Country of origin
112 x 920 mm
Range of effective fire (vs moving tanks)
Range of effective fire (vs static tanks)
is a French-made disposable, single-shot anti-tank weapon, intended
for use by personnel against hostile heavy armor. The name is an
acronym of "Armor-Piercing Light Arm System". It is one of the most
powerful weapons in its class, boasting armor penetration and a
muzzle velocity that are far in excess of the norm, though it is
also exceptionally large, heavy, and loud, even compared to most
other anti-tank rocket launchers.
GIAT (now part of Nexter) initiated the development of the
APILAS in 1978, in response to a request for proposals from the
French armed forces for a new recoilless infantry anti-tank weapon.
The requirement was quite urgent, as preceding weapons of this type
such as the US-made
had proven inadequate even against the relatively obsolete
while the composite armor of the new Soviet
was expected to give even greater protection. NATO also
feared that a follow-up to the T-64 and T-72 would have even greater
protection. And rightfully so, in 1976 the new
entered service, and was eventually noticed by the West. However most nations
developing new anti-armor weapons were content to acquire weapons
that penetrated some 400 mm of rolled homogenous armor equivalent,
deemed enough by most nations to defeat the T-72. France was did not
subscribe to this attitude, and the French Army wanted a new
anti-tank weapon with enough firepower to defeat *future* threats as
Two other companies
submitted competing prototypes to the French Army as well; Luchaire
(who made the
that the winner would end up replacing), and SEP (who manufactured a
variety of rockets and missiles for the French armed forces). The
three weapons were subjected to lengthy testing and evaluation,
ultimately culminating in a direct "shoot-off" beginning in 1981. At
the end of these trials, the APILAS was declared the winner, and
GIAT was awarded a contract for mass production.
It was an odd decision on the French Army's part, as the
APILAS was nearly as large and heavy as its competitors (both of
which were bulky reloadable weapons), it was bombastically loud, the
range was much shorter, and the exhaust from the rocket tended to
burn the user's face (broader shock absorbers and a face shield were
later added to combat the exhaust problem). In terms of capability,
the Army had chosen the loser. Nevertheless, numerous examples were
produced, and the armed forces of many other nations eventually
acquired the APILAS as well (see further below for details).
The APILAS is very large and bulky, looking more like a
life-sized version of an action figure weapon than real-life modern
infantry anti-tank ordnance. The main body of the launcher is a
long, broad, cylindrical tube. Broad, round shock absorbers are
located on either end of the tube; the aft shock absorber is shaped
like a flat cylinder (much like a hockey puck), while the forward
one is conical. There is also a very large and broad hexagonal
central shock absorber, which is cylindrical in overall shape (early
launchers had a smaller central shock absorber). Two very large,
rectangular foregrips extend forward of the central shock absorber
along the lower left and right sides, while the shoulder rest
protrudes from the lower back side of the central shock absorber.
The telescopic sight is located on the left side of the launcher,
with a lens and protective window that protrude though the central
shock absorber. The sight is protected by a curved face shield
hinged on the left side, which must be opened in order to properly
shoulder and aim the weapon. Two sling swivels are located on the
right side of the tube, near the fore and aft shock absorbers. The
shock absorbers, shoulder rest, and foregrips are charcoal gray in
color, while the tube itself is typically painted dark green or
olive drab (though some armed forces may have launchers with
differently-colored tubes). Black plastic protective caps cover each
end of the launcher, and must be removed in order to safely fire it.
The projectile is cylindrical, with a long conical nose, and
a set of nine razor-like folding fins that spring-out into a radial
formation when the rocket is launched. The projectile is
predominately black in color, with a wide brass-colored band near
the base, polished metal fins, and a narrow polished metal band at
the base of the nose cone.
The launcher consists of a reinforced aramid fiber tube, hard
foam rubber shock absorbers, with minor components (such as the face
shield, sights, sling swivels, ect.) being composed of plastic or
steel. The resulting weapon is quite bulky; the launcher weighs
4.7 kg, while the projectile weighs 4.3 kg, for a total of 9 kg, which
is more than the average weight of two assault rifles with
fully-charged magazines!) which must be carried in addition to a
soldier's standard load. The APILAS is also 1.3 m long, cannot be
collapsed, so between its size and weight, hefting it through the
field on long marches is quite a chore.
Most of the composition of the APILAS projectile has not been
published, and is difficult to determine as the projectile is mostly
painted-over. However, the fins and forward band appear to be made
of stainless steel, while the color of the broad aft band suggests
it is made of brass (or another alloy with a similar color). The
rocket motor itself is aluminum, reinforced with Kevlar and epoxy.
