MBB Armbrust (Crossbow)
Recoilless Disposable Light Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher
The MBB Armbrust shoulder-launched, man-portable rocket launcher appeared in the latter stages of the Cold War and delivered a 67mm ant-tank projectile.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
By the 1980s, the threat of Soviet armor pouring into Western Europe was no less a threat than in the years following the close of World War 2 (1939-1945). Ground Zero for a new conflict emanating from the Cold War would have been Germany which was, at this point, divided in the post-war period into an East (Soviet-dominated) and a West territory. One of the many ongoing challenges facing NATO warplanners was in equipping their regular infantry with portable tank-killing solutions.
Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm (MBB) of West Germany began work on a new man-portable, shoulder-fired rocket launcher which became the "Armbrust" ("Crossbow") anti-armor and self-defense weapon system. Its design was largely conventional - a launch tube with included optics being at the heart of the weapon - and fired a 67mm unguided, fin-stabilized rocket projectile. Overall weight was 6.3 kilograms and overall length was 850mm. As a recoilless weapon design, the Armbrust's launching action relied on a pair of pistons which helped to control the recoil force of the launching rocket projectile. In this way, the mass of the projectile equaled that of the launcher - the forward piston impacting the exiting projectile out of the muzzle end and the rear piston ejecting a counter-mass collection of shredded plastic/metal rods from the rear of the tube - negating recoil. This unique action allowed the Armbrust to be fired from within the confines of a building (urban warfare) while emitting very little smoke and tell-tale sound which served to conceal the firer laying in ambush.
The launch area of the weapon required a minimum of just 3.5 feet. Muzzle velocity was 690 feet-per-second with an effective range out to 980 feet and a maximum range out to 4,900 feet. Warhead penetration was up to 300mm of steel armor and the projectile held some value against structures as well. As an inherently disposable design, the launcher held only a single shot requiring an infantryman to carry several of these weapons into based on the level of enemy armor to be expected.
The weapon's general arrangement was largely conventional as man-portable rocket projectors went. The launch tube made up most of the design with the optics offset to the left side of the tube. The launcher was then positioned over the right shoulder prior to firing. The sighting device was illuminated for low-light / night time actions and the launcher's action managed through a trigger-based, pistol grip-style arrangement. The grip assembly was hinged to fold up alongside the bottom of the launch tube for compactness during travel and transport was further aided by a shoulder strap. The muzzle end of the tube was clearly slotted for quick identification.
The Armbrust saw considerable combat service during its time as a frontline solution - though none were during an assumed Soviet invasion of Western Europe. It was in use during the Cambodian-Vietnam War (1977-1991), the Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995), the Slovenian War of Independence / Ten-Day War (1991), the Cambodian-Thai border stand-off (2008-2011), and - most recently - the Lahad Datu stand-off (2013). Its manufacturing rights were eventually sold off to Chartered Industries of Singapore (CIS) and the product then fell under the revised CIS brand label of ST Kinetics from there. Operators became Albania, Brunei, Cambodia, Chile, Indonesia, Kosovo, Philippines, Singapore, and Slovenia. Variants included the Armbrust AT, Armbrust AP, Armbrust Ub, and Armbrust SC.
The Armbrust's successor arrived with the 90mm MATADOR (Man-Portable, Anti-Tank, Anti-DOoR) of 2000. This weapon became a joint German-Israeli-Singaporean design and is detailed elsewhere on this site.