Author Topic: ATGMs of the Cold War  (Read 2349 times)

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Offline Logan Hartke

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ATGMs of the Cold War
« on: November 30, 2014, 09:39:53 pm »
So, I'm trying to read up on the various ATGMs of the Cold War and the relative merits and it struck me that the British were—by the late Cold War—using just about everything on the Western market but the HOT (as far as I know). They were using Swingfire and MILAN missiles on their AFVs and TOWs on their helicopters. Similarly, the Germans were using HOT, MILAN, and TOW missiles on their AFVs and helicopters at the same time.

How did these missiles compare to each other? Can anyone give me a basic, layman's terms rundown of them?



What I've gathered is that TOW and HOT were very comparable, with HOT mainly being a European alternative. HOT was probably the better missile at certain points in its development, had a better warhead, and supported European industry. TOW, however, was faster, cheaper, integrated on more platforms, and available earlier.



MILAN is a smaller, lighter missile than most of the others, able to be fired from smaller platforms and definitely the best choice for infantry.



Swingfire is intriguing. The British during the Cold War advertised it heavily and everything I've read seems to indicate that the missile gave a good account of itself. It offered more options for firing from behind cover, remote guidance, etc. It packed a huge warhead and seemed to be a good fit for the Cold War battlefield. So why didn't it succeed? Well, as far as I can tell, it was never integrated on as many platforms (helicopters, for example), it was probably more expensive than the TOW, and it was slooowww. When you have to guide a missile all the way in, you want it to get there sooner than later. You might miss more often with a slower missile, but you'll survive more often to fight another day on a high-intensity battlefield.



TOW seems to be the cheap, cheerful, "does what it says on the tin" option. No nonsense, next day shipping available, etc. The convenience, cost, and proven reliability seem big selling points.

Is that admittedly very basic assessment roughly correct?

Cheers,

Logan

Offline rickshaw

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2014, 10:39:29 pm »
Logan, it basically comes down to the guidance system and how it controlled the missile.

The earliest ATGW systems used Command Line of Sight Guidance (CLOS) and were usually referred to as "bang-bang" systems.  Basically the firer had a small telescope and a joystick which was connected to the missile via wires.  When the missile fired, the firer guided it into his line of sight (LOS) and then to the target, usually keeping track of it via a flare in the back of the missile.  The "bang-bang" system was a description of how the system worked inside the missile, with the vanes on the missile going full up or full down with each movement of the joystick.  The result was the missile usually executed a sort of sine wave towards the target, either above or below the LOS as the firer reacted (and over-reacted) to each movement of the missile as it reacted to the last command given to it.  This invariably resulted in a lot of misses, as the missile would execute a climb or a dive at just the wrong moment and either go over the target or hit the ground just in front of it.  SS10, Entac and SS11 all used this system.

The next generation used various methods to smooth that out and it was generally referred to as Semi-Automatic Command Line of Sight Guidance (SACLOS).  The firer's commands weren't as violently interpreted and the result was the missile flew a much straighter course.   Vigilante, Sagger, Cobra and SS12 were all examples of this system.   Early Swingfire and the Tracked Rapier SAM were others.

The next generation improved even further, creating Fully Automatic Command Line of Sight Guidance (FACLOS), where the interface was changed to one where the firer just had to keep his LOS crosshairs on the target and the guidance system kept track of the relative position of it and where the missile was by measuring where an IR flare was on the rear of the missile was and brought the two together.  This resulted in a massive improvement in accuracy and range.  Examples of this system were TOW, Dragon, HOT, later Swingfire, Bill, and most other advanced wire-guided ATGWs.

The latest generation has done away usually with the wire guided system and put most of the guidance system into the missile, so once fired, it acquires the target and homes in, either on a laser beam's reflections or uses millimetre radar reflections.

