Explore the Best of Saab AT4CS AST

A versatile disposable recoilless weapon system designed for infantry use, Explore the Best of Saab AT4CS AST. It is a Swedish 84 mm unguided, man-portable, disposable shoulder-fired recoilless destructive (anti-structure/anti-shield) weapon manufactured by Saab Bofors Dynamics—the right way to defeat the enemy in the very beginning.

The AT4-CS (Confined Space) AST features a compact and lightweight design, making it portable for individual soldiers. It utilizes a single-shot, disposable launcher, employing a HEAT warhead for penetration through armour and structures. The advanced technology in the AT4-CS AST allows for precise targeting and minimizes backblast, enhancing its usability in confined spaces. With its anti-structure capabilities, the AT4-CS AST plays a crucial role in modern infantry warfare, providing forces with a reliable and adaptable tool for neutralizing enemy fortifications and enhancing overall battlefield effectiveness.

Photo Credit: Saab AB

The AT4 family has established itself as an exceptionally reliable, robust, and durable weapon system, extensively validated in combat scenarios. Its notable features encompass a high target effect and hit probability, resulting in a commendable target kill rate for each deployed weapon.

To ensure operational and strategic effectiveness, contemporary dismounted forces necessitate ground combat systems tailored for highly specialized missions. The latest generation AT4 family, comprising lightweight, shoulder-launched, off-the-shelf support weapons, embodies Saab’s innovative prowess in action. This family offers three distinct variations— the new AT4 CS ER (Extended Range), the new AT4 CS HE (High Explosive), and the AT4 CS AST (Anti-Structure)— meticulously designed to adapt to the evolving requirements of ground forces. Notably, the operation of this system does not demand expert gunners for efficient use. All AT4 weapons are single-shot and fully disposable, enabling users to simply aim, fire, destroy the target, and discard the empty tube.

Explore the Best of Saab AT4CS AST
Photo Credit: Saab AB / Explore the Best of Saab AT4CS AST

The Evolution of the AT4 CS: A Development Chronicle

The AT4 is distinct from a conventional rocket launcher as its explosive warhead is not propelled by a rocket motor; instead, it functions as a smooth-bore recoilless gun, in contrast to a recoilless rifle with a rifled barrel. Its primary purpose is to equip infantry units with the capability to neutralize or incapacitate armoured fighting vehicles and fortifications. However, its efficacy diminishes against modern main battle tanks (MBTs), especially those equipped with reactive armour, unless deployed to target less fortified areas.

Although this is a Swedish product, it was initially submitted for consideration in a United States Army competition for a new anti-tank weapon, as mandated by Congress in 1982. The US Army conducted tests in 1983, evaluating six weapons, including the British LAW 80, the German Armbrust, the French APILAS, the Norwegian M72E4, the American Viper, and the Swedish AT4.

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Photo Credit: Saab AB

Ultimately, the Swedish AT4 emerged as the chosen option. Subsequently, the Swedish Army also incorporated this system into its inventory, enhancing it with the inclusion of a forward-folding hand grip to stabilize the AT4 during aiming and firing. The forward-folding grip is the sole distinction between the AT4 adopted by Sweden and the version used by the US Army.

However, in the later stages of its deployment, particularly in the urban combat conditions routinely encountered by US military forces during the Iraq War, the individual overseeing AT4 acquisitions for the US Army Close Combat Systems decided to temporarily cease orders for the standard AT4 version. Instead, the exclusive procurement focused on the AT4 CS (Confined Space) model.

A prominent issue, namely the back blast, found resolution with the introduction of the AT4-CS version, explicitly tailored for urban warfare. This iteration features a distinctive saltwater counter mass positioned at the launcher’s rear to effectively absorb the back blast. The ensuing spray not only captures but significantly decelerates the pressure wave, granting troops the capability to discharge the weapon safely from enclosed areas. Furthermore, the AT4-CS version deliberately reduced its muzzle velocity from the initial 290 m/s to 220 m/s, a strategic measure aimed at enhancing user safety within confined spaces.

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The Design Features of the AT4 CS System

The Saab AT4 CS (Confined Space) incorporates several design features to enhance its effectiveness in urban and close-quarter combat scenarios. Key design features include:

Compact and Lightweight Design: The AT4 CS is crafted for convenient carrying and manoeuvrability by individual soldiers. Its compact and lightweight structure guarantees portability and ease of use in restricted spaces, with a specific focus on catering to the demands of urban warfare.

Disposable System: The launcher is designed for single use, following a disposable concept, making it a one-shot weapon system. This eliminates the necessity for reloading, streamlining logistics and rendering it highly suitable for swift engagements. Post-firing, the AT4 is disposed of. In contrast to the bulkier Carl Gustaf, the AT4’s outer tube is engineered to withstand the stress of a single firing only; it lacks reusability and reloading capability. The AT4 demands minimal training and is characterized by simplicity of use, making it well-suited for general deployment.

Photo Credit: U.S. Army / Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), conducts live-fire training with the AT4-CS anti-tank weapon

Recoilless Rifle Mechanism: The AT4 CS employs a recoilless rifle mechanism, effectively minimizing recoil forces upon firing. This design enables soldiers to use the weapon in confined spaces without risking harm to themselves or nearby structures. In this version, a saltwater counter mass is incorporated at the rear of the launcher to absorb the back blast. The resulting spray captures and significantly decelerates the pressure wave, providing the capability for troops to discharge the weapon safely from enclosed areas.

