program was canceled by Congress and the M136 AT4 was adopted instead. At that time, its nearest equivalents were the Swedish Pskott m/68 (Miniman) and the French SARPAC.


1961 LAW prototype, showing the rejected front sight that also served as the front cover

The increased importance of tanks and other armored vehicles in World War II caused a need for portable infantry weapons to deal with them. The first to be used (with limited success) were Molotov cocktails, flamethrowers, satchel charges, jury-rigged landmines, and specially designed magnetic hollow charges. All of these had to be used within a few meters of the target, which was difficult and dangerous.

The U.S. Army introduced the bazooka, the first rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Despite early problems, it was a success and was copied by other countries.

However, the bazooka had its drawbacks. Large and easily damaged, it required a well-trained two-man crew. Germany developed a one-man alternative, the Panzerfaust, having single-shot launchers that were cheap and requiring no special training. As a result, they were regularly issued to Volkssturm home guard regiments. They were very efficient against tanks during the last days of World War II.

The M72 LAW is a combination of the two World War II weapons. The basic principle is a miniaturized bazooka, while its light weight and cheapness rival the Panzerfaust.


The M72 rocket and launcher in cross-section.

The weapon consists of a rocket within a launcher consisting of two tubes, one inside the other. While closed, the outer assembly serves as a watertight container for the rocket and the percussion-cap firing mechanism that activates the rocket. The outer tube contains the trigger, the arming handle, front and rear sights, and the rear cover. The inner tube contains the channel assembly, which houses the firing pin assembly, including the detent lever. When extended, the inner tube telescopes outward toward the rear, guided by the channel assembly, which rides in an alignment slot in the outer tube's trigger housing assembly. This causes the detent lever to move under the trigger assembly in the outer tube, both locking the inner tube in the extended position and cocking the weapon. Once armed, the weapon is no longer watertight, even if the launcher is collapsed into its original configuration. It is a line of sight weapon with a range around 200 meters (660 ft).[9]

M72 demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia in the 1960s

When fired, the striker in the rear tube impacts a primer, which ignites a small amount of powder that "flashes" down a tube to the rear of the rocket and ignites the propellant in the rocket motor. The rocket motor burns completely before leaving the mouth of the launcher, producing a backblast of gases around 1,400 °F (760 °C). The rocket propels the 66 mm (2.6 in) warhead forward without significant recoil. As the warhead emerges from the launcher, six fins spring out from the base of the rocket tube, stabilizing the warhead's flight. The early LAW warhead, developed from the M31 HEAT rifle grenade warhead, uses a simple piezoelectric fuze system. On impact with the target, the front of the nose section is crushed, causing a microsecond electric current to be generated, which detonates a booster charge located in the base of the warhead, which sets off the main warhead charge. The force of the main charge forces the copper liner into a directional particle jet that, in relation to the size of the warhead, is capable of a massive penetration.

A unique mechanical set-back safety on the base of the detonator grounds the circuit until the missile has accelerated out of the tube. The acceleration causes the three disks in the safety mechanism to rotate 90° in succession, ungrounding the circuit; the circuit from the nose to the base of the detonator is then completed when the piezoelectric crystal is crushed on impact.

Packing crates are used to demonstrate the danger of the M72's back blast

The weapon can be fired from inside buildings as long as the structure is at least 3.7 by 4.6 m (12 by 15 ft) in size, which is about 50 cubic meters (1,800 cu ft) in volume, and has sufficient ventilation.[10][11] The Department of the Army previously rated the weapon as safe to fire from enclosure, but this rating was removed in 2010 after the introduction of the safer AT4 CS.[12] However, some modern variants of the LAW are specifically designed with fire-from-enclosure (FFE) capability.[13]

In late 2021, Nammo unveiled the concept of a multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equipped with a LAW. The tube is mounted facing downward, enabling the drone operator to fire on tanks and armored vehicles from a top attack position while remaining 3 to 4 km (1.9 to 2.5 mi) away.[14]


An M72 LAW's rocket

M72 LAWs were issued as prepackaged rounds of ammunition. Improvements to the launcher and differences in the ammunition were differentiated by a single designation. The original M72 warhead penetrated 30 cm (12 in) of armor.[15][16]

A training variant of the M72 LAW, designated M190, also exists. This weapon is reloadable and uses the 35 mm (1.4 in) M73 training rocket. A subcaliber training device that uses a special tracer cartridge also exists for the M72. A training variant used by the Finnish armed forces fires 9 mm (0.35 in) tracer rounds.[citation needed]

The US Army tested other 66 mm rockets based on the M54 rocket motor used for the M72. The M74 TPA (thickened pyrophoric agent) had an incendiary warhead filled with TEA (triethylaluminum); this was used in the M202A1 FLASH (flame assault shoulder weapon) four-tube launcher. The XM96 RCR (riot control rocket) had a CS gas-filled warhead for crowd control and was also intended for use with the M202, though the rocket never entered service.