Some missiles had special quirks, such as Swingfire which used thrust vectoring which allowed it to make extreme, right-angle turns immediately after launch.  Dragon used a different thrust vectoring system with multiple separate guidance motors around the periphery which would fire to guide the missile as it rotated.  Some of the SACLOS could also have the launcher separated from the gunner by tens of metres which allowed it to be sighted below a crest with the guider just poking his head over, although that required considerable training and increased the minimum range appreciably.  Something FACLOS systems couldn't do, because of the need for the guidance system to sense the missile's position immediately on launch for it to work.

While all shared similar guidance and launch methods the main difference between TOW, Swingfire and HOT was range and warhead.  They tended to be vehicle mounted as a consequence being really too heavy to be manpacked.  Milan was comparable to a shorter range, lighter warhead TOW which was also man portable.   

You ask in particular why didn't Swingfire succeed?  I'd suggest mainly because of politics.  US missiles were backed by the US Foreign Military Sales system a formidable foreign policy and sales system which often gave weapon systems away at bargain basement prices and the UK simply couldn't and often wouldn't compete with it.  The UK was looking for a good return on it's investment and so it's missiles tended to be expensive.  Swingfire was, as you note an excellent system but it cost a lot compared to TOW, while HOT had the advantage of economies of scale with thousands of missiles being produced for NATO.

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Offline DarrenP

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2014, 03:13:29 am »
swingfire also had  the ability to do a 180 and come back at the firer.
There were also systems like SS11 and Vigilant and Malkara which were 1st generations.
the soviets had systems like spigot and spandrel.
To assess performance look at the Yom Kippur war, the Israelis in Lebanon in 82 and the French against the Libyans. These battles the weapons went up against the armoured targets they were intended to maybe not in the environment first planned.

Offline Weaver

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2014, 04:00:57 am »
Logan, it basically comes down to the guidance system and how it controlled the missile.

The earliest ATGW systems used Command Line of Sight Guidance (CLOS) <snip>  SS10, Entac and SS11 all used this system.

The next generation used various methods to smooth that out and it was generally referred to as Semi-Automatic Command Line of Sight Guidance (SACLOS).  The firer's commands weren't as violently interpreted and the result was the missile flew a much straighter course.   Vigilante, Sagger, Cobra and SS12 were all examples of this system.   Early Swingfire and the Tracked Rapier SAM were others.

The next generation improved even further, creating Fully Automatic Command Line of Sight Guidance (FACLOS), <snip>  Examples of this system were TOW, Dragon, HOT, later Swingfire, Bill, and most other advanced wire-guided ATGWs.


You've got the generations a bit mixed up here Rickshaw. I suspect you've been misled by the wikipedias article on SACLOS which describes the system accurately but gives an incorrect list of examples.

1st Gen = MCLOS (operator flies it like a radio-controlled plane). SS10/11/12, ENTAC, Swatter, Cobra/Mamba were all simple "bang-bang" MACLOS. Vigilant and original Swingfire were also MACLOS, but they had more sophisticated proportional control systems that translated the operator's commands more accurately into missile steering actions. The operator still had to fly them all the way to the target though.

2nd Gen = SACLOS (operator just tracks the target and the system automatically puts the missile where he's aiming). Also known as TCA (Tele-Command Automatique). TOW, Dragon, Harpon, Milan, HOT, BILL, Spigot/Spandrel, and the later, updated Swingfire were all SACLOS.

I don't recognise the term FACLOS at all. Unless the launcher is somehow automatically tracking the target (which none do) then I don't see how a system where the operator establishes the LOS to the traget can be any "more automatic" than "semi".

Laser-guided missiles like Hellfire are, in effect, SACLOS too, since the operator establishes the LOS to the target and the missile follows it automatically. The difference is only in the guidance technology, in the Hellfire homes in on reflections from the target created by the operator's laser. It's certainly more advanced than wire-guided SACLOS with more options (greater range and speed, 3rd party designation), but with a man-in-the-loop all the way to the target, it's still only semi-automatic.

