Since 1976, Indian infantry platoons have been equipped with the 84-millimetre (mm) Carl-Gustaf M3 rocket launcher, developed by Swedish weapons giant, Saab, and manufactured by India’s Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).
This has proved to be a lethal infantry weapon against enemy tanks. It has also proved deadly in Jammu & Kashmir, blowing up enemy bunkers, or outhouses where militants have taken shelter.
But now, Saab believes the obsolescent Carl-Gustaf M3, which is still in service with numerous militaries worldwide, is ready to be replaced by a new-generation M4 version of the rocket launcher. With the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) promoting the “Make in India” policy, Saab has applied to set up a manufacturing facility in India to build the new Carl-Gustaf M4 rocket launcher.
The new M4 version, which is carried and fired by a two-man crew, has a longer range of 1,500 metres, a sophisticated new sighting system that makes it difficult to miss the target and weighs just 7.5 kg against the 11 kg of the M3 version. Production in the new facility is planned to start in 2024.
Neither the MoD, nor the Army, has shown interest yet in buying the new rocket launcher, but Saab believes they will someday. Until then, India will be the manufacturing and supply hub from which Saab can supply the M4 Carl-Gustaf to militaries around the world.
Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos last January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised the slogan: “Make in India; Make for the world”.
“The new company, Saab FFV India, currently under registration, will make the latest generation of the state-of-the-art [rocket launcher] in India. Saab will also be partnering with Indian sub-suppliers and the systems manufactured in the facility will fully meet the requirements of ‘Make in India’, Saab stated in a press release on Tuesday.
Saab has applied for a manufacturing licence for a 100 per cent Saab subsidiary. There is a 74 per cent cap on foreign ownership of defence firms, and 100 per cent foreign ownership is permitted only when there is going to be an inflow of high technology. Saab says it will cross that bar, with the latest technologies going into the 84 mm Carl-Gustaf M4.
“Saab FFV India will deploy complex technologies including the latest sighting technology and apply advanced manufacturing techniques like carbon fibre winding for the Carl-Gustaf system including the latest M4 weapon,” stated Saab.
Given that the Indian Army is one of the world’s biggest users of the M3 version of the Carl-Gustaf rocket launcher, and the M3 is manufactured in India, it is only natural for the Army to graduate to the “Made in India” Carl-Gustaf M4, said Görgen Johansson, a senior Saab executive.
Saab believes its partnership with the OFB, and with the OFB’s new, corporatised versions – Munitions India Limited (MIL) and Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited (AWEIL) – which manufactured the Carl-Gustaf M3 and its ammunition, positions it nicely to switch to manufacturing the M4 version of the rocket launcher.