In the post-war period, the British infantry's anti-tank weapons were subjected to a total revision. Without any regret, hand-held anti-tank grenades, bottle-throwers and stock mortars were written off and disposed of. After de-arming the PIAT anti-tank grenade launcher PIAT, its place in the British army was taken by the American 50-mm M88,9 Super Bazooka grenade launcher, which received the UK designation M20 Mk II 20 inch rocket launcher. The British received the first Super Bazook designs in the 3.5 year, and the licensed production of a grenade launcher began with the 1950 year.
British marines with M20 Mk II grenade launcher
The British version of the M20 Mk II as a whole corresponded to the American 88,9-mm grenade launcher M20B1 and had the same characteristics. His service in the British armed forces continued until the end of the 60's. After decommissioning, the British Bazuki was sold to countries that were mostly former British colonies. According to user feedback, compared to the American prototype, these were more solidly made and reliable products.
Since the "Super Bazooka" was too heavy and cumbersome weapons, for use in the “squad-platoon” link, the British in 1952 adopted the HEAT-RFL-75N ENERGA rifle grenade, which began production in Belgium in the 1950 year.
Training rifle grenade HEAT-RFL-75N ENERGA
In the British army, ENERGA received the designation No.94. The grenade was shot with the muzzle 22-mm nozzle Mark 5 idle chuck. A garnet of 395-mm caliber weighed 645 g and contained 180 g of Composition B explosive (a mixture of hexogen and TNT).
Shooter armed with a Lee-Enfield No.4 rifle with No.94 anti-tank grenade on a muzzle
Originally, X-NUMX-mm Lee-Enfield No.7,7 rifles were used for shooting, and with 4, self-loading rifles L1955A1. With each grenade delivered to the troops, a blank cartridge and a folding plastic frame sight, designed for a range from 1 to 25 m, went in a special case. During transportation, the sensitive piezoelectric fuse was covered with a removable plastic cap.
Shooter armed with a L1A1 rifle with No.94 anti-tank grenade on the muzzle
According to the instructions for use, the No.94 rifle grenade could normally penetrate 200 mm homogeneous armor. But as the fighting in Korea showed, the acronym's striking effect was small. Not even the newest Soviet averages Tanks In some cases, the T-34-85 did not lose their combat effectiveness when cumulative grenades hit, and it was difficult to calculate that No.94 would be an effective means against the T-54 or IS-3. For greater effect, a rifle grenade launched along a hinged trajectory was supposed to hit the tank from above, breaking through the relatively thin upper armor. However, the probability of hitting a moving armored vehicle with a mounted shot was low. However, No.94 grenades were available in units of the British Rhine Army until the early 70s. According to the state, in each rifle platoon there was a shooter armed with a rifle with a 22-mm muzzle adapter for firing anti-tank rifle grenades. Cases with three grenades were carried on a belt in special pouches.
At the start of the 70, the No.94 grenade in the Rhineland army was replaced with a disposable 66-LAW grenade launcher, which received the British designation L72A1 LAW1. The data that the British used them against enemy armored vehicles could not be found. But it is authentically known that the royal marines fired from 66-mm grenade launchers to suppress the firing points of the Argentines on the Falklands.
In the British Army, the 88,9-mm M20 Mk II was replaced by the Swedish 84-mm rocket launcher Carl Gustaf M2. The British military began to use this weapon from the end of the 60-x under the designation 84 mm L14A1 MAW. Compared with the "Super Bazooka" rifled "Carl Gustav" was a more accurate and reliable weapon, and also had the best armor penetration and could fire fragmentation shells.
British soldiers with 84 mm L14A1 MAW grenade launcher
84-mm grenade launchers were actively used for fire support of amphibious assault on the Falkland Islands. 3 April 1982, a successful shot from L14A1, the rocket launcher calculation of the British marines was damaged by the Argentinean corvette “Guerrico”.
