The M23 Pikeman is a six-shot 40mm rocket launcher used by the United States Armed Forces and other militaries around the world. Based around a shortened, more advanced version of Raytheon Technologies Corporation’s laser-guided Pike missile, the M23 gets its name from the missiles it fires.
|Weapon Designation:||Rocket Launcher, 40mm M23 Pikeman|
|Place of Origin:||United States|
|Manufacturer:||Milkor (Pty) Ltd|
|Weight:||12.2 lbs (5.53 kg)|
|Length:||34.4 in (874 mm) stock extended, 30.8 in (782 mm) stock collapsed|
|Cartridge:||40x262mm Pike II|
|Effective Range:||2,000 m (2,187 yd)|
|Feed System:||6-round revolving swing-out cylinder|
In the 2020s, the United States was looking to upgrade its small-unit firepower options and looked to Raytheon’s Pike missile with significant interest. Although Pike was a successful design that could be fired from the existing M320A1 grenade launcher, the US also wanted a multi-shot launcher that could engage targets more rapidly than a single-shot underbarrel launcher.
The first respondent to the request was Milkor (Pty) Ltd of South Africa, who offered a lengthened version of their MGL revolver-type grenade launcher. After the US rejected this design for being too large and heavy, both the Department of Defense and Milkor realized that no multi-shot launcher for the existing 16.8-inch Pike missile could be designed within acceptable weight limitations. Milkor therefore began working in cooperation with Raytheon to design a shorter version of Pike with equal or greater capabilities and a launcher capable of firing it. The results were the Pike II missile and the M23 Pikeman launcher, which were both adopted in 2025.
The Pikeman launcher itself is simply a lengthened version of the Milkor SuperSix, a variant of the MGL. The Pike II missile measures only 10.3 inches in length, requiring a 5.3-inch lengthening of the weapon’s cylinder. Because Pike II launches at relatively low pressures, most of the weapon’s body is made of aluminum and polymer, although there are stainless steel components as well. This helps reduce the overall weight of the weapon despite the increase in length. Pike II weighs approximately 1.05 lbs; empty, the Pikeman weighs 12.2 lbs, and loaded, it weighs 18.5 lbs.
The Pikeman features a simple reflex sight for aiming, and while it does include a laser designator built into the foregrip, laser guidance for the missiles is typically provided by a spotter or other outside source, particularly at ranges beyond the operator’s ability to see properly. However, Pike II’s ability to fly for up to fifteen seconds before receiving laser designation input makes it possible for a single operator to fire a missile and switch to a laser designator with magnified vision while the missile is still in flight.
Although the Pikeman is designed to fire a weapon that is technically in the 40mm grenade family, it is considered a rocket launcher for two reasons: first, it is only intended to fire Pike II, which is technically a rocket-propelled projectile, and secondly, due to the weapon’s guided nature, the launcher’s design has been simplified by having a smoothbore barrel, making it almost impossible to use conventional 40mm grenades in the Pikeman accurately.
The M23 Pikeman is not a standard-issue (i.e. squad-issue) weapon. Instead, a single launcher is issued in each infantry platoon for deployment at the platoon leader’s discretion. Additional launchers can be found at higher levels and in heavy weapons units. Pikeman launchers are also used by Special Forces units, including Reconnaissance In Force Teams, when mission requirements dictate.
For more on the M23 Pikeman and the missile it fires, see documentation on the Pike II.