The latest ATGWs more away from command-to-line-of-sight entirely. They lock on to the target with an on-board sensor and then fly automatically to it in the same fashion as a Sidewinder. The operator can move as soon as the missile's launched, because it doesn't need any further help from him. Javelin (the modern ATGW, not the old MANPADS) is the best example of this, using an imaging infra-red sensor. Brimstone uses a milimetre-wave radar sensor and is capable of Lock-On After Launch (LOAL).
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Offline Weaver

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2014, 04:12:41 am »
Incidentally, the British missiles didn't do as badly sales-wise as is thought (I was wrong here too):

Vigilant:
Dubai
United Arab Emirates
Finland
Kuwait
Libya 
Saudi Arabia
Switzerland
Britain
United States (USMC)

Swingfire:
Belgium
Egypt
Iraq
Kenya
Nigeria
Portugal
Qatar
Saudi Arabia
Britain
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Offline rickshaw

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2014, 06:11:54 am »
You've got the generations a bit mixed up here Rickshaw. I suspect you've been misled by the wikipedias article on SACLOS which describes the system accurately but gives an incorrect list of examples.

Nope, I wrote that purely from memory.  I noticed that in about the mid-1990s the terminology started to change and became a lot "looser" in it's definitions.   I'm using the actual Cold War terminology.  The major difference between SACLOS and FACLOS is that the operator in SACLOS effectively still had to "steer" the missile itself, whereas in FACLOS all that he was required to do was keep the crosshairs on the target and the system steered the missile towards his point of aim for him.  This made it easier, simpler to train on and of course more accurate.  However, it also, as I mentioned prevented the operator being separated from the launcher which IMHO was a loss of utility.

I've just remember that another example of SACLOS was Blowpipe.  RBS-70 and the Javelin MANPADs were others.  The difference between these MANPADs and the ATGW was that they didn't use wires, whereas the ATGW to carry the command link.  In the case of Blowpipe, radio was used and for RBS-70 and Javelin, laser beam riding was used.   An interesting application which I mentioned was Tracked Rapier.  Towed Rapier used it as well but it had a bloody great big optical aiming system (what most people don't realise about Rapier was that it was radar cued but optically aimed) whereas on Tracked Rapier they actually that plus they had the facility for the commander to have a helmet mounted cueing system with a SACLOS guidance system mounted on it.  He could stick his head out the hatch and guide the missile using his helmet mounted sight.

However, that's outside the scope of Logan's original question which was about ATGW.

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Offline Weaver

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2014, 08:02:31 am »
You've got the generations a bit mixed up here Rickshaw. I suspect you've been misled by the wikipedias article on SACLOS which describes the system accurately but gives an incorrect list of examples.

Nope, I wrote that purely from memory.  I noticed that in about the mid-1990s the terminology started to change and became a lot "looser" in it's definitions.   I'm using the actual Cold War terminology.  The major difference between SACLOS and FACLOS is that the operator in SACLOS effectively still had to "steer" the missile itself, whereas in FACLOS all that he was required to do was keep the crosshairs on the target and the system steered the missile towards his point of aim for him.  This made it easier, simpler to train on and of course more accurate.  However, it also, as I mentioned prevented the operator being separated from the launcher which IMHO was a loss of utility.

The majority of reference books I've got were published in the Cold War and there is no mention of FACLOS in any of them. I'd literally never heard of the term until you posted it. Probably the most authoritative work I've got is the fourth edition of Brassey's Guided Weapons, published in 2000 and written by J.F.Rouse of the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham. It is in no sense a "coffee table" book, being a rather dry read and stating in it's introduction that it's written specifically for military personnel. The term FACLOS does not appear anywhere in it, and it supports the definitions of MCLOS and SACLOS that I gave earlier. It does offer the term ACLOS (Automatic Command to Line Of Sight), but as describled it is not relevent to ATGWs.

A summation of Brassey's descriptions are:

MCLOS : the operator manually tracks both the target and the missile and directly controls the missile to fly it into the target.

SACLOS : the operator manually tracks the target, thereby establishing the line of sight to it. The control system automatically tracks the missile and steers it onto the operator's line of sight.