Service history


The M72 rocket has been in Australian service since the Vietnam War.[17][18] Currently, the Australian Defence Force uses the M72A6 variant, known as the "light direct fire support weapon",[19] as an anti-structure and secondary anti-armor weapon. The weapon is used by ordinary troops at the section (squad) level and complements the heavier 84 mm (3.3 in) Carl Gustav recoilless rifle and Javelin missile, which are generally used by specialized fire support and anti-armor troops.[20]


As of 21 February 2023, Canada has supplied 4500 M72s to Ukraine for use in the Russo-Ukrainian War.[21] These are of the M72A5-C1 designation.[22]


The M72 LAW is used in the Finnish Army (some 70,000 pieces), where it is known under the designations 66 KES 75 (M72A2, no longer in service) and 66 KES 88 (M72A5). In accordance with the weapon's known limitations, a pair of "tank-buster" troops crawl to a firing position around 50 to 150 meters (160 to 490 ft) away from the target, bringing with them four to six LAWs, which are then used in rapid succession until the target is destroyed or incapacitated. Due to its low penetration capability, it is used mostly against lightly-armored targets. The M72 is the most common anti-tank weapon in the Finnish Army.[citation needed] Finland has recently upgraded its stocks to the M72 EC LAW Mk.I version. It is designated 66 KES 12[23] Claimed penetration for the M72 EC LAW is 450 mm (18 in) of rolled homogeneous armor steel plate, nearly twice that of the M72A2.[24] It also fields the bunker-buster version that contains 440 g (0.97 lb) of DPX-6 explosive, named M72 ASM RC, and locally designated 66 KES 12 RAK. The oldest version of the 66 KES 75 is now retired.[25]


First arriving in Israel during The Yom Kippur War as part of Operation Nickel Grass,[26] the LAW is the primary light anti tank weapon of the Israeli infantry, and has been used extensively throughout the different wars and conficts, including the current Israel–Hamas war.


In late February 2022, the Norwegian government announced that it intended to donate "up to 2,000" M72 LAW units from their reserve stocks to Ukraine, in response to the Russian invasion.[27] On March 30, 2022, the Norwegian Defence Ministry said that 2,000 more units will be sent to Ukraine.[28]


The Republic of China Army (Taiwan) uses the M72 as a secondary anti-armor weapon. It is used primarily as a backup to the Javelin and M136 (AT4) anti-tank weapons.[citation needed] The weapon was later reverse-engineered into the "Type 1 66 mm anti-tank rocket" but is more-popularly nicknamed as the "Type 66 rocket" due to its caliber.


The Turkish Army uses a locally built version by Makina ve Kimya Endustrisi Kurumu, called HAR-66 (Hafif Antitank Roketi, 'light antitank rocket'), which has the performance and characteristics of a mix of an M72A2 and an A3. Turkey also indigenously developed an anti-personnel warhead version of HAR-66 AP and called it "Eşek Arısı" ('wasp').[29]

United Kingdom

The British Army had used the NAMMO M72 under the designation "rocket 66 mm HEAT L1A1" but it was replaced by the LAW 80 during the 1980s.[30] It was used in action during the 1982 Falklands War, mainly to suppress Argentinian defensive positions at close range;[31] however, it was also used against an assault amphibious vehicle during the initial invasion and was one of the weapons which damaged the warship ARA Guerrico in the invasion of South Georgia.[32] The M72 rocket was reintroduced into British service under the Urgent Operational Requirement program, with the M72A9 variant being designated the light anti-structure munition (LASM).[33][34][35]

United States

M72 as used in Vietnam, 1968
Modern M72 in use in Afghanistan with U.S. Marines, 2008

During the Vietnam and post-Vietnam periods, all issued LAWs were recalled after instances of the warhead exploding in flight, sometimes injuring the operator. After safety improvements, part of the training and firing drills included the requirement to ensure that the words "w/coupler" were included in the text description stenciled on the launcher, which indicated that the launcher had the required safety modifications.[citation needed][note 2]

With the failure of the M72's intended replacement, the Viper, in late 1982 Congress ordered the US Army to test off-the-shelf light antitank weapons and report back by the end of 1983. In partnership with Raufoss AS, Talley Defense offered the M72E5, which offered increased range, penetration and better sights; this was tested along with five other light anti-armor weapons in 1983. Despite the improvements that the M72E5 offered, the AT4 was chosen to replace the M72.[36][note 3]

Although generally thought of as a Vietnam War–era weapon that had been superseded by the more-powerful AT4, the M72 LAW found new popularity in the operations by the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marine Corps, and Canadian Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lower cost and lighter weight of the LAW, combined with a scarcity of modern heavy armored targets and the need for an individual assault weapon versus an individual anti-armor weapon, made it ideal for the type of urban combat seen in Iraq and mountain warfare seen in Afghanistan. In addition, a soldier can carry two LAWs on a mission as opposed to a single AT4.[37]

M72A7 firing trainer, showing a Picatinny rail.

