Country of origin
Germany, Israel, Singapore
HEAT / HESH
Length (probe extende)
Range of effective fire
500 mm RHAe
is a joint German-Israeli-Singaporean rocket launcher intended for
use against a wide range of battlefield threats. The name is a
portmanteau of "Man-portable Anti-Tank, Anti-DOoR" (though IDF
service, it has earned the nickname “Nut Cracker”), and reflects its
The general practice in rocket-propelled infantry weapons
development had been to focus on producing dedicated anti-tank
weapons, but the lessons taught by many wars and firefights around
the world made it increasingly clear that an anti-structure
capability was just as important. As a result, many militaries (as
well as arms producers) around the world began taking note of the
encroaching need for a rocket launcher, capable of engaging
personnel and structures.
The MATAROR was one of the byproducts of this paradigm shift.
Based on the famous MDD (now Dynamit Nobel)
anti-tank rocket launcher,
the MATADOR is a disposable, man-portable heavy weapon designed to
destroy armored vehicles and structures alike. This weapon is the
finished product of a joint program between Dynamit Nobel Defence in
Germany, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems in Israel, and Singapore
Technologies Kinetics (STK) in
Development of the MATADOR was initiated in the late 1990s by
STK and Dynamit Nobel, at the request of the Singapore Armed
Forces (SAF). It was quite a windfall for STK, as their licensed
production of the Armbrust was beginning a winding-down. The program
soon drew the attention of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), who had a keen interest in
acquiring such a weapon, and additional participation in the program
by Rafael soon followed. The remainder of the program proceeded
quickly, and the first examples of the MATADOR were delivered to the
SAF in 2000. The IDF began acquiring their own MATADORs in 2009, and
even the Bundeswehr eventually placed an order for 1 000 of their own
The launcher looks almost the same as that of the Armbrust,
with the obvious exceptions of the fatter launch tube, the
extendable probe on the muzzle of the rocket, and the broad
octagonal shock absorbers around the muzzle and venturi. The typical
color scheme is a dark green or olive drab tube, with dark gray or
black fixtures and yellow stenciling, though this may not be the
case with all examples of the weapon. Dummy MATADORs for training
and exhibition are denoted by a blue band painted around the tube,
while real "war shots" have a yellow band.
The launch tube is constructed of reinforced fiberglass, with
polymer fixtures, and styrofoam shock absorbers. A few minor parts
(screws, pins, etc.) are made of steel, while some glass is used in
The telescopic sight is attached to the weapon via a
Picatinny rail. Information on the sighting reticle has not been
published, though it is presumably similar to that used on the
Armbrust. Night vision sights are also available.
To fire the MATADOR, the user must first select an effect for
the warhead (described below), extend the pistol grip, foregrip, and
shoulder rest, then raise the sight. Once the weapon is shouldered
and the target sighted, the safety must then be switched from "safe"
to "fire", after which the weapon will fire when the trigger is
pulled. The weapon may be safely operated at temperatures ranging
from -40°C to +63°C.
The propulsion system is typical of rocket-propelled weapons, with a very
short-lived booster, and a sustainer motor that propels the
projectile through most of its flight. Both are solid fuel rockets.
The projectile is claimed to be highly insensitive to crosswind
because of the propulsion system used, which would make it quite
accurate. As with the Armbrust, the backblast of the MATADOR is
significantly muffled through the use of a countermass, consisting
of a mass of shredded plastic chips. Not only does this greatly
reduce the noise, flash, smoke, and the dust and debris thrown into
the air by the backblast, but it also allows the weapon to be fired
inside structures normally considered too confined for the use of
rocket launchers. It is safe to fire the MATADOR inside structures whose
interior volume is as small as 15 cubic meters, though hearing
protection is still advisable. It is unclear if the same
tube-sealing mechanisms built into the Armbrust were carried-over to
The warhead of the MATADOR is unique, with a selectable
shaped charge capability. With the probe extended, the warhead will
fire the charge liner into the target as a penetrator, capable of
punching through thick vehicle armor. With the probe retracted, the
warhead will flatten-out on impact prior to detonation, in much the
same manner as a High-Explosive Squash Head (HESH) round, and then detonate; in this setting, the
blast will smash through thick masonry, concrete, or even stone
walls, creating a mousehole at least 450 mm wide. Against thinner
walls (such as single-layer brick walls), the HESH effect will
breach a hole large enough for a man to walk though. The operator
can switch from one setting to another simply by pulling the probe
out to its full length, or pushing it back in.
The performance of the warhead against armored vehicles is also
significantly increased over that of the earlier Armbrust, with the
ability to penetrate 500 mm of rolled homogenous armor equivalent. However, it
still lacks a precursor charge, so performance against reactive
armor is still poor.
The combat debut of the MATADOR was in Operation Cast Lead in
2009, the IDF receiving their first batch just in time for the
event. It worked exactly as advertised, and was able to clear (or
breach) any fortified structures the IDF encountered.
A rather awkward incident involving the MATADOR occurred in
2014, when SAF soldiers accidentally left several of them behind at
the junction of Old Chua Chua Kang Road and Sungei Tengah Road in
Singapore. Fortunately, the local police retrieved them before
anyone else, and they turned out to be inert dummies used for
training (in other words, static props that don't actually fire
The MATADOR is operated by Germany, Israel, Singapore,
Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. It is still in production
and is available for export.
The original dual-purpose model.
MATADOR WB: Dedicated anti-structure variant, optimized for
breaching walls (hence, WB for "Wall Breaching").
MATADOR AS: Dedicated anti-structure variant, designed
especially to clear and demolish structures. Consequently, it is
less effective against light armor, and has no effect against the
armor of main battle tanks.
PZF 90: German designation for the MATADOR.
RGW 90: Slovenian designation for the MATADOR.
RGW 60: It is a smaller version with downsized warhead caliber to 60
mm. This weapon is significantly lighter, though at a cost of
reduced performance. It weights 6 kg and has a length of 900 mm.
The M141 BDM Bunker Defeat Munition, also called the SMAW-D, is a
US-made disposable, single-shot rocket launcher, with a programmable
High-Explosive Dual-Purpose (HEDP) warhead. It consists of a launch
tube based on the M136 recoilless gun, and launches a rocket based
on that from the
Mk.153 SMAW. However, the rocket *itself* selects the effect
electronically at the moment of impact, with no input from the user.
It is also notable that one of the rounds for the SMAW has a similar
SMAW-NE: This disposable rocket launcher weapon is similar in
design to the M141 BDM, but employs a thermobaric warhead.
RPO-A Shmel: Similar in size to the MATADOR, the Russian RPO-A
Shmel employs an extremely powerful thermobaric warhead intended to
flatten a structure, rather than merely breach it.
Bunkerfaust: A variant of the German Panzerfaust 3, the
Bunkerfaust employs a strikingly similar programmable HEDP warhead
to that in the MATADOR.
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