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Table of



Lesson 2



Lesson Description:

In this lesson, you will learn to identify the characteristics of the following opposing forces antiarmor weapons: RPG-7V Antitank Grenade Launcher; RPG-16D Antitank Grenade Launcher; RPG-18 Antitank Rocket Launcher; RPG-22 Rocket Launcher; SPG-9 Antitank Recoilless Gun; MT-12 Antitank Gun; AT-2/SWATTER; AT-3/SAGGER; AT-4/SPIGOT; AT-5 SPANDREL; AT- 6/SPIRAL; AT-7 SAXHORN; and AT-8/SONGSTER.

Terminal Learning Objective:

Action: Identify the characteristics of the following opposing forces antiarmor weapons: RPG-7V Antitank Grenade Launcher; RPG-16D Antitank Grenade Launcher; RPG- 18 Antitank Rocket Launcher; RPG-22 Rocket Launcher; SPG-9 Antitank Recoilless Gun; MT-12 Antitank Gun; AT-2/SWATTER; AT-3/SAGGER; AT-4/SPIGOT; AT- 5 SPANDREL; AT-6/SPIRAL; AT-7 SAXHORN; and AT-8/SONGSTER.
Condition: Given the subcourse material contained in this lesson.
Standard: Identify the characteristics of the RPG-7V Antitank Grenade Launcher; RPG-16D Antitank Grenade Launcher; RPG-18 Antitank Rocket Launcher; RPG-22 Rocket Launcher; SPG-9 Antitank Recoilless Gun; MT-12 Antitank Gun; AT-2/SWATTER; AT-3/SAGGER; AT-4/SPIGOT; AT-5 SPANDREL; AT-6/SPIRAL; AT-7 SAXHORN; and AT-8/SONGSTER.

The material contained in this lesson was derived from the following publications:

FM 1-402
FM 100-2-3
FM 23-33
FM 23-34
FM 1-402


The Soviet arsenal of antitank weapons ranges from grenade and rocket launchers through antitank guns and guided missile systems.


1. Antitank Grenade Launchers.

The following are Soviet antitank grenade launchers:

  • RPG-7V.

  • PG-16D.

  • RPG-7V.

a. RPG-7V Grenade Launcher. The following paragraphs discuss the RPG-7V Grenade Launcher (shown in Figure 2-1).

Figure 2-1. Antitank Grenade Launcher RPG-7V.

(1) Description. The RPG-7V is a recoilless, shoulder-fired, muzzle loaded, reloadable antitank grenade launcher. It fires an 85-mm (PG-7) or a 70-mm (PG-7M) rocket-assisted HEAT grenade from a 40-mm smooth-bore launcher tube. The launcher has two handgrips; a large optical sight; a thick, wooden heat guard around the middle; and a large, flared blast shield at the rear of the tube. The launcher is 953 millimeters long without the grenade, and 1,340 millimeters long with the PG-7 grenade. The launcher weighs 7.9 kilograms and the PG-7 grenade weighs 2.25 kilograms.

(2) Capabilities. The RPG-7V is light enough to be carried and fired by a single soldier. However, an assistant grenadier normally deploys to the left of the gunner to protect him with small-arms fire. The grenadier normally carries two rounds of ammunition and the assistant grenadier carries three additional rounds.

The RPG-7V is an improved version of the earlier RPG-2. The RPG-2 had only one handgrip; a smaller, simpler sight; a smaller blast shield; and no heat guards. It fired a smaller, 80-mm, non-rocket-assisted grenade. The internal rocket motor of the PG-7/-7M grenade ignites after traveling about 11 meters; this gives the projectile a higher velocity (sustained out to 500 meters), a flatter trajectory, and better accuracy. Further enhancing accuracy are four large, knife-like fins at the rear of the projectile which unfold when the round leaves the tube, and smaller, offset fins at the very rear which impart a slow rotation. The maximum effective range is 500 meters for stationary targets and 300 meters for moving targets. Maximum range is 920 meters, at which point the projectile self-destructs (approximately 4.5 seconds after launch). The PG-7/-7M grenade, with a shaped-charge warhead can penetrate 330 millimeters of armor with a direct hit.

The current RPG-7V model can mount a telescope and both infrared and passive night sights. All RPG-7 models have optical sights which can be illuminated for night sighting. They also have open sights for emergency use. The RPG-7V is the standard squad antitank weapon in motorized rifle units (each squad has one weapon). The weapon is also found with reconnaissance units. Airborne units use the RPG-7D which separates into two sections.

(3) Limitations. The RPG-7V requires a well-trained and experienced gunner to accurately estimate ranges and lead distances for moving targets. Crosswinds as low as seven miles an hour can complicate the gunner's estimate and reduce first-round-hit probability to 50 percent at ranges beyond 180 meters. An RPG projectile screen of chain-link fence will completely neutralize 50 percent of the rounds and degrade the penetrating capability of the remaining rounds. Reloading and reaiming the AT grenade launcher takes a minimum of 14 seconds. The RPG-7V has a conspicuous signature: flash, smoke, and noise. The unprotected gunner is extremely vulnerable to suppressive fires.

