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MARA

Single-use anti-tank rocket launcher

MARA anti-tank rocket launcher

The MARA was a significant technical achievement for Argentina, but its performance is decidedly weak and dated

 
 
Country of origin Argentina
Entered service 2005 (?) (see below)
Caliber 78 mm
Rocket weight 2 kg
Total weight 4.2 kg
Length (extended) 1 m
Length (collapsed) 0.7 m
Muzzle velocity 170 m/s
Sighting range 350 m (?)
Range of effective fire (against tanks) 200 m
Armor penetration 300 mm RHAe

 

   The MARA is a disposable anti-tank rocket weapon designed by CITEFA, and is manufactured by the Fray Luis Beltrán munition factory. It holds the distinction of being designed, developed, funded, and produced entirely in Argentina.

   The exact origins of the MARA are unclear from published literature, but the program was initiated in the mid-1990s, and the first operational test-firings of the weapon were conducted in 2005. The design requirements were that the weapon had to be made with simple and readily-available materials and technologies, incorporate R&D capabilities Argentina already had available, have a lower unit cost than comparable foreign weapons, have a high cost-effectiveness, and provide a personal anti-tank capability to every soldier in the field. It is implied by some sources that the MARA also entered service later in 2005, but given how long it took the program to proceed from approval to the first launch, achieving fully-operational status during the same year is highly implausible; it is more likely that the MARA achieved operational status between 2005 and 2010.

   The MARA is extremely similar in appearance to the M72 LAW (see the entry on that weapon for more details), although its proportions differ slightly. Though unlike the LAW, the sling swivels on the MARA are both mounted on the underside of the outer tube, eliminating the need for the user to detach the sling from the muzzle cover when preparing to fire. Most MARAs are painted sand or olive drab in color, or in a drylands camouflage pattern, and have white stenciling and decals that include safety guides and the firing procedure.

   The composition of the MARA is comparable to most other disposable anti-tank rocket weapons, with a reinforced fiberglass tube, steel muzzle and venturi caps and sights, and various minor components made from lightweight metal or plastic.

   The sights used on the MARA consist of a similar front post and rear ladder to those used on the M72 LAW. The sighting range is unpublished, but probably similar to that of the LAW (350 meters), due to the similar performance of the MARA's rocket.

   The 73 mm rocket used in the MARA is similar to the 66 mm rocket used in the M72 LAW. The warhead also penetrates the same 300 mm of Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA) as the LAW rocket, despite the MARA's larger warhead. The rocket is similar in shape to that used in the LAW as well, and has 6 folding fins that spring into a radial cluster as the projectile leaves the tube. The projectile is reportedly quite accurate, and can consistently hit a one square-meter target at a distance of 200 m. A training round is also provided for the MARA, and an empty tube may be loaded with one, reportedly up to five times.

   The operation of the MARA also appears to be the same as that of the M72 LAW, although the sling remains fastened to the weapon. According to the manufacturer, the MARA is operable inside a temperature range of -20°C to +50°C.

   The MARA has never been launched in anger, and due to the relatively stable current political atmosphere in southern South America, it is unlikely to see combat use at any point in the foreseeable future. The only operator at present is Argentina, and due to the MARA's low performance (and the unusually large size and weight for a weapon of that level of performance), it is also unlikely to ever achieve any export sales. The market is inundated with many other weapons of the same class that have much greater capability, most of which probably cost less as well, due to being used surplus.

   In short, the MARA seems to have been a significant misadventure. It was likely developed (as with many other weapons in the Developing World) simply as a "jobs program" to keep the ailing national arms industry funded, with competitive performance not being a consideration. While it certainly generated more business for CITEFA, it will be Argentina's citizens and military that pay the price in the long run, as Argentina is now acquiring the AT4 anti-tank weapon, and will likely have to do so in adequate numbers to replace the MARA. Thus, for an indigenous weapon that ultimately the price of two, Argentina will have one --- and it will be the foreign-designed AT4.

 

Similar weapons

 

   M72 LAW: US 66 mm disposable anti-tank rocket launcher. This weapon was the first weapon of its type since the Panzerfaust of World War 2. This weapon strongly influenced the design of the MARA, but it was obsolete for more than two decades before the program that produced the MARA was initiated.

   FGR-17 Viper: US 70 mm disposable anti-tank rocket launcher. The Viper was supposed to replace the M72 LAW, but due to poor project management the effort ended in disaster, and the US military ended up buying the M136 (a licensed US-made version of the Swedish AT4 disposable anti-tank recoilless gun) instead.

   RPG-18 Mukha: Soviet 64 mm disposable anti-tank rocket launcher. Like the M72 LAW, the RPG-18 was not entirely satisfactory (and not powerful enough to reliably defeat many NATO tanks then in service), and was gradually supplanted by more powerful weapons. It has also infamously accused of being a knock-off of the M72 LAW.

   M79 Osa: Yugoslav 64 mm disposable anti-tank rocket launcher. It very strongly resembles the RPG-18 in form and function, and may be a derivative.

   RPG-22: Soviet 78 mm disposable anti-tank rocket launcher. This weapon was meant to replace the RPG-18, but became obsolete before it could even complete its development. The much larger (and decidedly more satisfactory) RPG-26 quickly superseded it, and the RPG-22 was only produced for about 10 years by the former Soviet Union. Interestingly, it has an identical bore to the MARA, but penetrates 350 mm of RHA instead of 300 mm.

   SARPAC: French 68 mm disposable anti-tank rocket launcher. Like the RPG-18, the SARPAC arrived too late to be a viable product, and only a few nations bought it.

   Miniman: Swedish 74 mm disposable anti-tank recoilless gun. This was another weapon in this class that entered service just as it became obsolete. Though like the RPG-22, it also penetrates 350 mm of RHA, opposed to 300 mm of the MARA.

   Armbrust: German 67 mm disposable anti-tank rocket launcher. While not especially powerful compared to its contemporaries, the Armbrust still boasted a countermass and a muzzle/venturi sealing system that almost completely eliminate the smoke, flash, noise, and backblast from the launch.

   Wasp 58: French 58 mm disposable multi-purpose rocket launcher. Unlike the above weapons, the Wasp 58 was *intended* to be smaller and weaker than its competitors, so that a lighter, cheaper, and more versatile weapon could be made. With over 450 000 sold to over a half-dozen nations, that formula proved astonishingly successful.

 

 
MARA anti-tank rocket launcher

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MARA anti-tank rocket launcher

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MARA anti-tank rocket launcher

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MARA anti-tank rocket launcher

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MARA anti-tank rocket launcher

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MARA anti-tank rocket launcher

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MARA anti-tank rocket launcher

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