However, after the end of the “cold war”, the British command decided to write off most of the existing 84-mm L14A1 grenade launchers and to abandon the purchase of modern modifications. It is noteworthy that the British army began to massively use the "Carl Gustav" earlier than the Americans, and by the time the United States adopted the Carl Gustaf M3, the British had already parted with their 84 mm L14A1 MAW.
In addition to individual anti-tank weapons that could be used by individual infantrymen, in the post-war period in Britain, heavy recoilless guns and guided anti-tank missile systems were created.
The first British recoilless became a weapon, put into service in 1954, under the name QF 120 mm L1 BAT (English Battalion Anti-Tank - Battalion anti-tank gun). It looked like an ordinary anti-tank gun, had a low silhouette and shield shield. The gun was developed as a low-cost alternative to the 76,2-mm QF 17 pounder, moreover, the rollback was much easier. The 120-mm recoilless gun was created on the basis of the 88-mm 3.45 inch RCL, designed in 1944 year. The 88-mm gun RCL with a rifled barrel had a mass of 34 kg and fired 7,37 kg with shells with an initial velocity of 180 m / s. The effective range for armored vehicles was 300 m, the maximum - 1000 m.
As in many other cases, in the creation of anti-tank ammunition, the British went their own original way. As the only ammunition for 88-mm recoilless, an armor-piercing high-explosive projectile of type HESH (eng. High-explosive squash head) equipped with a powerful plastic explosive was adopted. When hit in the armor of a tank, the weakened head of such a projectile flattens out, the explosive is smeared over the armor and at that moment undermined by a bottom inertial fuse. After an explosion in a tank's armor, stress waves occur, leading to detachment from its inner surface of the fragments flying at an enormous speed, affecting the crew and equipment. The creation of such shells was largely due to the desire to create a single, unified multipurpose ammunition, equally suitable for fighting armored vehicles, destroying field fortifications and destroying enemy personnel. However, as practice has shown, the best results of the use of shells of the HESH type were demonstrated when firing at concrete pillboxes and tanks with homogeneous armor. Due to the fact that the body of the armor-piercing high-explosive projectile has a relatively small thickness, its fragmentation effect is weak.
Due to the protracted process of refining the 88-mm guns, it reached an acceptable operational level already in the post-war period, and due to a decrease in defense expenditures, the military was in no hurry to adopt it. Due to the sharp increase in the protection of promising tanks, it became obvious that the 88-mm armor-piercing high-explosive projectile could not ensure their reliable destruction and the caliber of the gun was increased to 120-mm, and the shot weight was 27,2 kg.
120-mm recoilless gun L1 BAT in the firing position
The 120-mm armor-piercing high-explosive projectile weighing 12,8 kg left the barrel with an initial speed of 465 m / s, which was a fairly high rate for the recoilless gun. The target range of fire was 1000 m, the maximum - 1600 m. According to British data, an armor-piercing high-explosive projectile was effective in armor with a thickness of up to 400 mm. Weapon firing rate - 4 rds / min.
After the release of a certain amount of 120-mm recoilless guns, the British Army Command demanded a weight reduction. If such shortcomings as a small effective firing range, low accuracy in firing at maneuvering targets, the presence of a danger zone behind the gun due to the outflow of powder gases when firing, could still be tolerated, then the weight of the gun in a combat position more than 1000 kg made it difficult use as an anti-tank battalion link. In this regard, at the end of the 50-x, the upgraded L4 MOBAT cannon was adopted (Mobile Battalion Anti-Tank - Mobile Battalion Anti-Tank Cannon).
Recoilless L4 MOBAT
Due to the dismantling of the armor shield, the mass of the gun was reduced to 740 kg. In addition, the upgraded version was able to fire in the 360 ° sector with vertical guidance angles from -8 to + 17 °. To facilitate the aiming of the gun at the target, a sighting 7,62-mm Bren machine gun was mounted parallel to the barrel, shooting from which was carried out by tracer bullets. If necessary, the machine gun could be removed from the gun and used separately.
