The Main Battle Tank and Light Armour Weapon, MBT LAW, developed by Saab Bofors Dynamics, was selected in May 2002 for the UK Army next-generation light anti-tank weapon (NLAW). The portable, short range, fire-and-forget system will enter service in 2009 to replace the British Army’s existing Insys LAW-80 system that is reaching the end of its operational life. Deliveries began in mid 2009.
The development is a joint venture between Sweden and the UK, and the UK MoD Defence Procurement Agency will procure the systems for Sweden. It has been estimated that the UK requirement may be for up to 20,000 systems for the UK Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force Regiment.
In December 2005, the Swedish government also awarded a contract to Saab Bofors for the series production and delivery of the NLAW, to be designated RB (Robot) 57 in the Swedish forces. Deliveries began in 2009. The systems are manufactured in the UK.
In December 2007, Finland placed an order for an undisclosed number of NLAW systems. An additional (undisclosed) number were ordered in December 2008.
MBT LAW anti-tank missile system development
Both launcher and missile development are carried out at Saab Bofors Dynamics facilities at Eskilstuna and Karlskoga in Sweden using the expertise gained on anti-armour systems such as the Carl-Gustaf system, the AT4 CS confined spaces weapon and the Bill anti-tank missile.
Thales Air Defence is the major UK partner, leading Team MBT LAW which includes 14 UK subcontractors for the manufacture of the weapon system. Final assembly and test is carried out at the Thales Air Defence facilities in Belfast.
The missile’s inertial measurement unit is manufactured by BAE Systems at Plymouth. BAE Systems has constructed a new semiconductor facility at Plymouth to manufacture the silicon rate sensors within the IMU. The new facility duplicates the production line at BAE Systems’ joint venture company, Silicon Sensing Systems, in Japan where the sensors are in mass production.
The gunner can break off and start up a combat sequence any number of times. The missile can be deployed at targets at ranges down to 20m and to over 600m. The missile can also be launched immediately without tracking when an unexpected target appears.
The MBT LAW has a soft launch and can be fired from confined spaces such as from inside buildings and vehicle hatches, and from all positions and angles up to ±45°. The flight time to a 400m range is less than two seconds. The initial muzzle velocity is 40m/s. The maximum missile velocity is below the speed of sound.
In the predicted line-of-sight (PLOS) mode, the gunner tracks the target for three seconds and the missile’s guidance electronics makes a record of the gunner’s movement as he aims and computes the flight path to the predicted position of the target.