The M202 Flame Assault Shoulder Weapon, better known as the M202 FLASH, is a quad-barreled shoulder-fired thermobaric rocket launcher of U.S. origin currently in service in South Korea and the United States, and is used by many Special Forces teams around the world.
The M202 was developed in the 1970s to replace the extremely hazardous and obsolete flamethrowers, and was built on research done on the older XM191 prototype. However, by the late 1980s, the M202 itself was declared obsolete due to the tendency of the weapon's warheads to leak when placed in storage. In spite of this, there is still documentation of some use of this weapon.
The M202 is a box-shaped launcher which features four tubes that can load 66mm M74 incendiary rockets stored in clips. The weapon has an integral sight with reflex markings on it, and has two covers on the front and back; the front cover can be used as a foregrip to steady the weapon, while the back is used as a shoulder rest. The M74 rockets have M235 warheads with about 1.34 pounds (0.61 kg) of an incendiary agent often mistaken for napalm; it is in fact a thickened pyrophoric agent (TPA).
The pyrophoric agent consists of triethylaluminum (TEA) thickened with polyisobutylene. As TEA is an organometallic compound, it is pyrophoric and burns spontaneously at temperatures of 1200°C (2192°F) when exposed to air, and burns "white hot" because of the aluminum, which is much hotter than gasoline or napalm. The light and heat radiation produced from the burning of the TPA is extreme, and can cause burns from a close distance without having any contact with the flame.
The weapon's caliber is shared with the storied M72 LAW rocket launcher, at 66mm or 2.6 inches. As such, it is theoretically possible to fire HEAT rounds out of the M202, but no such clip was ever developed for that purpose. However, the XM191, the M202's prototype, could fire HEAT rounds, designated the XM78, in addition to incendiary rockets; it was also trialed with an experimental gas round designated the XM96 that never entered service.
The weapon is designed to be fired from the right shoulder, and can be fired from a standing, crouching, or prone position. It has an alternate trigger mode where all four rockets are fired at once. Reloading is accomplished by inserting the clip into the back of the weapon.
The M202A1 is rated as having a hit probability of 50% against the following targets at these ranges:
- Bunker aperture: 50 meters
- Window: 125 meters
- Weapons position or stationary vehicle: 200 meters
- Squad-sized troop formation: 500 meters
The 50% hit chance is based upon the assumption that all four rockets are fired at the same time.
Variant with stronger internals to prevent firing pin hangs.
Modern variant with no discernible changes.