It was believed that the calculation of three people can roll a tool for a short distance. A Land Rover army vehicle was used to tow the L4 MOBAT. However, the mobility of 120-mm bezotkatki still did not satisfy the British military, and in 1962, a new version appeared - L6 Wombat (English Weapon Of Magnesium, Battalion, Anti Tank - Anti-tank gun made of magnesium alloys).
Recoilless L6 WOMBAT
Through the use of higher quality steel, it was possible to reduce the thickness of the walls of the rifled barrel. The wheels of a smaller diameter allowed the gun to be squat, but its towing over a considerable distance was no longer provided for, and the new wheelbarrow was to be transported in the back of a truck. But most importantly, widespread use in the construction of magnesium alloys made it possible to reduce the weight by more than two times - to a record 295 kg.
The calculation of the L6 WOMBAT at the firing position
Another feature was the introduction of the 12,7-mm sighting semi-automatic rifle M8S, the ballistic characteristics of which coincided with the flight path of the 120-mm armor-piercing high-explosive projectile. This made it possible to significantly increase the likelihood of hitting a moving tank from the first shot, since the gunner could navigate in range and choose a lead on the trajectory of the tracer bullets. When hit sighting-tracer bullet in the target, it exploded, forming a cloud of white smoke. The M8С sighting semi-automatic rifle for the special 12,7 × 76 cartridge used on the L6 WOMBAT was borrowed from the American 106-mm recoilless gun M40А1, but differed in barrel length.
In the middle of the 60-s, incendiary 120-mm without recoil was introduced with incendiary and lighting projectiles, which was supposed to expand combat capabilities. To repel the attacks of enemy infantry at a distance of 300 m, a shot with ready slaughter elements in the form of arrows was intended. An inert projectile equipped with blue, which could be shot at its own tanks, without the risk of damage, was also used for teaching and training calculations.
Simultaneously with the introduction of the L6 WOMBAT, upgrades subjected some of the existing L4 MOBAT. After that, they received the designation L7 CONBAT (English Converted Battalion Anti-Tank - Converted battalion anti-tank gun). The upgrade consisted in the installation of new sights and the replacement of the Bren machine gun with a semi-automatic 12,7-mm rifle.
However, the new L6 WOMBAT quickly superseded the guns of early modifications. Despite the wide spread of ATGMs, many recoilless guns were in the Rhine Army deployed in the Federal Republic of Germany. The British command believed that in the course of combat operations in the urban area, recoilless may be more useful than ATGM. But by the second half of the 70-s against the background of the rapid re-equipment of the Soviet armored divisions deployed in the western direction, it became obvious that 120-mm armor-piercing high-explosive shells would be ineffective against new-generation tanks with multi-layer armor. However, the immediate removal of 120-mm recoilless guns from the weapons of the British army did not happen. They were still able to destroy light armored vehicles, destroy fortifications, and provide fire support. L6 WOMBAT remained in service with paratroopers and marines until the end of the 80s. To increase mobility, 120-mm recoilless guns were often placed on off-road vehicles.
In terms of mass, size, range and accuracy of firing, the British L6 WOMBAT are the most advanced in their class and represent the evolutionary peak of the development of recoilless guns. After decommissioning in the UK, a significant portion of the 120-mm non-recoil was exported. Foreign users in the countries of the "third world" appreciated them for their unpretentious and rather strong projectile. In local wars, recoilless British-made armored vehicles were rarely used. Usually they fired on enemy positions, provided fire support to their infantry, and destroyed firing points.
The first model of anti-tank weapons adopted by the British Army was the Malkara ATGM (Sheet - in the language of the Australian Aborigines), created in Australia in 1953 year. Now it may seem strange, but in the 50-60-ies, Australian engineers were actively developing various types of missiles, and there was a missile testing ground in the Australian desert.
ATGM Malkara on the launcher
In the Malkara ATGM system, technical solutions typical of the first generation complexes were implemented. The ATGM was controlled by the manual guidance operator with a joystick, the visual tracking of the rocket flying at a speed of 145 m / s was carried out via two tracers installed at the wingtips, and the transmission of guidance commands via a wired line. The first version had the launch range of all 1800 m, but later this figure was brought to 4000 m.
