The M202 Flame Assault Shoulder Weapon, better known as the M202 FLASH, is a quad-barreled shoulder-fired incendiary rocket launcher developed in the United States.
However, by the late 1980s, the M202 itself was declared obsolete: troops found it heavy and bulky, and to have a dangerous tendency for rockets to spontaneously ignite during loading. In addition, it presented severe storage issues as the M235 warheads tended to leak highly volatile liquids when left for prolonged periods.
There is some documentation indicating that M202s were still in use in Afghanistan and Iraq, though it is unclear to what extent they were employed.
The M202 is a box-shaped launcher which features four barrels for 66mm M74 incendiary rockets: for convenience in loading, four rockets are loaded together into the rear of the launcher, their fiberglass launch tubes held as a single assembly by a clip. The weapon has an integral folding optical sight with range markings.
The M202 is designed to be as easy to carry as is possible: the rockets can slide completely inside the casing for transport, and the weapon's pistol grip can fold upwards into the underside. The two covers each double as functional parts when unfolded: the front cover includes the launcher's foregrip, while the rear acts as a shoulder stop. The launcher can only fire with the rocket clip pulled out to the firing position: in the stowed position the striker assembly is folded down and not in contact with the rocket igniters.
The M74 rockets have M235 warheads with about 1.34 pounds (0.61 kg) of an incendiary agent. This is not napalm as is sometimes stated (a product of confusing the M202 with the XM191), rather being thickened pyrophoric agent (TPA). This consists of triethylaluminum (TEA) thickened with 6% polyisobutylene. As TEA is an organometallic compound, it is pyrophoric and burns spontaneously at temperatures of 1,200 °C (2,200 °F) when exposed to air, and is quite capable of burning underwater. The heat is sufficient to cause first-degree burns at short range without having any contact with the flame. The brilliant light from the burning TEA is also capable of causing permanent retinal damage if looked at directly.
The weapon's caliber is shared with the M72 LAW rocket launcher, at 66mm or 2.6 inches. This was deliberate, and intended to allow M72 rockets to be fired from the M202, but unlike the XM191 where XM78 clips were actually made, no such clips were ever manufactured for the M202. A crowd control CS gas round, XM96, was also trialled with the XM191, but 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 is striker-fired, with each rocket having its own striker in an array which pulls out of the back of the launcher. While one trigger pull fires one rocket, it is thus not technically semi-automatic as no part of the energy of firing the weapon performs any of the operations of loading or readying it.
The M235 warhead is armed by inertial forces at 5 to 14 yards (5-13 m) from the launcher, but this is ineffective as a safety feature as the bursting radius of the rockets is approximately 22 yards (20 m), and in addition since the filler is pyrophoric, if the rocket casing is damaged the payload will ignite even if the warhead has not armed. The backblast danger zone is 50 feet (15 meters) with a caution zone extending a further 82 feet (25 meters).
Variant with stronger internals to prevent firing pin hangs.
Modern variant with no discernible changes.