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LRAC F1

Anti-tank rocket launcher

LRAC F1

The innovative LRAC F1 was a very capable weapon for its time, and influenced the designs of many later ant-tank rocket launchers

 
 
Country of origin France
Entered service 1972
Weapon caliber 89 mm
Rocket ?
Rocket weight 2.2 kg
Weight (unloaded) 5.5 kg
Weight (loaded) 8.2 kg
Length (unloaded) 1 168 mm
Length (loaded) 1 600 mm
Warhead type ?
Muzzle velocity 295 m/s
Rate of fire 4 rpm
Sighting range 1 000 m
Range of effective fire (against moving tanks) 300 m
Range of effective fire (against static tanks) 500 m
Armor penetration 400 mm

 

   The LRAC F1 ("Lance-Roquettes AntiChar de 89 mm modèle F1") is a French anti-tank rocket launcher developed in the 1960s by Luchaire (which is now part of Nexter). It is a trend-setting weapon system for its class, which remains in widespread service to this day. The LRAC F1 has also been referred to by various publications as the LRAC 89, LRAC-89 F1, and STRIM 89, which often leads to confusion.

   Development of what would become the LRAC F1 began in 1964, when the French Minister of Defense assigned the STRIM (Societe Techique de Recherches Industrielles et Mechanique) organization to develop a new man-portable anti-tank weapon to replace the M20A1 Super Bazooka. STRIM devised two potential candidates, and submitted them to the French Army; the LCD-APX 80 mm recoilless rifle, and the LRAC 89 mm rocket launcher. The LRAC was clearly the better performer, as it proved both much cheaper and more powerful, and was it was quickly selected as the winning design. Development of the production model was contracted to Luchaire Defense SA, who eventually became the manufacturer of the weapon's ammunition, while the launcher was produced by Manufacture Nationale of arms of Saint-Etienne (both of these firms later merged into what is now Nexter). Production of export model LRACs was delegated to Hotchkiss-Brandt. Deliveries to the French armed forces began in the early 1970s, and the weapon was formally adopted as the LRAC F1 in 1972.

   The LRAC F1 was the first anti-tank rocket launcher to incorporate a launch container into its design. Essentially, the containers in which the projectiles are transported in the field themselves are the ammunition, and attaching the launch container to the breech of the forward section of the launcher forms the complete weapon; when fitted as such, the launch container is effectively the aft half of the barrel, with a fresh round already loaded into it. This enables a single soldier to operate the weapon quickly and easily, and with a high rate of fire, as the launcher is simply tipped forward in front of him, the launch container is plugged into the breech and screwed-in, and the launcher is shouldered. This innovation was adopted many subsequent anti-tank rocket launchers, such as the B-300, RPO Rys, FT5, RPG-29, and the M79 (which should not be confused with the US-made M79 grenade launcher), and allows such weapons to be easily employed by forces for whom volume and weight are at an even greater premium than with regular infantry, such as paratroopers and special forces.

   The launcher is cylindrical, with a shallow bracket on the muzzle, and much heavier brackets on the midsection and breech. The rear section of the launcher has a shallow conical shape, which is easy to overlook, and is sometimes wrapped with a black insulation sleeve. The main pistol grip, trigger group, and sight mounting aperture are located on the middle bracket; the sight is mounted on the left side of the weapon, though it is not always fitted to the weapon while it is being carried. The shoulder rest is L-shaped with a curved rubber pad on the underside, and extends below a rail located between the middle and rear bracket. A retractable A-shaped monopod is built into the vertical post of the shoulder rest, which provides additional stability to the launcher while aiming it from a sitting, kneeling, or prone position. The foregrip is shaped vaguely like a pistol magazine, and is folded against the launcher when not in use. The muzzle is covered with a black rubber cap when while the weapon is being transported. Two sling swivels are mounted on the right side of the barrel, one directly between the middle and breech brackets, and one directly between the middle and muzzle bracket. The launcher's color is usually dark green, olive, or sand, but they have sometimes been produced in custom colors for export, or re-painted later.

   The construction of the LRAC F1 consists primarily of lightweight materials, with a reinforced fiberglass launch tube, an aluminum bore liner, an aluminum monopod, and grips consisting mostly of plastics and hollow stamped metal structures. It is still a relatively hefty weapon though, weighing-in at 5.5 kg unloaded, though it is also 2 kg lighter than the M20A1 Super Bazooka it was developed to replace. The ammunition containers are made mostly of fiberglass, with plastic protective caps and removable covers.

   The ammunition containers are cylindrical and usually painted the same color as the launcher. They have black hard rubber shock absorbers that are octagonal in shape; one each on the removable covers on each end, and one on the middle that is bonded directly to the container.

   The projectile itself is cylindrical, with a slightly flared warhead, and a steep conical nose. It is 600 mm long (the container is 626 mm long), has a diameter of 89 mm, and weighs 2.2 kg, 0.3 kg of which is its fuel. A radial cluster of 9 short and narrow fins are located around the base of the projectile, each of which springs-out from its own slot when the projectile is launched. A flat circular rivet on top serves as a guide pin as the projectile travels the barrel, to prevent it from rotating (as the projectile is entirely drag-stabilized, and angular momentum from rotation would disrupt its accuracy).