The first British-Australian controlled anti-tank complex was very cumbersome and heavy. Since the customer originally planned to use the anti-tank guided missile systems not only against armored vehicles, but also to destroy enemy fortifications and use in coastal defense systems, an unprecedentedly large caliber - 203 mm was used for the Australian missile, and an HESH-type armor-piercing warhead weighing 26 kg was equipped with plastic explosives .
ATGM Malkara launchers in firing position
According to British ATGM data, the Malkara could hit an armored vehicle covered with 650 mm with homogeneous armor, which in 50's was more than enough to destroy any serial tank. However, the mass and dimensions of the rocket turned out to be very significant: the weight of the 93,5 kg with the length of 1,9 m and the wingspan of 800 mm. With such weight and size data, the complex was not transported, and all its elements could be delivered to the launch position only on vehicles. After the release of a small number of anti-tank systems with launchers installed on the ground, developed a self-propelled version on the chassis of an armored car Hornet FV1620.
Tank destroyer Hornet FV1620
On the armored car mounted launcher on two missiles, two more ATGM included in ammunition carried with him. The British army refused ground-based launchers at the end of the 50s, but the Malkara anti-tank guns were in service until the middle of the 70s, although this complex was never popular due to the constant rocketing of operators.
In 1956, Vickers-Armstrong began developing a lightweight anti-tank missile system that could be used in a portable version. In addition to reducing the weight and size of the military wanted to get easy to use weapons that do not impose high demands on the skills of the operator guidance. The first version of ATGM Vigilant (translated from English - Alert) with ATGM Type 891 was adopted in 1959 year. As with most anti-tank complexes of the time, the Vigilant used the transmission of guidance commands via wire. The calculation of three people carried six missiles and a battery, as well as a simple and easy to use control panel, made in the form of a rifle butt with a monocular optical sight and joystick control under the thumb. The length of the cable connecting the control panel with launchers was enough to remove the launch position from the operator on the 63 m.
ATGM Vigilant control panel
Thanks to an improved control system, the presence of a gyroscope and an autopilot, the Type 891 missile was much smoother and more predictable than on the Malkara ATGM. The probability of hitting was also higher. At the test site, an experienced operator at a distance of up to 1400 m hit on average 8 targets from 10. The 14 kg rocket had a length of 0,95 m and a wingspan of 270 mm. Average flight speed was 155 m / s. Information on armor penetration and the type of warhead used in the first modification of the ATGM are quite contradictory. A number of sources indicate that the Type 891 rocket used 6 kg armor-piercing high-explosive warhead type HESH.
ATGM Type 891 on the launcher
In 1962, an improved version of the Vigilant ATGM was launched.
with Type 897 rocket. Through the use of a shaped charge and a special rod with a piezoelectric fuse, it was possible to increase the penetration rate. A cumulative warhead weighing 5,4 kg normal punched 500 mm in homogeneous armor, which for a start 60-s was very good. The length of the Type 897 rocket increased to 1070 mm, and the launch range was in the range of 200-1350 m.
ATGM Type 897 in the transport and launch container
Based on the technical solutions implemented for the launch of the French SS.10 and ENTAC anti-tank guided missile systems, Vickers-Armstrongs engineers also used disposable tin launchers. Before launching the rocket, the front cover was removed, and the rectangular container was oriented toward the target and connected to the control panel with an electric cable. Thus, it was possible not only to reduce the time of equipping the firing position, but also to increase the convenience of transporting missiles and provide them with additional protection from mechanical influences.
Despite the modest launch range, the Vigilant ATGM liked combat crews and was quite a formidable weapon for its time. British sources claim that a number of anti-tank complexes were purchased by the United States Marine Corps, and by the end of the VNGilX 60's were purchased by nine more states.
