Thursday, September 10, 2009

ATGWs still hit the spot: Anti-tank guided weapons

With targets other than just MBTs to engage on today's battlegrounds, Christopher F Foss reports on the latest anti-tank guided weapon developments .The anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) was originally introduced into service to replace the towed anti-tank guns that had become increasingly heavy and lacked the firepower to neutralise the heavier main battle tanks (MBTs) being deployed.

The first-generation ATGWs had a manual command-to-line-of-sight (MCLOS) guidance system, were usually short range, were fitted with a single high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead and were normally only fitted with a day sight.

Second-generation ATGWs, by contrast, featured semi-automatic command-to-line-of-sight (SACLOS) guidance, in which all the operator had to do was to keep the sight on the target until missile impact. In addition, such systems had a significant increase in range, were more reliable and had an enhanced warhead with greater penetration characteristics.

Many of these ATGWs could also be fitted with a night sight, including thermal sights, which enabled targets to be detected, recognised and engaged under almost all weather conditions at extended ranges. In many cases this day/night sight could be removed from the launcher for battlefield observation duties.

Most countries still deploy SACLOS ATGWs, while others have shifted to 'fire-and-forget' ATGWs such as the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin. The Israel Defense Force (IDF), for example, has deployed the RAFAEL Advanced Defence Systems Spike family that can be used in the fire-and-forget and fire-and-observe roles. Today most major armies field short-, medium- and long-range ATGWs, which are deployed at different levels to engage threat MBTs and other armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs).

In addition to these medium- and long-range ATGWs, most armies also use a variety of shorter range anti-tank weapons.These range from the widely deployed Russian-designed RPG-7 rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launcher, the Swedish Saab Bofors Dynamics Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle and ATGWs such as the Saab Bofors MBT LAW and the MBDA Eyrx.

Weapons such as the RPG-7 and Carl Gustaf have greater operational flexibility as the operator can select the type of munition fired to suit the target being engaged. The Carl Gustaf, for example, can fire unguided munitions fitted with a variety of warheads, including single HEAT, tandem HEAT, high-explosive dual purpose (HE DP), smoke and illumination.

China
China has been self-sufficient in the design, development and production of ATGWs for some years.China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) is now marketing a complete family of ATGW that has had some success in the export market. The oldest of these is the NORINCO Red Arrow 73 (HJ-73) ATGW, which is a further development of the Russian Kolomna 9K11 Malyutka (AT-3 'Sagger'). The first production Red Arrow 73 systems had a MCLOS guidance system that was subsequently replaced by a digital SACLOS system.

In addition to the standard man-portable version, it has also been deployed by the People's Liberation Army (PLA), installed over the 73 mm gun on the WZ501 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), which is a copy of the Russian BMP-1 IFV. More recently the Red Arrow 73 has been installed on other turrets for installation on a variety of AFVs.

The Red Arrow 73 ATGW has been constantly improved over the years, with new warheads and greater range. Today, NORINCO is marketing the HJ-73B and HJ-73D missiles, which have a minimum range of 500 m and a maximum range of 3,000 m, with the HJ-73D having a larger diameter tandem warhead to defeat targets fitted with explosive reactive armour (ERA).

Red Arrow 73 was followed by the Red Arrow 8, which has a SACLOS guidance system and entered service with the PLA in 1987. The baseline Red Arrow 8 is a tripod-mounted system for deployment by infantry units. The first Red Arrow 8A had a single HEAT warhead and a maximum range of 3,000 m. It was followed by Red Arrow 8C a few years later with a tandem HEAT warhead and range increased to 3,500 m.

The Red Arrow 8E has a digital guidance system and a tandem HEAT warhead with a maximum range of 4,000 m, while the Red Arrow 8F with two warheads - HEAT and HE - has been developed to defeat bunkers. This has a maximum range of 4,000 m and is claimed be able to penetrate 700 mm of reinforced concrete while still having a capability against AFV targets.

The Red Arrow 8 FAE (fuel air explosive) is being marketed as well as the latest Red Arrow 8H with a tandem HEAT warhead and a range of 4,000 m. As well as the tripod version, there is also the Red Arrow 8L lightweight launcher that can launch all versions of the Red Arrow 8 but weighs only 22.2 kg. This also has an improved anti-jamming capability and can be aimed in the prone position for greater gunner survivability.

There are a number of turreted versions of the Red Arrow 8, with the latest of these being the SW1 weapon complex. This is a one person turret armed with a 30 mm cannon, 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun (MG) and a bank of electrically operated smoke grenade launchers either side.

