Soviet ATGMs and October, 1973 (Long)

So far in this series, we’ve looked at the development of US and Western European anti-tank guided missiles, from their origins in a German WWII design program to their introduction to combat — just in time to encounter Russian missiles designed along similar lines — in the Vietnam War. (The Russian missiles got the first kill, by a couple of weeks). Today we’ll extend the story of early ATGMs by discussing how the Russians developed their missiles, and how Russian missiles figured in Arab planning for in the Yom Kippur War (the Ramadan War, to the Arabs, and the October War to the strictly neutral) of 1973. Unlike the Vietnam offensive of 1972, where they were only locally decisive, the robotic tank-killers decided battles and nearly won the war. We’ll have more about the war in a future installment (this one is already over 2500 words — oversized for a web post).

AT-3 Sagger (this one an improved Chinese copy).

AT-3 Sagger (this one an improved Chinese copy with a much larger, stabilized sight and SACLOS guidance).

Russian Missile Development

Compared to Germany, which was  working on them in 1945, and France and the USA, which were in development from the earliest 1950s, the Soviets were a little late to wire-guided ATGM development, beginning only in the late 1950s. It’s unknown whether they had as a basis any foreign technology. Certainly they could have used captured German technology, French or American technology acquired by espionage, or they simply could have applied robust Russian engineering to problem solutions that they knew their Western rivals had already accomplished. It’s probable that all three were part of missile R&D, with the heavy lifting being done by Russian engineers. The Russian product, by 1973, was a missile that was combat-ready and had several advantages over its Western counterparts.

AT-1 Snapper live fire, somewhere in Europe. This is the BRDM-mounted version.

AT-1 Snapper live fire, somewhere in Europe. This is the BRDM-mounted version.

As with SAMs, Russian engineers passed through numerous experimental iterations of ATGMs (Anti Tank Guided Missiles), and they delivered to their Arab friends the first and third version that they operationalized. The first missile was a bit of a turkey; fired from a converted GAZ-69 jeep, the 3M6 Shmel (NATO coded, AT-1 Snapper) flew fairly slowly, had an enormous launch signature, and was vulnerable to the obvious countermeasure of blowing away the jeep and its crew, including the missile aimer who could not fire from a remote or dismounted position, but sat in a seat facing backwards looking at the target through a periscopic sight. The gunner had to continue to aim at the tank and steer the missile throughout its flight, which could be 15-20 seconds — a lifetime, literally, in armored combat.

It is very hazardous being on a tank battlefield wearing less than a tank. A cotton Army shirt, or a sheet-metal jeep, provide no protection and if that’s what you have, cover and concealment are vital. The Snapper couldn’t be fired from cover (except in its BRDM version, which put a bare 15mm of armor between the operators and the great outdoors), and it negated its own concealment by launching from the control station.

The third missile, though, the 9M14 Malyutka, better known by its NATO reporting code AT-3 Sagger was a hit, no pun intended. The Sagger, while having a great resemblance to the French missiles the Israelis had played with and a family resemblance to the Snapper, was small. It came packed in a plastic “suitcase” half of which served as the base for its simple rail launcher, and the other half as a base for its reusable sight. One man could carry one all day on his back, and two, suitcase-style, in his hands for short spurts. In true Russian tradition, the missile was sturdy and reliable, and made no superhuman demands on its operator. True, it was a MCLOS (Manual Command to Line of Sight) missile, at least in these early versions, and operator training was vital, but along with the missiles, the Soviets had developed operator and maintenance training, including mobile missile simulators that could travel with divisional logistics elements and keep operators sharp. These they furnished freely to the Egyptian and Syrian armed forces (among others). It was the Egyptians who would make the best use of these missiles.

The Sagger and the Tank Sack

Soviet doctrine had long taught the anti-tank ambush under various terms (the image-rich “tank sack” is one that springs to mind), and they’d used it deftly against the Germans, whose armored warfare worked splendidly against Russian tanks, and not so well against concealed AT guns attacking the Panzers’ vulnerable flanks.

Chinese improved Sagger live fire.

Chinese improved Sagger live fire.

