The M72 LAW in extended position
|Place of origin||United States|
|Designer||FA Spinale, CB Weeks and PV Choate|
|Designed||Patent filed 1963|
|Manufacturer||Talley Industries and under license by Raufoss Ammunisjonsfabrikker A/S, Norway, MKEK|
|Unit cost||670 € or $1,045US (Converted)|
|Length||less than 1 m|
|Muzzle velocity||145 m/s|
|1960s Weapons Similar to M72|
|SARPAC top, M72 LAW middle, MINIMAN bottom|
The M72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon, also referred to as the Light Anti-Armor Weapon or LAW as well as LAWS Light Anti-Armor Weapons System) is a portable one-shot 66 mm unguided anti-tank weapon, designed in the United States by Paul V. Choate, Charles B. Weeks, and Frank A. Spinale et al. while with the Hesse-Eastern Division of Norris Thermadore, currently produced by Nammo Raufoss AS in Norway.
In early 1963 the LAW was adopted by the United States Army and the United States Marines as their primary individual infantry anti-tank weapon, replacing the M31 HEAT rifle grenade and the M20A1 "Super Bazooka" in the US Army.
It had been intended that in the early 1980s that the M72 would be replaced by the FGR-17 Viper, but this program was canceled by Congress and the M136 AT4 was introduced in its place. In that time period its' nearest comparison was the Swedish Pskott m/68 (Miniman) and the French SARPAC.
The weapon consists of a rocket packed inside of a launcher made up of two tubes, one inside the other. While closed, the outer assembly acts as a watertight for the rocket and the percussion cap-type firing mechanism that activates the rocket. The outer tube contains the trigger, the arming handle, front and rear sights, and the rear cover. The inner tube contains the channel assembly which houses the firing pin assembly, including the detent lever. When extended, the inner tube telescopes outward toward the rear, guided by the channel assembly which rides in an alignment slot in the outer tube's trigger housing assembly. This causes the detent lever to move under the trigger assembly in the outer tube, both locking the inner tube in the extended position and cocking the weapon. Once armed, the weapon is no longer watertight even if the launcher is collapsed into its original configuration.
When fired, the striker in the rear tube impacts a primer which ignites a small amount of powder that "flashes" down a tube to the rear of the rocket igniting the propellant in the rocket motor, The rocket motor burns complete before leaving the mouth of the launcher, producing gases around 1,400 °F (760 °C). The rocket propels the 66 mm warhead forward without significant recoil. As the warhead emerges from the launcher, six fins spring out from the base of the rocket tube, stabilizing the warhead's flight. The LAW warhead uses a simple, but extremely safe and reliable Piezoelectricity fuze system, which on impact with the target a certain type of crystal in the front nose section is crushed causing a mico-second electric current to be generated which detonates the warhead. The fuse then detonates a booster charge located in the base of the warhead which sets off the main warhead charge. The force of the main charge forces the copper liner into a directional particle jet that in relation to the size of the warhead is capable of massive amount of penetration.
The M72 LAW was issued as a prepackaged round of ammunition. Improvements to the launcher and differences in the ammunition were differentiated by a single designation. The most common M72 LAWs came prepacked with a rocket containing a 66 mm HEAT warhead which is attached to the inside of the launcher by the igniter. The standard M72 antiarmor HEAT warhead can penetrate up to 305mm (1 foot) of steel plate, 600mm (2 feet) of reinforced concrete, or 1.8 meters (6 feet) of soil.
A training variant of the M72 LAW, designated the M190, also exists. This weapon is reloadable and uses the 35 mm M73 training rocket. A subcaliber training device that uses a special tracer cartridge also exists for the M72. A training variant used by the Finnish armed forces fire 7.62mm tracer rounds.
The US Army tested other 66 mm rockets based on the M54 rocket motor used for the M72. The M74 TPA (Thickened Pyrophoric Agent) had an Incendiary warhead filled with TEA (Tri-Ethyl Aluminum); this was used in the M202A1 FLASH (FLame Assault SHoulder weapon) 4-tube launcher. The XM96 RCR (Riot Control Rocket) had a CS gas-filled warhead for crowd control and was used with the XM191 quadruple-tube launcher.
Once fired in combat the launcher is required to be destroyed by the U.S. Military to prevent its use by the enemy. Due to the single use nature of the weapon, it was issued as what is called a "wooden-round" of ammunition by the Canadian Army and the United States Army, requiring no checks or maintenance, just as small arms ammunition can be stored in the same manner for years with out any problems.