(4) Remarks. The first Soviet recoilless AT grenade launcher, the RPG-2, was derived from the World War II German Panzerfaust. The Soviets first fielded it in the early 1950s. The RPG-7, introduced in 1962, is a second-generation weapon employing a rocket-assisted projectile. The current version, designated the RPG-7V, is in service throughout the Warsaw Pact with the exception of Czechoslovakia. The folding version for airborne forces, introduced in 1968, was initially known as the RPG-8, but later redesignated the RPG-7D. A third-generation weapon, the RPG-16D, incorporates further refinements resulting from battle testing the RPG-7V in southeast Asia and the Middle East. It has replaced the RPG-7D as the standard squad AT weapon in Soviet airborne forces.

b. Antitank Grenade Launcher RPG-16D. The following paragraphs discuss the RPG-16D Grenade Launcher (shown in Figure 2-2).

(1) Description/Capabilities. The RPG-16D is a reloadable antitank weapon. It is shoulder fired, either with or without the support of a bipod at the muzzle end. It has an optical sight above the tube, a single hand grip below the tube, and a conical blast shield at the rear. The 58.3-meter rocket-assisted HEAT projectile PG-16 has an increased range of 500 to 800 meters and a greater armor penetration capability of up to 375 millimeters, compared to the PG-7/-7M projectile of the RPG-1V (33-mm). As with the RPG-7, the RPG-16D grenadier probably carries two rounds of ammunition. The assistant grenadier likely carries an additional three rounds and protects the grenadier with his assault rifle.

(2) Limitations. The RPG-16D is heavier than the RPG-17V/-D -- but one person can still carry and fire the antitank weapon.

(3) Remarks. The Soviets introduced the RPG-16D in the mid-1970s as a replacement for the RPG-1D. Western observers also expected a one-piece version (RPG-16?) to replace the RPG-7V in motorized rifle units; however, the Soviets have not yet deployed such a weapon. To date, only the airborne forces have been observed with the two-piece airborne version designated the RPG-16D.

2. Antitank Rocket Launchers.

The following are Soviet antitank rocket launchers:

  • RPG-18.

  • RPG-22.

a. AT Rocket Launcher RPG-18. The following paragraphs discuss the RPG-18 Rocket Launcher (shown in Figure 2-3).

(1) Description/Capabilities. The RPG-18 is a short-range, tube-launched, disposable infantry antitank rocket weapon system. It is somewhat similar to the U.S. light antitank weapon (LAW) system. The lightweight tube presumably consists of fiberglass-reinforced plastic. The operator carries the launcher in the collapsed position and extends the inner tube to make the weapon ready to fire. It fires a 64-mm rocket (PG-18) with an effective range of 200 meters and a HEAT warhead capable of penetrating up to 375 mm of armor. The fuze of the HEAT grenade activates two to 15 meters after leaving the muzzle and self-destructs after a flight time of four to six seconds. The trigger, safety catch, and rear peep sight are roughly in the middle of the extended tube, or at the rear end of the collapsed tube. The folding sight at the forward end of the tube is calibrated for ranges of 50, 100, 150, and 200 meters.

The RPG-18 is probably a squad-level weapon. Unlike the RPG-7V/-7D and the RPG-16D, the RPG-18 is not linked to a specific person; that is, to the antitank grenadier provided for in the table of organization and equipment (TOE). All soldiers in the squad train on the weapon. This increases the squad's capabilities to destroy tanks at short ranges.

(2) Limitations. The gunner should not fire the RPG-18 if friendly personnel are within a 90-degree sector within 30 meters behind the launcher. It also should not be fired if there are obstacles nearer than two meters in front of the muzzle, or if the height of the line of fire is less than 20 centimeters. Once the tube has been extended it cannot be shoved back together again.

(3) Remarks. The Soviets introduced the RPG-18 in the mid-1970s. It is widely distributed throughout the Soviet Army, including the airborne forces. For employment in airborne units, the RPG-18 comes with a cover which protects it during parachute jumps.

b. AT Rocket Launcher RPG-22. The following paragraphs discuss the RPG-22 Rocket Launcher.

Soviet troops in Afghanistan used the disposable light antitank weapon (LAW) designated RPG-22. Although primarily an antitank weapon, the RPG-22 was used in Afghanistan against mujahideen strongholds.

(1) Description/Capabilities. Like the RPG-18, the newer RPG-22 is a short-range, tube-launched, disposable infantry antitank rocket weapon system, similar to the U.S. LAW system. The lightweight, collapsible launch tube consists of two parts:

  • An outer tube made of fiberglass.

  • A sliding inner tube made of aluminum.

The RPG-22 consists of a telescopic outer tube that is 850 millimeters long when extended for use. Simple pop-up sights are graduated for 50, 150, and 250 meters, and there is a temperature-compensating rear sight.

