Anti-tank guided missiles

With the advent of new technologies, there is a portfolio enhancement for next generation anti tank guided missiles which are most sought after weapon for battlefield commanders when they need to stop the advancement of enemy armored columns from the front.

An Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) is a category of rocket-based weapon that is primarily used against armored vehicles. While rockets in warfare were used as early as the 11th century, they were crude and used more for their psychological effects.

The advancement of mechanized, armored warfare during World War II marked the beginning of the rocket’s use as a practical anti-armor weapon by the infantry.

These light, man-portable rockets were essentially rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) that had no form of guidance other than how the operator pointed the launcher.

What allowed them to defeat armor and remain compact was the development of the shaped charge, based on the Munroe effect. These anti-tank rockets generally weighed roughly 1.5 kg and were able to puncture 60 mm of steel plate. As armor developed during the course of the war, the size of the warhead had to be increased to match. By the end of the war, anti-tank rockets were able to penetrate up to 100 mm of armor.

Modern armored vehicles deploy a wide array of armor in both composition and shape. In order to defeat this armor, warheads had to increase in both diameter and weight.

Concurrent development of microchips meant that guidance computers could now be installed into the rocket to change its trajectory in flight.

All systems combined, ATGMs could weigh more than 10 kg and were over 1 m in length. The large back blast of the motor required to propel the rocket into flight meant they were mostly launched from vehicles, where the crew could be protected.

Man-portable ATGMs are still needed as the individual soldier is more agile and readily deployed than vehicles.

The solution to allow a soldier to launch these more massive missiles came in the development of a two-stage motor.

The first motor, in what is called a soft launch produced enough thrust to launch the missile out of the tube and a safe distance away, but was completely burned before the nozzle left the tube, leaving no exhaust to hit the operator. The flight motor would then ignite to propel the ATGM along its attack path.

Self-propelled antitank guided missile systems are the most effective means to inflict damage upon armor materiel.

An analysis of the development trends of this class weapon and the estimate of information on regional military conflicts make it possible to determine the following main requirements for antitank missile systems of the early 21st century:
•    all-weather and round-the-clock capability of combat use, including dust and smoke screen environment;
•    potential of firing at several targets and implementation of the fire and forget principle;
•    high armor penetration of the missile HEAT warhead;
•    long range and high accuracy of fire, high firing rate and survivability on the battlefield.
    Nowadays, there is no antitank missile weapon with characteristics that meet the aforementioned specifications in the aggregate, although separate requirements are realized in such antitank systems as Javelin, Hellfire, TOW-2A, HOT-2, Shturm-S, Kornet-E and some others.

The implementation of these governing requirements in the aggregate is clearly a complex scientific and technical problem demanding the efforts of many firms and highly qualified specialists as well as a protracted period of design and development.

It is necessary to depart from traditional approaches used to design modern antitank weapon systems and employ principally new scientific and engineering approaches to develop ATGM systems.

This problem was successfully resolved in Russia. The Khrizantema (Chrysanthemum) system fully meets the requirements imposed on advanced antitank weapons.

The system was developed by the KBM Engineering Design Bureau together with co-executers basing on the solution of the most complicated problem: use of the radar system as part of the entire ATGM system.

The problem complexity consisted in ensuring the stable and highly precise tracking of ground targets and missile guidance at ranges of 5,000 to 6,000 m in the immediate vicinity of the ground surface. This problem was successfully solved by mastering the millimetre wave band.

An automatic radar target detection and tracking system with simultaneous missile control, during its guidance to the target, was developed for the Khrizantema antitank missile system for the first time in the world.

This radar system ensures launches at any time of night or day, during fog, rain, snow and in dust and smoke screen environment.

The process of tracking a target, selected by the operator, and missile guidance is effected automatically, without participation of the operator, which virtually means the implementation of the fire and forget principle.

Khrizantema ATGM

The Khrizantema system is additionally fitted with the second, semiautomatic laser beam guidance system which enables one to effectively engage all types of targets in optical visibility conditions.

The availability of the two guidance systems allows fire delivery in three modes:
•    automatic radar guidance;
•    semiautomatic laser beam guidance;
•    combined guidance.

When operating in the combined mode, two missiles are fired consecutively; the first missile is guided automatically and the second semi-automatically.

The missiles can be guided in the two channels simultaneously. So, the Khrizantema system uses the multichannel ability, which materially enhances its combat effectiveness.

The guided missile is fitted with a HEAT or HE warhead.

The HEAT warhead can effectively engage modern and advanced tanks provided with explosive reactive armor. The HE warhead is used to engage other types of targets. The missile has a supersonic mean velocity.

The combat vehicle of the Khrizantema ATGM system is based on the BMP-3 chassis whose technical and operational characteristics are renowned on the international arms market.

