Marine Corps deploys new light assault weapon with recoil reduction feature

Marine Corps deploys new light assault weapon with recoil reduction feature

The Marines plan to field a new light assault weapon by 2027 that’s designed to produce a backblast small enough to be fired from indoors.

As one Ukrainian soldier demonstrated in 2022, firing a recoilless rifle inside a building is not a good idea because the impact cannot be dispersed in an enclosed space.

But the M72 light assault weapon’s enclosed-fire ammunition is designed to reduce (though not completely eliminate) the risk of injury to Marines from overpressure, flying shrapnel and other hazards that arise when firing from within an enclosed space.

Morgan Blackstock, a spokesman for Marine Corps Systems Command, said the weapon has a propulsion system that uses a unique countermass fluid system to balance the projectile, reducing recoil.

“In addition to acting as a countermass, the fluid reduces the sound, optical signature and backblast hazard upon firing,” Blackstock told Task & Purpose.

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According to a Marine Corps news release, the weapon comes in two varieties: the M72A8 anti-armor round and the M72A10 multipurpose anti-structural round. The M72A8 is equipped with an armor-piercing high explosive, while the M72A10 is made to destroy structures.

Blackstock said the Marines ultimately plan to buy 5,500 M72A8s and 12,000 M72A10s, both of which use the standard M9 flake propellant.

“There is a 60-degree cone five meters behind the weapon that is considered the backblast area and must be cleared of all personnel prior to firing the weapon,” Blackstock said. “As long as they follow proper firing procedures, wear required double hearing protection and fire under the maximum number of rounds allowed per day, the gunner and assistant gunner are not at risk for burns or overpressure injuries.”

The M72 FFE has a 24-hour allowable firing rate of four rounds from a closed position and 19 rounds from an open position, Blackstock said.

It’s important to note that wartime situations often require militaries to fire large amounts of ordnance. In 2017, Marines firing on Islamic State targets in the Battle of Raqqa burned out the barrels of M-777 155mm howitzers. In the current war in Ukraine, both sides are also firing large amounts of artillery, mortar, and rocket-propelled grenades.

Blackstock said that although the weapon is specifically designed to protect the operator, it can still cause injury to the Marines who fire it.

“The M72 FFE may pose a risk of explosive overpressure, permanent partial hearing loss, and carbon monoxide exposure if fired in excess of the permitted number of rounds per day or from enclosures smaller than the certified 1,260 cubic foot (12 feet by 15 feet by 7 feet) enclosure size,” he said. “Normal precautions when firing any weapon should be observed to ensure that any health effects are fully mitigated.”

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