The aluminum inner tube extends 10 centimeters to the front of the outer tube in the firing position. It fires a 73-mm fin-stabilized rocket fitted with a chemical energy high explosive antitank warhead designed to penetrate 480 millimeters of armor at 90 degrees. However, the warhead has a much inferior capability against composite Chobham-type and reactive armor. The rocket has an effective range of 250 meters and a HEAT warhead capable of penetrating approximately 390 millimeters of armor.

The trigger and the pop-up rear peep sight are in the middle of the extended tube. The pop-up front sight is at the forward end of the outer tube. The front sight is calibrated for ranges of 50, 150, and 250 meters.

(2) Limitations. Instructions printed on the side of the RPG-22 launch tube indicate the back-blast covers an 90-degree sector out to 30 meters behind the weapon; that it should not be fired if a wall is closer than two meters behind it; and that the line of fire should be at least 20 centimeters above the ground.

(3) Remarks. The Soviets introduced the RPG-22 in 1985. In time, it will probably replace the RPG-18. As with the RPG-18, it has no dedicated grenadier; all soldiers train to fire the squad-level, throwaway weapon.


Soviet antitank guns are

  • SPG-9.

  • MT-12.

These guns are described in the following paragraphs.

1. 73-mm Recoilless Gun SPG-9.

The following paragraphs discuss the SPG-s Recoilless Rifle (shown in Figure 2-4).

a. Description. The SPG-9 is a tripod-mounted, recoilless antitank gun firing a 73-mm fin-stabilized, rocket-assisted HEAT projectile. The launcher is 2,110 millimeters long and weighs 47.5 kilograms (59.5 kilograms with the tripod). The projectile weighs 3.5 kilograms. Its great length is due to the propellant case attached behind the fins. The SPG-9 is also capable of firing a four-kilogram rocket-assisted HE round.

b. Capabilities. The SPG-9 is man portable, but a truck or armored personnel carrier (APC) usually carries the weapon. It must be dismounted and placed on its tripod for firing. It is normally served by a crew of three. Both infrared (IR) and passive night sights are available. The rocket-assisted HEAT projectile has an effective range of 1,000 meters and can penetrate 400 millimeters of armor. It has a high muzzle velocity (435 meters per second) which is increased to 700 meters per second by rocket assist. The SPG-9 is organic to the antitank platoon of the BTR-equipped motorized rifle battalion (MRB). The Soviets usually employ it with mutually supporting antitank guided missiles (ATGMs).

c. Remarks. The SPG-9 began replacing the previous recoilless AT guns (82-mm B-10 and 107-mm B-11) around 1970. It is now in service, not only in Soviet MRBs, but also in the Polish, Bulgarian, East German, and Hungarian armies.

2. 100-mm Antitank Gun MT-12.

The following paragraphs discuss the MT-12 Antitank Gun (shown in Figure 2-5).

a. Description. The T-12 is a 100-mm smoothbore AT gun mounted on a two-wheeled, split-trail carriage, with a single caster wheel near the trail ends. The long (8,484-mm) gun tube has a cylindrical, multi-perforated muzzle brake which is only fractionally larger in diameter than the thin barrel. The T-12 variant has a winged shield angled to the rear on both sides and an additional recoil cylinder above the breech on the right. Both versions frequently mount infrared night-sighting equipment.

b. Capabilities. The MT-12 is organic to the antitank battalion at division, army, and front levels. It fires fin-stabilized, non-rotating rounds similar to those of the 115-mm gun of the T-62 tank. Muzzle velocity is 900 meters per second (mps) for HE and HEAT rounds and 1,500 mps for hyper-velocity, armor-piercing, fin-stabilized discarding Sabot round (HVAPFSDS) rounds. Maximum indirect-fire range is 8,200 meters for Frag-HE ammunition. The effective direct-fire range is approximately 1,000 meters (HEAT) or 2,000 meters (HVAPFSDS). Grazing range against a two-meter-high target is 1,880 meters with the HVAPFSDS round.

The HEAT round can penetrate about 400 millimeters of armor at any range; the HVAPFSDS round can penetrate about 225 millimeters of armor at 1,000 meters. The theoretical rate of fire is reportedly 14 rounds per minute; however, the rate for aimed fire is only six rounds per minute and the maximum practical rate of fire is 10 rounds per minute.

c. Limitations. The T-12 and the MT-12 can function as a field gun only under limited circumstances; this is due to the limited elevation capability, only +20 degrees. However, with trails dug in to provide 45-degree elevation, maximum range is extended to 16,000 to 21,000 meters.

d. Remarks. Since its introduction in about 1965, the MT-12 has replaced the older 100-mm field gun M1944 and the 85-mm antitank gun D-48 in most Soviet front-line units. The MT-12 variant was formerly called the T-12A. Like their predecessors, both can be towed by a truck or armored tracked artillery tractor. The MT-LB multipurpose armored tracked artillery tractor/APC usually tows them. They are in service in at least the Soviet and East German armies. In 1989, the Soviets began to introduce the MT-12 into motorized rifle regiments (MRRs).


1. Antitank Guided Missiles.

These are the guided missiles in the Soviet arsenal:


  • AT-3/SAGGER.