The modern variation of the use of AT guns was to follow leading tanks closely with infantry antitank teams. Soviet tanks would have their flanks guarded by infantry, something comforting for any tanker, but these infantry would be well-equipped with AT weapons, principally long-range Saggers and short-range RPGs. A Sagger crewman needed intensive initial and recurrent training, and the Russians developed an innovative series of portable simulators to keep their missileers sharp without expending vast quantities of costly missiles. The well-trained Sagger crews dug in and/or located on reverse slopes, with their missiles displaced to the limit of their cords (about 15m) and only their periscopes showing. This protected them better than their unlucky mates in the Snapper jeeps.

The Soviet-designed weapons had a minimum effective range, but more to the point their maximum effective range was 3,000 meters, on the ragged edge of the effective range of the West’s 105mm tank gun. Moreover, a tank gun’s accuracy against a moving target depends on accurately ranging and leading the target, and so, a tank gun’s accuracy declines with range, and declines precipitously with range on fast-moving targets. This period US chart NOTE 2 brags up the improvement in a pH from Sherman to Pershing to M60A1 days:

post_wwii_tank_cannon_improvement

But a missile under human guidance, like the Sagger, can track a moving target even if the target changes direction or speed. The general rule of thumb is that the first hit decides a tank fight; Sagger had a near 90% probability of hit at all ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 meters.

sagger_first_round_ph_small

 

A hit gave the Sagger a very high pK as well: the warhead was among the most effective in the world at the time, penetrating the equivalent of 17″ of rolled homogeneous armor at 0º obliquity (engineering speak for “square on”). US testing of captured Saggers and computer probability analyses assigned the Sagger a .67 pK at a mean engagement range of 2,500 meters.

Combined with the T-62’s 5000+ fps tank guns for the midrange and RPGs for the knife fight, the Sagger meant a Soviet-style (including Egyptian or Syrian) antitank ambush was potentially lethal from 3,000 meters to zero.

soviet_weapons_ph_all_weapons

American soldiers and engineers were very impressed with that graph.

Soviet technology made the combined arms army of 1970 very different from the victorious horde of 1945, Unlike the Western Allies, who had advanced under an umbrella of air power, the Soviets chose not to depend on their powerful Air Forces and Frontal Aviation, but to give their tank and motorized rifle units an umbrella of surface-to-air missiles overhead and a screen of anti-tank missiles to the front. They equipped every tank with night vision, choosing to spend now on active infrared rather than wait for the costs of image intensification to come down (the West, mostly, made the other choice, to delay purchases now and skip a generation of night equipment). This would also shock Israel, when her enemies (especially the Syrians, who had trained with the night sights and lights very extensively) could see at night, and their army could not. The IDF was heir to a tradition of night-fighting from 1948, and its leaders firmly believed that Arabs were too frightened and superstitious to fight at night, just as they believed that Arabs couldn’t operate and maintain sophisticated missiles.

The Sagger Countermeasures of 1973

Before the war, the Israelis didn’t take the Sagger seriously. They knew about it from desultory US reports and from occasional firings during Suez skirmishes — inconsequential firings that encouraged them to disrespect the missile. It was just one more anti-tank weapon, and when their own forces wanted anti-tank weapons, the Deputy Chief of Staff told them, “You already have the best one: a tank!” The qualitative change in the battlefield produced by a long-range, accurate, tank-killing weapon was completely unexpected.

[Military Intelligence] printed booklets about the Sagger’s characteristics based on information received from the United States, which had encountered the missile in Vietnam in 1971. The armored corps command had even developed tactics for dealing with the missile. But neither the booklets nor the suggested tactics had yet filtered down and few tank men were even aware of the Sagger’s existence.NOTE 3

How to answer the Sagger attack would become a major question for the Israelis (and by extension, for anyone who might have to fight Soviet-style forces). The US also studied this, before and after the war. While defenders worked out some countermeasures, they were imperfect; but a decade later, American tankers were still using “Sagger drills” developed by surviving Israeli tankers after their counterattack of 7 October 73 was savaged by infantry anti-tank teams using Saggers and RPGs.

Reshef’s operations officer, Lt. Pinhas Bar, who had accompanied Bardash’s force, assembled the tank commanders and explained the techniques developed in the past few hours for coping with the Sagger. Such impromptu lessons would be going on all along the front as new units took the field alongside tankers who had survived the day.

