Armored combat vehicles, primarily Tanks, radically changed the face of the battlefield. With their appearance, the war ceased to be positional. The threat of massive use of armored vehicles demanded the creation of new types weapons, capable of effectively destroying enemy tanks. Anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) or anti-tank missile systems (ATGMs) have become one of the most effective examples of anti-tank weapons.
In the process of evolution, ATGMs were continuously improved: the firing range and the power of the warhead (warhead) increased. The main criterion that determines the effectiveness of the ATGM was the method used to aim the ammunition at the target, according to which it is customary to attribute the ATGM / ATGM to one or another generation.
Generation ATGM / ATGM
The following generations of ATGM / ATGM are distinguished.
1. The first generation of ATGMs assumed fully manual control of the missile's flight by wire until it hit the target.
ATGM of the first generation "Malyutka" made increased demands on the qualifications and reaction speed of the operator
2. The second generation of ATGMs already had semi-automatic control, in which the operator was only required to keep the aiming mark on the target, and the rocket was controlled by automation. Command transmission can be carried out by wire or radio channel. There is also a method for guiding the ATGM along the "laser path", when the rocket independently maintains its position in the laser beam.
One of the most advanced second-generation ATGM "Kornet" with ATGM guidance along the "laser path"
3. The third generation includes ATGMs with missiles equipped with homing heads (GOS), allowing to implement the principle of "fire and forget."
American ATGM of the third generation FGM-148 Javelin
Some companies separate their products into a separate generation. For example, the Israeli company Rafael refers its Spike ATGMs to the fourth generation, highlighting the presence of a feedback channel with the operator, which allows them to receive an image directly from the missile seeker and carry out its retargeting in flight.
Transmission of control commands and video images can be carried out over a two-way fiber-optic cable or over a radio channel. Such complexes can operate both in the "fire and forget" mode, and in the launch mode without preliminary target acquisition, when the ATGM is launched from behind cover at the approximate coordinates of a previously reconnoitered target, invisible by the ATGM operator, and the target is captured already during the flight missiles according to data received from its seeker.
Israeli ATGM Spike-NLOS
The conditional fifth generation includes ATGMs that use intelligent algorithms to analyze target images and external target designation.
The French company MBDA classifies the MMP ATGM as the fifth generation
However, the conditional attribution of the ATGM to the fourth or fifth generation is rather a marketing ploy. In any case, the key difference between the third and the proposed fourth and fifth generations of ATGMs can be considered the presence of a seeker directly on the ATGM.
Advantages and disadvantages
The main advantages of the third generation ATGM are the increased safety and combat capability of the operator (carrier), provided by the ability to leave the firing position immediately after launch. The second generation ATGM is required to provide missile guidance until the target is hit. As the range increases, the time required to "escort" the ATGM to the target also increases, and accordingly, the operator's (carrier's) risk of being destroyed by return fire: an anti-aircraft guided missile (SAM), a high-explosive (HE) projectile, a burst from a rapid-fire cannon.
Currently, in the armies of the world, ATGMs of the first and second generation are simultaneously used. This is partly a technological limitation, when some countries, including, unfortunately, Russia, have not yet been able to create their third-generation ATGMs. However, there are other reasons as well.
First of all, this is the high cost of third-generation ATGMs, especially consumables - ATGMs. For example, the export value of the third-generation ATGM Javelin is about 240 thousand dollars, the ATGM Spike - about 200 thousand dollars. At the same time, the cost of the second-generation ATGM of the Kornet complex, according to various sources, is estimated at 20-50 thousand dollars.
The high price makes the use of third-generation ATGMs suboptimal when attacking certain types of targets in terms of cost / efficiency criterion. It's one thing to destroy an ATGM for 200 thousand dollars a modern tank worth several million dollars, and another thing to spend it on a jeep with a machine gun and a couple of bearded men.
In modern conflicts against terrorist groups, the targets hit can be much cheaper than the ammunition spent on them.
Another disadvantage of third-generation ATGMs with infrared (IR) seeker is the limited ability to defeat non-heat-contrast targets, for example, fortified structures, equipment in a parking lot, with a cooled engine. Advanced combat vehicles with full or partial electric propulsion can have a noticeably smaller and "smeared" IR signature, which will not allow IR seeker to reliably hold the target, especially when targeting protective fumes and aerosols.