The supersonic flight speed of the missile and potential of simultaneous two-channel fire ensure a high rate of fire. In combination with the long firing range and employment of the armored chassis, it guarantees high survivability of the Khrizantema system on the battlefield.

In terms of combat characteristics, the Khrizantema system has no equivalents in the world and is a weapon system of the future.

The Khrizantema antitank guided missile system has absorbed the best scientific, technical and design achievements in antitank guided weapons and is a new generation weapon system in the aggregate of realized technical characteristics and high combat effectiveness.

Increased range and rate of fire as it has up to 15 targets can be engaged within a few minutes at a range of up to 6000 m.

Also, it is embedded with unique dual-mode/automatic guidance: simultaneous two targets firings with fully automatic radar guidance/semi-automatic laser beam riding and passive and Active Jamming Robustness (both to man-made and natural interference).

High mobility and survivability is key since the BMP-3 chassis provides armour protection as well as cross-country, amphibious and self-entrenching capabilities.

With only one exception, all anti-tank missiles designed for direct frontal attack use shaped-charge warheads.

To improve their chances of penetrating both laminated Soviet armor and ERA, new warheads have been developed for most of NATO’s in-service direct attack missiles and their successors.

The new warheads incorporate a small precursor charge, to set off the ERA, and an increased calibre main charge which follows through the resulting gap in the ERA milliseconds later, to attack the main armour beneath.

The other attack mode adopted in some new missile designs is to go for the top of Soviet and new Russian tanks.

There are fewer ERA packages on the turret top (to allow space for hatches, sighting systems, antennae, etc.) and the main armour there is inevitably thinner.

The ideal aim point, however, is the base of the turret ring at the rear, where it adjoins the virtually unarmored engine compartment. A hit in this area is likely to cause a catastrophic kill.

The requirement for top-attack missiles to be fitted with a precursor charge, therefore, is reduced and the main charge can be smaller. This is often of the Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP) type, previously known as a Self-Forging Fragment (SFF) warhead.

Top-attack requires the missile either to dive onto the tank from above, or to overfly it and fire its two charges sequentially downwards, generally at the same aim point.

Whichever top-attack approach is adopted, the use of advanced sensors and processors is therefore mandatory.

This, of course, is expensive. A current line of development that offers high promise of providing greater capability at lower costs is for manual control of the missile from the launcher, with the image viewed by the missile sensor relayed back to the operator via a lightweight fibre-optic cable.

The same cable also carries the guidance commands up to the missile. This design allows the guidance command processors to be installed back at the launcher, where they can be used again and again.

It still requires a TV or FLIR sensor in the missile, however, to enable the operator to see where it is going and direct it accordingly.

US thinking

The US Army’s current strategic re-think, combined with the reductions in its budget, should logically lead it to put a premium on genuinely multi-role and/or multi-platform weapons.

The NLOS/FOG Missile is just such a weapon. Although originally designed by MICOM as a tank-killer, it has so far been funded primarily as an anti-helicopter missile, under the Forward Area Air Defense System (FAADS) program.

With its astonishing potential range of 30 km, and its further demonstrated capability as an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) for reconnaissance, however, NLOS technology could reasonably qualify for additional anti- tank and UAV funding. If parochial vested interests were overcome, it would displace certain single-role candidates and utilize the Army’s dwindling funds to maximum effect.

A second dual-role system developed so far for air defence is the Air Defence/Anti-Tank System (ADATS), which has just completed impressive US Army troop trials against aerial targets.

Mounted on a Bradley, the ADATS will accompany forward armored units on the battlefield, where it is more than likely to be in close proximity to hostile tanks and infantry combat vehicles.

The principal airborne targets for the 8 km-range, laser beam-riding ADATS will be Mi-24 Hind, Mi-28 Havoc and Hokum helicopters, plus the Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack aircraft - all of which are armored.

Using the existing shaped-charge/fragmentation warhead, the Canadian Army has successfully fired the Mach 3 ADATS against tanks, and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is now working on a new warhead with further increased anti-tank capability.

If this is successful, there seems no sound reason for the Army not to consider deployment of the ADATS in both of its originally designed roles.

It might therefore serve not only as the Line-Of-Sight, Forward-Heavy (LOSF-H) element of FAADS, but possibly also as a supplement to the dedicated heavy anti-tank system with which the Army is seeking to replace its obsolescent M901 Improved TOW Vehicles.

Changing scenario

The US Army considers that the current BGM-71E TOW2A version of the existing Hughes missile will remain viable as a crew-served weapon.

The so far low priority replacement program, known as the Anti-tank Missile System-Heavy (AMS-H), is running at least 18 months behind AAWS-M.

