Wednesday, August 09, 2006


As a tanker, ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles) used to scare the hell out of me. Some guy with a shoulder-fired missile could hide in his hole and let us roll across his position, then pop up and fire an anti-tank missile into our grill doors. The chance of killing a tank with one of these things is low. You have to hit the tank just right. And, it's pretty much a suicide mission. If the missile gunner manages to hit the tank, it probably isn't going to get into the crew compartment. Oh, yeah, you will damage the tank and get a mobility kill. Knock a track off, or disable the engine, but today's tanks have complex armor to protect the crew and the fighting compartment. A third generation missile like the Hellfire is a good weapon in the right hands, and is certainly capable of killing a tank. Earlier generations are less likely to pose a lethal threat to modern armor.

Even disabled, the tank has a big gun, and machine guns, and you are certainly in range of those things. Also, tanks travel in packs. There is always another tank around. He'll come over and neutral steer on your position and grind you into soup.

There are some things a tank can ignore. Single infantrymen fall in that category. Unless the gunner is bored, a single infantryman on the battlefield is pretty safe from a tank. Unless he has a missile, then all bets are off, and it is a pretty good bet that the tank will come out on top.

I see that Hizbollah has gotten some Saggers and some old TOWs, both capable missiles on a 1970's battlefield. This ain't the 70's any more.

I remember the thermal sights on the old M60 series tanks. You could actually see into a tree line, past the foliage that grows thickly along the edges. When a missile crew was set up in the woods, you'd get a glow in the thermals and would call artillery on it. No sense letting a missile team feel secure. You see, the old Sagger was a pretty dumb missile. The missile gunner had to stay glued to the sights and fly the missile to the target with a joystick. If a tanker saw a launch signature, the immediate drill was to fire at the missile, back down the wire toward the gunner. If you could get him to duck, he lost his missile.

Nothing makes a missile gunner duck like main-gun fire from a tank, followed by artillery on his position.

I'm sure the Israelis have tactics to counter the rag-head missile teams.


FHB said...

Excellent post. That old wire guided tech was a step up from the RPG, but not too far. Was surfin earlier and foung this link to a clip from a German anti-tank training film you might enjoy.

Hope it works.

MasterGunner said...

I cut my teeth on the M1A1, but after spending four years on the M60A3, I have a very soft spot in my heart for that old warhorse.

Fun Fact: the TTS on the M60A3 was actually a better sight than the TIS on the original M1/M1A1 tank. The TTS was released after the M1-series tank had already been developed, so the M60-series was retrofitted with the newer technology.

Being a '60 Tanker, though, I'm more than positive you knew that.