This problem can be compensated for with the help of ATGM feedback with the operator, as is implemented in the previously mentioned Israeli complexes of the Spike type, which the manufacturer refers to as a conditional fourth generation. However, the need for the operator to accompany the missile throughout the flight returns these complexes rather to the second generation, since the operator cannot leave the firing position immediately after the launch of the ATGM (in the scenario under consideration, when targets not captured by the IR seeker are hit).
The next problem is typical for both third and second generation ATGMs. This is a gradual increase in the number of armored vehicles equipped with active protection systems (KAZ). Almost all ATGMs are subsonic: for example, the speed of the Javelin ATGM in the final section is about 100 m / s, the TOW ATGM 280 m / s, the Kornet ATGM 300 m / s, the Spike ATGM 130-180 m / s. The exception is some ATGMs, for example, the Russian "Attack" and "Vikhr", whose average flight speed is 550 and 600 m / s, respectively, however, for KAZ, such an increase in speed is unlikely to be a problem.
One of the fastest serial ATGMs of the "Vikhr" airborne guided weapon system
Most of the existing KAZ have problems in hitting targets attacking from above, but the solution to this problem is only a matter of time. For example, KAZ "Afghanit" of a promising family of armored vehicles on the "Armata" platform carries out automatic setting of smoke curtains, which will either completely disrupt the capture of the seeker or force the third-generation ATGM to reduce the trajectory, as a result of which they fall into the zone of destruction of KAZ protective ammunition.
It is assumed that the use of smoke curtains forces the Javelin-type ATGM to reduce the flight trajectory, which makes them vulnerable to existing KAZ
An even more serious problem for third-generation ATGMs can be promising optical-electronic countermeasures (COEC) complexes, including a powerful laser emitter. At the first stage, they will temporarily blind the seeker of the attacking ammunition, similar to how it is implemented in aviation onboard self-defense complexes of the "President-S" type, and in the future, as increasing the power of lasers to 5-15 kW and reducing their dimensions, to ensure the physical destruction of the sensitive elements of the ATGM.
Counteraction of promising KAZ and KOEP can lead to the fact that for guaranteed destruction of one tank, 5-6 or even more third-generation ATGMs will be required, which, taking into account their cost, will make the solution of a combat mission irrational in terms of cost / efficiency criterion.
Are there other ways to increase the survivability of the ATGM operator (carrier), and at the same time to increase its combat effectiveness?
Hypersonic ATGM: theory
As we said earlier, the speed of most existing ATGMs is lower than the speed of sound, for many it does not even reach half the speed of sound. And only some heavy ATGMs have a flight speed of 1,5-2M. This poses a problem not only for second-generation ATGMs, since they need to direct the missile throughout the entire flight phase, but also for third-generation ATGMs, since their low flight speed makes them vulnerable to existing and future KAZ.
At the same time, an extremely difficult target for KAZ is armor-piercing feathered sub-caliber projectiles (BOPS), fired from tank guns at a speed of 1500-1700 m / s. ATGMs with a similar or even higher flight speed can also become a difficult target for KAZ. Moreover, the capabilities of hypersonic ATGMs to overcome the KAZ will be even higher, since the presence of a jet engine will allow the ATGM to maintain a higher average speed than the BOPS, which begins to gradually slow down immediately after leaving the barrel of a tank gun.
BOPS are the most difficult target for KAZ and the greatest threat to armor
In addition, a tank cannot fire two BOPS almost simultaneously, which may be necessary to increase the likelihood of overcoming a KAZ and hitting a target, and for an ATGM, firing two ATGMs is a completely normal operating mode.
As in the case of BOPS, the target will be hit in a kinetic way, which is also considered more effective both from the point of view of overcoming armor and for hitting a target, since it is easier to protect against shaped charges than against BOPS, and the armor effect of a shaped jet may not always be sufficient, especially taking into account the means of countermeasures - multilayer armor, reactive armor, lattice screens.
In turn, the disadvantage of an ATGM with kinetic target destruction is the presence of a booster section, where the ATGM will pick up speed.
In addition to increasing the likelihood of overcoming the KAZ, breaking through the armor and increasing the armor action on the target, hypersonic ATGMs can do without the built-in seeker, targeting via a radio channel or a "laser trail" and at the same time ensuring increased survival of the operator (carrier) due to the minimum flight time of the ammunition.
The difference in flight time can be clearly seen by comparing this indicator for most of the existing ATGMs with a flight speed of the order of 150-300 m / s and promising hypersonic ATGMs with an average flight speed of the order of 1500-2200 m / s.
