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Military


European Antitank Guided Missiles (ATGM)

Cobra
ENTAC
Eryx
HOT
Mamba
Milan
MMP
Mosquito
NLAW
OMTAS
RBS 56 BILL
S.S. 10
S.S. 11
Sparviero
Swingfire
Vigilant
Trigat

As armored combat vehicles added more protection and ascended in importance on the battlefield, so did systems designed to stop them gain importance. The umbrella term antitank (AT) originally denoted systems specifically designed to destroy tanks. Today it is more broadly constructed. Modern combat is combined arms combat. Mechanized forces include other armored combat vehicles, such as armored reconnaissance vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, etc. In order to address the whole spectrum of threats on the modern battlefield, new systems are being developed and older systems redesigned.

The emergence of the tank in World War I led to the development of the first infantry weapons to defend against tanks. Anti-tank rifles became commonplace in the inter-war years and in the early campaigns of World War II in Poland and the Battle of France, which saw renewed use in the form of the British .55in Boys anti-tank rifle - also used by the US Marine Corps in the Pacific. The French campaign made it clear that the day of the anti-tank rifle was ending due to the increasing thickness of tank armour. Nevertheless, anti-tank rifles continued to be used by the Soviets on the Eastern Front with two rifles, the 14.5mm PTRS and PTRD, and were still in widespread use in 1945. They served again with Korean and Chinese forces in the Korean War, and some have even appeared in Ukraine in 2014-15.

Antitank guns (AT guns) include towed and self-propelled AT guns (aka SPAT or tank destroyers). A number of guns were designed as field guns, with multi-role capability as both artillery and antitank guns. The modern focus on maneuver warfare has brought a slight decline in development of uniquely antitank guns. Thus, the 85-mm D-44 gun, which can be used as artillery, is effective for use in an antitank role. Although recent systems have been developed, the number fielded has not kept pace with production of armored combat vehicles. Nevertheless, their effectiveness and selected armies' continued reliance on linear positional battles and protracted defenses have kept a large number of these systems in inventories. Based on numbers fielded and likelihood of their threat to US forces, only towed antitank guns were included.

Antitank guided missiles (ATGMs) are the singular greatest threat to tanks today. These systems are distinguished from other antitank weapons in that they are guided to the target. Most employ SACLOS guidance. An operator holds crosshairs on the target, and the missile tracker directs the missile to that point. There are a wide variety of countermeasures (such as smoke and counter-fire, due to long flight time and operator vulnerability) for use against ATGMs. Thus, a 90% probability of hit is a technical figure, and does not mean a 90% probability of success. On the other hand, there are a variety of counter-countermeasures which the ATGMs, launchers, and operators can use to increase the chance for success. Tactics, techniques, and procedures in the antitank arena are critical to mission success.

Armor protection for many modern tanks has outpaced some older AT weapons. However, ATGMs offer improved size, range, and warhead configurations to destroy even the heaviest tanks. Notable trends include increased proliferation and variety of man-portable and portable ATGM launchers.

In tactical missiles, the history, geography, military tradition, and spending levels have all helped determine the emphasis of each of the four major producers. These considerations led to the relative emphasis of the US on air warfare, naval air defense, and fixed-site air defense, while the European land powers bordering enclosed seas -- France and the FRG -- emphasized anti-tank weapons, mobile air defense and antd-ship weapons. Finally, the UK emphasized air defense of the island and naval warfare.

European missiles for defending against ground forces were almost all focused upon the immediate tank battle -- a variety of frontline anti-tank missiles for US, UK, France, and FRG. The European lead in anti-tank guided weapons is evident. The Europeans were into production with second generation weapons before the US fielded its first in Shillelagh in the 1960s. In anti-tank weapons only two types, man-portable and heavy, existed until the development of helicopter borne weapons in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In the 1955-64 decade, the French developed high-altitude SAMs but their concentration (more apparent when production data are examined) was on anti-tank guided missiles. First, they developed man-portable wire guided weapons perfecting the German World War II beginning in the SS.11 and Entac; then bigger weapons for vehicle carriage and air launch such as the SS.12 and AS.12. The lone West German weapon of its period, Cobra, was a simple Entac-type weapon which was exported in large numbers to Latin American countries.

In the 1965 to 1974 period wire-guided infantry-deployed weapons had gone through two generations in European NATO forces in the decade. During the period, the French and Germans cooperated in developing the Milan third-generation, man-portable anti-tank weapon and began on Hot -- a medium range anti-tank missile mounted on land vehicles and helicopters. Co-development and production was handled through Euromissile, a consortium -- with minimal management responsibilities -- created for the purrose of marketing the missiles. The British developed Swingfire, their own mechanized anti-tank system. The areas coming to completion in the 1975 to 1980 period were the co-development of a European Tow-iompetitor in Hot by Euromissile, and two versions of Roland.