The trigger is piezoelectric, and initiates the launch of the rocket
by igniting a 50 g black powder charge in the boost motor.
The sight is telescopic, and is swung out from its retracted
position when the user is ready to fire the APILAS. The reticle has
stadia lines for ranges of 200 m to 600 m, in increments of 100 m.
Markings for windage are also provided, at up to 40 m to either side,
in increments of 10 m. A Zeiss Orion 80 night scope can also be
clipped-on, which has a sighting range of 300 m to 600 m.
The 112 mm rocket launched by the APILAS weighs 4.3 kg. 3.3 kg
of this weight is in its warhead alone, which contains a copper
charge liner of unknown mass, and 2.4 kg of composition RDX
explosives. The shaped charge warhead arms at a distance of
approximately 25 m from the muzzle, and is sufficient in power to
penetrate 720 mm of rolled homogenous armor, or 2 000 mm of concrete, making the APILAS
effective against all but the most heavily-armored tanks, and many
fortifications. However, while the explosive power and penetration
of the APILAS' warhead are quite spectacular, its after-armor
effects are fairly weak; it would be better-suited against an
armored fighting vehicle
with an extremely confined interior (such as a main battle tank)
than one with a significant interior volume (such as an armored
personnel carrier). The
impact fuse can reportedly function properly at even very shallow
angles of impact, at an obliquity of up to 80 degrees. The warhead
lacks a precursor charge however, so better-armored contemporary
main battle tanks (such as the
with explosive reactive armor added-on have a good chance of surviving a direct hit. The
rocket is also quite fast compared to most contemporary anti-tank
projectiles, with a muzzle velocity of 293 m/sec.
The backblast of the APILAS is one of the most powerful of
any anti-tank rocket weapon in service, and soldiers operating it are required to
log every single shot they fire. No more than 2-3 shots are allowed
per-day, due to the shock effect of the backblast. The danger area
(in which serious injury or death to personnel will occur, and all
but the strongest materials will be damaged) behind the APILAS is
significant, and extends to 50 m behind the venturi of the weapon. In
addition, soldiers are specifically instructed to never fire the
APILAS if any concrete walls or other solid vertical objects are
within this area, because the shockwave from the backblast will
rebound off these surfaces back to the user, again potentially
causing serious injury or death.
Another serious issue with the backblast is that the
considerable flash, flames, smoke, and the dust and debris thrown-up
by the APILAS gives it one of the most stupendous target indicators
of any man-portable anti-tank weapon. In combat, this presents and
additional danger to the user and any accompanying personnel,
because it is likely to tip-off the enemy to the attack and its
origin, potentially resulting in a reprisal. As anyone who has ever
witnessed (either on video or in person) the firepower of armored
vehicles will attest, the wrath of a slighted tank company can be
quite devastating. Soldiers trained to use the APILAS are instructed
to immediately discard the launch tube and take cover as soon as the
rocket is in the air, because within 5 seconds either the enemy tank
will be knocked-out, or the "target" will respond with accurate
return fire, using every weapon they can bring to bear.
The APILAS was first used in combat by the French Army, who
primarily used it to engage Iraqi fortifications; reportedly, it was
devastating against structures and vehicles alike. The Iraqi
insurgency is known to have gone to great pains to acquire the
APILAS during the Iraq War, though it is unclear if they ever
managed to acquire any. It was also recently noted by the press in
the hands of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) during the ongoing Syrian
Civil War. Which nation provided the APILAS to the rebels is
unclear, though several operators are known to be sympathetic to the
Over 120 000 APILAS launchers have been manufactured to date.
It is currently a product of the Nexter company in France, and it
was co-manufactured by Manhurin. Olin Winchester in the US bought a
license to manufacture and market the APILAS, but it does not appear
any of these launchers were commercially produced in the US.
The APILAS is used by at least 16 nations, including Belgium,
Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, Djibouti, Finland, France, Italy, Jordan,
Morocco, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, and Taiwan. It has also
been used by non-state groups, including the Free Syrian Army.
As the APILAS is no longer presented as a current product on
the pages of its manufacturers, it has presumably been
discontinued. The unit cost for a new APILAS is approximately
Basic anti-tank version of the APILAS system, as described above.
Training version: This model consists of an otherwise
standard launch tube containing a breech-loading, single-shot rifle,
which fires a special 7.5 mm tracer round that mimics the ballistics
of the APILAS rocket. It has the advantage of getting new recruits
accustomed to engaging targets with the APILAS, without having to
launch expensive rockets or quickly tire-out trainees.
