The SMAW is available from the start in Multiplayer as a secondary weapon in a default class. It must be aimed down sights in order to be fired, similar to other launchers. The SMAW works similarly to the AT4 from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and the M72 LAW from Call of Duty: Black Ops, being able to be fired freely as well locking onto aircraft. Although it only has one shot, it is very accurate and has a relatively large blast radius.
The SMAW is briefly used by the player riding in the Little Bird to destroy the three T-90 tanks on the bridge at the beginning of "Little Bros". It is also used in "Iron Clad" to destroy the enemy tanks, helicopters and infantry.
The SMAW reappears in Call of Duty: Black Ops II. It can be unlocked for the customized loadout after completing the campaign, but it doesn't have the homing capability seen in multiplayer. While it is rare weapon in the rest of the campaign, it is a very common weapon in the Strike Force missions, appearing in all of them except "I.E.D.".
In multiplayer, the SMAW is a hybrid launcher, meaning it can be free-fired and can lock on to hostiles' scorestreaks, making it essentially a "best of both worlds" style mix between FHJ-18 AA and RPG. However, for the sake of balance, it only comes with one rocket by default. It can be resupplied up to two rockets total with the use of Scavenger, although the player must use a non-explosive weapon for the bag to drop. Alternatively, the player may pick up the ammo from dropped SMAWs on the ground. Unlike the AT4-HS in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and the SMAW in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and like the M72 LAW in Call of Duty: Black Ops, the missile does full damage to aircraft, destroying it in one successful hit. The SMAW is ideal against scorestreaks with no flares, such as UAVs, as they only need one missile to take down. However, if the player is mainly focusing on only either infantry or aircraft, it may be wiser to choose the RPG or FHJ-18 AA as they have two missiles by default each.
Camouflages can be unlocked for the SMAW by completing challenges, like most other weapons. The camouflages are obtained by:
The SMAW was cut from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare at some point in development or was used solely as a legacy asset during testing. The model is identical to the Black Ops II variant and uses a texture similar to the Carbon Fiber Camouflage that covers the entire weapon, only lacking a specular map.
When the launcher is empty, the draw time is drastically slower than when it is full.
The SMAW will not destroy enemy killstreaks that have a large health pool, such as the Attack Helicopter, Advanced UAV, and the Osprey killstreaks.
While aiming down the sights, there is an easy to spot QR code on the rear post of the weapon which when scanned will output "97 01 85 71 52 61 79 6d 65 4c 6f 76 65 73 53 61 72 61 68". This can be translated into "LovesSarah".
The intros to the missions "Dispatch" and "Cordis Die" show soldiers firing homing missiles from SMAWs, an ability they do not have in the singleplayer mode.
Strangely, the SMAW will not destroy a MQ-27 Dragonfire (which is considered to have light armor) with one shot but will destroy all other aerial scorestreaks as long as the missile is not diverted by counter-measures.
When seen in third person, the SMAW is held like a pistol.
Even when empty, the SMAW will still lock on; the lock on ability is only cancelled out by EMP grenades/scorestreak.