In this field, the appearance of new tank armor technology in the 1970s has rendered all of the weapons in this list fairly ineffective against future tanks, with a correspondiing premium on developing effective guided weapons of new design. The current weapons, both European and US are, however, effective against almost all existing Soviet tanks.

As armored combat vehicles added more protection and ascended in importance on the battlefield, so did systems designed to stop them gain importance. The umbrella term antitank (AT) originally denoted systems specifically designed to destroy tanks. Today it is more broadly constructed. Modern combat is combined arms combat. Mechanized forces include other armored combat vehicles, such as armored reconnaissance vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, etc. In order to address the whole spectrum of threats on the modern battlefield, new systems are being developed and older systems redesigned. Examples are heavy armament combat vehicles (HACVs) and heavy combat support vehicles.

Tank armor protection continues to increase, but another way to defeat them is to defeat associated systems. Tanks cannot survive or achieve their tactical objectives without support from other armored systems. The more recent term anti-armor may supplant the current term because antitank weapons which cannot penetrate tank armor can still be effective threats to defeat or damage more lightly armored fighting vehicles. With upgrades and innovative tactics, even older, seemingly obsolete weapons can be used as opposing force (OPFOR) anti-armor weapons. The ATGM is the singular greatest threat to tanks today. These systems are distinguished from other antitank weapons in that they are guided to the target. Most employ SACLOS guidance. An operator holds crosshairs on the target, and the missile tracker directs the missile to that point. There are a wide variety of countermeasures (such as smoke and counter-fire, due to long flight time and operator vulnerability) for use against ATGMs. Thus, a 90% probability of hit is a technical figure, and does not mean a 90% probability of success. On the other hand, there are a variety of counter-countermeasures which the ATGMs, launchers, and operators can use to increase the chance for success. Tactics, techniques, and procedures in the antitank arena are critical to mission success.

In a known form of guidance system for controlling the flight of an anti-tank missile by manual means, an operator using a joystick on a ground controller controls the missile and guides it visually to the target. His commands are conveyed to the missile as electrical signals and the operator is able to compensate for movement of the target during flight of the missile by appropriate movement of the joystick. This form of control has various advantages, e.g. the apparatus required is relatively simple and light, and the accuracy of control does not greatly deteriorate at long ranges. However, there are certain disadvantages, e.g. the operator requires some time to gain control of the missile after launch and so accuracy of aim at very short ranges is poor. In training, operators require a considerable amount of practice in controlling actual missiles in flight and this tends to make the training of an operator expensive.

In another known form of guidance system where control of a missile is by semi-automatic means, an operator is provided with a combined sight tracker, the optical axes of which are collimated. In use, the operator sights a target and keeps his sight cross-wires aimed upon it. When a missile is launched, it will appear in the field of view of the tracker which may initially be comparatively wide compared with that of the sight. The missile, which may carry a flare to distinguish it from background illumination, produces an image focussed as a point of light on a photoelectric screen in the tracker, the displacement of which image from the electrical centre of the screen is used to provide a corresponding electrical signal for transmission to the missile. This signal controls the flight of the missile to tend to remove the displacement of the image from the screen centre, and thus maintains its trajectory along the tracker axis. Any tendency of the missile to drift off course is detected by the tracker and corrected by transmission of the appropriate electrical signal. The operator of a semi-automatic guidance system has to track the target with his sight all the time that a missile is in flight.

This form of control has several advantages. It is easier for an operator to use than a manual system as the operator merely maintains the cross-wires in his sight aimed upon the target, and he does not control the missile flight directly; gathering of a missile after launch is rapid as the response of the system is faster than can be achieved by an operator; the training of an operator requires the use of few practice missiles, since the operator can practice the maintenance of the sight cross-wires on a moving target without firing a missile. There are however certain disadvantages inherent in the semi-automatic system. Collimation errors can arise due for example to knocks or to solar heating effects, causing the sight and tracker to be mis-aligned. Accuracy of the system depends on how accurately the operator can keep his sight on the target, and this depends greatly on the design of the sight and tracker mounting; for instance, if they are mounted so as to be too loose, or too tight, movement will be uneven and it will be difficult to maintain accurate and smooth target following.