   The primary sight for the LRAC F1 is the APX M 309, a 3x telescopic sight. The APX M 309 has a ladder-style reticule and a sighting range of 100 m to 1 000 m, in 100 m increments. The APX M290 sight has the same range, but also a passive night vision capability. A simple pop-up sight is also built into the launcher, as an emergency measure for when the optical sights are damaged or unavailable.

   To operate the weapon, the user must first remove the plug from the breech of the weapon, which also doubles as a container for the sights; the sight is then attached to its mounting bracket, a firing position is assumed, and the plastic cover for the muzzle is removed. The front cap is then removed from the ammunition container, and it is loaded into the breech until firmly seated, then rotated clockwise until it locks into place. Simply loading the container connects the rocket to the electrical launch circuit, which is completed by then removing the rear cap from the container. The safety is disengaged by squeezing the front and rear halves of the pistol grip together, and the weapon is then fired by pulling the trigger. The projectile's fuel burns quickly, and is expended by the time it leaves the launcher; it covers a distance of 330 m only 1.23 seconds after launch. The standard rate of fire for a 2-man team is 2 rounds per minute. Maximum rate is up to 4 rounds per minute.

   The weapon may be fired from a standing, kneeling, or prone position. When firing from prone, the LRAC F1 must be turned 60 degrees off-axis from the user and spotter, to avoid injuring them with the backblast.

   The first combat use of the LRAC F1 was by French forces during their mid-1970s interventions in Chad and Zaire, and they later employed it in combat during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. International troops operating in Africa have occasionally been attacked by paramilitary forces armed with LRAC F1s. Little information had been published on the actual combat actions the LRAC F1 was used in, but it is considered combat-proven.

   As the LRAC F1 is an anti-tank weapon first and foremost, its production was phased-out in the early 1990s, and it was gradually removed frontline service with the French armed forces in favor of the Eryx short-range anti-tank guided missile and the AT4-CS recoilless rifle. Attempts were later made to re-purpose the LRAC F1 for avalanche removal, but its range was found to be insufficient.

   Known past and present operators of the LRAC F1 include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, France, Gabon, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Malaysia, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, and Zaire. Though due to its age, the ammunition stocks in several of these nations has already exceeded its expiration date. Several LRAC F1s stored in South African National Defense Force's armories were found to be missing in 2010, and are still missing.

   The LRAC F1 and its ammunition are no longer in production or development, but both are readily available as they have widely proliferated.

 

Ammunition

 

   HEAT: Shaped charge anti-armor warhead, capable of penetrating 400 mm RHAe or 1 300 mm of concrete. It arms at a distance of 9-11 m from the muzzle.

   MP: Multi-purpose HE warhead, loaded with 1600 steel pellets. Has a lethal radius of 20 m, and also penetrates up to 100 mm RHAe.

  Smoke: White phosphorous round that emits a billowing, opaque smoke cloud for up to 35 seconds.

   Illum: Illuminating warhead containing a flare, which burns with a brightness of 300 000 candela for 30 seconds.

 

Variants

 

   ACIP 300: More powerful 105 mm version of the LRAC F1, developed as a private venture by Thomson-Brandt.

 

Similar weapons

 

   B-300: Israeli rocket launcher with an extremely similar layout. It has often been reported to be a copy of the LRAC F1, but while it could be said that the design philosophy is identical, there are no common components in the B-300 (its ammunition is also a very different 82 mm bore).

   Mk.153 SMAW: Licensed US variant of the B-300, which also proliferated to other nations. The numerous design alterations entail that while it looks almost identical to the B-300 at first glance, its parts and ammunition are not interchangeable; this may be why its ammunition is officially designated as "83 mm".

   FT5: South African anti-tank rocket launcher developed by ARMSCOR, as a hasty successor to the LRAC F1. This weapon has also been falsely assumed as a "knock-off" of the LRAC F1, but it has a much larger 99 mm bore.

   DARD 120: This obscure French anti-tank rocket launcher is a scaled-up 120 mm version of the APILAS, but in a reloadable configuration similar to the LRAC F1. It is significantly larger than the LRAC F1.

   M79 Osa: Yugoslav anti-tank rocket launcher with a conspicuously similar design. It looks almost exactly like the LRAC F1 at first glance, but fires a different 90 mm rocket.

   RPO Rys: Soviet rocket-propelled flamethrower with a similar layout to the LRAC F1, but a much larger overall size, an 89 mm bore, and a very different rocket with an incendiary warhead.

   RPG-29 Vampir: Soviet anti-tank rocket launcher with a similar layout to the LRAC F1, but a much larger 105 mm bore.

   PF-98: Chinese anti-tank rocket launcher with a 120 mm bore. Currently its one of the world’s largest shoulder-fired rocket launchers.

 

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   Article by BLACKTAIL

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Video of the LRAC F1 anti-tank weapon

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