You always know when a piece of military kit is any good or at least useful because the first thing the MOD tries to do is to get rid of it. You also knew that when the MOD removed the tin opener from of the 24 hour ration pack that things could only go down hill, it was the only piece of equipment in the whole of the British Army that actually worked and didn’t need REME support! The M72A1 66 mm LAW (Light Anti Tank Weapon), or ‘Sixty-Six’ to the initiated, was just one of those items.
The Sixty-Six is a recoilless, one-shot, shoulder launched, unguided anti-tank rocket and unlike its Russian counterpart, the RPG-7, it is disposable. That means that instead of carrying one weapon and a plethora of rockets to be fired by one member of the rifle section, everyone can carry one. It’s light, it’s cheap and portable, and it was so good it is rumoured that the Russians copied the warhead for use on the RPG-7. The Russians have also produced a very similar version in the form of the RPG-18. The early versions of the Sixty-Six were less than reliable, however thorough testing in the hellfire cauldron of Vietnam produced a number of improvements, hence the A1, A2 etc suffixes.
The warhead of the Sixty-Six is a shaped charge, primarily used for penetrating armour plating, which equated to approximately 300 mm of steel plate on a good day, depending on angle of penetration. It was used to great effect during the Falklands campaign as one of a selection of ‘Sanger Busters’, the others being the Carl Gustav 84 mm and the MILAN. After the Falkland’s it fell out of favour as the powers that be decided that it was too light to take out a Warsaw Pact T-72, so along with the old Charlie G, it was replaced by the 94 mm LAW 80 (Light Anti-armour Weapon 1980); which was essentially a super sized Sixty-Six. The LAW 80 has the advantage of an integral spotting rifle and can penetrate 700 mm of armour, again on a good day.
Fast forward to present day Afghanistan where a problem has arisen in the fact that using the LAW 80 or a Javelin ATGW to take out a Taleban gunman in a mud hut is something akin to over-kill, it also had a tendency to obliterate the mud hut which does little for endearing Allied forces to the local population. The MOD has therefore issued an UOR (Urgent Operational Requirement) for a LASM (Light Anti Structures Missile) and their call has been answered in the form of the M72A9. Although outwardly similar to the Sixty-Six the LASM uses a different warhead, which carries 1 kg of HE instead of a shaped charge, this makes for a more useful weapon as the Taleban have few armoured vehicles.
So there you have it, although the LASM differs in comparison to the Sixty-Six LAW they do still have a lot in common, and both can be used for busting Sanger’s. It could therefore be argued that had the MOD kept the original Sixty-Six in the inventory, there would’ve been no need to issue a UOR as the right kit would’ve been ready to hand in sufficient quantities. In addition to this, as the LASM was purchased using a UOR, because of this the unit cost is undoubtedly higher than if it was purchased during peace time, such is the nature of the beast. Like I said earlier, it’s just like the tin opener.
Added by TD
The M72A9 LASM reportedly uses a slower burning insensitive explosive (PBX-6) encased in a heavy aluminium casing to ensure that structures are destroyed with minimal fragmentation. Supplied by Nammo Tally in the USA it is an interim weapon until the Anti Structure Munition comes into service. The ASM is a much larger weapon with a correspondingly greater effect although it may be used alongside the LASM.