Country of origin
Launch tube length
1 450 mm
Missile weight (with canister)
Missile launch weight
1 450 mm
HEAT or HE
800 mm RHAe
is a tube-launched, man-portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM)
system, designed for use by infantry, vehicles, and helicopters. The
name is short for MAn Portable Anti-Tank System, and "Mapats" is
also Hebrew otomotopea for an explosion (i.e., like the word "kaboom").
In Latin American countries, it has also been referred to as the "MAPTAS".
Little of the origins of the MAPATS have been published. This
weapon is clearly a derivative of the US-made
missile, but no assistance from the US military or defense industry
in the development of the MAPATS has ever been mentioned. It was
first unveiled to the public in 1984, and apparently entered service
with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1985. It is possible that
Israel Military Industries (IMI) developed this missile with covert
support from the South African government, given the uncanny
similarity of the MAPATS to the
Ingwe ATGM (and the extreme similarity of the Ingwe to a
then-classified laser-guided version of the TOW, which was still
undergoing testing in secrecy when the Ingwe was unveiled).
Though it is easily confused with a BGM-71 TOW at first
glance, the MAPATS does have some visibly different exterior
features. For one, its fins don't taper, and are rectangular in
shape, and while the rear fins on the TOW are hinged at the very
base of the missile, the fins on the MAPATS are located further
forward. The MAPATS also has a distinctive boattail, while the
fuselage of the TOW is a straight cylinder after the nose cone.
The MAPATS has an all-metal construction, with fins and a
fuselage consisting mostly of sheet steel. The composition of the
rest of the missile is unpublished, but it presumably consists of
the same materials as the TOW.
The star feature of the MAPATS is its laser beam-riding
guidance, via a Semi-Automatic Control by Line-Of-Sight (SACLOS)
control interface. The fire control unit on the launcher includes a
laser designator, which produces an overlapping group of conical
laser beams. These beams are detected by a laser receiver on the
tail of the missile, whose guidance system attempts to fly the
missile down the operatorís line of sight, where the beams from the
laser designator intersect. This allows the user to control the
missile by simply steering the sights onto the target, and as long
as the target remains in range and in the crosshairs, the missile is
almost certain to hit it.
Beam-riding guidance has many advantages, such as being very
simple to use, including a "man in the loop" to keep constant
control of the missile, and the ability of the user to steer the
missile into almost anything within reach. Because the receiver is
aimed directly away from the target, this system is also impossible
However, beam-riding guidance isn't without its faults. At
long ranges, the "wobble" of the missile in flight around the user's
line of sight increases, causing the missile to lose accuracy at
very long ranges. More importantly, the advent of laser detection
systems for armored vehicles means that laser guidance no longer
enjoys as great an element of surprise as it once did, and if the
Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) package includes a laser dazzler
(which fires laser beams back at the source of the offending beams),
the beams from the dazzler could quickly destroy the designator or
the optics in the sight system --- or the eyes of whomever was
guiding the missile. Furthermore many modern armored vehicles have
another protection system, which automatically triggers smoke
grenade dischargers once the vehicle is illuminated by a laser beam.
This blocks the line of sight for the MANPATS operator and makes
As it isn't literally tethered by a guidance cable during
flight, the MAPATS is quicker and more maneuverable than the TOW.
Being "wireless" also allows the MAPATS to be used in environments
where a wire-guided missile is either difficult or hazardous to
deploy, such as in urban environments where a guidance cable could
become snagged on many objects commonplace in cities (such as light
poles, telephone wires, fences, and so on). Another wire guidance
problem eliminated in the MAPATS is the shorting-out of the guidance
system, should the guidance cable come into contact with a body of
water; the MAPATS may be used to engage armored vehicles from across
a lake, for example. Although this should also logically allow the
MAPATS to be significantly faster than the TOW, it actually has
roughly the same flight speed.
Like the TOW, the MAPATS employs a two-stage propulsion
system, consisting of a very short-lived booster stage, and a
sustainer motor that propels the missile through most of the
duration of its flight. The booster is carried out of the tube along
with the missile, and falls-away approximately 5 meters from the
muzzle of the launcher. Both are solid fuel rockets. Also like the
TOW, a tracking light is integrated into the tail of the missile.