ACLOS : the control system automatically tracks both target and missile and steers the missile to hit the target.

The only examples of ACLOS I can find are various medium-to-large SAM systems and the AS-15TT anti-FPB missile, all of which track both target and missile by radar, sometimes with optical/IR backups.

I know it's hardly conclusive, but if you do a web search on MCLOS or SACLOS, you are immediately presented with multiple examples of the definitions above. If you do a web search on FACLOS, you get nothing.


Quote
I've just remember that another example of SACLOS was Blowpipe.  RBS-70 and the Javelin MANPADs were others.  The difference between these MANPADs and the ATGW was that they didn't use wires, whereas the ATGW to carry the command link.  In the case of Blowpipe, radio was used and for RBS-70 and Javelin, laser beam riding was used.   An interesting application which I mentioned was Tracked Rapier.  Towed Rapier used it as well but it had a bloody great big optical aiming system (what most people don't realise about Rapier was that it was radar cued but optically aimed) whereas on Tracked Rapier they actually that plus they had the facility for the commander to have a helmet mounted cueing system with a SACLOS guidance system mounted on it.  He could stick his head out the hatch and guide the missile using his helmet mounted sight.
However, that's outside the scope of Logan's original question which was about ATGW.

Blowpipe used radio-command MCLOS guidance and performed poorly unless the operator was very highly skilled.

Javelin used radio-command SACLOS guidance and was easier to use with better results.

Starstreak uses laser-command SACLOS guidance.

Starburst is the Javelin missile with the Starstreak laser-guidance system.

Rapier was indeed radar cued and optically aimed (SACLOS) in it's basic form, although a Blindfire tracking radar could be added to provide night/all-weather guidance. The HMS in tracked Rapier didn't have a SACLOS system mounted on it: it was a broad cueing system that allowed the commander to quickly slew the launcher onto a target, but the actual guidance had to be done by the operator using the periscope sight.
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Offline Logan Hartke

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2014, 11:43:57 am »
Thanks, guys! Do you guys know how contemporary Soviet ATGMs of the period stacked up to the Western missiles?

Cheers,

Logan

Offline DarrenP

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2014, 02:18:18 pm »
like I said look at the Yom Kippur war and see the effect of soviet ATGW had on the Israeli armour

Offline Logan Hartke

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2014, 02:39:49 pm »
Thanks, Darren. I've actually read extensively on the Yom Kippur War and the effectiveness of the AT-3 Sagger, especially against Israeli Centurions and M48s. I know the extensive losses required rushed shipment of tanks from US stocks and very much drove the direction of the Merkava's development.

I'm looking more for a plain language comparison of the missiles' technical aspects and relative advantages/disadvantages. The replies of Weaver and rickshaw are very much the sort of thing I was trying to understand.

Cheers,

Logan

Offline rickshaw

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2014, 04:27:07 pm »
The early Soviet ATGWs were somewhat more primitive than their NATO counterparts, Logan.  Perhaps the best known is the aforementioned Sagger.  It's success in the 1973 was not necessarily because it was better than Western ATGWs but because of the poor tactics adopted by the Israelis who drew the wrong lessons from the 1967 war.  They had forgotten that armour needs to be accompanied by infantry, having so often over-run and routed Arab units which had been unable to defend themselves against the Israeli armour.  The result was rather reminiscent of the British Army after it's success against the Italians in Operation Compass in the Western Desert.  Without accompanying infantry to protect against the opposing infantry's ATGWs, they ran head first into them and so suffered disproportionate losses.  That, plus the widespread adoption of Saggers (every man and his dog seems to have had one in the Sinai) meant that there were tens, perhaps even hundreds of missiles directed at each tank and so it wasn't surprising that the Israelis suddenly found themselves running out of tanks.

