Shoulder fired weapons can be classified as anti-aircraft and anti-tank that uses a launcher to shoot the warhead at the target. These weapons, of the guided as well as the unguided variety, are highly effective against intended targets. Unlike other missile systems that are bulky and require operational expertise, shoulder-fired weapons are relatively small and can be carried by a single person and operated efficiently with much less level of training needed.
Shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons give the foot soldier the ability to assault armored vehicles. Currently, there are two main types of shoulder-fired Anti-Tank (AT) systems: reloadable and disposable. The reloadable systems are modern variations on recoilless rifle technology. With the advancement in armored vehicle protection, especially that of MBTs, the shoulder-fired weapons are facing new challenges. However, the unguided shoulder-fired weapons are cheaper compared to guided weapons and are useful against personnel entrenched in cave complexes as well as combatants hidden in buildings and fortification in urban areas. Unguided shoulder-fired weapons have been a part of several infantries across the globe for years. However, they are being replaced by the advanced guided shoulder weapons that are highly accurate. Some of the unguided shoulder-fired weapons are RPG-29, RPG-7VLT, RPG-27, RPG-28, AT-4, SMAW, WASP 58, Panzerfaust Pzf3-IT among others.
It has been observed in several instances that the troops who operate shoulder-fired weapons have suffered from concussions and brain injuries. Few companies are developing a light-assault weapon that eliminates the back-blast danger. For instance, using STRIX propulsion technology, Nammo’s M72FFE enables operators to fire large caliber or anti-armor warheads safely. The new system suppresses noise levels and night signatures to make it difficult for the enemy to detect the location of release. The military is also looking for a new type of helmet that can protect the soldier’s brain from blast waves.
The development of new weapons is directly proportional to the demand which depends on the defense spending of every nation. The US, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, South Korea are among the top defense spending countries worldwide in 2017. United States recorded the highest military spending of USD 610 billion in 2017 followed by China with a military expenditure of USD 228 billion. Most of the countries in the Asia Pacific region have significantly increased their defense spending in the past decade with massive investment towards the procurement of advanced weapons. The Indian Army in a recent study has revealed that it lacks 68,000 anti-tank guided missiles of various types and around 850 launchers. The Army plans to procure about 2,500 third-generation shoulder-fired ATGMs and 96 launchers through a government-government contract. Israeli Spike ATGM and the FGM-148 Javelin ATGM are the weapon systems under consideration.
The growing demand for lightweight anti-armor weapons is encouraging vast developments in the areas of weapon design. Such trends will remain key forces guiding the development of the shoulder-fired weapons in the coming years.
North America dominates the market in 2017; however, Asia Pacific is expected to register the highest CAGR during the forecast period. This is mainly due to growing terrorist activities and political tensions among some of the countries in the Asia Pacific region. The United States dominates and accounts for a significant share in the North America shoulder-fired weapons market in 2017. However, regarding market share, it is anticipated that North America will lose some of its share to Asia-Pacific and Middle East region.
Raytheon Company, Saab AB, MBDA, Lockheed Martin Corporation, and NORINCO among others.
May 2018: Raytheon Missile Systems unveiled the first phase of a USD 550 million expansion to its Tucson facilities which includes new laboratory, missile testing and office space.
Oct 2017: Saab received an order from US Army for shoulder-fired AT4CS RS anti-armor weapon systems. The order is worth USD 13.4 million and the deliveries are expected to begin in 2019.
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