"Bazooka" is a term commonly applied to a series of recoilless launchers used by the US military during WW2 and the Korean War. It was a slang term adopted by the GIs based on the device's resemblance to a comedy 'instrument' popularized by Radio Comedian Bob Burns in the 1930s & 1940s.
Today the term is often used by the general public as a generic term for any tube-like rocket launcher; this cannot exactly be called incorrect, since "Bazooka" was only ever a nickname for the original weapon, but on this site it should only be used to refer to this particular series of launchers.
Bazooka rockets are often depicted with burning engines and smoke trails in fiction, which is incorrect: the rocket motor burns out while the projectile is still inside the launch tube, except for early-production rockets at extremely cold temperatures where it may still be burning for a short time on exit. Later rockets used a new propellant, Blastless Bazooka Propellant (BBP) that eliminated temperature-related burn time issues.
The following weapons are in the M1 Series of Rocket Launchers:
M1 "Bazooka" (2.36" Rocket)
- First model adopted from Lieutenant Edward Uhl's prototype rocket launcher and Colonel Leslie Skinner's rocket design, based very loosely on a series of prototypes created by American rocketry pioneer Robert H. Goddard in 1918. First used in combat in 1942, on the Russian Front via lend-lease and by American forces during Operation Torch in November 1942.
- Had two pistol grips (one with trigger) and a shoulder step which contained the battery.
- Contact box located on top of the tube just back from the shoulder rest is only present on this variant.
- 18 lbs unloaded weight, 54in tube.
- Introduced in June 1942, used until August 1943 when replaced by the M1A1 variant.
- Used M6 HEAT round: no other Bazooka can fire this original rocket design due to one of its contacts being on the nose, and the M1 could not fire any later rocket without modification.
- Not particularly popular due to the unreliable M6 rocket, use of substandard steel for production expediency rendering tubes prone to rupturing on hot days when the rocket propellant would burn extremely quickly, and lack of a bore gauge for launch tube production, resulting in tubes with very poor dimensional tolerances: frequent accidents involving rockets getting stuck in the tube and exploding: these issues were compounded by US troops in Operation Torch having received little or no instruction in the use of the weapon. Issuing of the M1 was suspended in May 1943.
- Mild steel cone in hollow charge, penetration roughly 3in (76mm) RHA.
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M1A1 "Bazooka" (2.36" Rocket)
- Fully introduced in August 1943, with small numbers issued in July. First used during the invasion of Sicily in July-August 1943
- Replaced "On/Off" switch with the 'ready' light
- Removed second pistol grip
- Rear section of the launch tube wrapped with 0.5 in steel wire to prevent ruptures on hot days.
- Wire wrapping required reworked electrical system and redesigned rocket: instead of the top-mounted contact box that created a connection to a brass ring on the rocket's nose, a wire was stowed in the tailfin of the rocket and connected to a contact clip at the rear of the launcher by the loader prior to firing. This means the wire on this launcher goes from the shoulder rest to the back of the tube, rather than up to the contact box as on the M1.
- Unloaded weight 13.26 lbs
- Added optional wire blast shield in front for cold weather use. Not particularly effective and largely ignored by troops: later a more effective solid cone was developed.
- Optional solid blast cone in back to replace wired cone.
- Improved M6A1 rocket with shortened propellant sticks to reduce overpressure. "M6A2" rocket appears to have been an informal designation for original production M6 rockets upgraded to A1 standard.
- Many original production M1s were upgraded to the A1 standard
- Later issued with a larger battery, and after complaints of it getting stuck inside the shoulder rest, were re-reamed to better accommodate it
The M1 series of Rocket Launcher can be seen in the following films, TV series, anime, and video games used by the following actors:
M9 "Bazooka" (2.36" Rocket)
- Introduced in October 1943 and replaced the M1A1 in production, operating alongside it in the field
- Battery ignition (which had proved unreliable in wet weather and caused many complaints about life and availability of batteries in the field) replaced by Magnavox T6 trigger magneto
- Wooden furnishings replaced with metal and plastic
- 64in tube length meant rockets would completely expend their fuel inside the launcher regardless of weather
- Used improved M6A3 HEAT rocket and M10 Bursting Smoke (WP) rocket. M6A3 had a blunt, rounded nose rather than the pointed nose of earlier rockets, which had been found to deflect off sloped tank armor, and also had a short cylindrical fixed tailfin which was less prone to bending during transport or rough handling. Both rounds could be fired from the earlier M1A1 model as well.
- M6A3 reshaped the ogive and some sources say also replaced the mild steel hollow charge liner with copper, the former or both together improving penetration to around 4 inches (100mm) of RHA.
- Early production used General Electric T43 folding bar sight, later replaced by Polaroid T90 optical reflex sight
- Could be disassembled into two halves for easier carrying.
- Unloaded weight 15.14 lbs
- Forward blast cone added.
M9A1 "Bazooka" (2.36" Rocket)
M9A1 "Bazooka" - 2.36 inch
- Introduced in September 1944 replacing the M9
- Improved coupling mechanism for the two-part launch tube
- T90 optical reflex sight
- Unloaded weight 15.87 lbs
- Short-lived M18 variant had an aluminium alloy barrel reducing weight to 10.6 lbs. Introduced in April 1945 but production ended at the end of the war with only 500 units produced: 350 saw combat use in the Philippines and on Okinawa. Some sources conflate or confuse this variant with the M18 Recoilless Rifle, which entered service the same year and was referred to as a Bazooka by soldiers due to its vaguely similar shape.
M20 "Super Bazooka" (3.5" Rocket)
M20 "Super Bazooka" with rocket - 3.5"
- Further M18 development cancelled due to fears that the 2.36" rocket would be completely ineffective against the latest Soviet armor. Scaled-up M20 was developed instead, with a larger warhead for greater armor penetration
- Designated as M20 in late 1944, but not ready in time for the war's end and adoption postponed by Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson. Issue restarted when US forces in Korea encountered North Korean T-34/85 tanks their M9A1s, which were using ammunition that had degraded in storage, could not damage even with repeated shots at the engine compartments (particularly Task Force Smith during the Battle of Osan).
- Replaced the M9A1 in 1950.
- Used new ammunition: M28A2 HEAT (able to penetrate up to 11 inches (280mm) of RHA), M30 WP smoke
- Usable range was extended by an additional 150 meters.
- Weight 14.3 pounds (6.5kg), 60in tube length.
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M20B1 "Super Bazooka" (3.5" Rocket)
M20B1 "Super Bazooka" - 3.5"
- Lighter weight version - made of cast aluminum.
- Used as a supplement to the M20
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M20A1/A1B1 "Super Bazooka" (3.5" Rocket)
M20A1 "Super Bazooka" - 3.5" Rocket
M20A1B1 "Super Bazooka" - 3.5" Rocket
- Final US-produced Bazooka model.
- Entered production in 1952 - issued to troops after end of Korean War
- Improved connector latch assembly.
- Standard AT weapon at the start of the Vietnam War, phased out in favor of first the M67 recoilless rifle and then the M72 LAW for AT use in the 1960s.
Instalaza M65 Rocket Launcher
Instalaza M65 Rocket Launcher - 88.9mm
- Spanish Upgrade of the M20 Bazooka with new ignition system produced by Instalaza. Fired CHM65 HEAT, MB66 Dual-Purpose and FIM66 smoke rounds.