Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon (NLAW)

NLAW is a lightweight, short-range anti-tank weapon designed to engage main battle tanks and other fighting vehicles up to a range of 600m

The Next Generation Light Ant-Tank Weapon (NLAW) is described by Saab thus;

The Bofors NLAW (Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapon) is the first ever single soldier missile system that rapidly knocks out any Main Battle Tank in just one shot by striking it from above. The true tank killer for light forces that operate dismounted in all environments including built-up areas.

It is currently in service with the British Army, Royal Marines and RAF Regiment.

Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon (NLAW) History

The history of NLAW starts with the weapon it was intended to replace, the LAW 80.

Light Anti-Armour Weapon (LAW) 80 was intended as a replacement for the Rocket 66 mm HEAT L1A1, more commonly known as the M72 LAW. The L1A1 was seen as increasingly obsolete against modern Soviet armour, primarily as a result of its fixed diameter, unlike RPG type weapons, the warhead diameter was constrained by the launch tube diameter. For HEAT warheads, one of the principal means of increasing penetration is with a warhead of greater diameter.

LAW-80 was designed with a 94mm diameter warhead and included a spotting rifle that fire ammunition ballistically matched to the main round. The effective range was reportedly 500m, although it would be relatively difficult to achieve a hit at this range against a moving target. If it did hit, though, the vehicle would likely be in trouble, the warhead could penetrate 700mm RHA. When carried, the missile was 1m long, this was extended to 1.5m in the ready to fire mode. LAW-80 weighed 10kg.

LAW-80 could also be used as an ‘off-route mine’ and command-detonated.

LAW 80

LAW-80 was last produced in 1993

The replacement for the Insys LAW-80 was intended to be guided to support realistic engagement distances, Next Generation Light Anti-Armour Weapon (NLAW) was the programme name.

The requirement was defined as;

Next Generation Light Anti-Armour Weapon’s (NLAW) primary use will be to defeat armour in close battle. Its secondary use will be to attack defended positions such as bunkers. Recognising the potential for warfare in urban areas, it must be capable of being fired from within buildings. NLAW will be used by the infantry in conjunction with medium range weapons (up to 2000-3000m), but will be the only individual anti-armour weapon for other arms and services. Operational analysis has indicated that, as a fixed point defence weapon, significant numbers of NLAW will be required in order to ensure there is sufficient coverage of the battlefield and rear areas.

Two initial Project Definition studies were awarded to Matra BAe Dynamics and Celsius (Sweden) and in January 2001, two bids were received for the Demonstration, Manufacture and Support phase.

Matra Bae Dynamics entered the Kestrel, and Celsius, the MBT-LAW.

Kestrel was a version of the Lockheed Martin FGM-172 Predator Short Range Anti-Tank Missile that was intended to enter service with the US Marine Corps.

An MoU was signed with Sweden in June 2002, the same time Saab Bofors Dynamics (Celsius) were announced as the winner. Assessment Phase costs were £18 million and the Demonstration and Manufacture contract was £419 million.

Team MBT-LAW consisted of;

  • Thales Air Defence; assembly
  • BAE Systems Avionics; inertial measurement unit
  • NP Aerospace; plastic and composite mouldings
  • FR-HiTemp; control fins and actuators
  • Raytheon Systems; electronics assemblies
  • Skeldings; special purpose springs
  • Thales Missile Electronics; proximity fuze
  • Others included MetalWeb, BAE Systems RO Defence, EPS Logistics Technology, Express Engineering, Portsmouth Aviation, ICI Nobel Enterprises, Leafield Engineering.

Thales in Belfast produced the missiles and deliveries began in 2009, the same year it came into service.

In 2015, Saab released details of a software change that could easily extend the effective range;

Using the vast amount of test data from production and live firings, Saab has been able to optimise the guidance system of the NLAW weapon system by fine-tuning its Predicted Line of Sight [PLOS] software to extend the effective range beyond the 600 m to which it is currently designed. We have demonstrated through successful firings that we are able to effectively engage targets at 800 m and up against stationary targets. That’s fairly significant. We do not yet have the numbers for moving targets

In addition to the UK, NLAW is also in service with Finland, Sweden and Luxembourg.

Next Generation Light Ant-Tank Weapon (NLAW) Capabilities

The guidance system uses Predicted Line of Sight (PLOS), technically, it is not a missile as it is not guided to the target. The firer activates the system and tracks the target for 2 to 3 seconds before firing, the guidance system then calculates the predicted flight path to ensure a hit, it is a fire and forget device.

The firer can select overfly top attack (OTA), for use against main battle tanks and armoured vehicles, or direct attack (DA) against soft-skinned vehicles and other targets. In OTA mode, the guidance algorithm optimises the approach for an elevated flight path with a proximity fuze and in direct attack mode, the sensor system that maintains height is simply disconnected and the missile is impact fuzed.

NLAW has a soft launch system that allows it to be fired from cover, inside buildings etc. It can also be fired without guidance prediction if the situation requires it.

The 12.5kg IM compliant system has an effective range is between 20m and 600m, the missile is 150mm in diameter and the warhead, 102mm diameter down angled at 90 degrees.

NLAW is a maintenance-free disposable system, although the Trijicon  Compact ACOG 2.5×20 sight can be detached and reused if required.

NLAW Practice Round

NLAW Training Aid


Video 2

NLAW Warhead

NLAW firing


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Change Status

Change Date Change Record
 21/05/2016 initial issue
29/07/2021 Update and format refresh
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