The Red Arrow 8 has been exported to a number of countries including Bangladesh and also forms the basis for the Pakistani Institute of Industrial Control Systems Baktar Shikan ATGW. This is deployed by the Pakistani Army in standard tripod-mounted version installed on Land Rover cross-country vehicles and a fully tracked APC. Pakistan has exported the Baktar Shikan to Bangladesh and Malaysia.

The Red Arrow 9 ATGW system has been in service with the PLA for more than 10 years integrated on a modified version of the WZ551 armoured personnel carrier (APC) chassis in a more compact 4x4 configuration. This is fitted with a retractable launcher with a total of four Red Arrow 9 ATGWs in the ready to launch position, with an additional eight missiles carried internally for automatic loading. The day/night sighting system is located between the two banks of missiles.

The Red Arrow 9A (which is also referred to as the SD-1 Lightning) features millimetre wave command guidance, while the Red Arrow 9B is a laser beam riding ATGW, which is similar in appearance to the Israel Military Industries MAPATS ATGW. It has a maximum range of 5,500 m and is fitted with a tandem HEAT warhead that is claimed to penetrate 320 mm of armour at an incidence of 67 degrees protected by ERA.

A pedestal-mounted version of the Red Arrow 9 is also available, which can be installed on light tactical vehicles and can also be provided with a thermal sight. The latest NORINCO ATGW is the Red Arrow 10, which has recently started to be marketed in both air- and ground-launched versions. The latter is mounted on a forward control 6x6 cross-country truck fitted with a hydraulically operated arm on the rear platform with a total of eight Red Arrow 10 ATGWs in the ready to launch position. The sensor pod is mounted between the two banks of four missile launcher rails.

The Red Arrow 10 has a semi-active laser (SAL) guidance system and is claimed to have a maximum range of 8 km. Targets can be designated from the launcher itself, an associated target launching platform or from a tripod mounted man-portable system.

India
For many years India has been manufacturing foreign ATGWs under licence for the Indian Army, including the MBDA MILAN and Russian KBP Konkurs. To meet Indian Army requirements, Bharat Dynamics has been developing a long-range ATGW called Nag (Snake) and, after a protracted development, this was completed earlier this year. The Indian Army has ordered 13 Namica tracked launchers, based on a stretched version of the Sarath IFV (the Russian BMP-2), and 443 Nag ATGWs. The Nag is a fire-and-forget ATGW fitted with a tandem HEAT warhead and has a maximum range of 6,000 m.

Europe - MBDA
To meet the requirements of the French and German armies, MBDA (previously Euromissile) developed two ATGW systems: the 2,000 m range MILAN and the 4,000 m range HOT. The MILAN was subsequently made under licence in a number of countries including India, Italy and the UK and 43 countries have purchased the system, with more than 360,000 missiles and 10,000 launchers manufactured.

Production is still undertaken on an as-required basis, with the latest missile being the MILAN 3, which has a maximum range of 1,920 m and is fitted with a tandem HEAT warhead. MBDA developed the MILAN ADT (Advanced Technologies) ER (Extended Response) system, which consists of the new ADT firing post and the ER ATGW, as a private venture. The MILAN ADT ER has a SACLOS guidance system and the ER missile has a tandem HEAT warhead and range extended to 3,000 m. A key feature is that it can also fire existing MILAN ATGWs.

The MILAN ADT launcher has already been purchased by South Africa and an unidentified country - believed to be Libya - with the former also placing an order for the MILAN 3 ATGW, which has already been delivered. The HOT ATGW is normally integrated onto a tracked or wheeled platform, with the French Army using the Renault Trucks Defense VAB (4x4) APC. The HOT is also commonly adapted for launch from helicopters. More than 90,000 missiles have been built.

While MBDA is no longer marketing HOT as a complete system, additional missiles are manufactured on an as-required basis.The HOT has a SACLOS guidance system and the late production HOT 3 has a tandem warhead to defeat targets fitted with ERA.MBDA also developed a HOT/ATLAS that can be integrated onto a single firing post on the rear of a light vehicle such as the Land Rover; this was sold to Morocco.

MILAN and HOT were intended to be replaced by the TRIGAT family of ATGW, which was being developed by the EMDG consortium to meet the requirements of France, Germany and the UK. However, development of this system was cancelled and the UK subsequently accepted into service the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin, while Germany ordered the EuroSpike-LR. The French Army still deploys the MILAN but a competition is under way for its replacement.

Iran
The Iranian Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO) is the prime contractor for missiles in Iran.In addition to a number of anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, AIO has developed and placed into production a complete range of ATGWs based on foreign designs.