  • AT-4/SPIGOT.





The following paragraphs discuss each of these guided missiles.

a. Antitank Guided Missile AT-2/SWATTER. The following paragraphs discuss the AT-2 SWATTER Guided Missile (shown in Figure 2-6).

(1) Description. The SWATTER is a radio-guided antitank guided missile (ATGM) with a HEAT warhead. The missile exists in three versions designated A, B, and C. All versions are 1,160 millimeters long, and 148 millimeters in diameter. The A and B versions differ in weight (27 and 29 kilograms respectively). They both use manual command-to-line-of-sight guidance. However, the AT-2C/SWATTER has semi-automatic command-to-line-of-sight (SACLOS) guidance.

The SWATTER is mounted on BRDM/BRDM-2 scout cars with four launch rails on a traversable mount. When the launcher is raised for firing, armor plates on the BRDM move to the sides, while the launcher on the BRDM-2 attaches to the underside of a flat, retractable, armored cover.

The Mi-8T HIP E can mount two SWATTERs above each of its two external weapons racks. The Mi-24/HIND A and D mount two SWATTERs on wingtip launch rails on each of their two stub wings.

(2) Capabilities. The SWATTER A can engage targets at ranges between 500 and 2,500 meters. SWATTER B and C have maximum ranges of 3,500 and 4,000 meters respectively. All versions have a flight speed of 150 meters per second, resulting in the following flight times to maximum ranges:

  • SWATTER A - 17 seconds to 2,500 meters.

  • SWATTER B - 23 seconds to 3,500 meters.

  • SWATTER C - 26-27 seconds to 4,000 meters.

Armor penetration capability is over 500 millimeters, and the probability of a first-round hit is 67 percent for the SWATTER A and B and over 90 percent for the SWATTER C.

The antitank batteries of the MRRs sometimes use the BRDM/BRDM-2 SWATTERs, although this role is more likely filled by the AT-3 or AT-5. However, SWATTERs, especially the AT-2c updated version, are still in wide use as helicopter-mounted missiles.

(3) Limitations. The SWATTERs with manual command-to-line-of-sight (MCLOS) guidance have a major disadvantage: the operator must track target and missile simultaneously and guide the missile to the target. The slow flight speed makes evasive action (by the target) an effective countermeasure, especially at long ranges.

(4) Remarks. The Soviets introduced SWATTER A in 1960, SWATTER B in 1965, and SWATTER C in 1968-70. The AT-5 SPANDREL is currently replacing the MCLOS-guided BRDM-mounted SWATTERs. The helicopter-mounted SWATTER C, retrofitted with a semi-automatic IR/radio guidance system, was apparently an interim measure pending full deployment of the longer-range, second-generation missile AT-6/SPIRAL.

b. Antitank Guided Missile AT-3/SAGGER (Figure 2-7). The following paragraphs discuss the AT-3/SAGGER Guided Missile.

(1) Description. The SAGGER is a wire-guided ATGM with a HEAT warhead. The missile is 864 millimeters in length, 120 millimeters in diameter, and 11.3 kilograms in weight. It has several launch configurations:

  • Manpack.

  • Armored Vehicle.

  • Helicopter.

With the manpack version, the operator carries the SAGGER in a fiberglass "suitcase." He attaches it by a hinged support to the lid of the case. From that position, he launches the missile by means of a firing button on the control box (not shown). He then uses the control box's periscope sight and control stick to guide the missile to its target.

On BRDM/BRDM-2 scout vehicles, six launch rails are mounted on the underside of a retractable armored cover, with eight additional missiles carried inside the vehicle. The BMP-1 and BMD-1 combat vehicles both have a single launch rail mounted above the 73-mm main gun and carry a total of four and three missiles respectively.

The Mi-2/HOPLITE helicopter can carry two SAGGERs on each side of its cabin. The Mi-8TB/HIP F carries six SAGGERs.

(2) Capabilities. The SAGGER can engage targets at ranges of 500 to 3,000 meters and penetrate over 400 millimeters of armor. It employs a MCLOS guidance system in which the operator must observe both missile and target and guide the missile to the target. This wire-guided missile is invulnerable to electronic countermeasures (ECM) and has a very small percentage of malfunctions.

The retractable launcher on the BRDM-2 vehicle has the ability to traverse 70 degrees to the left or right with elevation varying from -3.5 to +17 degrees.

The AT-3/SAGGER C variant employs SACLOS guidance. It is mounted primarily on the BRDM-2, but it may also be mounted on the HIP F and HOPLITE helicopters. These heliborne systems provide greater flexibility to the ground command but at a greater risk and vulnerability cost to the launch platform.

The antitank platoon of a BTR-equipped MRB has two ATGM squads, each with two manpack SAGGER firing teams. Each three-man team has a control box, four SAGGER missiles, and a RPG-7V AT grenade launcher.

The gunner carries two missiles and the control box in suitcases. The assistant gunner carries two more missiles in suitcases. The backup gunner mans the RPG-7V.