Whereas the AAWS-M is a one-man platoon weapon, the AMS-H is intended to be deployed at company level with light, airborne, air-assault and mechanized infantry units on Bradley IFVs, Hummers, and potentially the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter.

It is required to be compatible with existing TOW launchers, in order to take advantage of the 14 000 TOW launch platforms currently in the US Army inventory.

The AMS-H is also to have a similar range to TOW (4 000-5 000 metres), and that it will use the new, second-generation FLIR sights to be developed for the TOW.

These will extend the operator’s optical target acquisition and tracking range out to maximum missile range, by day or night.

Unlike the TOW, however, the AMS-H is to be a fire-and-forget missile, with target lock-on before launch and automatic target tracking in the missile.

The current version is the TOW2A, first deployed with US Army units in W Europe in September 1987. Designed specifically to counter modern Soviet tanks fitted with ERA, it features a telescopic nose probe fitted with a precursor charge and updated guidance software in the launcher.

Three NATO countries have ordered the TOW2A, and others are expected to follow shortly.

Perhaps coincidentally, Hughes began development of the TOW2B to provide a top-attack variant capable of defeating FST-1.

The TOW2B is designed to overfly its target, firing two Aerojet EFP charges separately downwards at it as it passes. The EFP warheads are triggered by an active laser proximity fuze supplied by Thorn EMI from Great Britain.

The US Army is currently canvassing prospective bidders for development of new FLIR night sights for the TOW. These will use second-generation, staring focal plane arrays that will allow the missile to be used to maximum range at night.

ATGM technology

The air-launched Rockwell Hellfire is also reported to be on the “hit-list” in the Army’s new five-year plan. Just what this will mean for current and future users of the AH-64 Apache helicopter, on which the Hellfire is the primary weapon system, is not yet clear.

AMS-H is not, at present, planned to have anything like the range or warhead power of the Rockwell missile, and is not currently intended to arm the hundreds of Apaches in US Army service.

If the decision to terminate the Hellfire programme is confirmed and the AMSH programme is not realigned, it could, conceivably, open up a considerably wider export market for the European fire-and-forget TRIGAT anti-tank missile.

The heavy ATGW3-Long Range version of the TRIGAT is in development by the Euromissile Dynamics consortium for helicopter as well as vehicle launch. At 5 000 metres, the ATGW3’s range will not be as great as the Hellfire’s but military trials are not yet done.

Perhaps even more seriously for the US Army, potential Hellfire termination also raises the question of what missile will arm its future LHX scout/attack helicopters. These, too, are currently planned to carry the Rockwell missile.

The Hellfire is being produced by both Rockwell and Lockheed Martin. In addition to the US Army”s AH-64 Apaches, it is operational on the Army’s OH-58D AHIP scout helicopters and the Marine Corps’ AH-1J and AH-1W Super Cobras.

An Israeli order for Hellfire-armed Apaches is imminent, and the Netherlands is reported to be close to a similar order. The missile system has also been fully tested on the UH-60, a version of which is expected to be ordered from Westlands for the British Army.

The British are also examining the Hellfire as a potential anti-tank weapon for their RAF Harrier V/STOL aircraft. Designated Brimstone, this version of the Hellfire would be a fire-and-forget weapon, fitted with a millimetre-wave seeker being developed by Marconi.

In the ground role, the Hellfire is already entering service in Sweden, where it is tripod-mounted for coastal defence and is known as the RBS-17.

Produced by Bofors, the RBS-17 has a specially developed blast- fragmentation warhead for use against landing craft and other shipping.

Norway is closely following the Swedish programme. In the United States, this version has been tested by the Navy from an LTV Crossbow launcher, with an Israeli El-Op designator, on an SES-200 surface effects ship and on a coastal patrol boat.

Last September, the US Marine Corps conducted tests from a palletized launcher on a Hummer, achieving eight hits out of nine firings. These tests included target designation by a remotely controlled robotic vehicle. Future ground tests will include the Emerson GLH-H, on an M113.

Both Rockwell and Martin Marietta are developing Imaging IR seekers for the Hellfire, but the key fire-and-forget development is the Longbow.

This is intended to provide 227 of the US Army’s Apaches (and 2 096 LHXs) with significantly increased target acquisition range, by day or night and in all weathers, together with an RF-homing millimetre-wave seeker for the Hellfire itself.

Being developed by Westinghouse and LMC under a $194.5 million contract awarded last August, the Longbow system consists of a mast-mounted millimetre-wave radar, an IBM radar frequency warning and direction-finder, an upgraded inertial navigation system, and a GPS receiver, all mounted on the helicopter.

Combined with the new Hellfire seekers, this will enable attack of tanks, trucks, SAM and AAA units (including emitting radars) and helicopter targets. Air-to-air Stinger missiles will also be fitted as part of the system.

