Home > Firearms > APILAS

APILAS

Anti-tank rocket launcher

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Developed in response to the T-64 and T-72, the APILAS has exceptional armor penetration for its size, but at the cost of poor ergonomics

 
 
Country of origin France
Entered service 1984
Caliber 112 mm
Rocket 112 x 920 mm
Rocket weight 4.3 kg
Weight 9 kg
Length 1.3 m
Muzzle velocity 293 m/s
Sighting range 600 m
Range of effective fire (vs moving tanks) 350 m
Range of effective fire (vs static tanks) 500 m
Armor penetration 720 mm

 

   The APILAS 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 M72 LAW had proven inadequate even against the relatively obsolete T-62 tanks, while the composite armor of the new Soviet T-64 and T-72 tanks 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 T-80 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 well.

   Two other companies submitted competing prototypes to the French Army as well; Luchaire (who made the LRAC F1 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 M1A2 Abrams, T-90, or Leopard 2A4) 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 FSA.

   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 $2 000.

 

Variants

 

   APILAS: 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 same performance.

   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 the mine.

 

Related weapons

 

   DARD 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 LRAC F1.

   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.

 

Similar weapons

 

   Picket: 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 well.

   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 reactive armor).

   AT4: 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 M136.

   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 RPG-29 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.

 

Blacktail

   Article by BLACKTAIL

   Want to publish your own articles? Visit our guidelines for more information.

 
APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

APILAS anti-tank weapon

Expand image

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Home  Home     Aircraft     Helicopters     Tanks     Armored Vehicles     Artillery     Trucks     Engineering Vehicles     Missiles     Naval Forces     Firearms     |     Contact Us
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

© ARG 2006 - 2017
www.Military-Today.com APILAS