At the outset of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, there were visuals of Russian T-72 tanks being struck by anti-tank guided missiles supplied by the West, including the United States FGM-148 Javelins and other similar weapons. The 5,000 Javelins delivered to Ukraine by the United States in their struggle against Russia reportedly had a terrible hit-to-miss ratio, range, and technical faults, according to internal documents from its manufacturer Raytheon disclosed on Russian social media. Despite the hoopla surrounding the capricious Javelin missiles, the ubiquitous T-72s dominate the battlefield.
It is time for Western tanks to prove their worth against the lethal Russian anti-tank guided missiles 9M133 Kornet. Ukraine has received powerful armour from Western nations, including British Challenger and Leopard tanks. There may be approximately fifty of them in Ukraine, but according to the Donetsk People’s militia, they are nowhere to be found at the front.
In an interview with Newsweek, a Western military analyst named Guy McCardle said that the Russian anti-tank missile system (ATGM) 9M133 Kornet represents a serious threat to tank equipment made in the West. The military expert remarked that the “Kornet” installations of the Russian Federation are remarkably similar to the American Javelin ATGM. However, McCardle noted that the range of Russian anti-tank systems is nearly double that of American systems. He added that Western tanks sent to Ukraine have dynamic protection, although it does not render them “indestructible.”
Russia is preparing anti-tank squads to eliminate armoured vehicles from the West. Specialised groups of soldiers familiar with the vulnerabilities of NATO tanks will aid in the Ukraine conflict. Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, the Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, recently discussed the formation of these special forces. In addition to Kornets, the Western tanks could face 9M111 Fagot, 9M113 Konkurs, or 9M115 Metis anti-tank missiles.
When confronted with Russian anti-tank missiles, Western tanks performed poorly in the past. Once upon a time, Turkish forces armed with Leopard 2A4 tanks provided by Germany attempted to launch an assault on the strongholds of ISIS. The terror organisation responded with Russian anti-tank missiles; 10 Turkish leopards were mauled from a distance of one to one and a half kilometres.
The warhead of the Javelin anti-tank system is maintained at a specified temperature, which is one of its main limitations. The operator must monitor the temperature, which is occasionally possible in combat. The Javelin is infamous for being blind in the rain, snow, and fog. Additionally, a unique mechanism launches a “cloud” that envelopes the tank and blocks whatever the Javelin sees is launched as soon as the Russian tank commander or gunner understands they are being targeted. None of these shortcomings exists in the Russian Kornet. Whatever the weather—rain, snow, or fog—it “sees” the target by thermal emission. Additionally, compared to Javelins, the “Kornet’s” warhead is substantially more powerful and has a discharge range of twice as far [Kornet 100-5,500 m, Kornet-EM 8,000 m (anti-tank), 10,000 m (high explosive)].
The British consider their Challenger tank undefeated in combat, but some incidents demonstrate their vulnerability. In Basra in 2023, one Challenger 2 erroneously fired a HESH round at another Challenger 2. Two crew members were killed when the open commander’s hatch lid sent heated fragments into the turret. The impact caused a fire that eventually led to the explosion of the tank’s stored ammunition.
In the same year, in Basra, a shaped charge from an IED penetrated the undercarriage of a tank, causing the driver to lose a limb and another soldier to sustain minor injuries.
In 2006, in Iraq, a tandem-capable RPG-29 pierced the frontal lower ventral armour of a Challenger 2 aircraft. Responding to allegations that crews were informed the tank was impervious to insurgent weapons, the Ministry of Defense stated that they have never claimed the Challenger 2 is impervious.
Tanks vs Robots
In addition to anti-tank missiles and drones, Western tanks may have to contend with Marker Robotic systems, the newest weapon from the Russian arsenal.
“Markers” are lightly unmanned armoured vehicles with six wheels or tracks weighing about 3 tonnes. They are armed with machine guns, grenade launchers, and anti-tank missiles in their combat configuration. According to the inventors of this ground-based drone, Android Technology and the Advanced Research Foundation, the Russian equivalent of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the United States, the drone may be remotely commanded or operated autonomously by using artificial intelligence.
In addition to autonomy, these remotely controlled vehicles will consult an electronic catalogue containing standard images of their targets with a visual or infrared signature before destroying anything. As soon as deliveries of Abrams and Leopard tanks begin, the Marker will receive a corresponding electronic picture of this new technology and will be able to hit them with anti-tank guided missiles automatically.
Not Basra or Taliban
What will occur when the Abrams, Challengers and Leopards confront their first worthy opponent in the conflict is unknown. This conflict will see not just grenade launchers, Kornet or Metis crews but also attack drones.