ATGM flight time table depending on flight speed and firing range
As can be seen from the above table, the flight time, therefore, and the operator's accompaniment of a hypersonic ATGM at a distance of up to 4000 meters is about 2-3 seconds, which is 15-30 times less than the flight time of a subsonic ATGM. It can be assumed that the specified time interval of 2-3 seconds will not be enough for the enemy to detect the launch of the ATGM, aim the weapon and deliver a retaliatory strike.
From the point of view of changing the firing position, 2-3 seconds is too short a period of time for the operator of the third generation ATGM to retire to a sufficient distance in order to avoid being hit if the strike is still delivered, that is, the presence of homing in the third generation ATGM will not provide decisive advantages over ATGM with hypersonic flight speed.
Also, the operator's ability to hide behind an obstacle immediately after the shot is not critical, since high-explosive fragmentation projectiles with detonation on the trajectory are becoming more common, accordingly, only an operational change of position can protect the operator (carrier) of the ATGM.
Model of a promising American 120-mm tank multipurpose shot Advanced Multi-Purpose (AMP) XM1147 with the possibility of detonation on the flight path for the main tank of the US Army M1A2 Abrams
If we are talking about long-range ATGM firing, of the order of 10-15 kilometers, which is important primarily for aircraft carriers, then here too, a hypersonic ATGM will have an advantage, since it is much more difficult to shoot down an anti-aircraft missile system (SAM) than, to for example, the JAGM subsonic missile. It will also be difficult to destroy the aircraft carrier itself, since the flight speed of the missile defense system is less or comparable to that of a hypersonic ATGM, which gives an advantage to the one who strikes first.
Article Fire support tanks, BMPT "Terminator" and the cycle of OODA John Boyd We have already examined the impact of the speed of each phase of combat work in terms of the OODA cycle: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA: observation, orientation, decision, action) - a concept developed for the US Army by former Air Force pilot John Boyd in 1995, also known as "Boyd's loop". Hypersonic weapons fully comply with this concept, providing the minimum possible time at the stage of direct target engagement.
If hypersonic ATGMs are so good, why haven't they been developed yet?
Hypersonic ATGM: practice
As you know, the creation of hypersonic weapons encounters enormous difficulties due to the need to use special heat-resistant materials, problems with controllability, receiving and transmitting control commands. Nevertheless, projects of hypersonic ATGMs were developed, and quite successfully.
First of all, we can recall the American project of the Vought HVM hypersonic ATGM, developed in the 80s of the XX century by Vought Missiles and Advanced Programs and intended for deployment on combat helicopters, fighters and attack aircraft. The speed of the Vought HVM ATGM was supposed to reach 1715 m / s, the body length was 2920 mm, the diameter was 96,5 mm, the rocket mass was 30 kg, the warhead was a kinetic rod.
The project progressed quite successfully, ATGM tests were carried out, however, for financial reasons, the project was closed.
ATGM Vought HVM
Even earlier, the competing Lockheed HVM project of Lockheed Missiles and Space Co.
The work carried out was not consigned to oblivion, and within the framework of the AAWS-H program of the US Army Missile Forces Directorate, Vought Missiles and Advanced Programs and Lockheed Missiles and Space Co, since 1988, have been working to create the Vought KEM ATGM and MGM-166 LOSAT ATGM, respectively.
The KEM missiles were planned to be placed on a tracked chassis, the ammunition load included four missiles on the launcher and eight more in the fighting compartment. The firing range was supposed to be 4 kilometers. The length of the rocket body is 2794 mm, the diameter is 162 mm, the mass of the rocket is 77,11 kg.
Image and 3D model of a combat vehicle with ATGM KEM
Ultimately, Vought was acquired by Lockheed, after which the creation of a hypersonic ATGM continued as part of a single LOSAT project.
Work on the development of the ATGM of the LOSAT project was carried out from 1988 to 1995, from 1995 to 2004, a pilot production of the MGM-166A LOSAT ATGM was carried out, in parallel, work was underway to reduce the length of the ATGM body from 2,7 to 1,8 meters and increase their flight speed to 2200 m / s!
The tests were quite successful, from 1995 to 2004, about twenty tests were carried out to defeat stationary and mobile targets at a distance of 700 to 4270 meters. In March 2004, the test program was completed, it was to be followed by an order for 435 missiles, but the program was closed by the US Department of the Army in the summer of 2004, before the start of deliveries of the MGM-166A LOSAT ATGM to the troops.