Once the Israelis had realised their mistake and curbed their over-enthusiasm and reinstituted proper all-arms tactics, the effectiveness of the Saggers fell considerably.  So, the claims of the time that the day of the tank's dominance of the battlefield were over were a bit premature.  The tank designers fought back, incorporating heavier and better armour, added more and better obscurant smoke dischargers, added various missile detectors/jammers and in the case of the Soviets started development of their active armour arrays.  They also gave the accompanying infantry better weapons on their APCs such as 20mm or larger cannons, so that missile launchers could be suppressed or destroyed and pushed the accompanying infantry further forward.

After 1973, the Soviets also started developing ACLOS systems, which made their missiles easier to guide and more accurate.  Spandrel, Kornet, etc.  They were and their Russian successors are as good as their Western counterparts and often have heavier warheads.  In the West, the development of mass, cheap, silicon chip based electronics has allowed guided missiles to move down the scale to the light AT field with such systems as Eryx & Spike coming into use in a weapon class which had traditionally been the domain of unguided rockets. 
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Offline DarrenP

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2014, 08:54:16 am »
interesting where some systems ended up. early European systems with the americans. Milan with the Syrians and next thing the Russians field spigot a similar system.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2014, 01:39:06 pm by DarrenP »

Offline rickshaw

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2014, 07:07:04 pm »
interesting where some systems ended up. early European systems with the americans. Milan with the Syrians and next thing the Russians field spigot a similar system.

Everybody copied everybody else, so you really can't blame the Russians.  Remember, the Israelis developed reactive armour arrays, the Soviets were actually developing them simultaneously and once they knew the Israelis were doing it, knew they were on the right track and then suddenly everybody had them!  I don't doubt that the Soviets were happy to get inputs from Milan but don't assume they weren't already building something similar.  The West often copied from the Russians as well such as the sudden, mass adoption of MLRS while the Soviets had been fielding artillery rocket systems for over 40 years. 

By the end of the Cold War, the Soviets were leading the world in Armour technology, developing advanced ceramics and composite passive armours, active armour arrays and reactive ones as well, while the West was concentrating on Chobham and it's various derivatives along with reactive armour.  When the wall came down and NATO found that the T-72M1 was impervious to all it's AT rounds from the frontal quarter, it sent a shock through the West's militaries at the time.  Luckily the Iraqis had never received the advanced versions of the T-72 when the first Gulf War occurred.  The shock was as great as occurred when that early T-54 drove into the British Embassy in Budapest in 1956 by mistake and people pulled out their tape measures.  ;D
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Offline Weaver

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2014, 02:55:59 am »
interesting where some systems ended up. early European systems with the americans. Milan with the Syrians and next thing the Russians field spigot a similar system.

In the west, France was the early leader in ATGW technology, helped by inheriting some German WWII research. Britain and America went down the wrong route initially, building big, awkward vehicle-launched systems like Dart and Malkara, while France got it pretty much right with the SS.10 and it's descendents by making them small enough and cheap enough to exploit the advantages of not needing a heavy vehicle. Britain and the USA pretty much had to suck it up and buy the French missiles to start with. Britain went on to develop the "1.5th generation" Vigilant and Swingfire which took MCLOS about as far as it could usefully go, sophistication-wise. America chose to licence (IIRC) the TCA guidance system from France but used it on it's own missile, which became the TOW.

HOT became available in the late 1970s, at a time when many Middle-Eastern countries, including Syria and Iraq, were getting jumpy about relying on the Soviet Union for everything, having seen the way they dropped Egypt after the Yom Kippur war, and the US still had severe export restrictions on TOW. Presumably the HOTs, Gazelles, Mirages etc...  were part of a wider effort to woo these states over to Western influence.

Fun, off-topic fact: the guy who designed the SS.10, Jean Bastien-Thiry, was the organiser of one of the assasination attempts on president De Gaulle (the one seen at the start of the film The Day of the Jackal), and thereby gained the dubious distinction of being the last man in France to be executed by firing squad.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Bastien-Thiry 
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Offline DarrenP2

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Re: ATGMs of the Cold War
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2016, 04:29:55 pm »
I do wonder if the British army had bought TOW instead of Swingfire what Striker would have been like? would they have goten it instead of Milan as well or was milans portability more a factor?