The team can set up, check out, and fire one missile in five minutes or all four missiles in 12 to 15 minutes. Using a four-position selector switch on the control box, the gunner can fire up to four missiles consecutively. He can remotely fire missiles from positions up to 15 meters from the launchers.

For targets at ranges less than 1,000 meters, the gunner can guide the missile by eye; for longer ranges he must use the eight-power magnifying periscope sight. The RPG-7V gunner is usually deployed 150 to 200 meters in front of the SAGGER position to cover targets inside the SAGGER's minimum range of 500 meters. The antitank platoon also has two SPG-9s which may be deployed with the manpack SAGGERs.

BRDM/BRDM-2 SAGGERs are organic to the antitank missile battery of motorized rifle regiments (MRRs) and airborne regiments; to the antitank battalion of motorized rifle divisions (MRDs); to the antitank regiment of combined arms armies (CAAs); and to the antitank brigade of artillery divisions.

The BRDM/BRDM-2 vehicles have a reaction time of only one minute to fire from a completely buttoned-up mode. The crew can fire six missiles without reloading, and the vehicle can carry eight additional missiles inside. Successive missiles can be fired and tracked within five seconds of the previous missile's impact. The gunner can operate either from within the vehicle or from a remote position up to 80 meters away. The vehicle has a two-man crew which includes the commander/gunner and the driver. They also have assault rifles and a RPG-7V antitank grenade launcher.

(3) Limitations. A SAGGER A gunner must visually track both target and missile simultaneously; this requires extensive training and constant practice. Although the missile leaves the launcher armed and can detonate and kill at very short range, it can be captured by the gunner only at ranges of 500 to 800 meters. Under combat conditions however, most gunners can successfully engage targets only between 1,000 and 3,000 meters. The missile has a very long flight time to the target:

  • 12.5 seconds to 1,500 meters.

  • 25 seconds to 3,000 meters.

Evasive action is effective against the SAGGER, especially at long ranges. Although the SAGGER produces a cloud of gray smoke and a loud roar when fired, its signature is difficult to detect on the battlefield.

(4) Remarks. The SAGGER, also known by the designation AT-3, was first seen in 1961. It is more compact than the earlier AT-1/SNAPPER and AT-2/Swatter ATGMs, but carries an equally powerful warhead. In recent years, the Soviets have retrofitted some SAGGER systems, designated the AT-3c, with semi-automatic IR wire-guidance systems. Only the vehicle- and helicopter-mounted missiles have been so retrofitted. This is obviously an interim measure pending the full deployment of the longer-range, second-generation AT-5/SPANDREL and AT-6/SPIRAL missiles. The AT-4/SPIGOT is replacing manpack SAGGERS as well as those mounted on the BMP-1 and BMD-1.

c. Antitank Guided Missile System AT-4/SPIGOT. The following paragraphs discuss the AT-4/SPIGOT Guided Missile System (shown in Figure 2-8).

(1) Description. The AT-4/SPIGOT is a tube-launched, wire-guided, (SACLOS), ATGM system, similar in many respects to the U.S. TOW (tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided) system. The AT-4 system consists of three major components:

  • The SPIGOT missile.

  • The launch tube.

  • The missile launcher.

The missile itself is 863 millimeters long and 119 millimeters in diameter; it weighs 7.4 kilograms and has a HEAT warhead. The launch tube is 1,100 millimeters long, 130 millimeters in diameter, and 5.2 kilograms in weight. It serves to store and carry the missile. The tripod-mounted launcher for ground-launched employment has a periscope sight attached to its left side. The sight and missile tracker comprise a single unit, which is mechanically attached to the launch-tube connecting rail so both move together in elevation. A locking lever allows the complete periscope sight and missile tracker to be released and rotated into a folded position for transport. The monocular optical sight has four-power magnification and a 4.5-degree field of view.

The crew loads the SPIGOT missile by sliding the tube onto the launch supports from the rear until the electrical contacts and a mechanical catch engage; then the system is ready for launch. The Soviets originally designed the AT-4/SPIGOT as a ground-launched weapon system. However, the turrets of the BMP-1 and BMD-1 combat vehicles can mount the AT-4 launcher. The BRDM-2 launcher vehicle of the AT-5 system and the launcher on the BMP-2 can also fire the SPIGOT missile.

(2) Capabilities. The SPIGOT has a minimum range of only 70 meters and a maximum range of 2,000 meters. Missile speed is estimated at 185 meters per second, which gives the missile a flight time of 11 seconds to its maximum range. The warhead, which is probably smaller than the SAGGER's, can penetrate 500 to 600 millimeters of armor. Probability of a first-round hit should be at least that of the semi-automatic AT-3c/SAGGER, which is 90 percent.

The SACLOS guidance system increases accuracy and reduces operator training requirements since it is no longer necessary for the operator to keep track of both target and missile simultaneously. The gunner merely keeps his sight on the target while the missile is tracked automatically. The deviation between the missile's path and the operator's line of sight is measured by an IR tracking apparatus. (The IR source is in the missile's tail.) A device at the control site then generates guidance commands which are transmitted to the missile by the wire link, causing the missile to eliminate the deviation.