The warhead is a 3.6 kg shaped charge munition, capable of
penetrating 800 mm of Rolled Homogenous Armor equivalency (RHAe),
which was adequate to defeat any tank in service in the mid-1980s.
Examples made from the early 1990s onward were re-armed with a
tandem shaped charge, capable of defeating 1 200 mm RHAe after
Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA); enough penetration to defeat almost
any tank in service today, even in a frontal attack.
An alternate unshaped High Explosive (HE) warhead was also
developed for the MAPATS, which gives the missile a more powerful
detonation and a much larger blast and shrapnel radius. When fitted
with the HE warhead, the MAPATS is significantly more effective
against structures, fortifications, softskin vehicles, personnel,
and soft targets than a missile carrying a shaped charge warhead.
However, this alternate warhead has very little armor penetration
potential, rendering tanks and even many lightly-armored vehicles
are too tough to knock-out.
Though the MAPATS is light enough to be carried by a single
soldier, launching it requires tripod. When the tripod is assembled,
a missile is loaded into the launch tube. The launcher traverses 360
degrees, and superelevates though -20 to +30 degrees. The sights
have an image intensification (i.e., "night vision") capability,
which intensifies visible ambient light to create a substitute for
daylight; this allows the MAPATS to be used at night or in other
very low-light conditions, though it is prone to being blinded by
strong light sources (such as searchlights), it does not display
heat sources as with a passive infrared sight, and it will not work
in total darkness (such as during a heavily-overcast moonless
night). This launcher is similar in design to M220 system used for
to launch the TOW.
It is unclear if the MAPATS has ever been used in combat,
though several operators (particularly Israel) have fought several
conflicts since this missile first became operational. Known
operators of the MAPATS include Chile, Ecuador, Estonia, Israel, and
Venezuela. It is gradually being superseded in Estonian service by
The MAPATS no longer appears on IMI's website, so it has
probably been discontinued.
model: Basic production model, as described above.
Improved model: Production of the improved MAPATS
started in the early 1990s. This version is referred as MAPATS 2. It was fitted with a more powerful
tandem shaped charge warhead capable of penetrating 1 200 mm of RHAe
after ERA. Claims have been made that this version of the MAPATS can
penetrate 1 620 mm RHAe, but this is doubtful, given that such
penetration has eluded almost all ATGMs as of 2016. It seems that
this version has a maximum range of 6 km.
Multi-purpose variant: This model carries an unshaped HE
warhead for use against structures, light vehicles, and various soft
targets. It is also effective against some light armor, but cannot
defeat any operational main battle tank.
The ubiquitous US-made TOW is the obvious design basis of the
MAPATS, and boasts similar performance attributes as well.
LAHAT: Another Israeli laser-guided ATGM is similar in
function to the MAPATS, the LAHAT is much smaller, and has a unique
twist; in addition to being useable in much the same manner as the
MAPATS, the LAHAT's original function was being gun-launched from
105 mm and larger tank guns. It can even be launched from 105 mm or
larger recoilless rifles.
Spike-MR: Yet another Israeli ATGM, the Spike family are
similar in form to the MAPATS, but they employ a fiber-optic
infrared guidance system. The Spike-MR variant is closest in size
and performance to the MAPATS.
ZT-3 Ingwe: The South African Ingwe is the most similar ATGM to
A further development of the
wire-guided ATGM, the Chinese HJ-9 is laser guided, making it at
least philosophically similar to the MAPATS.
Type 97 Chu-MAT: This Japanese ATGM is a smaller, more
man-portable missile than the MAPATS.
9M133 Kornet: Code-named AT-14 Spriggan by the West, this
Russian ATGM is smaller than the MAPATS, and similar in
configuration to the Type 97 Chu-MAT. However, the Kornet has as
much firepower as the MAPATS. It penetrates up to 1 000 mm of RHAe.
Shershen: Another laser-guided ATGM developed from a wire-guided
munition, the Belarusian Shershen.
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