The Saggers, the “veterans” explained, were a formidable danger but not an ultimate weapon. They could be seen in flight and were slow enough to dodge. It took at least ten seconds for a missile to complete its flight—at extreme range it could be twice that—during which time the Sagger operator had to keep the target in his sights as he guided the missile by the bright red light on its tail. From the side it was easy for the tankers to see the light. As soon as anyone shouted “Missile,” the tanks were to begin moving back and forth in order not to present a stationary target. Movement would also throw up dust that would cloud the Sagger operator’s view. Simultaneously, the tank should fire in his presumed direction, which itself could be sufficient to throw him off his aim.

It was clear to the tank crews that something revolutionary was happening—as revolutionary, it seemed, as the introduction of the machine gun or the demise of the horse cavalry. Tanks, which had stalked the world’s battlefields for half a century like antedeluvian beasts, were now being felled with ease by ordinary foot soldiers. It would take time, in some cases days, before the implications of this extraordinary development would be grasped by higher command. Meanwhile, the tankers would have to figure out for themselves how to survive. NOTE 4

Most of the countermeasures relied on spotting the backblast of the launch and directing fire in that area. The US noted with alarm that the M60A1 tank needed to close to 1000-1500 meters to get its pH up to 50%, and by that point it was well within the range fan of the Sagger. 

The Sagger remains in use, here in former Yugoslavia. Note the "suitcase" halves for scale.

The Sagger remains in use, here in former Yugoslavia. Note the “suitcase” halves for scale.

Other Sagger countermeasures included laying suppressive fire on likely lurking spots, something the US Army had forgotten since World War II and Korea; exploiting terrain, or as the Army put it, “every fold of ground”; keeping formations loose and non-geometric in order to complicate a Sagger gunner’s second-choice if he lost his first target; keeping moving, or firing from hull defilade; and using infantry for close-in protection of tanks. The US had a few advantages, too: its similar suite of missiles, guns and unguided rocket AT weapons had fewer minimum-range problems and generally superior accuracy and reduced training demands.

Even after the war, the Israelis struggled to find countermeasures. Uzi Eliam remembers:

Egyptian infantry infantry forces with Saturn missiles constituted a serious threat to our tanks. Maj. Gen. Albert Mendler, commander of the Southern division (the 252nd) in the Sinai Peninsula, was hit by a Egyptian antitank missile and died of his injuries…. NOTE 5

[Deputy CGS Israel] Tal was extremely concerned about the threat of the Sagger missiles which he himself had not completely understood before the war. During the years of the War of Attrition along the Canal, our observation posts had observed closed train cars arriving at the front lines. Each time such a train car reached the position of an Egyptian military unit, a long line of soldiers would form near the door, and the soldiers would enter the car one at a time. At first, we made jokes about the train cars, referring to them as mobile sexual service units similar to the kind operated by the Syrian army before the Six-Day War. However, we quickly realized that the train cars contained training simulators for Sagger missile operators.

At R&D, we thought about different ways of addressing the threat with the American developed Mk19 40 mm grenade machine gun. This machine gun was vehicle mounted, and had a firing rate of 350 grenades a minute and a range of 1500 m. … The proposal to add the system to our armored vehicles was decisively rejected by Operations Branch Chief Tal. According to his dogma, what he called “foreign elements” could not be introduced into tank battles.

Although we started searching for a technological solution to the SAG or missile about 10 days after the outbreak of the war the moment the first missiles fell into our hands, we were unable to find a shortcut or a quick solution…. Tal now invoked his authority as Deputy CGS… [with others]… he put all his energy into finding a solution to the problem. The solution he selected involved positioning net fences and coiled barbed wire around tank encampments in order to cause early detonation of fired Sagger missiles before they hit the tanks themselves. NOTE 6.

Despite our best efforts it took more time to develop responses to the Sagger missile. Many ideas were tried… including the possibility of disrupting the missile command system in midflight, misdirecting the missile navigator, and physically obstructing the missile with a steel net in close proximity of the target. The simple Russian missile was not susceptible to our disruption efforts, and we only found a proper solution to the threat posed by the Sagger missile years later. NOTE 7.

But of course, the Russians were not sleeping, and they had better weapons on the drawing board, already. But that’s another story, perhaps for some other day.