ABB: Short for "APILAS Bunker-Buster", this weapon is an
anti-fortification version of the APILAS with an HEDP warhead,
capable of blasting a 250 mm wide hole in 200 mm of concrete with
its wall-breaching setting, or penetrating a total of 2 000 mm or
concrete with its "bunker-busting" setting. It also differs from the
standard APILAS by having a countermass in its boost motor, allowing
the ABB to be launched from confined spaces.
112 RsKes: Finnish-produced APILAS, for use by the Finnish
Defense Forces. It is virtually identical to the APILAS, and has the
APILAS-120A: Off-route anti-tank mine, consisting of an
APILAS launcher, a collapsible tripod, and a trigger mechanism
activated by a tripwire. The mine is emplaced alongside a road,
trail, or other regularly trafficked route, with the wire is
outstretched tightly and tied to an object (such as a boulder or a
stake) on the other side of the road. When a passing vehicle breaks
the tripwire, the rocket is launched directly into it.
APILAS-APA: A further development of the APILAS-120A mine.
This weapon has become infamous for its “anti-removal” mechanism,
linked to a Piaf booby-trap sensor, which causes the munition to
spontaneously detonate if any attempt to made to move or tamper with
120: This colossal reloadable 120 mm anti-tank rocket launcher
was SEP's competitor to the APILAS. Though its muzzle velocity was
less than that of the APILAS, it has a much greater effective range,
and substantially greater armor penetration as well (in fact, the
DARD 120 may well be the most powerful anti-tank rocket launcher
developed to date). Despite proving to be a substantially superior
performer, it was not selected as the winning design (though
literature on the weapon suggest France and other nations have
nonetheless acquired the DARD 120). Unlike the APILAS, the DARD 120
was reloadable rather than disposable, and was reloaded in a similar
manner to the
AC-300 Jupiter: An improved version of the LRAC F1, the
AC-300 Jupiter was Luchaire's competitor to the APILAS. It was not
selected for service with the French armed forces, and does not
appear to have entered production or service with any nation. Like
the DARD 120, the AC-300 Jupiter was a reloadable weapon.
Developed by Israel Weapon Industries of Israel, this 81 mm
disposable anti-tank rocket launcher is probably the most similar
weapon to the APILAS yet developed. It offered less armor
penetration, though still significantly above the norm, and a muzzle
velocity much faster than even that of the APILAS. For reasons
unclear, it was not adopted by the Israel Defense Forces, nor
imported by any foreign armed forces.
PF-98: The NORINCO PF-98 is a more recently developed disposable
anti-tank rocket launcher. Though this Chinese weapons is often
compared to the DARD 120, due to this weapon having a 120 mm bore as
well, the overall design is much closer to that of the APILAS.
M90 Strsljen: A joint Serbian-Macedonian 120 mm disposable
anti-tank rocket launcher, also known as the RBR-120. It is broadly
similar to the PF-98, and has similar attributes to the APILAS as
Alcotan C-100: Developed by Santa-Barbara Sistemas in Spain,
the Alcotan C-100 is broadly similar to the APILAS. However, this
disposable 100 mm anti-tank rocket launcher has a more subtle and
compact design, more advanced sights, and even greater armor
penetration (as well as a precursor warhead to defeat explosive
The Saab-Bofors AT4 was a direct competitor of the APILAS, though
this disposable anti-tank weapon had a smaller 84 mm bore, a little
over half the armor penetration, a lower muzzle velocity, and it was
a recoilless gun rather than a rocket launcher. It was nonetheless a
significant commercial success, and is today operated by many
nations. A modified version of the AT4 is produced under license in
the US by ATK as the
RPG-27: A disposable 105 mm anti-tank rocket launcher
developed by the Soviet Union, the RPG-27 was for some time the
closest Eastern Bloc weapon in design to the APILAS. It has similar
armor penetration, a precursor charge to defeat explosive reactive
armor, but also a much lower muzzle velocity and effective range.
RPG-28: Essentially an oversized RPG-27, this Russian 125 mm
munition has a similar range and muzzle velocity to the APILAS, but
also a tandem HEAT warhead with 30% greater armor penetration.
Though it is numerically the next weapon in sequence after the
RPG-27, it is actually pre-dated by the
Vampir by almost 20 years.
RPG-32 Hashim: This multi-purpose 105 mm assault weapon has
similar performance to the RPG-27, but employs a reloadable
launcher. It was developed by Russia, at the request of Jordan, and
is used by the armed forces of Jordan, Russia, and the United Arab
Emirates. The first production variant was named the Nashshab.
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