Employment of Anti-Tank Guided Missiles
From the point of view of relevance to our context, the employment of Russian third generation Anti-tank Guided Missiles merits the closest attention. The Israeli made Merkava is said to be the worlds most highly protected/heavily armoured tank. Despite use of Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA), 45 percent of Israeli tanks that sustained hits were penetrated.
Alon Ben David writing in the 11 Oct, 06 issue of the Janes Defense Weekly states that Israeli Merkava mark 1, 2, 3 and 4 MBT (Main Battle Tanks) were confronted with an array of Russian ATGMS to include:
- Kornet E-9 P133 “This is claimed to be able to penetrate 1 to 1.2 metres of armour protected by ERA”. This has a Semi Automatic Command Line of Sight laser beam riding guidance system and a range of 5km
- Metis – M9M131 This is equipped with a tandem High Explosive Anti-tank (HEAT) war head and a range of 2 km
- Konkurs 9K113 (ATS) This is an older version ATGM. Also called AT – 5 (Spandrel) this has a range of 4kms and has a shaped charge
- Fagot 9K111(AT-4) The bulk of the ATGMs used were of this type which was available to the Hezbollah in very large numbers. This was first used in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war along with AT-3 Sagger and AT-4 Spigot. The Sagger was used in large numbers (as much as 30-40 at a time)
- RPG 29. This is a tandem war head rocket propelled grenade (the first ambush that triggered this war was done with this weapon)41
The penetration rate of US made Israeli MBT by first generation Russian ATGMs was 60 percent in the Yom Kippur war. Tremendous improvements in armour (sandwiched/laminated armour and ERA) brought it down to 47 percent in the 1982 Lebanon war. Two crewmen were killed in each penetrated MBT in the 1973 war. The Merkava tank design seeks to enhance crew protection by putting the engine in front. Statistically the crew attrition rate was brought down to 1.6 crew member killed per tank penetration.42 Out of some 20 Israeli MBTs destroyed in this war, 14 were lost to ATGMs (mostly Russian third generation ATGMs) However, the crew loss rate has now been brought down to approximately one per penetration.43
Part of this high penetration rate is attributed to tactical errors by the Israeli Armour. Retired Brigadier General Avigder Klein said that instead of leading wide offensives, small armoured formations were sent on isolated rescue and covering mission. This unnecessarily exposed them to the ATGMs.44
As stated earlier, the Hezbollah tactics of firing ATGMs in Swarms both against tanks and infantry proved highly successful. It forced the tanks to advance closed up (hatches down) and separated the infantry from the armour. This destroyed the cohesion of the combat teams. The Hezbollah fighters know the terrain very well and made excellent use of the ground to site their ambushes.45
Active Protection System
The high percentage of tank hits, highlights the need to consider Active Protection Systems for our tank fleet on great priority. The Israelis have tasked their Raphel Armament Development Authority to produce the “Trophy” Active Protection System for fielding by 2009. The Israel Military Industry is producing the Iron Fist APS 46 This operation has rekindled the debate on the need for a heavily protected Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) for the infantry. Most of the APCs/ICVs today are too lightly armoured/thin skinned to survive in the modern battlefield where tandem HEAT war heads are available in large quantities.
The lessons of this war merit detailed analysis and study. The IDF are upgrading their M-113 with Israel Military Industries (IMI) light armour suite. They have found the US Stryker Light Armoured Vehicle and the German Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Dingo-2 APV (All Protected Vehicles) too thin skinned and vulnerable. They are developing the decommissioned Markava tank chassis to produce a heavy APC called Tiger. Some prototypes of this participated in the Lebanon conflict.47 For our Immediate Replenishment Groups we need to seriously consider such a solution. We could even consider the Arjun Chasis for such a heavily protected APC solution which can keep pace with the Armour Spearheads. We could even consider old Vijayanta tank chasis for such large-scale employment in the near term.