Introduced in the late-1970s, the M202 FLASH ("FLame Assault SHoulder Weapon") is a shoulder-fired, multi-shot rocket launcher intended for incendiary projectiles - essentially a "rocket launcher flamethrower". The weapon has roots in the Vietnam War-era, developmental "XM191" napalm launcher and carries a four-shot tube (2x2) arrangement housing 4 x 66mm M74 Incendiary TPA-filled (triethylaluminum) projectiles. The role of the M202 is similar to that of a flamethrower but improves on range and therefore reduces the firer's exposure some.
As a complete system, the M202 sports a boxy shape. A pistol grip and trigger unit is set under the forward end of the weapon with a fold-down padded arm set aft. A foregrip is present under the muzzle end of the launcher component. Optics (reflex sighting device) are integrated along the left side of the launcher. Effective range is out to 22 yards with a maximum listed range of 820 yards (point accuracy is decidedly reduced over range). The rockets are fed through a four-shot clip which, once installed, can be fired singly or as a group. Overall weight of the launcher component is 11.5lb and, when loaded, this increases to 26.5lb. Overall length is 34.75" though the system can collapse for travel, bringing the transport length down to 27".
The M202 has never made a large imprint in the American military inventory and its usefulness was reduced even more with the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. The rockets did not always prove reliable for the role and the awkward size and shape of the M202 launcher made it unappealing for the standard infantryman - who still had to carry his normal war gear into battle. Some modern elements of the United States military still rely on the weapon as has been the case in Afghanistan where it has proven useful against exposed enemy infantry, soft-skinned vehicles, and soft fortifications. The South Korean Army is also listed as an operator of the M202.
The rocket launcher flamethrower concept also emerged, in varying forms throughout the years, from the former Soviet Union and China.
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