The Army expects the Longbow to provide a tenfold increase in the combat effectiveness of the AH-64, and had been planning to decide on full-scale production in May this year.

New warhead

The 200 km-range conventional Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS (also described in our last issue, pages 58-60) is being developed by LTV initially to carry a Block I warhead containing 1000 dual-purpose M74 anti-personnel/anti-materiel bomblets. The first missiles with Block I warheads should be fielded soon.

The follow-on Block II warhead, however, is being specifically designed to interdict second-echelon armoured units, preventing them from reaching the battlefield. It has a blunter heat shield than the Block I weapon in order to accommodate a sufficient number of anti-tank sub-munitions.

The sub-munitions have not been selected, although a total of 26 development test launches had been conducted by the end of 1989 with a representative Block II warhead on ATACMS.

These flight tests exceeded all specifications by substantial margins. The Block II design has a 30 per cent heavier payload than the Block I version, 10 per cent more range and proved to be 4-5 times more accurate than the US Army’s requirement.

There are four candidate sub-munitions for the Block II warhead: the millimetre-wave TGSM being developed for the MLRS (this is preferred by the Europeans); two competing Imaging IR TGSMs by General Dynamics Valley Systems and Raytheon; and an undisclosed sub-munition believed to be the new Wide-area Anti-armor Mine (WAM). It may, however, be a Fuel-Air Explosive (FAE) weapon.

In the past, the US Army awarded Raytheon a $20 million, two-year contract to demonstrate the proof-of-principle of its proposed IRTGSM, including extensive tests of the seeker and lethal mechanisms.

LMC is working with Raytheon under a $7.8 million sub-contract, drawing on its experience in the Assault Breaker technology demonstration programme that led to the ATACMS.

The USArmy contract awarded to Raytheon calls for 26 sub-munitions, of which 18 are expected to come from LMC. First flight will be sometime this summer.

General Dynamics Valley Systems, which produced considerable numbers of IRTGSMs for the Assault Breaker, was awarded a similar proof-of-principle contract last August, valued at $19 million.

In parallel, LTV was awarded a contract to integrate the two competing IRTGSM designs into the Block II warhead. This can accommodate 30 small (11.3 kg) IRTGSMs, or 18 of the larger (18.1 kg) MLRS sub-munitions.

Italy and France signed letters of intent to participate in ATACMS co- production several years ago, and the United Kingdom and Turkey are understood to be close to similar agreements.

The German Army has delayed looking at the ATACMS until the future of the nuclear Follow-On To Lance (FOTL) is decided. France is said to have a potential requirement for more than 100 ATACMS missiles, which would involve the deployment of a further regiment of MLRS vehicles to carry and launch them.

In US service, the ATACMS will rely for targeting information on the Grumman/Norden JSTARS radar, to be carried on Boeing E-8A (modified B707) aircraft. When this comes on stream, it will down-link target data to ground stations in Germany and France, which will relay the information to the launchers.

The German Army ATACMS would rely on fire-control data from the Bundeswehr’s CL289 drone and LAPAS, the French would use the heliborne Orchidee radar, and the British would obtain the necessary targeting information from their Phoenix and Astor RPVs.


The French MoD is also trying to test new ATGM. The extended range version will equip Castilla’s future helicopter and lightweight anti-tank vehicles; for example, it is expected that the TA-100-ER will equip the Puma cavalry vehicle, based on the Lince chassis.

For sure, however, the TA-100 will offer an anti-tank capability never before perceived in the Ejército de Tierra, except amongst its tank arm.

The TA-100 will almost completely replace the unguided shoulder-launched anti-tank rocket, which boasted of penetration levels of only 250-300mm of armor.

This new missile will give the infantry an unprecedented level of lethality against heavy armored fighting vehicles and will increase their survivability on the conventional battlefield.

However, combat has proven that these weapons are not only valuable against armored vehicles. Shoulder-launched missiles have proven valuable against bunkers and light structures, as well-especially to put holes in the wall or through doors.

Originally, it was feared that complete replacement of older weapons would eliminate this advantage, but ultimately the TA-100 was designed to take these tactical uses into consideration.

The missile is completely modular, meaning the warhead can be changed without exchanging the entire missile-of course, these changes must be done before entering the combat kill zone.

The seeker capsule is also modular, as well as the engine module-all of this allows for easy replacement, maintenance or installment.

It also allows a medium-range missile to be turned into a long-range missile (extended range missiles are also wider, however) behind enemy lines and it gives the infantry this added advantage if the mission profile suddenly changes.

However, the most important part is that with the warhead module an infantry man can change the high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) charge with a high-explosive (HE) or phosphorous warhead for anti-infantry or anti-structure usage.