Armor: ATGMs Versus Tanks For Real


August 28, 2006: The ground combat in Lebanon saw the first large scale use of modern ATGM (anti-tank guided missiles) against modern tanks. Hizbollah fired some 500 ATGMs, and scored hits on about fifty Israeli armored vehicles. Not all the ATGMs were fired at armored vehicles, and about a third of them appeared to have been used against Israeli infantry. But half the Israeli casualties were people in the fifty armored vehicles that were hit. Only about ten percent of Israeli casualties were from ATGMs against non-vehicle targets. Israeli military losses were 116 dead and about 500 wounded. Some light wounds were not reported, which is normal. So 58 dead for 50 vehicles hit is consistent with past experience, although lower than in the past, which is also an ongoing trend.
Sixty percent of the vehicles hit were Merkava tanks, and a third of them were destroyed or badly damaged. All the damaged tanks were recovered and repairable. Part of this is due to the fact that Hizbollah was using several Russian ATGM types, from 1970s designs, to the modern Kornet (9M133 to the Russians, and similar to the American Javelin). Hizbollah appeared to have about 200 trained ATGM operators. The results of this large scale use of modern ATGMs again demonstrates that ATGMs are not some kind of wonder weapon that will make armored vehicles obsolete, not yet anyway. The Israelis had over a thousand armored vehicles in Lebanon, and five percent of them were hit. It hurt, but the ATGMs did not stop the Israelis, or even slow them down much.


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