Although generally thought of as a Vietnam War era weapon which has been superseded by more powerful AT4, the M72 LAW has found a new lease of life in the ongoing (2006) operations in Iraq by the US Army and Afghanistan by the Canadian Army. The lower cost and lighter weight of the LAW, combined with a lack of modern heavy armored targets and the need for an individual assault vs an individual antiarmor weapon, make it ideal for the type of urban combat seen in Iraq and mountain warfare seen Afghanistan today. In addition a soldier can only carry one AT4 a mission, but with the LAW he can carry two. 
During the Vietnam and post-Vietnam periods, all issued LAWs were recalled due to instances of the warhead exploding in flight, sometimes injuring the operator. After safety improvements, part of the training and firing drills included the requirement to ensure the words "w/coupler" were included in the text description stenciled on the launcher, which indicated the launcher had the required safety modification(s).
With the failure of the M72 replacement the Viper, Congress in late 1982 ordered the US Army to test off-the-shelf light antitank weapons and report back by the end of 1983. In partnership with Raufoss AS, Talley Defense offered the M72E5, which offered increased range, penetration and better sights, which was tested along with five other light anti-armour weapons in 1983. For all the improvements the M72E5 offered the AT4 was chosen to replace the M72.
The M72 LAW is also extensively used in the Finnish Army (some 70,000 pieces), where it is known under the designations 66 KES 75 (M72A2, no longer in service) and 66 KES 88 (M72A5). In accordance with the weapon's known limitations, a pair of "tank buster" troops crawl to a firing position some 50 to 150 yards away from the target, bringing with them four to six LAWs which are then used in rapid succession until the target is destroyed or incapacitated.
The Turkish Army uses a Turkish-built version by Makina ve Kimya Endustrisi Kurumu, called HAR-66, which has the performance and characteristics of a mix of M72A2 and A3. Turkey also indigenously developed an anti-personnel warhead version of HAR-66 and called it "Eşek Arısı"(HORNET)
The Australian Army uses the M72A6 as an anti-building and secondary anti-armour weapon. It is carried by regular riflemen (including on operations in Iraq), while the heavier 84 mm Carl Gustaf and Javelin are generally equipped by dedicated anti-armour troops.
The Republic of China Army (Taiwan) uses the M72 as a secondary anti-armor weapon. It is used primarily as a backup to the Javelin and the M136 (AT4) anti-tank weapons.
The Light Anti-Structures Missile (LASM) is the name of the L72A9 in UK service. The main difference is the warhead: the LASM contains about 1 kg of an enhanced blast explosive, whereas the LAW contains about a third of a kilogram. The United States armed forces may refer to the LASM as a M72A9 LAW (Light Assault Weapon). The M72A10 has the FFE (Fire From Enclosure) capability. Recently the US Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Virginia placed a 15.5 million dollar fixed contract order with Talley Defense for 7,750 M72A7s, with delivery to be completed April 2011 
The LAW has been replicated for airsoft games, with metal and plastic launchers available. All fire 40mm shower grenades, and most official ones are made by Deepfire.
|M72||66 mm Talley single shot disposable rocket launcher; pre-loaded w/ HEAT rocket|
|M72A1||M72 variant; improved rocket motor|
|M72A2||M72 variant; improved rocket motor|
|M72A3||M72A1/A2 variant; safety upgrades|
|M72A4||M72 variant; rocket optimised for high-penetration; uses improved launcher assembly|
|M72A5||M72A3; uses improved launcher assembly|
|M72A6||M72 variant; rocket w/ low penetration, improved blast effect; uses improved launcher assembly|
|M72A7||M72A6 variant; US Army M72A6 variant for US Navy|
|M72E8||M72A7 variant; Fire-From-Enclosure (FFE) capable rocket motor; uses improved launcher assembly|
|M72E9||M72 variant; rocket w/ improved anti-armour capability; uses improved launcher assembly|
|M72E10||M72 variant; HE-Frag rocket; uses improved launcher assembly|
|M72 Enhancements Early 1980s|
|M72E4, M72E5, M72E6 - Talley brochure|
|Pop-up "Rifle Sights" adopted from canceled Viper - Talley brochure|
|66 KES 75||Finland||Designation for the M72A2|
|66 KES 88||Finland||Designation for the M72A5|
|HAR-66||Turkey||Turkish variant incorporating M72A2 rocket improvements and M72A3 safety improvements|
|Rocket 66mm HEAT L1A1||United Kingdom||Designation for the M72|
|Light Anti-Structures Missile (LASM)||United Kingdom||Designation for the M72A9|