Although it replaced military flamethrowers, the M202 Flame Assault Shoulder Weapon is more of a conventional rocket launcher that is used to destroy bunkers and other structures during combat operations.
The M202 Flame Assault Shoulder Weapon is known by the acronym "FLASH." The M202 is a rocket launcher that first entered service with the U.S. military in 1978. The most recent version of the weapon is known as the M202-A1. The device is used primarily to target enemy bunkers, trenches and other structures. There is typically one M202 FLASH given to each U.S. rifle platoon. The FLASH is used less than in the past due to its age. But the weapon has been used in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
The M202 FLASH was designed around various napalm rocket launchers that were experimented with by the U.S. military during the Vietnam Conflict. When it came into service in the late 1970s, the M202 FLASH replaced the M1 and M2 flamethrowers that had been in use with the U.S. military since World War Two. However, the M202 FLASH is not a standard flamethrower. The U.S. military no longer uses flamethrowers.
The M202 FLASH fires four "incendiary rockets" that are armed with M235 warheads. Each warhead contains more than a pound of an incendiary agent. This is material that burns very fast at extremely hot temperatures and can incinerate a number of different materials. The heat generated from the M202 incendiary rockets can reach temperatures of 2,192 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the M202 FLASH does not fire napalm as is sometimes believed.
The M202 FLASH is typically fired from a soldiers’ right shoulder. The weapon can be discharged in a standing, kneeling or crouching position. The incendiary rockets can be fired one at a time, or all four rockets can be fired at once. The M202 is light weight compared to many rocket launchers. However, its design and size make it bulky and awkward to carry for some soldiers.