Anti-Tank Guided Missile
Category: Term of the day
An anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) or anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) is a guided missile primarily designed to hit and destroy heavily-armored tanks and other armored fighting vehicles.
The introduction of smaller, man-portable ATGMs with larger warheads to the modern battlefield has given infantry the ability to defeat even heavily armored main battle tanks at great ranges, usually with the first shot. Earlier infantry anti-tank weapons such as anti-tank rifles, anti-tank rockets and magnetic anti-tank mines had limited armor-penetration abilities and/or required a soldier to approach the target closely.
First-generation manually command guided MCLOS missiles like the AT-3 Sagger require input from an operator using a joystick or similar device to steer the missile to the target. The disadvantage is that the the operator must be well trained and must remain stationary during the flight time of the missile (and is therefore vulnerable to counter attack ).
Second-generation semi-automatically command guided SACLOS missiles require the operator to only keep the sights on the target until impact. Automatic guidance commands are sent to the missile through wires or radio, or the missile relies on laser marking or a TV camera view from the nose of the missile. Examples are the American TOW and Hellfire I missiles. Again the operator must remain stationary during the flight time of the missile.
More advanced third-generation guidance systems rely on a laser or a camera, on the nose of the missile. Once the target is identified the missile needs no further guidance during flight ( i.e it is "fire-and-forget" ) and the operator is free to retreat. Examples include the American Javelin and Indian Nag.
Most modern ATGMs have shaped-charge high explosive (HEAT) warheads, designed specifically for penetrating armour. Tandem-charge missiles attempt to defeat very heavy or spaced vehicle armour by employing two separate warheads. Top-attack weapons are designed to focus the explosion down through an armoured fighting vehicle's thinner turret-roof or upper-hull armour.
Countermeasures against ATGMs include spaced, perforated, and composite armour, explosive reactive armour (ERA), jammers like the Russian Shtora, and active protection systems (APS) like Drozd and Arena. Traditionally the most effective countermeasure was to open fire at the location where the missile was fired from : either the operator would be forced to take cover or he would be killed.
Anti-tank weapons like bazookas and RPGs are not considered ATGMs since the projectile is unguided.
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