Known terminal guidance missile systems have included proportional navigation with trajectory shaping that may result in a flat approach toward a target, a ballistic approach, or a combination of the two. In the flat approach trajectory, such as the direct line of sight mode or command-to-line-of-sight mode, warhead penetration is often reduced due to the shallow shot line for the warhead. In the ballistic or lofted approach to heavy armor targets, the more vulnerable and least armored top of the target is attacked. The ballistic approach attempts to dive on the target at an advantageous, steep, angle of impact, but still fails to achieve the most desired vertical or near vertical impact. Conventional anti-tank terminal homing missile guidance requires a steep impact angle to maximize lethality. This is typically obtained by maneuvering the missile into a top attack trajectory. However, it is difficult to improve performance above existing state-of-the-art, with sensor and autotracker design improvements alone.

Conventional terminal homing fire-and-forget missile systems include an on board target sensing device, such as a passive imaging sensor, which tracks the target and guides the missile to an intercept. The required accuracy of the tracking and guidance is dictated by the warhead lethality versus the intended target's capability to withstand attack. For an anti-tank terminal homing missile system with limited warhead capacity, the required three dimensional accuracy for both aimpoint selection and delivery of the warhead to that aimpoint, continues to become more difficult as tank designs are hardened against such missiles and desired ranges are extended, which compounds the accuracy of a desirable impact angle. The steeper the angle of impact, the more effective is the warhead performance.

The fly over homing guidance system provides relief for the autopilot and terminal homing autotracker performance. The imaging seeker tracking problem is now reduced from a three dimensional to a two dimensional problem-the third dimension, depth, being separately determined with a second sensor. In addition, the required circular error probability (CEP) for the imaging guidance is much larger than that allowed when guiding to an impact. The fly over system focuses on a two dimensional target which is a relatively large area extending in a plane vertically above the actual target. The steep top attack requirement is eliminated, the autotracker can avoid the difficult climb out phase of the missile trajectory, and the requirement to autonomously adapt to the top of the target after climb out. In fact, the autotracker can actually error and track a small point on the target, such as a wheel, or even a point on the ground in front of or behind the target, and the warhead can still be successfully delivered to the target. This is in contrast to a typical, conventional imaging terminal homing autotracker where the entire target must be successfully segmented from the background in order to select and maintain a lethal aimpoint.

Armor protection for many modern tanks has outpaced some older AT weapons. However, ATGMs offer improved size, range, and warhead configurations to destroy even the heaviest tanks. Notable trends include increased proliferation and variety of man-portable and portable ATGM launchers. These include shoulder-launched, short-range systems, such as the French Eryx, and copies of former Soviet systems, such as the AT-3/Malyutka ("Suitcase” SAGGER). Some so-called portable launchers (AT-4/5, TOW, and HOT) have outgrown portability weight limits, and must be carried in vehicles and only dismounted short distances from carriers. But newer compact systems are being fielded, e.g., Spike-MR and Kornet-MR.

Weapons systems that use KE-rod penetrators are being developed that are capable of piercing modern composite armour. The principle of the kinetic energy penetrator is that it uses its kinetic energy, which is a function of mass and velocity, to force its way through armour. The modern KE weapon maximizes KE and minimizes the area over which it is delivered, e.g. a metal rod several feet in length and approximately one inch in diameter travelling at hyper-velocities (>Mach 5).

Although there are special-built ATGM launcher vehicles, the most numerous launcher vehicles are common chassis adapted by adding a pintle mounted, manually loaded and launched ATGM. Adaptation is simple, so they are not described here. Nearly all ATGM launchers are high-level threats to vehicles and rotary-wing aircraft in the US Army. They can also be used against personnel and materiel targets. The variety of launch platforms is increasing. UAVs are being adapted to launch ATGMs for responsive attacks against NLOS/BLOS targets.

Recent trends include new ATGM technologies for increased range and lethality. The most common type of lethality upgrade is the addition of a nose precursor or tandem warhead. Recent options include missiles for wider battlefield lethality—BLOS/NLOS systems, and long-range ATGMs to attack targets previously considered invulnerable. NLOS guidance technologies include fiber optics (to see through the missile eye BLOS) and semi-active laser homing (for dismounted soldier/vehicle/aircraft/UAV-mounted laser target designators to select targets). Others have "fly-over, shoot-down" mode to fly behind a hill and fire an explosive-formed penetrator (EFP, in the shape of a cannon kinetic-energy penetrator round) downward through the relatively soft top of armored vehicles. Improvements include improved guidance, resistance to countermeasures, reduced smoke/noise signatures, and increased range. Night sights are common, including thermal sights. Many countries are looking at active protection system (APS) CM systems. Already, some ATGM have counter-countermeasures to defeat all APS.

Anti-Tank Missiles



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Page last modified: 06-12-2021 10:06:02 ZULU