Country of origin
84 x 462 mm
1 016 mm
Range of effective fire against tanks
Range of effective fire against area targets
The AT-4 is a
man-portable, disposable, single-use anti-tank weapon, developed by FFV (now SAAB-Bofors) in Sweden. The name of the weapon is a play on
its 84 mm bore (AT-4 is pronounced as "Eighty-Four"), as well an
indication of its role (AT for "anti-tank"). It was and remains one
of the world's premier expendable infantry anti-tank weapons. It is
also distinct from most other weapons in its class, being a
recoilless gun rather than a rocket launcher, though many sources
still mistakenly identify it as the latter. The AT-4 is also often
assumed to simply be a disposable version of the Carl Gustav M2, but
the only major attribute their ammunition shares is the same bore.
The effort to develop what would become the AT-4 began with an
early 1970s analysis of (then) contemporary Soviet armor. The
findings were bleak; the Miniman disposable anti-tank weapon first
fielded in 1968 was found to be inadequate against armor like that
on the T-62,
while the T-72
was a tough nut to crack even with a flank shot, and almost
invulnerable to the Miniman over its frontal arc. The Swedish Army
had realized, in essence, that they had fielded the Miniman just in
time for its obsolescence, and a successor was called-for in 1974.
Work on the new weapon began in 1976 at FFV, the same company
that had developed the Miniman. They basically scaled-up the 74 mm
Miniman's design, creating an 84 mm variant with an improved
projectile and charge, and a largely new type of gun tube. Though
these represented radical changes, the first firing AT-4 prototypes
were submitted to the Swedish armed forces by the Spring of 1981,
and over 100 had been test-fired by the same date in 1982. The AT-4
had also caught the attention of the US Army, who at that time was
desperate for a new weapon in this class to replace the 66 mm
anti-tank rocket launcher. While the Swedish Army was continuing to
evaluate the AT-4 in 1983, it was one of 6 weapons tested by the US
Army in the same year, and they surprised many with an announcement
in November of 1983 that the AT-4 was formally selected as the LAW's
Several alterations were made to the AT-4 to suit US Army
requirements, which resulted in the
M136. In a peculiar reversal of
the norm, the US military hurriedly adopted an innovative foreign
weapon system, while the Swedish military's testing and evaluation
dragged-on for years afterwards. The M136 also impressed the Swedish
Army, who requested that FFV incorporate some of its new features
into the AT-4 as well. Sweden's evaluation of the AT-4 continued for
the next 3 years, before finally being formally adopted as the Pansarskott m/86.
The AT-4's gun tube is long and cylindrical, with numerous
external fixtures. The muzzle is surrounded by a thick composite
bracket, which in turn is enveloped by an octagonal shock absorber;
the venturi is flared, conical, and has an octagonal shock absorber
rim as well, though its visibly broader than the muzzle. Numerous
brackets are wrapped around the tube, making quick identification by
counting them relatively pointless. The shoulder pad on the aft
underside has a broad salient shape, and includes a folding
wire-frame shoulder rest with a short canvas strap; when extended,
the shoulder rest takes-on a delta shape. A long tube covered by a
conformal housing (which contains a cable used to fire the weapon)
runs from the trigger mechanism to the breech along the top of the
tube. The front and rear sights are located on the forward upper
right side of the tube, underneath rectangular protective covers
which can be slid-away when the sights needs to be raised. A
rectangular foregrip is located just behind the muzzle on the
underside of the weapon, and is folded against the tube when not in
use (some AT-4s were produced without a foregrip). The firing
mechanism, safety catch, and cocking lever are on top of the tube in
its midsection, just behind the rear sight cover. The AT-4 is usually
fitted with a sling, the swivels for which are located on the lower
left side between the sight covers, and on the very bottom of the
tube just in front of the venturi. Various stencilings and
instructional decals are plastered onto the tube. AT-4s may be
painted in different colors or camouflage patterns, but are usually
solid olive drab in color.
The construction of the AT-4's gun tube is extremely similar
to that of most modern disposable anti-tank rocket launchers, but is still able to cope
with the overpressure of an 84 mm recoilless round. The tube
consists of reinforced fiberglass, with numerous sheet steel and
composite brackets. Unlike the Miniman, the bore liner is not
metallic, although the venturi is made of aluminum. The shock
absorbers on the AT-4 are made of a hard foam rubber material. The
sights, trigger mechanisms, and shoulder rest frame are made of
steel, while the sight covers, foregrip, and numerous other fixtures
are made of plastic. The projectile itself has an aluminum shell,
and the fins are probably made of aluminum as well. The AT-4 is rated
for operating temperatures of −40 to +60 °C.
The iron sights consist of a front post and a rear peephole,
with the range adjustable for 100 m to 500 m, in 50 m increments.
Two different peepholes are available for the AT-4; a 2 mm hole for
use in broad daylight, and a 7 mm peephole for use at night and in
order low-visibility situations. Interestingly similar set of sights
are also used on the
anti-structure rocket launcher, probably due to a
similar range and trajectory. A variety of optics may also be fitted
to the AT-4 by clipping them on, to include night vision optics,
infrared optics, and laser aiming devices.