ATGM LOSAT on tracked and wheeled carriers
Since 2003, on the basis of the LOSAT project, Lockheed Martin has been developing a promising CKEM (Compact Kinetic Energy Missile) ATGM. The CKEM project was developed within the framework of the well-known Future Combat Systems (FCS) program. It was planned to place the CKEM ATGM on ground and air carriers. It was supposed to create a rocket with a firing range of up to 10 kilometers and a flight speed of 2200 m / s. The mass of the CKEM ATGM was not to exceed 45 kilograms. The CKEM ATGM program was closed in 2009 at the same time as the FCS program.
3D model and layout of ATGM CKEM
What do we have? According to open sources, ammunition with a speed close to hypersonic is being developed and tested for the promising Hermes complex developed by the Tula KBP JSC. The firing range of a promising ATGM will be about 15-30 kilometers.
The rocket of the Hermes complex is presumably equipped with a combined guidance system, including a semi-active laser and infrared seeker, that is, an ATGM can be guided both at the target's thermal radiation and at the target illuminated by a laser, like guided artillery shells of the Krasnopol type. In the future, the installation of an active radar seeker (ARLGSN) is being considered. The mass of the Hermes ATGM missile is about 90 kg.
Presumably, the maximum speed of the rocket will be about 1000-1300 m / s, and in the final section 850-1000 m / s. This is not enough for the kinetic destruction of well-armored targets, so the Hermes ATGM will be equipped with “classic” cumulative and high-explosive fragmentation warheads.
Layout and image of ATGM "Hermes"
All of the above does not allow the Hermes ATGM to be classified as a hypersonic ATGM. However, it must be borne in mind that the design of the Hermes ATGM is based on the design of the SAM used in the Pantsir air defense missile system, for which a hypersonic missile with a speed of over 5M is declared. Presumably, the rocket has the designation 23Ya6 and is created on the basis of the meteorological MERA rocket. The speed of the MERA rocket reaches 2000 m / s, at the end of the active phase of the flight it is still higher than 5M, the maximum ascent height is 80-100 kilometers. The mass of the MERA rocket is 67 kg.
Meteorological rocket "MERA"
It can be assumed that using the solutions used in the Hermes ATGM and the Pantsir hypersonic missile defense system and the MERA meteorological rocket, a hypersonic ATGM can be created with a range of about 10-20 kilometers and a flight speed of over 2000 m / s, with a combined guidance over the radio channel and along the "laser path", with a kinetic warhead.
In the future, the solutions obtained can be used to create other hypersonic ATGMs of different classes for different types of carriers.
GOS or hypersound?
Is it possible to combine the seeker and hypersonic flight speed?
It is possible, but at the same time, the cost of such ATGMs can become unaffordable even for the richest armies in the world. In addition, the heating of the head of the hull of the hypersonic ATGM can significantly complicate the operation of the seeker. If the problem of heating the seeker can be solved, then the firing range will most likely be the determining factor: for short ranges, guidance by radio channel and / or "laser path" will be used, for long ranges - combined guidance, including the use of the seeker.
If the United States has practically created hypersonic ATGMs, then why not put them into service?
There may be several reasons. As already mentioned above, ATGMs with GOS themselves can be more effective and the reason for rejecting them, or at least decreasing their value, may be an increase in the effectiveness of countermeasures for subsonic and supersonic ATGMs. Still, the United States has created an ATGM with a seeker for a long time already and is quite actively using them.
Another point is that the technology for creating hypersonic weapons is very advanced. If the United States had released hypersonic ATGMs 15 years ago and started using them in current conflicts, there would be a high probability that components or even entire samples of such products would end up in the hands of specialists from Russia and China, contributing to the development of their own hypersonic weapons. At the same time, as can be seen from the dynamics of the creation of hypersonic ATGMs, nothing is thrown into the trash in the United States. If there is a threat of a decrease in the effectiveness of an ATGM with a seeker, the United States will quickly revive the CKEM project and launch mass production of hypersonic ATGMs.
Does the Russian army need an ATGM with a seeker?
Of course, yes. KAZ and KOEP will not appear for everyone and not immediately. ATGM with GOS provide much more flexible tactics of use: the possibility of simultaneous firing at several targets at once, video transmission to the operator (in fact, reconnaissance), the possibility of retargeting in flight.
But, according to the author, the priority of development should be for hypersonic ATGMs, since a situation may arise when an increase in the efficiency of KAZ and KOEP with powerful laser emitters, an increase in the effectiveness of multilayer armor and dynamic protection in aggregate will reduce the likelihood of hitting targets by subsonic and supersonic ATGMs with cumulative Warheads to unacceptably low values. In other words, against a high-tech adversary, ATGMs with GOS can become practically useless.