Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM), also called anti-tank missile or
Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW), is the bane of modern tanks.
Long-ranged, stunningly accurate, and equipped with a warhead
capable of penetrating all but the best composite armor, this class
of missiles strikes fear in the heart of every tank crew.
anti-tank guided missile can be traced back to the end of World War
II. Assailed by far superior forces, Germany was desperate for a
weapon to take out airplanes. They developed the X-4 air-to-air
missile—the first of its class. A spin off of this was an anti-tank
guided missile design concept. However, it had a number of problems
and never entered service.
But the idea
lived on. France soon developed the SS.10, which entered service in
1955. More designs soon followed. The first anti-tank guided
missiles, termed “first-generation”, typically had a range of up to,
though generally less than, 2 000 meters. They had wires attached,
which allowed the operator to steer the missile. This, of course,
meant that range was always severely limited (the missile had to be
in the operator’s line-of-sight to be effective) and highly trained
operators were necessary for a good chance of a hit.
the 70s, the second generation arrived. Besides incorporating
obvious improvements like better warheads, these missiles required
somewhat less from the operators. All they needed to do was keep the
sights on the target, as opposed to directly aiming the missile. One
of the first of this class was the ubiquitous helicopter-carried
recent generation of anti-tank guided missiles are “fire-and-forget”
type weapons. This means that the operator needs only to lock the
missile’s laser, infrared, or radar sensors on the target and fire
the missile. After that, the missile homes in on its target without
any further input, though this makes it somewhat more vulnerable to
As the years
have gone by, ATGMs have gotten more compact and easier to carry
around, with this perhaps epitomized by the US
and similar weapons.
all anti-tank guided missiles use a High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT)
warhead. This type of warhead is lightweight and very effective. A
small “spike” protrudes from the tip, allowing its shaped explosive
charge to detonate before reaching the target. This enables the
warhead to form a superheated jet of molten metal capable of
slashing through all but the best armor.
At one time,
HEAT warheads like those found on anti-tank guided missiles were
believed to make tank armor useless, except against small arms fire.
T-64 main battle tank changed that forever by introducing
composite armor. Even though the concept of composite armor was
pioneered in the United States, The T-64 was the first widespread
tank to use such armor. Its composite armor consisted of a layer of
steel (or some other hard metal), a layer of hard plastic, and
another layer of steel. The HEAT warhead would penetrate the first
steel layer, but would shatter the plastic and lose so much energy
that the second steel layer could stop it. Various enhancements have
been made since then to this basic and effective concept.
ATGMs still have a chance of penetrating composite armor, that
chance is slim. Thus, some missiles like the Javelin utilize a
top-attack approach. Instead of hitting the tank head on, they
strike through the much thinner armor on top. This method is highly
effective means of defeating anti-tank guided missiles is Explosive
Reactive Armor (ERA). These lightweight “tiles” of armor explode
when they’re hit by an ATGM. This dissipates the HEAT warhead and
protects the tank. However, missiles can easily be fitted with a
tandem warhead—one that explodes twice. The first is tiny and serves
only to activate the ERA. The second is the real power and with no
ERA to stop it, has a good chance of success.
advances in tank innovation may be making the ATGM as we know it
obsolete. Tanks like the
Merkava Mk.4 Meil Ruach,
K2 Black Panther utilize integrated Active Protection System (APS). This
tracks incoming missiles and shoots them down before they can hit.
In 2014, APS-equipped Merkava Mk.4s survived dozens of Hamas Kornet
missile attacks. But the ATGM is a too effective weapon to be simply
made useless by this new advancement. Whether the future ATGMs have
a higher speed or deploy countermeasures, it is almost certain that
they will adapt and remain the terror of the tank.
it is one of the most successful missiles ever made, with numerous
exports and untold numbers of successes. This missile was jointly
developed by France and Germany.
this widely exported Russian missile features a nearly unmatched
range as well as one of the deadliest warheads ever made. It has
proved itself even against the massively armored Merkava tanks.
a missile that dates back to the 1970s in the Soviet Union, the
Konkurs is one of the most exported ATGMs ever.
fielded in 1970, the US-developed TOW is probably the most widely
used ATGM ever and deservedly so, because of its superb combat
record and the numerous improved variants that have preserved its
deadliness well into the 21st century.
Hellfire: this air-launched weapon has wreaked destruction on
enemy tanks in almost every conflict fought since its introduction
in the 1980s.
Article by The Tiger
publish your own articles? Visit our
guidelines for more information.