The AT-4 tracker is adequate, simple, and inexpensive. Its extremely narrow field of view makes it more difficult to decoy, since the decoy source must be inside the field of view.

The antitank platoon of the BTR-equipped MRB has four (or in high readiness units, six) AT-4/SPIGOT firing teams. In each three-man team, the gunner carries the folded launcher and tripod as a backpack, the two bearers each carry two launch tubes as backpacks. All three men carry their assault rifles. The team is not equipped with a RPG-7V since the SPIGOT does not have the 500-meter dead space of the SAGGER.

(3) Limitations. Since the SPIGOT launcher must stay with the aiming and tracking assembly, i.e., the gunner, it is not possible to move him to a remote location for safety. And since the gunner must establish and maintain visual contact with the target, any means of disrupting his concentration is an effective countermeasure. Such means include flash blinding, suppressive fires, and smoke screening. Besides being effective and inexpensive, smoke also attenuates the IR guidance link with the missile tracker.

(4) Remarks. The AT-4/SPIGOT system, given the nickname "Fagot" (In Russian "Fagot" means "Bassoon") by the Soviets, was introduced in 1974. It is operational in all Warsaw Pact countries. The interoperability of the SPIGOT missile on the AT-5 launch vehicle and BMP-2 provides a significant logistic and tactical advantage, however, use of the SPANDREL missile on the AT-4 portable launcher has not been confirmed.

d. Antitank Guided Missile AT-5/SPANDREL. The following paragraphs discuss the AT-5/SPANDREL Guided Missile (shown in Figure 2-9).

(1) Description. The AT-5/SPANDREL is a wire-guided SACLOS, ATGM system mounted on the BRDM-2 amphibious scout vehicle chassis. Dimensions and shape of the launch tube are similar to those of the AT-4/SPIGOT, but the SPANDREL missile is considerably heavier. The SPANDREL launch tube has a blow-out cap at the front, and it is flared at the rear. Five SPANDREL missiles, or any combination of SPIGOT and SPANDREL missiles, are carried on a traversable mount just behind the two front cupolas of the BRDM-2. A bowed hatch in the vehicle roof immediately behind the launcher allows the launcher to be folded backwards into the hull for reloading under armor protection. The vehicle carries an additional 10 reload missiles inside. A rotatable, optical, sighting/tracking periscope, similar in appearance to the periscope on the AT-4/SPIGOT launch apparatus, is mounted atop the gunner's hatch on the right front of the vehicle roof. A single AT-4 launch platform with an integrated optics/tracker housing is mounted atop the turret of the BMP-2 amphibious combat vehicle. As with the BRDM-2 launch pedestal configuration, this variant of the AT-5 system can launch either the SPIGOT or the SPANDREL missile. The basic on-board load for the BMP-2 is four missiles.

(2) Capabilities. The SPANDREL has a range of 4,000 meters. Other capabilities are essentially the same as those listed above for the AT-4/SPIGOT, except for time of flight.

(3) Limitations. The limitations of the AT-5/SPANDREL system are precisely those of the AT-4/SPIGOT, namely the requirement for the gunner to keep visual contact and concentration on the target. He can be distracted by fires or smoke screening; the latter can also disrupt the IR link.

(4) Remarks. The Soviets nicknamed the AT-5/SPANDREL system "Konkurs" or "contest." They introduced it around 1974 or 1975, although it was not displayed for public viewing until the Red Square Parade of 1977. The BRDM-2-mounted AT-5 system will eventually replace all vehicle-mounted AT-2 and AT-3 systems in the Soviet Army. The AT-5/SPANDREL system is currently operational in the Warsaw Pact countries.

e. Antitank Guided Missile AT-6/SPIRAL. The AT-6/SPIRAL Guided Missile (shown in Figure 2-10) is discussed in the following paragraphs.

(1) Description. The AT-6/SPIRAL is a tube-launched, SACLOS, ATGM mounted on the Mi-24/HIND E and F helicopters. It replaces the heliborne AT-2/SWATTER variants found on previous HIND models. Normally, there are I-shaped launch fixtures for two SPIRAL launch tubes on each wingtip of the HIND E and F. However, the HIND E and F may carry a second AT-6 launch platform on the outboard universal pylon on each wing. This allows them to mount a total of eight SPIRAL missiles. Also, some HIND E and F models have "stacked" AT-6 launch platforms on the wingtip pylons for a possible total of 16 SPIRALs. Unlike the AT-4/SPIGOT and AT-5/SPANDREL, this missile system is not wire guided. The SPIRAL uses a SACLOS system with IR missile tracking and radio guidance which is similar to the uprated AT-2c/SWATTER C system. Also, it is much larger than previous Soviet ATGMs.

