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Are Anti-Tank Guided Missiles the New Primary Threat in Urban Warfare/MOUT?

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by David Crane
[email protected]


Greg Grant
has written an interesting article for DefenseNews.com about Hizbollah’s (Hezbollah’s) "innovative" (Grant’s term) use of man-portable anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) systems. Mr. Grant cites several examples of Hezbollah’s "innovative" urban warfare/guerrilla warfare tactics with ATGMs.

1) Hizbollah guerilla fighters "swarmed" Israeli Merkava MBTs (Main Battle Tanks)–including possibly Merkava Mk4 MBTs–and fired at the sides and rear of the tanks with multiple ATGMs simultaneously. Anthony Cordesman (Phone: 202-775-7325, Email: [email protected]), a military analyst at the Washington, DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), noted that Hizbollah’s swarming tactic of firing multiple missiles against a single target proved effective against both armored vehicles AND infantry. Which leads us to example number two:

2) Hezbollah guerillas "displayed even more innovation" by…

utilizing antitank guided missiles in the mobile-fire-support role, firing them against dismounted Israeli infantry forces. In other words, Hizbollah fighters fired ATGMs directly against groups of Israeli infantry warfighters moving on foot, not just at light armored vehicles and tanks. Even thick-walled buildings/structures offered little-to-no protection for the Israeli soldiers, since the powerful ATGM warheads are designed specifically for penetrating thick steel armor. So, concrete and cement buildings offered little protection, other than concealment. And here’s the kicker: with these weapons, the Hezbollah fighters could reportedly reach out and touch (i.e. effectively target) the Israelis at distances up to 3,000 meters, which is many-times farther than standard infantry small arms can reach. Here’s how Steven Zaloga (Email: [email protected]), a senior analyst at the Teal Group Corporation (Fairfax, VA) put it, "Because Hizbollah had such a profusion of anti-tank weapons, they were able to stand off at some distance and pop away at Israeli dismounted infantry at ranges beyond what you traditionally think of when you talk about close combat."

3) The stand-off distance created by the combination of the ATGMs and Hizbollah’s somewhat creative use of them allowed Hizbollah guerillas to create a "layered defensive system". Basically, ATGMs placed in over-watch positions at the rear provided fire support for Hizbollah fighters in the frontline trenches and hidden bunkers, who would suddenly pop out and attack the Merkava tanks at close range with their swarm tactics, and then quickly disappear again. Of course, some of these close-in swarm attacks may have also been conducted with unguided RPG-29 antitank grenade launchers (unconfirmed/unverified), which fire a tandem-warhead PG-29V grenade and are effective to approx. two times (2x) the range of the RPG-7V antitank grenade launcher/PG-7VR grenade combo (Note: "RPG" stands for "Rocket Propelled Grenade.").

According to the DefenseNews.com piece, Hizbollah’s anti-tank guided weapons arsenal included a veritable smorgasbord of both wire-guided and non-wire-guided anti-tank missile systems, including older Russian Sagger wire-guided anti-tank missiles, newer Russian METIS-M1 and Kornet-E ATGMs, and Iranian-built "knock-offs" of the American M47 Dragon and TOW missile systems.

While Hezbollah’s use of "swarm tactics" with anti-tank missiles isn’t necessarily all that innovative–guerilla fighters/insurgents and terrorists have been using these same tactics with unguided antitank weapons (like RPG-7/RPG-7V antitank grenade launchers) for years–it could perhaps be argued that the use of these tactics with ATGMs, as well as the combined use of them directly against dismounted infantry personnel and in defensive layers, is somewhat novel in certain respects. Taken in totallity, the Hizbollah guerilla tactics have created a new problem for Israel, and potentially also for the United States, since Muslim guerilla/insurgents and terrorists around the world tend to communicate with each other, share fighting tactics, and learn from each other fairly quickly. It would therefore stand to reason that Iraqi insurgents/terrorists might start employing the same or similar tactics against U.S. infantry forces.

U.S. and Israeli defense analysts and engineers are already brain-storming (i.e. performing after-action analyses and assessments) on the recent Israeli-Hezbollah conflict to figure out how both they (Israel) and we (the U.S.) can better deal with this type of insurgent/guerrilla problem.

As if IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) weren’t problematic enough.

DefenseReview has been writing about Advanced American Enterprise’s "Visibility-Stealth" and "Thermal/IR/NV-Stealth" (thermal/infrared/night vision stealth) for vehicles and personnel for the last few months. If the AAE Stealth Technology System (STS) cloaking/adaptive camouflage/electro-optical camouflage tech lives up to the hype, it could be the solution–or at least a solution–to this guerrilla/insurgent ATGM swarming and defensive layering problem. The U.S. military/DoD (Department of Defense) would therefore be well-advised to take a close look at AAE’s technology. If AAE’s optical camouflage/stealth tech can actually do what the company claims it can do, it would no doubt go a long way towards protecting the lives of U.S. infantry warfighters against not only emerging threats like the one discussed in this article, but also against all those potential as-yet-unkown enemy threats that could be on the way–things we may not have even thought of, yet.

Previous articles on AAE Stealth Technology System (STS) Cloaking/Adaptive Camouflage/Electro-Optical Camouflage Technology (from most recent to least recent):

Are Anti-Tank Guided Missiles the New Primary Threat in Urban Warfare/MOUT? by
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About David Crane

David Crane started publishing online in 2001. Since that time, governments, military organizations, Special Operators (i.e. professional trigger pullers), agencies, and civilian tactical shooters the world over have come to depend on Defense Review as the authoritative source of news and information on "the latest and greatest" in the field of military defense and tactical technology and hardware, including tactical firearms, ammunition, equipment, gear, and training.

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