The U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Virginia, placed a $15.5-million fixed contract order with Talley Defense for 7,750 M72A7s, with delivery to be completed in April 2011.[38][39] The M72A7 LAW is an improvement on previous versions, including an improved rocket motor for a higher velocity to accurately engage targets past 200 m (660 ft), an insensitive munitions warhead to reduce the likelihood of an accidental explosion, and a Picatinny rail to mount laser pointers and night sights. The LAW was useful in Afghanistan as a small and light rocket system for use against short- and medium-range targets by foot patrols in the difficult terrain and high elevations of the country.[9] The U.S. military was still purchasing LAW rockets as of January 2015.[citation needed] In 2018 it was reported that an upgrade for the LAW was being developed that would improve the fire control system as well as largely eliminate the weapon's back blast, allowing the weapon to be used more safely from within a confined space.[40]


Several M72A1 and M72A2 LAWs captured during the Vietnam War have been put into service with the chemical force of the Vietnam People's Army. The launchers are upgraded to be able to fire multiple times and are armed with M74 incendiary rounds.[citation needed]


Designation Description US designation International designation
M72 66 mm (2.6 in) Talley single-shot disposable rocket launcher; pre-loaded with HEAT rocket M72
M72A1 Improved rocket motor M72A1 L1A1 (UK)
M72A2 Improved rocket motor, higher penetration M72A2 66 KES 75 (Finland), L1A3 (UK)
M72A3 M72A2 variant; safety upgrades M72A3
M72A4 Rocket optimized for high penetration; uses improved launcher assembly M72A4
M72A5 M72A3 variant; uses improved launcher assembly M72A5 66 KES 88 (Finland)
M72A6 Warhead modified for lower penetration but increased blast effect; uses improved launcher assembly M72A6
M72A7 M72A6 variant, insensitive-explosive (PBXN-9) version for US Navy M72A7
M72A7 Graze[41] A7 variant with super-sensitive Graze fuze, restricted from training use (combat-only) M72A7 with Graze
M72A8 Anti-armor warhead with fire-from-enclosure (FFE) propulsion M72A8
M72A9 Blast-optimized HE warhead, DPX-6 explosive Light anti-structure missile (LASM) [UK]
M72A10 Anti-structure warhead with FFE propulsion M72A10
M72E8 M72A7 variant; FFE-capable rocket motor; uses improved launcher assembly
M72E9 M72 variant; rocket with improved anti-armor capability; uses improved launcher assembly
M72E10 M72 variant; HE-frag rocket; FFE-capable; uses improved launcher assembly
M72E11[42] Airburst M72
M72 EC Enhanced capacity, increased anti-armor performance, 315 grams PBXW-11 explosive 66 KES 12 (Finland)
M72 ASM RC Reduced-caliber 45 mm (1.8 in) anti-structure rocket, 0.4 kg (0.88 lb) DPX-6 explosive 66 KES 12 RAK (Finland)
M247[43] 70 mm (2.75 in) rocket warhead using M72A2 warhead components, 910 g (2.0 lb) composition B explosive M247
HAR-66 Turkish variant, mix of A2 and A3 features HAR-66 (Turkey)
M72AS 21 mm (0.83 in) reusable trainer M72AS
M190[43] 35 mm (1.4 in) training variant, fires M73 practice rocket M190

Armor penetration

Exposed M72A6 rockets (lower right) alongside M72A6 tubes and ammunition for 84 mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifles; awaiting destruction
Variant Penetration (mm)
M72/A1 200
M72A2/A3/A5 300
M72A4 350
M72A6/A7 150
M72 EC Mk.1 450
M72 EC Mk.2 300
M247 ~300[note 4]

Specifications (M72A2 and M72A3)

Firing the M72 LAW.
Firing the M72 LAW.



Maximum effective ranges


M72 operators

Current operators

Former users

See also

Similar weapons


  1. ^ The U.S. Army partially replaced the Super Bazooka not only with the M72 LAW, but also the M67 recoilless rifle, and U.S. Marines kept the Super Bazooka in service until the late 1960s.[citation needed]
  2. ^ Some reports state these instances were caused by misfires due to water in the flash tube and by unproven rumors of sabotage at the manufacturing plant during the Vietnam War.[citation needed]
  3. ^ Various reports in 1983 stated that during the congressionally-mandated tests the first M72E5 tested had an accuracy problem, because its larger-diameter rocket motor interfered with the deployment of all the stabilizing fins after leaving the launcher. The manufacturers have since made modifications that have solved that problem.[citation needed]
  4. ^ TM 43-0001-30 states the M247 has "approximately the same" penetration as the M72.


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External images
M72 Enhancements Early 1980s
image icon M72E4, M72E5, M72E6 – Talley brochure
image icon Pop-up "Rifle Sights" adopted from canceled Talley Viper brochure