Almost simultaneously with the ATGM Vigilant, Pye Ltd, a company specializing in the production of electronics and electrical engineering, which had not had experience in aircraft and rocket production before, was developing a more long-range guided anti-tank weapon system. The ATGM, known as Python, used a very original rocket with a jet-nozzle control system and a stabilization method of rotation. To reduce the guidance error, a special signal stabilization device was developed, which compensated for the operator’s excessively sharp efforts on the joystick's manipulator and transformed them into smoother signals to the rocket steering gear. This, among other things, allowed minimizing the effects of vibration and other factors that adversely affect the accuracy of the guidance.
Python ATGMs at firing position
The control unit, completely made on a semiconductor element base, was mounted on a tripod and weighed 49 kg with a battery. To observe the target, prismatic binoculars with variable multiplicity were used, which could be used separately from the command block as a surveillance device.
In the design of Python ATGM, light alloys and plastics were widely used. The steering surfaces of the rocket did not have, the plumage was intended purely to stabilize and impart stability to the rocket in flight. The change in direction of flight was carried out with the help of the control system of the charge. The transfer of commands took place over the wire. To facilitate the rocket tracking process, two tracer units were installed on the wings. An ATGM weighing 36,3 kg carried a powerful 13,6 kg warhead. The length of the rocket was 1524 mm, wingspan - 610 mm. The range and speed of flight were not disclosed, but according to expert estimates the rocket could hit a target at a distance of up to 4000 m.
The Python ATCM looked very promising, but its refinement dragged on. In the end, the British military preferred, if not so long-range and sophisticated, but relatively simple Vigilant. One of the reasons for the failure of the very advanced Python was the critically high coefficient of novelty of the technical solutions used. After the British Defense Ministry officially announced it was abandoning purchases of Python ATGMs, it was offered to foreign buyers during the 20-th exhibition in Farnborough in September 1959. But there were no customers able to finance the launch of a new ATGM system in mass production, and all work on this complex was curtailed in 1962.
Simultaneously with the completion of work on the Python ATGM system, the Minister of Defense of the United Kingdom, Peter Thornycroft, announced the beginning of the development of a long-range anti-tank complex by the standards of the time, which later received the designation Swingfire (Wandering Fire). This name was given to the complex for the ability of the rocket to change the direction of flight at an angle to 90 °.
The new anti-tank complex was not created from scratch, while its development, Fairey Engineering Ltd used the groundwork for Orange William, an experienced anti-tank missile system. Test launches of missiles began in the 1963 year, and in 1966 the serial assembly of a batch intended for military trials. However, until 1969, the project was threatened with closure, due to intrigues in the military. The project was attacked by critics due to excessive cost and schedule delays.
The Swingfire ATGM initially had a control system of the same type as other first-generation British anti-tank complexes. Commands on the rocket were transmitted over a wired communication line, and targeting occurred manually with the help of a joystick. In the middle of the 70-x for the new ATGM created a semi-automatic guidance system, which immediately brought it to the second generation and allowed to fully reveal the existing potential. The complex with a semi-automatic guidance system is known as Swingfire SWIG (Eng. Swingfire With Improved Guidance - Stray Fire with Improved Orientation).
The Swingfire ATGM is launched from an airtight transport and launch container. The missile with a launch weight of 27 kg has a length of 1070 m and carries a 7 kg warhead with declared armor penetration to 550 mm. Flight speed - 185 m / s. The launch range is from 150 to 4000. The spring-loaded stabilizers that unfold after the launch are immobile, the rocket heading is adjusted by changing the angle of inclination of the nozzle, which ensures excellent maneuverability.
In the early 80s, an improved version of the Swingfire Mk.2 with electronic equipment on a new element base (less mass), with a reinforced warhead and a simplified launcher began to enter service with the British army. According to advertising data, the upgraded missile is capable of penetrating 800 mm homogeneous armor. A combined thermal imaging and optical sight from Barr & Stroud, operating in the wavelength range of 8-14 microns, was introduced into the ATGM for action in day and night conditions.