The main body of the projectile is shaped like a generic
artillery shell, with a cylindrical body, a finely-tapered conical
nose, and a boattail. It has a diameter of 84 mm, a length of 462
mm, and a fin span of 290 mm. The trailing body consists of a metal
shaft, enveloped by a spring-loaded assembly containing 6 stabilizer
fins that spring into a hexagonal pattern when the projectile leaves
the tube. The main body of the projectile is marked with a yellow
band, for easy identification of UXO, should the projectile fail to
launch and/or detonate properly. The projectile is fired down a
smooth bore, and is stabilized solely by drag via its fins when in
flight, as it does not rotate. Although the AT-4 is frequently
referred-to as a "rocket launcher", the projectile does not contain
a rocket motor.
The AT-4 projectile weighs 1.81 kg, and contains 453 g of Octol that force a thin copper charge liner into a jet-like
penetrator upon detonation. This charge will penetrate up to 400 mm
of RHAe at a 0-degree obliquity, but there is more to the lethality
of the warhead than just its penetration. The AT-4 was the first
anti-tank munition especially designed to employ enhanced lethality
against armored vehicles, through what the manufacturer has termed
"Beyond Armor Effects". Using a number of special attributes built
into the warhead, the damage caused to the interior of a penetrated
armored vehicle and its occupants are dramatically increased,
resulting in a significantly greater probability of disabling an
armored vehicle. These effects include an instantaneous overpressure
of 1 bar above normal (twice the ambient air pressure of the Earth's
atmosphere at sea level), greatly increased back-spalling and
penetrator spatter, a flash of light over 100 times stronger than
sunlight, greatly increased smoke from combustion of the warhead and
armor during penetration, and more intense heat than that of a
generic shaped charge of similar penetration. Exactly what
components of the AT-4's warhead create the Beyond Armor Effects are
still highly classified (though observers have noted that it
probably has something to do with the charge liner's unusual
trumpet-like shape, a focus ring around the front of the liner, or
an additional layer of a special aluminum-based alloy bonded to the
back of the liner), but as video footage and photographs of AT-4s
hitting armored vehicles graphically demonstrate, they are not a
The armor penetration figure is not uncontested however, as
different sources offer different ratings. For example, some US Army
field manuals state the penetration is as little as 356 mm, while
others offer a significantly larger 450 mm figure. Some sources even
claim that this weapon will penetrate 500 mm of RHAe. The advent of
the more powerful AT-4-HP hasn't added any clarification either, with
penetration figures ranging from 500 mm to 600 mm. Given that the
earlier 74 mm Miniman was rated to penetrate 350 mm RHAe, however,
its safe to assume the 84 mm AT-4 is capable of at least 400 mm RHAe
The AT-4 may be fired from a standing, sitting, kneeling, or
prone position, though prone firings are typically forbidden during
training. When firing from a prone position, the user must lie at a
45-degree angle off the axis of fire, as being exposed to the backblast at the venturi will result in severe injuries.
To fire the AT-4, the user must first remove the safety pin at
the rear of the launch tube, ensure no personnel are in the backblast area, and shoulder the weapon. If the iron sights are to
be used, the user must slide the cover for the front sight rearward,
slide the cover for the rear sight forward, and flip-up the sights.
The cocking lever must then be flipped moved forward, upward, then
to the right, then take aim at the target. When the target is in the
user's sights, the safety lever must then be held down, and the
trigger button pressed-down by the user's thumb; if the cocking
lever is not set to the armed position and the safety lever
held-down with the trigger is pressed, the trigger will not engage
and fire the weapon. The user must also *squeeze* the trigger until
it "breaks" (like the trigger on a typical rifle) rather than simply
jabbing it, as doing the latter could throw-off the aimpoint. The
weapon will then fire, and the tube is discarded; it isn't designed
to withstand the stresses of multiple firings, and thus cannot be
As the AT-4 is for all intents and purposes a cannon, it
should come as no surprise that its backblast is exceptionally
powerful. The backblast area has a 90-degree angle, with the danger
area within 40 m of the venturi, and the caution area extending 40 m
to 100 m behind the venturi. The danger area must be totally clear
of personnel, animals, vulnerable equipment, and loose objects prior
to firing, while personnel inside the caution area must take cover
and protect their ears. The AT-4 must never be fired from inside an
enclosed area, as the rebounding backblast will cause significant
shock and hearing injuries to any personnel inside said space.
The AT-4 has seen combat in numerous conflicts, to include the
Afghan War, the Iraq War, and Operation Serval (the French
Intervention in Mali). If the
M136 is included, the list is expanded
even further, to include every US ground war since Operation Just
Cause (the 1989 Invasion of Panama). In several of these wars, the
AT-4 proved its worth against armored vehicles of all shapes and
sizes, it was able to defeat some structures, and it even proved
valuable against unarmored targets such as trucks.
