Armor: French ATGMs Catch Up


December 18, 2013: European defense firm MBDA has finally developed an ATGM (anti-tank guided missile), MMP (Missile Moyenne Portee) to replace their much older Milan. MMP is a 15 kg (33 pound) missile/container that is used with an 11 kg (24.5 pound) firing unit. MMP can be fired in confined spaces and is ready for action instantly (other ATGMs require up to 30 seconds for the guidance system to be ready). MMP is fire and forget, as are most of its competitors and has a range of 4,000 meters. Developed largely for the French, the French Army has ordered 400 MMP firing units and 2,850 missiles. Export orders are difficult to obtain because there are a lot of similar systems already out there. For example there’s the American Javelin, the Israeli Spike, the Swedish Bill 2 and the Russian Korenet-E. MMP has longer range and better electronics than the competition but this is not enough to be decisive.

While an older (1970s) technology, Milan has remained in production because it can still get the job done if used against lightly armored vehicles and older tanks. India is a major user (building Milan under license) because their likely opponents, until recently, only had tanks that Milan could handle. But now they have an aggressive China massing forces on the border and building much better protected tanks.

The basic Milan is a 1.2 meter long, 125mm diameter, 7.1 kg (16 pound) missile. It has a minimum range of 400 meters and maximum range of 2,000 meters. At max range the missile takes about 13 seconds to reach its target. The missile is guided to the target by the operator via a thin wire. The launcher weighs 21 kg (46 pounds). The missile can penetrate about a meter (39 inches) of armor, making it effective against all but the most modern tanks (M-1, Challenger, Leopard 2). Since the 1970s, over 350,000 Milan missiles and 30,000 launchers have been built worldwide. More modern ATGM are wireless and require much less effort on the part of the operator but they are more expensive. Milans are now being phased out in favor of more modern designs.

France recently went looking for a MILAN replacement and the two finalists were the American Javelin and Israeli Spike MR. Javelin won but then MBDA finally came up with the MMP, the sort of system France had been requesting for over a decade. While France is partial to MBDA ATGMs, most other countries are simply looking for a system that will get the job done cheaply. All the competing ATGMs are constantly improved so it is under stood whatever edge MMP has now it will soon lose.



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