The Toophan is a reversed-engineered US Raytheon Tube-launched Optically tracked Wire-guided (TOW) ATGW with a maximum range of 3,750 m. The latest Toophan 2 has a tandem warhead. The Saeghe is a reversed-engineered US McDonnell Douglas Dragon ATGW with a maximum range of 1,000 m. The latest Saeghe 2 has a similar range but is fitted with a tandem HEAT warhead.

Iran also manufactures the Towsan, which is a reverse engineered/licensed production Russian 9K113 Konkurs (AT-5 'Spandrel'), and the Raad. The Raad is a reverse-engineered Russian 9M14M Malyutka-M (AT-3b 'Sagger') with the initial production version having a MCLOS guidance system, a maximum range of 3,000 m and a single HEAT warhead. The latest I-Raad features an upgraded launcher, which is similar to the NORINCO HJ-73 with its SACLOS guidance system.The I-Raad ATGW has a standard single HEAT warhead while the I-Raad-T has a tandem HEAT warhead.

Israel
In the space of a few years, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israel has captured a significant slice of the ATGW market with its latest Spike family of ATGW that shares many common components.

The complete family consists of Spike Medium Range (MR), Spike Long Range (LR) and Spike Extended Range (ER). It is estimated that total sales of the Spike have now reached more than USD1 billion, with more than 13,000 missiles on order. Licence agreements are in place in Germany (EuroSpike), Singapore (Singapore Technologies Dynamics) and Spain (General Dynamics Santa Barbara Sistemas). In addition to the IDF, Spike has been sold to a number of countries including Chile, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Singapore and Spain.

The Spike-MR has a range of 2,500 m while the Spike-LR has a range of 4,000 m and Spike-ER a maximum range of up to 8,000 m with this normally being used in airborne applications. In addition to being fitted with a tandem HEAT warhead, the Spike-ER can also be fitted with a penetrating, blast and fragmentation (PBF) warhead, which is optimised for use against bunkers and other battlefield targets. Germany placed an order in June worth EUR35 million (USD50 million) for 311 Spike-LR ATGW systems for the new Puma AIFV as well as infantry units and special operations. There is also an option for an additional 1,160 ATGWs worth EUR120 million.

Russia
While the Russian defence industry has had a difficult time in recent years, it still markets the widest range of ATGWs in the world, especially for land applications. Development of the Kolomna KBM Khrizantema long-range ATGW is complete and it is now in low-rate production for the Russian Army. The system is based on a modified BMP-3 IFV tracked chassis with two 6,000 m range missiles in ready-to-launch position.

The older Tula KBP 9K113 Konkurs (Contest) (AT-5 'Spandrel') ATGW with a maximum range of 4,000 m is still marketed but the main emphasis is now on the more effective Tula KBP Kornet. This is a tripod-mounted laser guided ATGW system with a maximum range of 5,500 m and, like most Russian ATGWs, can be fitted with a tandem HEAT or a thermobaric warhead. The Kornet is also available integrated with tracked platforms or forming part of an upgrade package for vehicles such as the BMP-2 IFV, which is understood to have been sold to Algeria. In addition to being in service with the Russian Army, the Kornet-E has been exported to a number of countries including Greece, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.

Sweden
The Saab Bofors Dynamics BILL ATGW was the first overhead top attack (OTA) weapon of its type to be developed and deployed.In addition to being in service with the Swedish Army as the RBS56, the BILL ATGW system has been exported to Austria and Brazil as well as Estonia taking delivery of a small batch from Swedish Army stocks. The BILL has a SACLOS guidance system, a maximum range of 2,200 m and is fitted with a single canted HEAT warhead, which will penetrate the vulnerable upper surfaces of an AFV.

With the advent of ERA, Saab Bofors Dynamics developed the BILL 2 and in 1996 the Swedish Army decided that all future deliveries would be of this model. The first deliveries to the Swedish Army were made in 1999. The BILL 2 uses the same launch tube, day sight and tripod and also has a SACLOS guidance system but is also fitted with two top attack warheads to defeat MBTs fitted with ERA. The first HEAT warhead is 80 mm in diameter with the second being 102 mm in diameter.

The missile is also fitted with a dual-sensor proximity fuze and impact fuze. The gunner has three options: basic target mode, non armour target mode and soft target mode. The BILL 2 launcher can also be fitted with a thermal sighting system with the latest model being the BIRC third-generation thermal imager. Production of BILL 2 was completed for the Swedish Army in 2001 but resumed in 2002 for an export customer.