A number of limitations of the AT-4 also became evident in
these conflicts. For example, the AT-4's Beyond Armor Effects were
quite limited when it was used to engage structures, and the huge backblast was often a serious problem. It became increasingly clear
from these events that anti-structure variants and a countermass
were required for future conflicts, which resulted in the
development of a variety of new variants (see below).
known operators include Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil,
Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece,
Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, the
Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Taiwan, the UK, the US
and Venezuela. This also includes the M136 variant, as publications
are relatively vague on which nations operate which (although the
M136, specifically, is used by the US, and not the AT-4). According
to the SAAB-Bofors webpage on the AT-4 as of late 2016, a total of 15
nations operate this weapon.
As of 2016, over 300, 000 AT-4s have been manufactured, and
full-scale production is ongoing.
Swedish Army designation ("Pansarskott m/86").
SRAAW: Irish Defense Forces designation ("Short Range Anti
L2A1 ILAW: British Army designation ("Interim Light Anti-tank
PVV M/95: Danish Army designation ("Panserværnsvåben 95").
ABL: French Army designation ("Anti Blindé Léger").
production model. It is unclear is these were adopted, as the AT-4s
procured by Sweden ended up being modeled after the M136.
M136: US version of the AT-4, with new sights and different ergonomical features. Some of these changes were back-fitted to the
AT-4 itself before Sweden adopted it, and it is otherwise identical
to the AT-4. Many publications consider the AT-4 and M136 to be the
same weapon, which has lead to both often being awkwardly referred
to by the catch-all, "M136 AT-4".
AT-4-CS: Adds a saltwater countermass, which tremendously
reduces the shock and backblast from firing the AT-4, allowing it to
be fired from confined spaces (the "CS" in the designation is short
for "Confined Space").
HEDP 502: Replaces the usual HEAT warhead with an HEDP
warhead. The new warhead is programmable to detonate at the moment
of impact, or just after. When detonating on impact, the blast tears
a large hole into the wall of a structure (a "mousehole", as the
term goes), which personnel can crawl through, or additional
munitions can be fired through to clear more of the building. When
detonating after impact, the munition explodes behind the wall it
penetrated, causing immense damage to materials and personnel
inside. The HEDP 502 warhead also penetrates up to 150 mm RHAe.
AT-4-AST: Anti-structure variant with a tandem HEDP warhead.
The first charge of the warhead bores a hole though a thick concrete
wall, just wide enough for the second charge to follow through,
which then detonates inside the structure with a higher yield and an
unfocused blast. An alternate setting causes both charges to
detonate simultaneously on impact, to mousehole thick walls.
AT-4-HP: Has an improved shaped charge warhead, capable of
penetrating 600 mm RHAe.
AT8: Anti-structure version of the AT-4 for the US Army, with
a warhead optimized for destroying hardened structures such as
pillboxes. It was ultimately rejected in favor of the
M141 BDM, and
no other military purchased it either. With the advent of the
AT-4-AST, the AT8 has effectively been discontinued.
AT12: 120 mm version for the US Army with a tandem HEAT
warhead for defeating explosive reactive armor, and significantly
increased range and armor penetration as well. The AT12 program was
abandoned due to reduced budgets and shifting strategic priorities
after the Cold War, and the design was abandoned.
Extremely similar Brazilian weapon developed by IMBEL. The tube is
uncannily similar to that of the AT-4, but the propellant charge and
projectile appear to be similar to those used in the Carl Gustav M2
recoilless rifle. The ALAC is gradually replacing the AT-4 in the
Brazilian armed forces.
LAW 80: British disposable anti-tank rocket launcher, similar
in design and capability to the AT-4. It is highly unusual among
modern anti-tank weapons, in that the LAW 80 has a self-loading
spotting rifle. Its effective range and armor penetration also far
exceed that of the AT-4.
APILAS: French disposable anti-tank rocket launcher, similar
to the AT-4. However, the APILAS is a larger-bore weapon, and
significantly more powerful than the AT-4.
Armbrust: German disposable anti-tank rocket launcher, with a
countermass and a unique tube-sealing mechanism; the sealing
mechanism tremendously reduces the flash, smoke, and acoustic report
from the launch, while the countermass virtually eliminates the
MATADOR: International disposable
dual-purpose anti-tank and anti-structure rocket
launcher with an HEDP warhead. It is basically an oversized,
dual-purpose version of the Armbrust, and has a manually-set
programmable fuze that causes the warhead to detonate as either a
shaped charge, or like a HESH warhead.
M141 BDM: US disposable anti-structure rocket launcher,
firing a rocket developed from the ammunition for the
Mk.153 SMAW. This rocket has an HEDP warhead with two detonation
settings like others of this type, but a unique fuzing system; the
fuze automatically selects one of the two settings (detonation on
impact or follow-through detonation) based on the force of impact.
PF-89: Chinese disposable anti-tank rocket launcher, similar in form and
function to the AT-4.
C90-CR: Spanish disposable anti-tank rocket launcher, with a slightly
larger 90 mm bore.
NOTE: The AT-4 should not be confused with the AT-4 Spigot
(9K111 Fagot) anti-tank guided missile; the two are unrelated.
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