War Machine, Volume 5

Anti-Tank Missiles Today as in the past the tank remains a dominant force on the battlefield. It is being challenged however b y anew generation o f weapons which range from man-portable systems to those carried b y armoured vehicles and assault helicopters. Modern anti-tank weapons are divided into three basic categories. Heavy anti-tank weapons (HAWs) are designed to engage enemy armour well away from the defensive location and are typified by such systems as TOW and 'Sagger'. Medium anti-tank weapons (MAWs) can engage targets out to about 1000 m (1095 yards) from the defensive position and are typified by the Carl Gustav and Folgore. And light anti-tank weapons (LAWs) are usually simple one-shot throw-away systems such as the LAW80 that are used to engage close-range targets. In terms of operational use MAWs and LAWs have seen extensive service from World War II onwards whilst HAWs which are almost all anti-tank guided weapons (ATGW) have only recently come of age. The 1973 Yom Kippur Warsaw the first extensive use of the ATGW, initial press reports after the war indicating that these weapons had finally vanquished the tank as the primary battlefield weapon. However, the constructive technical evaluations which followed showed that it was in fact the tank gun which scored the highest success rate both the ATW and the LAW being classed as only moderately successful. This was incomplete contrast with the relatively poor showing of the ATGW in the TheM151 Jeep and Bell UH-1B mounted TOW systems first saw combat in the Vietnam War during the 1972 North Vietnamese invasion of the South. The two helicopter systems deployed recorded 73 outhits of their first 89 missiles Bred destroying at least 26 tanks including Soviet-built T-S4 medium and PT-76 light amphibious vehicles. 1956 Sinai campaign the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1971 Indo-Pakistan conflict. The 1972 North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam saw the first uses of ATGWs in SouthEast Asia in the forms of the AT-3 ‘Sagger’ and then the TOW the latter initially being used in the helicopter-borne role with startling success. Further proof of the potency of the helicopter/ ATGW pairing has come since then in both the continuing Gulf War and the 1982 'Peace for Galilee invasion of Lebanon by Israel. High confid­ence in such systems is demonstrated today by the high proportion of resources that both NATO and the Warsaw Pact are investing in these developments whilst other more exotic weapons are being researched. A British Aerospace Swingfire explodes against the thick hide o f a Conqueror heavy tank. Conventional armour is no longer proof against the modern warhead and such a strike would almost certainly disable the vehicle.
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