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US Marines fire shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon as part of Basic Combat Engineer Course

U.S Marines train with the Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) during their Basic Combat Engineer Course at Camp Lejeune. (Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano/U.S. Marine Corps)
March 01, 2017

United States Marines have a vast array of weapons at their disposal. Each weapon is unique in its own right and requires weeks of intense dedicated training. A February 2017 video from the Marine Corps Engineer School at Camp Lejeune offers a glimpse of what it takes to master one the more explosive weapons in the Marines’ arsenal: the SMAW.

The shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon (SMAW) is a portable rocket weapon capable of destroying bunkers and other strongholds. The weapon can also be used as an armor-penetrating antitank launcher.

U.S Marines train with the Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) during their Basic Combat Engineer Course at Camp Lejeune. (Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano/U.S. Marine Corps)

While the SMAW can be operated by a single soldier, a two-man team usually works in perfect harmony to fire and reload the launcher safely. The weapon can fire at a rate of around three rounds per minute, and operating it on the battlefield requires seamless cooperation.

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The 30lb launcher spans 54 inches when fully loaded and is capable of hitting targets from up to 1,600 feet away.

Check out the SMAW in action in the video below:

Originally introduced in 1984, the SMAW has been an integral part of the United States military’s weapons cache for more than three decades. It was first used in combat during the Gulf War and continues to be used by forces around the world.

Marines are not only expected to be able to safely use the launcher on the battlefield, but they must also have a full understanding of every aspect of the weapon itself. Before spending any time with the launcher in a live training exercise, the recruits must learn how to disassemble and reassemble the SMAW in just a matter of minutes. They are also expected to know how to clean, maintain and service the weapon.

U.S Marines train with the Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) during their Basic Combat Engineer Course at Camp Lejeune. (Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano/U.S. Marine Corps)

One of the primary objectives of attending the Marine Corps Engineer School is to gain an expert-level understanding of explosives. They are often tasked with creating or destroying bunkers and clearing minefields.

Furthermore, combat engineers play a pivotal role in creating and maintaining infrastructure in war zones. They are expected to build, repair, and maintain various structures, roads, and power supplies, and must do so even while under fire or in dangerous combat situations.

U.S Marines train with the Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) during their Basic Combat Engineer Course at Camp Lejeune. (Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano/U.S. Marine Corps)

Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina is home to some 47,000 Marines and sailors from around the world and is the largest Marine Corps base on the east coast.