Meanwhile their 1973-vintage missiles were a key to the Arab nations’ hopes to recover territory, and pride, lost in the calamitous defeat of 1967. That’s the next, and we think last, installment of this story, the story of early ATGMs.

Notes

  1. Eilam disagrees with this, noting that US policy was only to provide new technology to Israel once the Israelis had shown themselves capable of producing their own, in order to discourage “escalation” and an “arms race.” These are diplomatic (i.e., State Department) terms; while the US DOD then strongly slanted towards Israel, State was then (as now) a hotbed of antisemitism and anti-Israeli feeling.
  2. All these charts come from US Army, TRADOC Bulletin 1u, and were originally prepared as briefing view-graphs (powerpoint before there was powerpoint).
  3. Rabinovich, Kindle Locations 653-655
  4. Rabinovich, Kindle Locations 2092-2108.
  5. Eilam, p. 108.
  6. Eilam, pp. 138-139.
  7. Eilam, p. 148.

Sources

Kelly, Orr. King of the Killing Zone: The Story of the M1, America’s Super Tank. New York: WW Norton & Co., 1989.

Eliam, Uzi. Eliam’s Arc: How Israel Became a Military Technology Powerhouse. Sussex University Press, 2011.

Rabinovich, Abraham. The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

US Army, Training and Doctrine Command. TRADOC Bulletin 1u: Range and Lethality of US and Soviet Anti-Armor Weapons. Ft. Monroe, VA: TRADOC, 30 September 1975. Retrieved from: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a392784.pdf

33 thoughts on “Soviet ATGMs and October, 1973 (Long)

  1. Jim Scrummy

    I thought I recognized that passage from Rabinovich’s book, concerning the Israeli tankers improvisation to the Sagger. The Sagger caught the Israelis unprepared in the Sinai, a hard lesson learned among many during October 1973.

    1. Hognose Post author

      The Rabinovich book is really good. He gets more of the Egyptian stuff than earlier Israeli writers did. He also has some real and terrifying stories of what it was like to be the Israelis facing those tank ambushes, which will feature in a coming installment. I’m going to drop ATGMs there, because if I start getting too technical about newer stuff I have to be very clear about my open sources.

  2. WiseCaveOwl

    good piece. Also brings to mind the Gazela-Tobruk battles in N. Africa, May-June 1942. The Empire tanks did quite well against Rommel’s armor during the first few days, and looked to be winning. Then R drew back and pulled them onto an ambush of c. 200 dug-in AT guns – mostly 88 mm. – the so-called “Cauldron”, and destroyed most of the Empire armor in a single day. The resultant rout didn’t end until the first week of July, just a few miles short of Alexandria

  3. robroysimmons

    As of 2006 still in action or at least later variants. There was some well filmed footage of a convoy ambush conducted by Hezbollah and they poured the Saggers on to a Merkva. Nothing catastrophic from the video but there was no response from the tank either.

    1. Hognose Post author

      A Sagger to the turret is pretty much guaranteed to ring everybody’s bell, even if it doesn’t penetrate. This happened to one of the Israeli Centurions — hit right above the gun on the thickest armor of the mantlet. The tank stopped dead, stalled out (not sure if it was one of the old ones with a manual transmission, the driver might just have stalled it, Israel was caught in the middle of an upgrade cycle that gave the Centurions diesels and automatics). It took a minute for the TC to shake it off and get his tank going again.

      Hezbollah has killed a few Merkavas, mostly with modern ATGMs, and primitive IEDs. Not sure if they have deployed the Iranian EFPs that bedeviled the US in Iraq, but can’t imagine why they wouldn’t. They’re very proud of the occasional tank kill and youtube the hell out of it. (The various Arab insurgents have also filmed themselves “killing” abandoned tanks, but they have killed live ones and their crews).

      US doctrine for the small, ineffective Light Antitank Weapon (M72 through M72A8) was to let the tank pass you and then have multiple guys fire many, many shots at its sides and rear. It’s a way to compensate for a crummy weapon. M72s were marginal against PT-76 (and its 85mm Chinese clone) and ineffective against T-54/55 and T-34 in Vietnam (newer warheads are much better). Having shot them myself at MBT hulks (US, Euro and Soviet) on various ranges, give me an RPG over a LAW any day. But those are weapons for the knife fight. Give me a Javelin and some nice open area….

