Armor: M-60T Survives Russian ATGM

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May 5, 2016: In April 2016 a Turkish M-60T tank was hit by a Russian made Kornet ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles) and was not destroyed. ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) took credit for this attack inside Iraq between the border and Mosul. Turkish troops have been there for over a year training Kurds.

The Turks described the damage to the M069T as slight and repairable. The Turks have been using the M-60Ts for over a decade and have been quite satisfied with them. In March 2002 Turkey signed a $668 million deal to have an Israeli firm upgrade 170 American made M-60A1 tanks to the M-60T standard. This involved replacing the existing 105mm gun with a 120mm one. The fire-control system was upgraded and as was the frontal armor with the addition of both active ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) and passive (composite) armor. Electronics in general were upgraded and engines were overhauled. The M-60T deal followed four years of talks, during which Israel originally offered to sell its Merkava tanks but Turkey decided to upgrade its existing M-60s instead. Israel had already upgraded many of their M-60s in a similar fashion.

The Kornet E is a Russian laser guided missile with a range of 5,000 meters. The launcher has a thermal sight for use at night or in fog. The missile's warhead can penetrate enough modern tank armor to render the side armor of the Israeli Merkava or U.S. M1 tanks vulnerable. The missile weighs 8.2 kg (18 pounds) and the launcher 19 kg (42 pounds). The system was introduced in 1994 and has been sold to Syria (who apparently passed them on to Hezbollah and Hamas). ISIL captured some Kornets in Syria.

Kornet has had some success against less well protected models of the M1 tank. In 2014, when Iraqi forces fell apart, several American made M1 tanks were lost, some to Kornet missiles. The Iraqi troops using the M1s did not, as they were taught by the Americans, use their M1s in conjunction with infantry. This allowed ISIL fighters to get close enough to M1s during combat to place explosives and disable or destroy some of these M1s. A few were destroyed by Kornet missiles.

In 2003 four M1s were disabled, but not destroyed, by Iraqi Kornets. In 2006 several Israeli Merkavas were destroyed by Hezbollah Kornet. By 2014 Israel had adopted anti-ATGM systems for their Merkavas which defeated over a dozen Kornet attacks.

Before 2014 no M1s had been destroyed by enemy action, but that was in large part because they were used by well-trained crews and commanders. Moreover nearly all the American M1s that had been in combat had better armor than the ones sold to Iraq. There are several items that American M1s have the Iraqi SA tanks did not get. The Iraqi M1A1s had no depleted uranium armor, no ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor), and no additional protection against anti-tank missiles. Worst of all, the Iraqi M1s did not have disciplined, experienced and determined crews.

 


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