The Army has awarded a sole-source contract for up to 1,111 improved 84 mm recoilless anti-tank rifles from Saab Dynamics.

The requirement is set to be filled in the first quarter of fiscal year 2018, and the award includes documentation for the company to expedite production and field the weapon.

Saab was chosen, according to government documents, in part because the company developed the M3E1 Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-tank Weapon System (MAAWS).

The weapon is nearly a third lighter — down from 22 pounds to nearly 15 pounds — and 2.5 inches shorter than previous variants. It is based on the “Carl Gustaf” 84 mm recoilless rifle originally produced by a Saab predecessor in 1946.

The weapon was fielded to Army light infantry platoons in 2016.

Adding the weapon is one of many changes to combat units aimed at increasing lethality and recognizing a need for weapons to fight near-peer competitors who have light armor and heavy armor assets.

Soldiers in World War II carried predecessors called bazookas to battle, but the weapons were mostly replaced with towed systems.

Various U.S. military units, including Army Rangers, continued to carry earlier variants of the M3, but anti-armor needs for many regular Army infantry and Marine units have been met by the AT-4, which is also an 84-mm, shoulder-fired rocket. The AT-4 is a single-use, disposable rocket, while the M3 can be fired multiple times.

The new M3E1 has an electronic round counter to track usage and can fire a range of projectiles, including anti-tank, anti-structure, smoke and illumination rounds, according to the government website.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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