      1. Kirk

        I think the latest models of the LAW are considerably more effective than the Vietnam-era ones that they had at Lang Vei. Could be wrong, but the published capabilities we were told about the latest models before I retired were quite a bit ahead of the Vietnam models.

        Frankly, I never want to find out how well they work, in practice. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried ambushing tanks when you’re operating in the light infantry role. Even in training, that crap is terrifying, because you know the damn tankies a.) Can’t see you for shit, and b.) Don’t really care that they can’t.

        We did some time as OPFOR down at Fort Hood when they were first standing up the operational Bradley and M1 tank units down there. The unit had done some similar work for the M60A3-equipped units before, so we tried some of the same techniques. One of which was to set up a bunch of tanglefoot, and lure the tankers into running their vehicles into it, and once they were stuck, hit them with the 90mm and LAW rockets. Granted, they were both simulated, but the umpires had to see you get them into position and go through the motions to get credit for the kill. Now, when they told me all this as a private, I thought it was nuts–But, they swore it worked.

        Did the same thing for the M1 unit we were training against that we’d supposedly done against the M60A3 outfit a year or two earlier. Did. Not. Work.

        Apparently, 1500hp behind the track-laying system makes a bit of a difference when it comes to bulling through things like masses of barbed wire and wooden stakes. Instead of getting stuck, those tanks blew right through the obstacles, and overran our happy little asses. Which led to us getting chased through the woods like animals, to be quite honest. It sucks when you think you’ve made it to safety, and then they spot you through the thermals and they come through the trees after you. Well, really… Over the trees. They didn’t used to care about preserving nature during training, so the tankies didn’t give a damn one way or the other. There’s nothing quite like thinking it’s safe to take a breather and drink some water, and then realize they’re coming for you, and see the trees parting and coming down like some kind of horror movie.

        AT work is best done at arm’s length, and with another tank, to be quite honest.

        1. Y.

          So, what happens when a tank runs full speed into an old-growth forest with serious trees?

          I’ve always thought they can’t pass that, as trees a foot thick or more can’t be that easy to flatten.

      2. robroysimmons

        They aimed for the left rear portion of the tank for some reason. Anti-tank class was popular back in my day, but I never got the chance to be run over by a M-60A3. But my buddies who got the chance to be run over told me that it was basically teaching you how to implement anti-tank tactics like they did in the movie “Stalingrad.”

        Speaking of movies the Israeli movie “Tank” was pretty good, maybe not WCO’s first choice in cinema, but if you want to see a movie in Hebrew about a tank crew in the 82 invasion its your movie.

  4. jjak

    Fascinating! More like this please, if not ATGMs than something similar.

    Since the Kelly book on the M1 keeps getting cited here I finally ordered a copy. Now I guess I’ll need the Rabinovich book eventually too. How’s the Eliam’s book rate as well?

    1. Hognose Post author

      It is a good book. Like many Israeli memoirs, there’s a good bit of score settling in it. There’s a negative review on Amazon by some chump mentioning that there are few details of small arms development. Thats not what Eliam worked on.

  5. medic09

    I never had to do it ‘live’; but the thought of being out on foot and facing tanks still shakes me almost 30 years later. Makes me really appreciate the courage of the Egyptian infantry who wreaked havoc on Israeli armor in the opening days of the Yom Kippur War. They not only improved their weaponry, training, and tactics; they had a really big dose of combat courage.

    As for the LAW – it never seemed to me in the 80s that it would do much against up-to-date armor. It did make quite an impression when knocking on a target’s door, though.

  6. Y.

    How come there are no kinetic anti-tank missiles?

    Missiles can be quite fast, some AA ones approach 1000 m/s.

    This would notably cut down on the time the tank crew has to react, and IIRC, reactive armor is less useful against AP projectiles.

      1. Brad

        Still, a lot less weight and recoil than 120mm high velocity anti-tank gun!

        Ever since the big five era (procurement of Abrams, Bradley, Blackhawk, Apache, Patriot), the US Army seems to have stumbled around, unsure and unable to prepare for the future. The number of Army programs canceled (IMO some for good reason like Comanche and others not like KEM) is remarkable.

        Even though the 21st Century wars have no doubt diverted and distracted the Army, I bet that really invaluable systems such as the fleets of UAV and up-to-date body armor would not have been procured absent the life and death pressures of war.