(2) Capabilities. The SPIRAL's maximum range is estimated to be 5,000 meters. Its minimum range may be similar to the earlier AT-2/SWATTER ATGMs; that is, 600 meters. Missile speed is probably about 450 meters per second. The warhead could weigh up to 10 kilograms with an armor penetration capability of 600 to 700 millimeters. First-shot-hit probability should be as good as the AT-2c -- 90 percent. The SACLOS guidance system probably operates the same as the AT-4/SPIGOT and AT-5/SPANDREL, except that the SPIRAL is not wire-guided.

(3) Limitations. During the flight time of the SPIRAL to the target (estimated to be about 11 seconds to 5,000 meters) the target can take evasive action but the helicopter launch platform has only a limited ability to take evasive action itself since the gunner must keep the target in his sight. This, of course, renders the helicopter vulnerable.

(4) Remarks. Although introduced in 1973, the AT-6/SPIRAL system was not seen by Western observers until 1978 when it was spotted on a HIND E. Some sources credit the SPIRAL with a maximum range of 7,000 meters.

f. Antitank Guided Missile AT-7 SAXHORN. The following paragraphs discuss the AT-7 SAXHORN Guided Missile (shown in Figure 2-11).

(1) Description. The AT-7/SAXHORN is a tube-launched, SACLOS, ATGM system with a wire command link. One man can carry and operate the SAXHORN, but the crew normally will consist of two men. The second man probably carries additional missile canisters.

(2) Capabilities. The AT-7/SAXHORN is organic to the machine gun/antitank platoon of the BTR-equipped motorized rifle company (MRC). This platoon has three manpack launchers. The SAXHORN missile, with its HEAT warhead, has a maximum range of 1,000 meters. The operator tracks the target visually using a monocular scope. The missile is guided automatically to the target when the gunner keeps the crosshairs of his sight on the target.

(3) Limitations. Limitations of the AT-7/SAXHORN ATGM system are identical to those of the AT-4/SPIGOT system, namely the requirement for the gunner to keep visual contact and concentration on the target. He can be distracted by fires or smoke screening; the latter can also disrupt the IR link.

(4) Remarks. The AT-7/SAXHORN is generally considered to be in the same category as the U. S. Dragon missile. The AT-7/SAXHORN system was introduced in 1979 and is believed to have been placed on general issue in the early 1980s, but so far little information has appeared in the West.

The weapon appears to be the usual type of prepacked launch tube with the missile mounted upon a firing post with optical and electro-optical sights. The method of guidance is not known, although it is possibly a laser beam rider. The missile is believed to weigh about six kilograms and has a shaped charge warhead capable of defeating more than 500 millimeters of armor. The maximum range is probably 1,500 meters.

g. Antitank Guided Missile AT-8/SONGSTER. The AT-8/SONGSTER (shown in Figure 2-12) is discussed in the following paragraphs. The identification in the Soviet arsenal of an innovative (or even simply unconventional) weapon system with no direct counterpart in Western practice is almost certainly bound to spark discussions and doubts as to its nature and purpose--if not about its very existence. Sometimes, there is concrete evidence immediately available to show that the system is no less real simply because Western planners and engineers have never concocted anything similar, and its reason for being is self-evident, as in the case of the VASILYEK automatic mortar and the PLAYMA grenade launcher. However, sometimes things are a little bit more difficult. There are many past examples, but, as of today, the single most difficult puzzle is perhaps the AT-8 cannon-launched missile, previously designated KOBRA (this could be the Soviet name, but there is no certainty) and which has now received the name SONGSTER.

The first hints in the press were put forward in November 1984 by the U. S. Army Scientific Bulletin. The weapon was subsequently mentioned in the 1985 edition of the Pentagon booklet," Soviet Military Power." Since then, its existence has been taken for granted by most Western defense commentators strictly on the basis of the little information circulated by the Western defense intelligence community because, to our knowledge, no concrete evidence ever filtered outside strictly guarded circles (assuming that concrete evidence is indeed available somewhere).

(1) Description. The AT-8/SONGSTER is launched from the muzzle of a tank's main gun rather than a launch tube or rail. The ATGM has SACLOS guidance with a radio-frequency command link. It is known to be fired by T-64B and T-80 medium tanks.

(2) Capabilities. The SONGSTER missile has a maximum range of 4,000 meters. Its HEAT warhead has an impressive armor penetration capability of 700 to 800 millimeters. The missile is fired through the main-gun tube like a normal tank round; after launch however, it uses a sustain or boost/sustain motor to propel it to the target. The tank gunner tracks the target visually using a monocular periscope; the missile is guided automatically as long as the gunner keeps the crosshairs on the target.

(3) Limitations. SONGSTER missile limitations are the same as for other SACLOS-guided system missiles except the gunner is less vulnerable to suppressive fires.

(4) Remarks. The AT-8/SONGSTER may have entered service with Soviet troops around 1981.