Distinct Warhead: The weapon is equipped with a High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warhead, specifically engineered for penetrating armoured vehicles. It can effectively breach up to 45 centimetres (18 inches) of rolled homogeneous armour (RHA) with a beyond-armour effect. Additionally, it features a High-Explosive Dual Purpose (HEDP) capability designed for use against bunkers, buildings, enemy personnel in the open, and light armour. The warhead can be configured to detonate on impact or with a brief detonation delay. Furthermore, the Anti-Structure Tandem-Warheads (AST) are tailored for urban warfare scenarios where a projectile heavier than the HEDP is required. Overall, the AT4 CS is designed to be effective against a diverse range of threats.

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Photo Credit: Saab AB

Advanced Sighting Systems: The launcher integrates advanced sighting systems to enhance accuracy, ensuring that soldiers can precisely target and engage enemy threats, particularly in complex urban environments. The AT4 can attach an optical night sight on a removable fixture. For American military applications, the launcher can be equipped with night sights such as the AN/PAQ-4C, AN/PEQ-2, or the AN/PAS-13, further enhancing its operational versatility in low-light conditions.

User-Friendly Operation: The AT4 CS is specifically designed with a focus on simplicity and ease of use, aiming to be highly user-friendly for soldiers to effectively deploy the weapon in dynamic combat situations. The gunner initiates the firing process by releasing the safety pin at the back of the tube, clearing the firing rod for action. After ensuring no one is in the back blast area, they adopt a shooting posture. To avoid burns, especially when firing from a prone position, the gunner should position their legs to the side. Subsequently, using the integrated iron sights, the gunner retracts the front and rear sight covers, allowing the sights to elevate into their shooting positions.

Photo Credit: Saab AB

Variants of the Saab AT4 Family

The product range encompasses roles in anti-armour, anti-structure, and anti-personnel/high explosive functionalities. Maintaining identical handling characteristics across all products, the AT4 family ensures maximum versatility and ease of use for any given task.

ANTI-ARMOUR: The disposable AT4 anti-armour weapons are designed for short-range combat, enabling soldiers to neutralize combat vehicles with high penetration and cause devastation to their interiors. These weapons blend ease of handling, low weight, and high muzzle velocity with impressive firepower and significant armour penetration.

ANTI-STRUCTURE: The AT4CS AST (Anti-Structure) stands as a lightweight, recoilless, and fully disposable multi-target weapon crafted for close combat ranges. This system enables dismounted soldiers to effectively engage a multitude of targets encountered in close combat urban operations.

ANTI-PERSONNEL: The AT4CS HE (High Explosive) empowers soldiers to neutralize enemy troops in complex environments. The weapon is adaptable, allowing operation in either airburst or impact mode, providing the necessary flexibility for various combat scenarios. With compatibility for intelligent sighting systems and readiness for programmable ammo, it ensures that your forces have advanced technology at their disposal.

Photo Credit: Saab AB

Specifications of the Saab AT4 CS System

24/7 CAPABILITY:  Red Dot sights with night vision goggles make the weapon suitable for day or night engagement

  • TECHNICAL DATA:  Length: 40 in (102 cm)
  • Weight: 8 kg (18 lb)
  • Calibre: 84 mm
  • Muzzle velocity: 790 km/h (720 ft/s)
  • Sights: Iron sights, and optional night vision unit
  • Targets: Structures, bunkers and light-armoured vehicles
  • Effective Range: 200 m point target to 2,100 m maximum
  • Unit cost: US$1,480 (2007 data)
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Photo Credit: Saab AB
Photo Credit: Saab AB

Operators Using the Saab AT4 System

The AT4 system, including variants like the AT4 CS, is widely used by various military forces around the world. It is employed by approximately 30 countries’ infantry and special forces to provide effective and portable anti-armor capabilities. Many NATO member countries utilize the AT4 system as part of their infantry and anti-armor arsenals.

The Indian Armed Forces recently became customers of AT4, as announced in January 2022. This order includes the AT4CS AST, specifically designed for firing from confined spaces like inside buildings, bunkers, and other urban environments. The system is equipped with a tandem warhead featuring a breach or blast mode, optimized to neutralize enemies within buildings and destroy structures, thereby creating a point of access to them.

“I am honoured that the Indian Armed Forces, already users of our Carl-Gustaf system, have also chosen Saab for their single-shot weapon needs. The Indian Army and Indian Air Force can be confident knowing they have the necessary firepower to give them an advantage,” stated Görgen Johansson, head of Saab’s business area Dynamics.

Photo Credit: SAAB AB
Photo Credit: SAAB AB

In conclusion, the Saab AT4 system, exemplified by variants like the AT4 CS, stands as a testament to modern military ingenuity in providing compact yet powerful anti-armour capabilities. Its design features, including a disposable system, a recoilless rifle mechanism, and advanced sighting systems, reflect a commitment to versatility and effectiveness in urban and confined space combat scenarios. Widely adopted by various military forces globally, including the Swedish Armed Forces, the Indian military, and NATO member countries, the AT4 has proven itself as a reliable and indispensable tool for infantry and special forces.

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