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Kornet (AT-14)

In October 1994, the KPB Instrument Design Bureau introduced the Kornet (AT-14) ATGM system. The Kornet was developed introducing a laser beam-riding missile with automatic command-to-line of sight (SACLOS) guidance. The operator simply has to keep the sight on the target to ensure a hit. The laser beam-riding system is also less vulnerable to countermeasures. The Kornet was specifically designed to replace the Konkurs, which has been in service with the former Soviet and Russian armies for over twenty years.

The AT-14 Kornet is a wire-guided missile system. In such a system, the missile literally pulls a thin wire along behind it as it moves toward its target. Those who fire the Kornet control it by keeping the sights of their launcher trained on the target. That way, the missile can be guided at moving targets like tanks and armored troop carriers. As a direct-fire weapon, the missile travels in a straight line, rather than in an arc, as it would with mortar or howitzer artillery. Direct fire is considered more effective than indirect-fire weapons like the mortar artillery because the person who is firing the weapon can see the target himself, rather than relying on forward troops to spot and provide information on where the target is. But the need to keep a Kornet launcher's sights locked on the target means that it must remain stationery after it has fired. After a Kornet missile has traveled 3.5 kilometers, the guidance wire has completely uncoiled and breaks. The missile then becomes erratic, no longer able to lock onto the target. Another disadvantage of wire-guided missiles is that they cannot be fired over trees, power lines, telephone lines, or water. That's because the wire will snag and break, or will malfunction, disabling the guidance system.

The AT-14 Kornet has a range of 3.5 kilometers. The Kornet, which has a claimed ability to penetrate 1100 to 1200 millimeters of steel armor protected by explosive armor, provided a formidable antitank weapon system. However, even with the improved capabilities the Kornet has over earlier systems, an ATGM with all-weather, day or night, immunity to countermeasures, and fire and forget capabilities was still highly desired.

During the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom, US troops encountered an unanticipated, and formidable, weapon in the Iraqi arsenal -- Russian-built Kornet antitank missiles. Iraqi soldiers used the wire-guided missile system against American tanks, but the US military previously did not know they possessed. It emerged as the Iraqis' most effective direct-fire weapon against U.S. armor in the desert of southern Iraq. Iraqi commandos traveling in three-man teams dressed in black civilian robes and riding in Nissan pickup trucks moved against the flanks of columns of armor from the US Army's 3rd Infantry Division and launched broadside attacks from several kilometers away using the system. Those attacks had disabled at least two Abrahms tanks and one Bradley armored troop carrier in the opening week of the war. US military intelligence officials were extremely interested in capturing one of the missiles intact. They also instructed American soldiers who destroy one of the Kornet launchers to save the remains of the system for close inspection.

The US State Department accused KBP of supplying Iraq with the Kornet missiles, something KBP and Moscow have vehemently denied. In a phone call on 24 March 2003 with U.S. President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the American allegations of Russian sales of missiles, night-vision goggles, and radio-jamming equipment were "groundless."


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