          1. Brad

            Well, the problem there is the HMMWV and not really the KEM, right? A HMMWV armed with TOW would be even more of a deathtrap. Probably the only viable ATGM for the HMMWV is the Spike-ER fiber optic guided missile fired in non-line-of-sight mode.

            I could see the potential of KEM from helicopter or armored launch platforms.

          2. Kirk

            Brad, you’re putting your finger on the issue, and not seeing the implications of it: The KEM only makes sense on platforms where there are already other, cheaper alternatives for arming them. Why develop what amounts to another tank for the KEM, when you can just slap on the already-developed 120mm?

            Where KEMs make far more sense would be unmanned, essentially disposable platforms. Those are coming, and a KEM-armed version will likely be the “main gun” of the late 21st-Century tank, which will more resemble a mobile armored command post for unmanned ground and air vehicles than what we consider a tank.

            We’re on a cusp point, right now, with respect to military technology. I personally feel that the recent experience with drones and what-not is more resonant with the experiences that the various Western observers had during the Russo-Japanese War than anything else. You can see the outline of real next-generation conventional war coming, but it’s not quite here as of yet. Frankly, I have a suspicion that the Russians are going to learn a very expensive lesson in the next generation or two, as they try to expand the Ukrainian experience into the former Baltic statelets. The combination of high technology with “nothing left to lose” is going to be where all these trends are going to converge, and someone is going to weaponize all those cheap little UAV toys with improvised warheads. I’m actually surprised that nobody has done that yet, in the Ukraine.

            I won’t predict where or when it is going to happen, but I will gladly tell anyone that’s interested that the entire paradigm of how we’ve been fighting wars for the last hundred years is going to change, and change massively. You can already see little hints of it, and there is no telling where or when our version of the Somme is going to come. I’d put pretty good money on the Baltic, though. Or, Poland, in another half-generation or so.

  7. Brad

    Great read. What role (if any) did self-propelled artillery play in Israeli anti-Sagger tactics? Perhaps the Israeli’s didn’t have much SP in 1973? It almost sounds like the Israeli tankers didn’t operate in close cooperation with artillery and infantry and had to handle the Sagger problem alone.

    I noticed you cited the Kelly Orr book, King of the killing zone. Glad you found it useful. The copy I read I checked out from the public library.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I bought it on your recommendation, and its commentary on the Shilelagh and Sagger and Yom Kippur War was what made me want to write about early ATGMs.

      Missiles are much more sophisticated today. A couple guys I know faced an attack of Iraqis in 2003 — T-72 tank company + mech company in APCs — and defeated the attack with Javelins before the poor bastards had our guys ranged accurately. And that was one SF ODA + some hangers-on from an ODB and Group, including a battalion or group physician’s assistant. It was really only a couple or three guys who did all the Jav shooting, everyone else was covering them or readying reloads.

      Israel used its SPARTY with unusual vigor in 1973. For example, they had a very few ex-US 175mm guns. (Battalion? Battery?) On the northern front, they ran them all the way forward into the tank battle so they could shell strategic targets in the rear. At the end, as the Israelis advanced on both Arab capitals, they shelled Damascus, just to kind of “knock on the door.” I haven’t read closely looking for AT uses. An SP gun does not really belong in range of tanks, because it’s merely armored against frags and small arms. “If you look like a tank on the battlefield you get treated like a tank” and that’s a baaaad thing. Of course, the 175s had the crew fully exposed.

      While the guys at the tip of the spear were all for rolling “on to Berlin” as it were, the guys in the rear monitoring logistics knew the little Israeli army couldn’t do it. And the Arab plan all along had been to get their territory from 1967 back, and then have Big Brother Brezhnev call out the UN Security Council and demand a cease-fire in place. As it was, the Israeli counteroffensives had totally screwed up that plan, but Russia had been screaming blue murder in the UN for a while, and the US also pressured Israel to stop and pull back. In the end, the cease fire required the Israelis to withdraw from the west bank of the Canal and the Sinai as well, provided for the reopening of the Canal (something Egypt wanted and needed desperately), and left the Israelis holding former Arab territory in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.

      But psychologically, the Arabs called it a win. They proved that their soldiers could fight like a pride of lions and restored the humiliation of 1967. That was probably a key factor in the lack of another major war to date… humiliated people do desperate things, c.f. the 1933 election in Germany.

