The M20 Super Bazooka was a modification and advancement on the pre-existing Bazooka and Panzerschreck following the end of the Second World War. The need for the modified system was established after 1942, when the Germans captured a large quantity of the original M1 Bazooka’s. The reverse engineered Panzerschreck was significantly improved over the captured American model. Following the close of hostilities, interwar, and subsequent build-up to the Korean War, the need was defined for a system to replace the aging and obsolete M1 and improve on the recaptured Panzerschreck.
The original M1’s 60 mm rocket and barrel was upgraded to fire and hold a larger 89 mm round. It was larger than the German model, about twenty percent lighter in weight, and had a greater range. The entire system, when loaded, weighed about twenty-four pounds and fired a nine-pound M28A2 high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) round. Late M20’s and subsequent M20A1’s were primarily manufactured during the Korean War for use against Soviet tanks. Many of these M20A1’s were produced and manufactured at the Rock Island Arsenal where they were immediately shipped direct from the manufacturing center to the front lines.
These airlifted Super Bazooka’s were rapidly introduced into service following significant setbacks from the original M1 and M9 designs. In addition, changes were made to the warheads, as well as packaging and storage procedures which increased the endurance of the system, reduced maintenance needed, and reduced risk of systems dead-on-arrival.
The Super Bazooka remained in service after the Korean war through the initial stages of the Vietnam War. Other western nations also kept limited quantities of the M20 in reserve through the early 1980s. The United States subsequently replaced their stores of M20’s with systems such as the M67 recoilless rifle and the M72 LAW rocket launcher. By the time the Vietnam War ended, all of the United States shoulder-fired rocket launchers were replaced by one of these two systems.
The system provided vital grounds for continued research in infantry carried anti-tank defense systems. One of the most innovative concepts borne of the Super Bazooka was the M25, a tripod-mount, rapidly deployable, triple-shot rocket system. While this design was not adopted, research and development was carried forward into other weapons systems used during Vietnam.
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