US
The Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin ATGW has now replaced the McDonnell Douglas Dragon ATGW in US service and is being adopted by an increasing number of export customers. These include Australia, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Jordan, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and the UK. The system has seen extensive combat use in Iraq and more recently in Afghanistan.

The Javelin is a fire-and-forget ATGW and is fitted with a tandem HEAT warhead with a maximum stated range of 2,200 m. This range, however, has been exceeded during combat operations. The Javelin consists of the Command Launcher Unit (CLU) with integrated day/thermal sighting system and the missile in its launch tube. The missile has an imaging infra-red seeker and the operator can select either top attack or direct attack modes.

Meanwhile, the Raytheon TOW was developed in the late 1960s and entered service with the US Army in 1970. It has been deployed in large numbers in air- and ground-based configurations. The latter include a standard tripod-mounted infantry version as well numerous vehicle applications such as the AM General Humvee. More than 45 countries have purchased TOW systems. The US Army deploys the BAE Systems US Combat Systems Bradley with a twin TOW launcher on the left side of turret. The dedicated Striker infantry carrier vehicle M1134 anti-tank vehicle has a roof-mounted launcher with two TOW in the ready-to-launch position with another 10 carried internally.

More than 660,000 TOW have been built and it has been constantly upgraded. Currently being marketed are the TOW-2A with a tandem HEAT warhead and the TOW-2B OTA with two explosively formed projectiles (EFPs). There is also the TOW BLAAM (Bunkers Light Armour and Masonry), with the latest version being the TOW wireless, which was ordered by the US Army in 2006 and has a range extended to 4,500 m.

There have been a number of potential replacements for the TOW deployed by the US Army, including the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control LOSAT (Line Of Sight Anti-Tank) and more recently the Joint Common Missile (JCM). But TOW will remain in service with the US Army and Marine Corps for some years to come. The Lockheed Martin Hellfire ATGW is widely used for airborne applications and has been marketed in a number of vehicle-mounted applications but there have been no sales so far.

New warheads
For many years ATGWs were fitted with a single HEAT warhead, which, depending on its calibre, could defeat most AFVs protected by conventional steel armour. The introduction of ERA increased the survivability of the MBT and this resulted in the introduction of tandem HEAT warheads for ATGWs.

The first and smaller HEAT warhead activates the ERA to clear a path for the main and larger calibre HEAT warhead to attack and penetrate the main armour of the MBT. The Russian Army used significant numbers of ATGWs in Afghanistan but its HEAT warheads were optimised to defeat MBTs rather than bunkers, caves and other battlefield targets. This led to the development and fielding of thermobaric warheads, which have proven to be highly effective during urban operations and are being adopted by a number of users for their ATGW and unguided anti-tank weapons.

Today most of the Russian ATGWs manufactured provide the option of a tandem HEAT warhead or a thermobaric warhead. A number of other contractors are also now moving in this direction. A number of countries have developed and deployed tracked and wheeled AFV platforms fitted with ATGWs to provide a long-range anti-tank capability to MBTs. Typical of these is the French Army's Renault Trucks Defence VAB 4x4 with HOT ATGW in the ready-to-launch position.

Other countries have also supplemented their IFVs' main armament with ATGWs. A typical example is the Russian BMP-1 IFV. In addition to its 73 mm gun and 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun, it is also fitted with a rail launcher for the AT-3 'Sagger' ATGW, while the later BMP-2 has a roof-mounted AT-5 'Spandrel' ATGW. The German Army is to take delivery of 405 Puma IFVs fitted with a remote controlled turret armed with a 30 mm cannon and 5.56 mm MG. Some of the fleet will have a twin-round launcher on the left side of the turret for two EuroSpike-LR ATGWs.

A number of countries are now introducing large fleets of wheeled AFVs, which are often fitted with a remote controlled weapon station (RCWS) armed with a 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm MG or a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher (AGL). The Norwegian Kongsberg Protector RCWS has already been tested with the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin ATGW. In late 2008 Thales UK tested the Protector with the Javelin ATGW under the British Army Mounting Weapons System Under Armour (MWSUA) technology demonstrator programme.

In France the Panhard General Defense/SAGEM WASP RCWS has been fitted with the MILAN ER ATGW for trials purposes.While some countries no longer have a clearly-defined MBT threat, these are still deployed in large numbers in many parts of the world and for this reason ATGWs will continue to be deployed. Today the MBT is not the only threat on the battlefield and some users now require ATGWs with an alternative, lower cost warhead for use in areas such as Afghanistan.

Jane's Defence Weekly

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