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Anti-tank guided missile

Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger) missile

During the Cold War the Soviet Malyutka was the most prolific anti-tank guided missile in the world

Country of origin Soviet Union
Entered service 1963
Armor penetration 400 mm of RHA
Missile length 864 mm
Missile diameter 125 mm
Fin span 393 mm
Missile weight 10.9 kg
Warhead weight 2.6 kg
Warhead type HEAT
Flight speed 120 m/s
Range of fire 2.5 / 3 km
Guidance Wire-guided


   During the Cold War the Soviet 9K11 Malyutka (Russian: the small one), known to the West as the AT-3 Sagger, was the most prolific anti-tank guided missile in the world. Although age and the enduring reputation of the American TOW, not to mention today’s newer and more capable ATGMs, have diminished its status considerably, it remains a stubborn second-generation system with a half-century old death trail behind it.

   The Malyutka’s Cold War origins are an enigma wrapped in mystery. What can be gleaned from available sources is feverish Soviet R&D on anti-tank missiles was undertaken by the KBM plant in Moscow during the late 1950s and early 1960s and these efforts paid off with scary new weapons. After the modest success of the Shmel (AT-1 Snapper) and Fleyta (AT-2 Swatter), which had to be borne on vehicles, a better ATGM was introduced for motorized infantry units.

   And therein lies another conundrum. The exact date of the Malyutka’s initial production and entry into service are unknown. Unverifiable accounts of the Sagger’s testing phase cite 1961 and adoption followed by 1963. Another source puts its first public sighting during the Victory Day Parade on May 9, 1965, in Moscow. If this is accurate then the Soviet Army had already adopted it by the mid-1960s and exports to its allies quickly followed.

   The Malyutka is recognizable for its distinctive 9M14 missile, which has a pointed nose containing a HEAT warhead and oversized fins, that is stored inside the 9K11 portable fiberglass launcher. The Malyutka’s best attribute compared to other anti-tank missiles is its ease of use. While earlier systems deserved their reputation as crude and unwieldy the arrival of the Malyutka marked a serious breakthrough for the Soviet Army.

   Carried in its suitcase, the Malyutka is assembled and ready to fire in under a minute. A proper Sagger unit, however, required a three-man team of two soldiers for carrying the missiles and a third “senior operator” carrying the 9S415 control panel and its monocular sight/periscope.

   The Soviets designed their Malyutka to protect the operator, who can launch the missile while concealed in a trench, foxhole or a bunker. When fired the missile’s course is guided from a control panel with a joystick and a periscope sight for accurate navigating beyond 1 000 meters. A red tail light emitted from the rocket motor serves as a visual guide to the operator before the missile impacts. With an effective range of three kilometers and reliable Manual Command Line of Sight (MCLOS) guidance it’s not surprising how the Malyutka pulled off a smashing debut.

   What NATO came to fear as the Sagger missile drew first blood on April 23, 1972, when North Vietnamese Army units clashed with South Vietnamese tanks in Quang Tri Province near the 17th Parallel. The resulting engagement knocked out an American-made M48A3, a kill that didn’t bode well for Western tanks.

   The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) learned about the Sagger’s effectiveness a year later when Egyptian and Syrian combined arms offensives launched the Yom Kippur War. The prolific use of Sagger missiles by Egyptian infantry wrecked the IDF’s early counteroffensives in the Sinai and battered its tank fleet. These disasters proved how British-made Centurions and American-made M60 tanks faced an existential threat against Sagger missiles, whose maximum effective range of 2 500 meters at the hands of a well-trained operator was far more accurate than Western 105 mm guns. The Sagger could penetrate 430 mm (17 inches) of steel armor and there was nothing that could blunt its explosive force. Examining Soviet accounts reveals the IDF lost hundreds of tanks to Sagger missiles within a few days.

   Israel and NATO spent years trying to formulate an effective doctrine against Sagger missiles. In the case of the former an ad hoc tactic was steering the tank away from the incoming missile and perhaps confuse the Sagger operator with a dust cloud or erratic accelerated driving. It wasn’t until the advent of explosive reactive armor and active protection systems that the Sagger threat diminished.

   Although the Soviets would field better ATGMs in the 1970s and 1980s the Sagger was indispensable for the Warsaw Pact. When deployed on vehicles like the BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle, which carried four missiles, the BMD-1 airborne combat vehicle. There were dedicated tank hunters, based on BRDM-1 and BRDM-2 recce cars. The Sagger’s production volume ballooned to the tens of thousands. An often cited ballpark figure of the Sagger at the height of its fame was 25 000 a year until it was supplanted by the Konkurs (AT-5 Spandrel) during the 1970s onwards. Like the ubiquitous HOT missile, special mounts for Saggers on helicopters like the Mi-2, Mi-8, and the Mi-24 were available. The Sagger missile was also license-produced in Bulgaria, Romania, the former Yugoslavia and was later cloned in China as the HJ-73.

   In a strange twist, Taiwan’s Chungshan Institute managed to reverse engineer the Sagger and produce the Kun Wu. Archival photos and documents of this rare system are difficult to find, thereby consigning the Kun Wu to mythical obscura.

   Though deemed obsolete by today’s standards the Sagger’s use hasn’t ebbed. It’s a familiar sight in the Middle East’s most active war zones and untold numbers remain stockpiled in various countries. Its production hasn’t ended either. China, North Korea, Serbia, and Iran manufacture their own variants of this longevity blessed ATGM.




   9M14 (Western reporting name AT-3A) – Original production model. It had a maximum range of 2.5 kilometers.

   9M14M (AT-3B) – Improved version with a modified warhead and improved flight time.

   9M14P (AT-3C) – Introduced in 1969-1970. This was a Sagger model modified for semi-automatic (SACLOS) guidance and greater armor penetration.

   9M14-2 or Malyutka-2 (AT-3D) – Introduced in the 1992 it is a significantly improved version. The Malyutka-2 is a larger 130 mm missile with new warhead. It featured a faster flight time of 130 meters-per-second. Tandem HEAT and thermobaric warheads were available. It can penetrate 800 mm of rolled homogenous armor. This new missile can be launched from older launchers.

   HJ-73 – Chinese copy of the original 9M14 (AT-3A).

   Raad – Iranian copy of the Sagger.

   Yugoimport Malyutka-2M – Serbian variant of the 9M14-2 (AT-3D). It uses 9M142M (HEAT), 9M142F (thermobaric) and 9M142T (with tandem HEAT warhead capable of defeating 1 000 mm of rolled homogenous armor).

   9P122 is a Soviet anti-tank missile carrier, armed with Malyutka missiles, based on the BRDM-2 armored car chassis.

   BOV-1 or M83 Polo is an anti-tank missile carrier, developed in the former Yugoslavia. It is armed with license-produced version of Malyutka missile.


Miguel Miranda

   Article by MIGUEL MIRANDA

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Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger) missile

Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger) missile

Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger) missile

Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger) missile

Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger) missile

9P122 anti-tank missile carrier, armed with Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger)

BOV-1 or M83 Polo anti-tank missile carrier, armed with Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger)

Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger) missile

Tank hit by Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger) missiles

Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger) missile

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