The exact nature and characteristics of SONGSTER are extremely difficult to visualize from both the operational and technical point of view. The assumption that a weapon such as the AT-8 does exist implies formidable conceptual and logical problems. The evidence available about the AT-8 (whatever its nature) is interpreted by Western intelligence agencies and defense commentators as follows:

  • The AT-8 SONGSTER (KOBRA) is a guided missile intended to be launched from the 125-mm smooth-bore gun of the T-64B and T-80 MBTs, which are equipped with a modified version of the RAPIRA 3 125-mm gun standard on the T-64A/T-72 series. The missile is credited with a maximum speed of 1,500 meters per second and a range of about 5,000 meters. It is assumed that it is "fired" at low speed (150 meters per second) by a small charge, the main cruise motor igniting at a safe distance from the muzzle.

  • There is considerable uncertainty regarding the guidance principle used. The AT-8 has been described so far as a laser-guided missile (either a beam-rider or a semi-active homer). The armored box placed in front of the commander's cupola on the T-64B and T-80 MBTs (and in all likelihood associated with the SONGSTER) was referred to as a "laser sight." However, new evidence (to which, again, we have no direct access) indicates that the box is not an optic or optronic device. In fact, it has no openings or ports.

  • Originally, the SONGSTER was referred to as a long-range antitank weapon. This interpretation implies a whole series of major technological/operational inconsistencies. However, the Western defense intelligence has since changed its mind concerning the nature of the SONGSTER. The AT-8 is now considered to be mainly an anti-helicopter weapon, intended to ensure the self-defense of MBTs against Western combat helicopters carrying antitank missiles; antitank engagements cover only a secondary role. Additionally, several considerations suggest that the main ground targets are likely to be not MBTs but, rather, missile tank destroyers.

Seen in this perspective, the AT-8 does make some operational sense. However, three points still remain difficult to explain:

  • The physical compatibility of the weapon with the tanks that are supposed to carry it.

  • The operational implications.

  • The guidance principle.


1. T-72 Medium Tank.

The T-72 and its variants have greater mobility, better armor protection, and better firepower than the T-62. It has the same integral engine smoke-generating system as the earlier T-54/55/62, and it has smoke grenade launchers. The T-72 is used by the Soviet Union and its following allied countries:

  • Poland.

  • Czechoslovakia.

  • Yugoslavia.

  • India.

The following Third World countries also have the T-72 tank:


Quantity Comments

Algeria 300+  
India 650 Local production
Iraq 350-560 Includes Yugo T-84
Kuwait 200 Yugoslavian T-84 + UK
Libya 180  
Syria 1,100  

2. T-54/55 Modernized Tanks.

The Soviet Union and other countries, including China, Egypt, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland, have begun programs to modernize some T-54/55 tanks or the Chinese version, Type 59.

Improvements include new APFSDS ammunition. This ammunition has a muzzle velocity of 1,500 meters per second and armor penetration of 300 millimeters of RHA.

Other improvements include:

  • A new computerized fire-control system to improve first-round-hit probability.

  • Strap-on laser rangefinders.

  • Add-on armor.

  • Smoke grenade launchers.

  • Track skirts.

  • Upgraded mobility components (track and engine).

Czech T-55 improvements include:

  • A crosswind sensor.

  • Thermal guntube sleeve.

  • Laser warning device that warns the crew when the vehicle is being lased.

The following Third World countries have the T-54/55 or Type 59 tanks:


Quantity Comments

Afghanistan 300-400  
Algeria 390  
Angola 300  
Bangladesh 70-100  
China 6,000 Type 59
Congo 35 Plus 15 Type 59
Cuba 650  
Egypt 1,040 Some with 105mm guns
Ethiopia 600  
India 800-950  
Iran 1,000 Plus 260-400 Type 59
Iraq 700 Plus some Type 59
Israel 300 Some with 105mm guns
Kampuchea 60 Some Type 59
Lebanon 50  
Libya 1,700  
Mongolia 100+  
Mozambique 150  
Nicaragua 130  
Nigeria 70  
North Korea 2,000 Includes 175 Type 59
Pakistan 1,151 Includes 1,100 Type 59
Peru 300  
Somalia 100  
Sudan 150  
Syria 2,100  
Vietnam 1,000-1,500 Plus 160 Type 59
Yemen, North 580  
Yemen, South 200  

3. T-62 Modernized Tank.

Soviet T-62 tanks used in Afghanistan had a number of modifications, including the following ones:

  • Full-length track skirts.

  • Curved, horseshoe shaped add-on armor sections mounted on the upper glacis.

The add-on turret armor provides additional protection against shaped charge antitank munitions.

These tanks carry a strap-on laser rangefinder mounted above the main gun. They also have smoke grenade projectors on the sides of the turret.

The following Third World countries have the T-62 tank:


Quantity Comments

Afghanistan 100  
Algeria 300 Local production
Angola 100+  
Cuba 300  
Egypt 500-600 Some with 105mm guns
Ethiopia 100  
Iran 150+  
Iraq 1,600  
Israel 120  
Libya 900-1,300  
Mongolia 100  
North Korea 600+ Plus locally produced
Peru 50  
Syria 1,000  
Vietnam 200  
Yemen, North 34  
Yemen, South 170  


Practice Exercise


Page last modified: 27-04-2005 07:30:25 Zulu