      1. Brad

        “I haven’t read closely looking for AT uses. An SP gun does not really belong in range of tanks, because it’s merely armored against frags and small arms. “If you look like a tank on the battlefield you get treated like a tank” and that’s a baaaad thing.”

        And that points out an interesting paradox of armored warfare. Tanks seem to require the close cooperation of infantry and artillery, yet the means of keeping those assets up with the tanks are so much more vulnerable than tanks. At least SPARTY can use indirect fire to try and keep out of harms way.

        While trying to answer my own question, I stumbled across this 1974 dated document while googling around. It has some interesting things to say about the Israeli tank losses.

        http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/CSI/docs/Gorman/03_DCST_1973_77/06_74_InfMidIntensity_22Jan.pdf

      2. Brad

        “Missiles are much more sophisticated today. A couple guys I know faced an attack of Iraqis in 2003 — T-72 tank company + mech company in APCs — and defeated the attack with Javelins before the poor bastards had our guys ranged accurately. And that was one SF ODA + some hangers-on from an ODB and Group, including a battalion or group physician’s assistant. It was really only a couple or three guys who did all the Jav shooting, everyone else was covering them or readying reloads.”

        Javelin seems like a real game changer to me. What good is a slab of Burlington armor when a HEAT warhead can bypass it and pop the top of the can instead? We may be returning to a 1973 era of tank warfare, the seeming immunity of M-1 type tanks just a temporary phase.

        I wonder about the potential of integrating Javelin with armored vehicles.

        http://www.deagel.com/news/Javelin-Anti-Tank-Weapon-Demonstrates-Vehicle-Mounted-Missile-Launch_n000013022.aspx

        Since in top-attack mode Javelin launches at an extreme angle to line of sight, I imagine something like a small self-contained box launcher on the turret bustle holding four or more ready to fire Javelins. (Of course Javelin doesn’t have the range of TOW, but a vehicle specific version of Javelin might amend that difference.)

        I read that when the British came up the Chieftain, one of the options they considered for armament was a combination of a 90mm high velocity gun and ATGM. Not viable in 1965, such a combination might be good today. A 90mm gun is more than enough to handle light armored vehicles, and a top attack ATGM for destroying enemy tanks.

        1. Hognose Post author

          The US went ATGM + gun in the 1960s and it wasn’t live till the 1980s, and even then had issues. (Shillelagh). Of course US launched it from the gun which dictated a big and relatively low-velocity gun. The missile was OK if the systems didn’t fall apart — very similar capability to TOW, actually — but the systems always did fall apart, and the gun was compromised to near inutility.

          In Vietnam, though, the 152mm flechette round made the human wave attack very costly for the NVA. But VN was crap tank territory, and they were there mostly because tank officers did not want to sit out the war. The Sheridan was a good idea killed by the Good Idea Fairy trying to make one vehicle do forty-eleventeen things.

          The Russians have missiles they fire from their main guns. Not up on their capabilities.

          1. Brad

            Yeah, the utter failure of the Shillelagh just reinforces for me how sensible the Brits were with the Chieftain tank. Even if the Shillelagh had worked as advertised it would have been much more expensive and only superior to the L11 gun in long range anti-tank fire (until Burlington armor made Shillelagh HEAT rounds obsolete at any range).

            When the Sheridan project failed, I wonder why the US Army didn’t just buy a successful light tank already in use by one of our allies. There was no shortage of suitable candidates. And the gesture could have spread good will.

            As far as the Soviets, I’m still surprised they kept going on with tanks not much different from the T-72. Too wedded to old doctrine? Too costly to change direction?

            I remember from the Orr book that the new technology armor really starts to shine with vehicle designs that mass at least 58 tons. Even though the Russians today supposedly make use of the new armor tech (an assertion I wonder is really true) their tanks are still lightweights in comparison.

  8. neutrino_cannon

    Perhaps you were planning to note this in the next part of the story, but the Israel Tal mentioned above would later head the development of the merkava MBT.

    1. Hognose Post author

      No, I wasn’t. But Tal is a figure who looms large in Israeli weapons design. The next installment is mostly personal stories and quotes about the missiles of the Yom Kippur / Ramadan / October War

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