Due to the large mass, most of the Swingfire complexes were installed on various armored chassis or jeeps. However, there are purely infantry variants. The British Army operated a Golfswing towed launcher that weighed 61 kg. Also known modification Bisving, suitable for carrying the calculation. When placed in a combat position, the control panel can be moved to 100 m from the launcher. Battle calculation portable installation 2-3 man.
From 1966 to 1993, the UK produced more than 46 thousand Swingfire anti-tank missiles in the UK. Despite the fact that the British ATGM was worth about 30% more expensive than the US BGM-71 TOW, it enjoyed some success in the external arms market. Swingfire licensed production was established in Egypt, the complex was also officially exported to 10 states. In the UK itself, all modifications to Swingfire are officially completed in 2005. After long disputes, the British military leadership decided to replace the outdated anti-tank complex with the American FGM-148 Javelin, the production license of which was transferred to British Aerospace Dynamics Limited. Although the Swingfire anti-tank complex was criticized for its high cost over the entire life cycle, it turned out that its price is about 5 times lower than that of Javelin.
Speaking about the controlled anti-tank complexes used by the British army, one can not but mention the MILAN anti-tank missile systems (French. Missile d´infanterie léger antichar - Light Infantry Anti-tank Complex). Production of the complex, developed by the Franco-German consortium Euromissile, began in 1972 year. Due to the relatively high combat and service performance, MILAN became widespread and was adopted in more than 40 countries, including in the UK. It was a fairly compact second-generation ATGM with a typical semi-automatic point-of-sight guidance system with transmission of commands from a launcher to a missile via a wireline. The guidance equipment of the complex is combined with a telescopic sight, and the night-sight MIRA is used for firing at night. The range of use of ATGN MILAN - from 75 m to 2000 m.
Unlike the anti-tank weapons systems adopted earlier in the UK, MILAN was developed from the very beginning with a semi-automatic guidance system. After detecting the target and launching the rocket, the operator is only required to keep the target on the line of sight, and the pointing device receives infrared radiation from the tracer, which is located at the rear of the ATGM and determines the angular mismatch between the line of sight and the direction to the rocket tracer. The hardware unit receives information about the position of the rocket relative to the line of sight, which is issued by the pointing device. The position of the gas-jet steering wheel is determined by the gyro rocket. Based on this information, the hardware unit generates commands that control the operation of controls, and the rocket remains on the line of sight.
According to the data published by the manufacturer, the first version of the 6,73 kg missile and 918 mm length was equipped with the 3 kg cumulative warhead with armor penetration to 400 mm. The maximum speed of the rocket is 200 m / s. Rate of fire - up to 4 rds / min. The mass of the transport and launch container with an ATGM ready for use is about 9 kg. Weight launcher with tripod - 16,5 kg. The weight of the control unit with an optical sight - 4,2 kg.
In the further improvement of the ATGM went on the way to increase the armor penetration and launch range. In the MILAN 2 version produced from the 1984 of the year, the ATGM caliber was increased from 103 to 115-mm, which made it possible to bring the thickness of the pierced armor to 800 mm. In the MILAN ER with the caliber of the 125-mm rocket, the launch range was increased to 3000 m, and the declared armor penetration was up to 1000 mm after overcoming the dynamic protection.
British Marine with ATGM MILAN
In the British armed forces, MILAN at the beginning of the 80-s finally superseded the first-generation anti-tank complexes of the Vigilant and was used in parallel with the heavier and long-range Swingfire. The relatively small mass and dimensions of the MILAN anti-tank missile system made it possible to make it an anti-tank infantry weapon of the company level, suitable for equipping units operating in isolation from the main forces.
MILAN ATGM has a very rich history combat use and successfully used in many local armed conflicts. As for the British armed forces, for the first time in battle, the British used this complex in the Falklands to destroy the Argentinean fortifications. In the course of the anti-Iraq campaign in 1991, with the launches of the MILAN ATGM system, the British destroyed up to 15 units of Iraqi armored vehicles. Currently in the British army ATGM MILAN completely replaced FGM-148 Javelin, operating in the "shot and forget."
To be continued ...