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MATADOR

Dual-purpose anti-tank and anti-structure rocket launcher

MATADOR rocket launcher

The multi-national MATADOR has an adjustable warhead for engaging both armored vehicles and structures

 
 
MATADOR AS
Country of origin Germany, Israel, Singapore
Entered service 2000
Caliber 90 mm
Weight 8.9 kg
Cartridge weight 2.6 kg
Warhead HEAT / HESH
Length 1 m
Length (probe extende) 1.15 m
Muzzle velocity 50 m/s
Sighting range ?
Range of effective fire 500 m
Armor penetration 500 mm RHAe

 

   The MATADOR 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 dual-purpose design.

   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) Armbrust 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 Singapore.

   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 in 2012.

   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 sights.

   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 MATADOR.

   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 anything).

   The MATADOR is operated by Germany, Israel, Singapore, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. It is still in production and is available for export.

 

Variants

 

   MATADOR MP: 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.

 

Similar weapons

 

   M141 BDM: 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 effect.

   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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MATADOR rocket launcher

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MATADOR rocket launcher

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MATADOR rocket launcher

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MATADOR rocket launcher

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MATADOR rocket launcher

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MATADOR rocket launcher

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MATADOR rocket launcher

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MATADOR rocket launcher

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MATADOR rocket launcher

Expand image

MATADOR rocket launcher

Expand image

MATADOR rocket launcher

Expand image

MATADOR rocket launcher

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