Infantry: NLAW Blocks The Alpine Passes


July 11, 2017: Switzerland has ordered 4,000 Swedish NLAW ATGM (anti-tank guided missile). This is a lighter, cheaper version of the older BILL, a weapon that served from 1985 until 2013. Costing about $30,000 each, NLAW is also relatively inexpensive for what it does. NLAW was developed in cooperation with Britain, which wanted a new portable anti-tank weapon and was impressed with BILL and other Swedish portable rocket and missile weapons like AT4 and Carl Gustav. NLAW took seven years to develop and test and entered service in 2009 with much of the production taking place in Britain.

NLAW is a single shot missile carried in a launcher that includes the fire control system. NLAW weighs 12.5 kg (27.5 pounds) and is about a meter (41 inches) long. NLAW uses a dual-purpose 150mm warhead that employs a top attack mode to explode over a tank and penetrate the thinner top armor. Because the guidance system includes a predictive mode it can be fire at tanks or other vehicles hidden behind obstacles and detonate over the target. In top-attack mode NLAW is effective at targets as close as 20 meters and as distant as 600 meters. When used in direct attack mode (for structures, bunkers, groups of troops) it is effective out to 1,000 meters.

NLAW is used by Sweden, Britain, Luxemburg, Finland, Saudi Arabia and now Switzerland. NLAW saw its first combat use in Yemen during 2015 when a Saudi led coalition sent troops and air support to aid the government forces against an Iran backed rebellion by Shia tribes.

For a country like Switzerland, which has long sustained its neutrality by maintaining a large, well equipped reserve infantry force, NLAW is an ideal weapon. Any invader would have to deal with few roads and fewer mountain passes to get through. In a situation like that NLAW could quickly block the road with many destroyed tanks and other vehicles.


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