30 March 2017 was published by military analyst of The National Interest, the American edition of Sebastien Roblin, on this hypothetical problem. In an article with the telling title “The TOW Missile: The One Weapon That Could Have Been Our Super Armata Tank Obsolete?” (“The TOW Missile: Is It The Only weapons, capable of making the Russian tank “Armata” obsolete? ”), published in The Buzz, the American author tried to examine the current situation around armored vehicles and means of fighting it, as well as predict the outcome of a hypothetical battle involving Russian tanks and American missiles.
S. Robin begins his article directly and boldly: it's time to hold a “contest” of the new Russian tank-favorite “Armat” and the former favorite American anti-tank complex TOW!
The author notes that the Russian tank really must "compete" with the TOW complex. This system was sold to many countries of the world, but the burning eyes of the American army are now looking in the direction of other anti-tank complexes. In the mid-nineties, the Javelin system was introduced into service, with its characteristic features, including the possibility of destruction of armored vehicles from the upper hemisphere. New complexes, notes S. Robblin, were distributed to parts like alcoholic cocktails at a bachelor party. Nearly every forefront infantry unit has several such complexes.
At the same time, new guests are not allowed to the "party" with Javelin complexes. Ukrainian army pointed to the door, and the Syrian rebels and do not need to worry.
It is for these reasons that Syrian armed groups receive TOW complexes from the “not too mysterious benefactor”. Also TOW has another interesting feature. This anti-tank complex has approximately a 50% greater range of fire than the basic version of the Javelin system. In the future, as a result of the development of a newer ATGM, this situation may change. In the meantime - the American author jokes - you can relax and enjoy the fresh air, have a drink and explore the countryside, sitting on top of a mountain next to your TOW complex, as well as getting ready to shoot another video for Youtube.
The author of The National Interest asks the main question: how can the old TOW complex show itself when attempting to attack the latest Russian tank Armat, which, according to rumors, is hardly a transforming robot capable of flying? To answer this question, S. Robin proposes to examine the combat qualities of the TOW ATGM, compare them with the protection characteristics of the T-14 tank, and imagine how much noise the two samples can make together.
The BGM-71 TOW product (Tube-launch, Optical-tracked, Wire-guided - “Tube launch, optical guidance, wire control”) is a fairly old and well-deserved long-range anti-tank missile. The US Army adopted these weapons in 1970 year, and since then has managed to master a variety of modifications of the base complex. In the course of the modernization, control capabilities appeared over the wireless channel, simultaneous firing of several missiles, hitting targets from the upper hemisphere, etc. During the development of the original project, there appeared complexes for every taste.
Nevertheless, the American analyst proposes to forget about the TOW family complexes belonging to his first generation and even personally apologizes to ITOW for this. It offers to concentrate all attention on newer ATGMs TOW-2A and TOW-2B.
Like its predecessor, the TOW-2A complex uses a tubular trigger guide and a wired command transmission system. When exiting the launcher, the rocket begins to wind the cable, through which commands come from the operator’s console. The complex is equipped with a semi-automatic guidance system requiring direct visibility of the target (SACLOS). When using it, the operator directs the optical sight at the target, and the automation of the complex tends to keep the rocket on the desired trajectory. The range of firing of ATGN TOW-2A reaches 3750 m, however, a rocket takes a lot of time to fly that distance. At a speed of 180 m / s, the flight to the maximum range takes 21 with. During this time, tankers can take the necessary measures, if, of course, they notice a threat in time.
When hit in a tank, the TOW-2A rocket triggers a cumulative warhead. S. Roblin reminds: “ordinary” projectiles rely on kinetic energy and penetrate armor at the expense of speed and mass. However, such projectiles need guns, and in addition, during a long-distance flight they lose their energy. Cumulative / HEAT warheads in an explosion form a directional flow of high-speed metal particles. A larger projectile of this type will show higher penetrability, but it does not need a long barrel and powerful anti-recoil devices. Most modern anti-tank systems use exactly the cumulative effect. It is assumed that the TOW-2A rocket is capable of penetrating up to 900 mm of armor.
