Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon (NLAW)

Next Generation Anti-Armour Weapon (NLAW) is an advanced short range system designed for use by light forces and is in service with the UK armed forces

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 Ant-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 principle 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. 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.

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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.

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A 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

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). 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.

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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 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.

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NLAW Training Aid

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Table of Contents

RN TLAM 4 Introduction
MBDA Brimstone layout on Tornado Brimstone
MBDA SPEAR 3 Image 2 SPEAR Capability 3
RAF Tornado GR4's at RAF Akrotiri Cyprus being armed with the Paveway IV Laser Guided Bomb. Paveway IV
Tornado Storm Shadow Storm Shadow
Royal Navy Submarine HMS Astute Fires a Tomahawk Cruise Missile (TLAM) During Testing Near the USA Tomahawk
FASGW(H) Missile Sea Venom
Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) Martlet (Lightweight Multirole Missile)
HMS Montrose fires Harpoon Harpoon
F-35 UK Weapons Trials November 2014 ASRAAM & PAVEWAY IV shot 2 ASRAAM
RAF Typhoon Aircraft Carrying Meteor Missiles Meteor BVRAAM
Soldier Mans Starstreak HVM High Velocity Missile System During Exercise Olympic Guardian for London 2012 Starstreak HVM
Sea Ceptor missile system FLAADS(M) Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM)
Sea Viper HMS Defender Type 45 Live Fire Sea Viper/ASTER
Fire Shadow Loitering Munition Fire Shadow Loitering Munition
The final pre-acceptance trial of the GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, USA. Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS)
Spike NLOS Tracked Vehicle Exactor (SPIKE NLOS)
Pictured are elements of the Manoeuvre Support Group MSG from 42 Commando Royal Marines, based at Bickleigh Barracks Plymouth, whilst conducting live firing of the new Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (LFATGW) Javelin. 42 Commando Royal Marines were the first UK Armed Force to live fire the new Javelin system. The live fire demonstration was an early opportunity to see the Javelin being live fired in the UK. The future reliance on simulation,rather than live firing will mean that a demonstration such as this will be a rare event in the UK during the service life of the system. This image was submitted as part of the Peregrine 06 Photographic Competition. This image is available for non-commercial, high resolution download at subject to terms and conditions. Search for image number 45145988.jpg ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Photographer: PO (PHOT) Sean Clee Image 45145988.jpg from Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW)
NLAW Training Aid Next Generation Light Anti-Armour Weapon (NLAW)
Raytheon Defender Laser CIWS Lasers
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May 27, 2016 8:44 am

The distances are short but it is still a guessing game as to whether the target will keep going, or try to hit the brakes.
– if the tracking method (the 2-3 seconds prior to firing) is passive (no sensors on the target can give a warning), then such evasion tactics are not likely to work

Taking a small leap to the Stryker Cavalry on Arrow 16 exercises: they expressed some surprise at their fellow mech. infantry fielding a man-portable anti-tank weapon (a good many NLAWs amongst those) with about every third dismount. After manoeuvres through forested areas (engagement ranges; dispersed fighting) they were not so surprised anymore.

May 27, 2016 11:45 am

What type of armoured vehicles can it definitely knock out, now with all the new Russian hardware?

May 27, 2016 3:10 pm



May 27, 2016 4:22 pm

All of them, I suspect. The Active Defence Systems may give them some trouble, but only the hard kill type. The soft kill will not be effective.
Of the hard kill types, it would depend on the area of effect of the Afghanit munitions as to whether they are effective. Since the NLAW missile flies above the tank, rather than directly at it, the munition will not be so close to it.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
May 28, 2016 9:15 pm

It’s designed to take out MBTs. I would guess only the ones with hard kill APS would be (relatively) safe.

May 28, 2016 9:59 pm

Brave new world. In the past, rockets of these calibre won’t even have gotten through a T-64/65, with all the ERA the Russians seem to love. Now with all the Top attack modes, they’re so much more effective.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
June 6, 2016 1:02 pm

It’s an amazing, and highly cost-effiective piece of kit, but I would expect the Arena Active Protection System to work against N-LAW. I’m not sure if the Russians ever deployed it and would expect only a small proportion of their MBT fleet to receive it or similar for the forseable future. No passive countermeasures would work, except possibly laser blinding systems attacking the operator’s vision and (obviously!) smoke (until someone puts a thermal sight on it).

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