By Dan Shea
The author experienced firing the LRAC 89 many years ago and was impressed with the performance and power of the rocket as well as its penetration. Some years later, LMO imported some for experimentation in avalanche removal (unsuccessfully, range was too short for the job and 105mm Howitzers were deemed to have a better stand-off distance). By the early 1990s, Robert I. Landies had imported a small quantity of deactivated tubes out of Morocco to sell to collectors in the United States and these demilled tubes are the prize of numerous collections.
The 1970s era LRAC F1 89mm (Lance-Roquette Anti-Char de 89mm) was manufactured by Luchaire Defense and was adopted not only by the French Army but numerous others including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Tunisia, and Zaire. The LRAC is a battle proven design with a relatively easy but expensive training curve for operators, and as noted above, many countries that had French contacts were purchasers. U.S. and Coalition forces that are currently in theatre today have run into the LRAC in sporadic, undocumented reports, particularly in Africa. The French Paras have carried the LRAC into many battles, from Zaire in the mid-1970s onward. The system has been replaced in most modernized armies, including the French, who use various indigenous shoulder fired launchers including the Swedish designed and manufactured AT-4 system. However, the LRAC F1 89mm is still run into in various inventories, long past the fuze and propellant lives.
Essentially, the LRAC 89 is a fiberglass tube that is very strong and provides an aiming platform for a rocket that has its rocket module inserted to the rear of the tube. This is a reusable system allowing for a lot of space saving for paratroops.
The operator prepares to fire by removing the optic in its plug from the rear of the tube, planning his backblast area and cover, then assembling the sight to the tube and locating his foregrip and shoulder piece. He then assumes his firing position.
The rocket module (this is a rocket, not a recoilless rifle system) is decapped and inserted by the assistant gunner just prior to firing. The A-gunner should keep his hands away from the front and rear of the module as he inserts it, and push the module in until it seats and rotate it clockwise engaging the large lugs. At this point, the electrical contacts in the tube will make contact with the contacts on the module, completing the circuit except for the final safety of the back cap. Once the operator has indicated they will fire, the A-gunner removes the back cap (which is moisture proof) and that action completes the firing circuit. The A-gunner now performs the standard drill, watching backblast area and signaling “Safe” to the operator.
The operator is now ready to fire. He calculates his aim, squeezes the grip and holds it closed, and then pulls the trigger, thereby energizing the circuit and firing the rocket. The rocket motor on this system has completed its burn before it leaves the tube, so all energy is expended and the rocket is on its trajectory.
The basic LRAC rocket is High Explosive Anti-Tank using a shaped charge that will penetrate more than 400mm (15.75 inches) of Rolled Homogenous Armor at a 90 degree angle – that’s straight on. It will also penetrate a concrete wall of 1,300mm (51 inches) and is thus very good as a bunker buster. The fuze is simple: it is activated by the burning propellant gases at launch, and from 9-11 meters it arms. Nose tip piezo-electric (impact) generator activates the shaped charge.
Luchaire Defense provided several types of rounds to make this system as versatile as the competitive system: the Carl Gustav M2 84mm Recoilless Rifle. Cartridges provided included smoke, illumination, and anti-personnel.
For the life of the system, the LRAC had an excellent reputation with trained operators, but great care should be taken if these are encountered and considered for use today.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V13N5 (February 2010)|