In the eighties, tanks that were resistant to HEAT shells appeared. Western tanks for this purpose were equipped with Chobham composite armor. Because of this, Soviet-made anti-tank missiles during the Gulf War were just as threatening to Abrams and Challenger tanks as paper balls from a hippopota gum tube. Russian engineers, in turn, used a different principle of protection technology. They used dynamic protection or ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) - special "bricks" of explosives mounted on armor. When a projectile hits, such ammunition explodes and destroys the cumulative jet before it can damage the tank’s armor. From composite armor Chobham type ERA systems are more "picky", but they are easier and easier to manufacture.
S. Roblin notes that the Soviet dynamic protection systems had a high potential: one such unit could destroy the entire TOW missile of the first model, including the warhead. Because of this, the newer TOW-2A received a tandem warhead: there are two HEAT-charges inside it. One, the front one, is needed to provoke a tank defense, while the second, which is large, must pass through the gap and pierce the armor. The author recalls that most modern efficient anti-tank systems, such as RPG-29, AT-14 (9М133 "Cornet") or Javelin, use exactly tandem combat units.
However, even a tandem charge no longer provides a guaranteed target hit. For this reason, S.Roblin proposes to consider the TOW-2B and TOW-2B Aero ATGMs (the latter is distinguished by a firing range of up to 4,5 km). From their predecessors, such systems differ in the use of wireless controls. The data channel is protected using some technologies. Such a control system is still subject to suppression, but this time the operator is at least not tied to the rocket in the literal sense of the word.
The TOW-2B missile has a “fantastic” opportunity: it can rise to a great height and swoop down on the target, undermining both elements of the warhead. As you know, tanks are not distinguished by the high strength of the roof of the hull and the tower, which makes this method of attack particularly effective. In addition, a wireless modification of the TOW-2A ATRA was created.
The author of The National Interest asks the question: where can I find TOW complexes? And immediately gives the answer to it. In the armed forces of the United States, these weapons are used by anti-tank platoons, armed with a variety of vehicles. TOW are mounted on Humvee all-terrain vehicles, Stryker armored personnel carriers, M2 and M3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, as well as on AH-1 Cobra helicopters. In addition to the United States, such weapons are used by three dozens of foreign countries.
Then S. Robin proposes to proceed to the consideration of another hero of his publication. Without even trying to hide the sarcasm, he recalls that the newest Russian T-14 tanks successfully “survived” at the Victory Parade in 2015, and only one of them lost the course. Immediately the author jokes about another newest development, but already American: “if only the notorious F-35 could boast such a record ...”
If you forget about the dubious debut, the tank "Armata" looks much more advanced in terms of protection in comparison with previous Russian armored vehicles. Like the British lady from the Victorian era, Armata is equipped with a large number of "petticoats" designed to protect her from unpleasant "attention."
First of all, S. Roblin notes the complex of active protection "Afganit". This system boasts both "hard" and "soft" means of counteracting the attack. The action of the system is provided by four or five active phased antenna arrays of the onboard millimeter-wave radar covering the entire space around the vehicle.
Soft kill protection should be confusing for homing missiles. For this purpose it is proposed to use grenade launchers capable of launching special munitions with aerosols. The resulting cloud provides visual masking, eliminates the detection of the tank in the infrared range, and also interferes with the operation of laser range finders and radar stations. The anti-tank complex with optical guidance systems is not subject to the last two problems, but the impossibility of observing the target will not allow the operator to successfully complete the attack. In addition, at the theoretical level, aerosols should rescue a tank from missiles attacking from above and not controlled by man.
Also, the tank carries the means of "tough opposition" that can destroy the flying missile. When a dangerous object is detected, the automatics turns the turret in the right direction, bringing individual launchers to the desired position. On each side of the tower "Almaty" is five launchers with protective ammunition. The Afganit system has not yet been tested in practice, but the experience of operating other similar weapons, such as the Israeli Trophy complex, shows their effectiveness.
If “soft” and “hard” defense systems do not cope with their task, then “Armata” explodes ... Or rather, specifies S. Roblin, blows up dynamic protection “Relic”. Automation and radar undermine the block of ERA-protection at the optimal moment when the rocket flies to him. Timely detonation of protective ammunition should neutralize the tandem warhead. Is it really? The American author recalls that not so long ago, Syrian militants reported the capture of the T-90 tank, which seems to have remained relatively intact after hitting the TOW missile. From the destruction of his saved system "Contact-5".
But what will happen if the determined TOW missile does pass through all this defense? Will she be able to break through the armored hull of a Russian tank?
With regard to the Armat’s own body armor, it is still considered less secure than M1A2 Abrams or Leopard 2, as evidenced by its mass at 50-60 t. For comparison, Abrams weighs 70 t. According to Russian sources, ceramic armor elements provide protection against cumulative projectiles, equivalent to 1200-1400 mm homogeneous steel armor. This seems sufficient to counter the TOW-2A missiles, but it is not known how accurate the available figures are and what the real defense of the tank is. In particular, there are assumptions about the less durable protection of the tower. In any case, TOW-2B will be able to show high efficiency when hit from above.
Finally, S. Robin proposes to consider the uninhabited tower of the Russian tank. Such a fighting compartment has some problems, such as “blinding” the crew in case of defeat of the rendered observation means, however, this significantly increases the likelihood of tank crew survival if the car was hit in the turret. Even if the turret was taken out of action and the armored vehicle was sent for repair, the crew would be alive and well - as it should be in a modern professional army. In a combat situation, the tank will be able to hide on the back side of the hill, because of which the enemy will be able to hit it in the tower, but not in the hull.
Remembering all the features of the missiles and the tank, the author of The National Interest is trying to answer the main question in the title of the article. How high are the chances of TOW-2A ATGM? If the radars of the T-14 are good enough, and the crew can quickly respond to the threat and leave the place, then the "soft countermeasure" means will be very effective. Quite good chances of hitting a flying missile have an active defense. Dynamic protection "Relic" also reduces the probability of hitting the machine. Even in case of successful passage through additional protection, the chances of TOW-2A to penetrate the frontal armor of “Almaty” remain uncertain. As a result, the situation is such that several missiles may be needed to confidently defeat the armored vehicle.
S. Robin continues: what about the TOW-2B wireless rocket attacking from above? The complex of active defense "Afganit" is mounted on the sides of the tower and does not look capable of fighting the threats flying from above. Protection "Relic" can also not show high performance, and booking a roof will be a fairly easy barrier to the rocket.
However, in any case, there is a high probability that the defeat of the turret of the T-14 tank, depriving it of offensive capabilities, will not lead to loss of mobility or death of the crew. Tankers will be able to go to the rear.
The author notes that at the moment it is unclear the number of future serial tanks T-14 "Armata". According to open data, production of hundreds of armored vehicles is scheduled. In the future, this number will undoubtedly increase, but it is still difficult to say how much. The quantitative aspects of the future replacement of the existing T-72B3 and T-90 tanks are unknown.
Summing up, S. Robin writes that T-14 tanks seem to have decent protection against anti-tank missile systems of the TOW family, primarily from TOW-2A. But Russian and American manufacturers of weapons and equipment can only guess how good Armat tanks will be in battle. As always happens with virtual "competitions", one can consider in theory anything and come to whatever conclusions, but the truth can be established only with the "in-person meeting" of various samples. The author of The National Interest hopes that such a meeting will never happen.
The article “The TOW Missile: The Super Armata Tank Obsolete?”: