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27 February 2024

Anti-tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs)

Introduction & Details

In recent years, ATGMs have become increasingly widespread in their proliferation among insurgent groups and other non-state actors, as has been seen in several conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa. This article will breakdown what ATGMs are, the employment of these systems on the battlefield, examples of ATGMs in use by insurgent groups, a technical breakdown of the common systems that are in use and countermeasures to these weapons. 

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Syrian rebel firing ATGM [1]

Purpose of Use & Details

The term ‘anti-tank guided weapon’ (ATGW) is applied to a range of weapons, including guided mortar projectiles and guided artillery projectiles, but is most commonly used to describe portable guided missiles [2]. The term ‘anti-tank guided missile’ is also used to describe these weapons and is the most common of the two terms used today. These weapons were originally designed to disable armored vehicles, but are frequently employed against other targets, such as personnel, light vehicles, and hardened structures [2]. The missiles fired by ATGM systems are precision-guided munitions that are capable of altering their course during flight in order to more precisely strike a target [3]


Insurgent and non-state actors have proven themselves very capable in the employment of ATGMs, especially in Syria and Iraq, where government and insurgent groups traverse the battlefield in a wide variety of armored and improvised combat vehicles. By far the most famous operator of ATGMs is Suhail Muhammad Hamoud, also known as Abu Tow.  

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Abu Tow next to a 9M14 Malyutka ATGM [4]

In an interview presented by Calibre Obscura, Abu Tow details his use of ATGMs, and many other interesting aspects related to his experience on the battlefield. With a credited 130+ targets hit in combat; he is regarded as one of the most experienced ATGM operators in the world. 


In the interview when asked, “which targets take priority?” Abut Tow replied with the following, “My priority is the targets affecting my comrades, but often, after hitting the two MiG-23 Military aircraft in Aleppo [Military] Airport, I would rather target tanks because when the [Syrian Arab] Army breaks in using tanks, and you hit a tank, the other tanker would fire a random shot and retreat because he was aware that there is an ATGM gunner of FSA and the next target could be his tank” [4]


As the name suggests, ATGM’s were designed to defeat heavy armored vehicles, and when used for that purpose, even small insurgent groups can slow down or completely destroy conventional military fighting vehicles and tanks. With modern generation 2 and generation 3 ATGM’s having effective ranges out to 5,000 meters, a tanks effectiveness on the battlefield can be greatly diminished as increased standoff distance is needed for safety and survivability. 


How insurgent and non-state actor groups come to get their hands on these advanced weapons is well documented. One direct route for the procurement of ATGMs is a transfer from state sponsors, such as when Iran and Syria supplied various ATGM systems to Hezbollah or when Qatar supplied MILAN ATGMs to Libyan rebels in 2011 [5]. The second most common method is the raiding of government stockpiles that have been abandoned in conflict zones. One such example of this is Libya, where warehouses contained hundreds of guided weapon systems that were stolen, and these weapons are still found today across the Middle East and North Africa [5].  While black market sales of these weapons do exist, this is the rarest method as these systems are very costly and harder to transport covertly.

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The central distribution warehouse at the 70-bunker weapons storage facility in Ajdabiya, in March 2011, was freely accessible to Libyan rebels. It contained hundreds of MANPADS (most notably 9K32) and ATGWs (9K11 Malyutka, 9K111 Fagot, and the advanced 9K135 Kornet). © Human Rights Watch 2011. [5] 

Renowned Cases & Examples

There has never been a better time for gathering video footage and photographs of ATGM’s in use on battlefields across the globe. This section will focus on the tactical employment and recorded use of various ATGMs from non-state actors and insurgent groups.  While we examine these real word examples, take note of employment locations, the type of ATGM used by that particular group, the conflict zone, and the targets chosen. 


ATGM’s by design are crew served weapons that require at least a gunner, assistant gunner (for reloading and carrying ammunition) and preferably a team or squad leader. These systems are also meant to take out armored vehicles, with the HEAT and tandem warheads providing deep armor penetration. While the use of these missiles on individuals can appear extremely violent, the lack of fragmentation by design does not make ATGMs the most effective anti-personnel weapons. The exception to this is the thermobaric warheads, that are not available for all ATGM systems. 

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A Jaish al-Mujahideen ATGM operator fires a Malyutka (AT-3 Sagger) missile at two Shiite terrorist in the al-assad suburb [6].

This video showing the use of a 9M14 Malyutka from a roof top is a good example of proper firing position selection allowing for a long sight line down the road. We can assume this road is a main avenue of approach for their enemy. It appears that the missile hit low, and the fate of the two soldiers is unknown.  

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Video released by the 9th Division showing a Malyutka ATGM attack on a SAA T-72 in Menagh Airbase, Syria. Video released 13th July 2013 [7].

This video, presumably from the rebel group 9th Special Forces Division of Aleppo (prior to their dissolution into the Hazzm Movement) shows a failed attack on a T-72 tank. Their firing position from the room seems appropriately planned, but this attack ultimately fails due to a near miss, highlighting the difficult nature of using older Manual Command to Line of Sight (MCLOS) systems. First generation MCLOS anti-tank guided missile systems have a notoriously low hit rate when compared to second generation SACLOS systems.

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Faylaq al-Sham striking regime positions with a Malyutka missile, near a powerplant [8]

Above is a video showcasing a Malyutka used in an anti-structure role, targeting what appears to be a building occupied by enemy combatants. This ATGM teams appears to be competent in the employment of their system. The gunner is setup behind a berm, and it appears he has separated himself from the missile launcher. The purpose of this attack appears to be the targeted killing of the individuals on the balconies. This video does provide a great perspective on how hard the Malyutka is to control over long distances.

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Syrian Army BMP is destroyed by 9K111 Fagot ATGM [9].

While the above video fails to capture the missile impact on the BMP, it does provide an up-close view of the operation of a Russian 9K111 Fagot ATGM. Judging by the background, the gunner appears to be located on a roof, probably providing an unobstructed view of his enemy armor target. It is also possible to see the command wire hanging out the front of the missile tube. 

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Southern Front 9K111 Fagot team engage an IS fighting position outside of Ain Zaikr, November 2016 [10]. 

Above video is from the Syrian rebel group Southern Front utilizing a 9K111 Fagot ATGM for destroying what may be a vehicle or a fighting position near a building. This could be an experienced ATGM team, judging by the matt or cover the gunner is laying on that could have been used for lengthy wait for the right target to appear. 

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FSA fighters engaging Syrian Arab Army soldiers along the infamous “Wall of Death” in Aleppo, August 2016 [11].

While not designed for anti-infantry use, the 9K111 Fagot, as used in the video above, can provide long range accurate high explosive fire power to insurgent and non-state actor groups that lack other means of long-range fire. This battlefield advantage would go on to be a key factor in the success of various rebel and terrorist groups fighting in Syria during the civil war and Iraq in the wake of the Islamic State.

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Video clip showing a Houthi fighter in Yemen utilizing a 9M113 Konkurs ATGM on a pickup truck [12].

The 9M113 Konkurs missile was originally a part of the issued weaponry for BMP infantry fighting vehicles, and as such is a larger missile when compared to the 9K111 Fagot. Many of the Konkurs missiles in the hands of insurgent fighters can be attributed to being scavenged from BMPs bought from Russia.

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9M113 Konkurs missile being used against a tank, 2014 [13].

The above video showcases a fighter engaging an enemy tank on a hill. While the strike does not appear to be catastrophic, the psychological effects of a tank being hit can have dramatic impacts on the morale and combat readiness of the soldiers on that hill. Tanks are formidable force multipliers, especially for less advances armies that tend to lean heavily on their armor and firepower. Taking out a tank like this could set the stage for follow on assaults to take the hill by friendly forces.

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IS-SP militants engaging Egyptian naval vessel and tanks with 9M133 Kornet ATGMs [14].

In Egypt, the Islamic State – Sinai Province, with the use of 9M133 Kornet ATGMs (appear to be Iranian copies based on the color of the missile and launcher) was able to successfully carry out various attacks on Egyptian vessels and tanks. This came at a time when this Islamic State affiliate group successfully carried out large scale attacks in the previous years on various Egyptian military targets. The above ATGM strike on a naval vessel was a considerably noteworthy use of an ATGM being used in this manner.

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Islamic State hitting a Turkish Army M60 tank with 9M133 Kornet [15]

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9K115-2 Metis-M in use by Houthi fighters in Yemen [16].

A less common 9K115-2 Metis-M being employed against a tank positioned up on a hill. Not much information is provided with this video, but this video does showcase the classic employment of an ATGM against heavy armored vehicles.

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A fighter with the rebel group 16th Infantry Division engages a SAA T-72 [17].

While the video does not provide footage of the end result of this missile attack, it does show how small and portable the Metis / Metis-M missiles are. While the 16th Infantry Division fell under the Free Syrian Army and was supplied with many different types of anti-tank guided missile systems, the Metis / Metis-M systems are less commonly seen in use in Syria.

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Central Division of the FSA use BGM-71 TOW missile to strike Regime 9M133 Kornet crew in Homs province, Syria [18]

The above video showcases a FSA TOW team successfully engaging an enemy ATGM position. The accuracy of the BGM-71 lends itself to this type of engagement. Taking out an enemy ATGM can reduce anti-armor capabilities allowing for future mechanized assaults. 

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Opposition TOW BGM-71 vs SAA Machine Gun Nest [19]

Shown above is a Syrian rebel ATGM team setting up a BGM-71 TOW missile for a planned engagement of a Syrian Arab Army machine gun position. While not the best utilization of such a sophisticated weapon, during the Syrian conflict this type of engagement became popular. 

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Screen grab from recently released Hezbollah video showcasing an Iranian Toophan ATGM used for the destruction of Israeli military equipment [20]

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ISIS utilizing an HJ-8 ATGM against SAA armor [21]

While not as plentiful on the battlefield, the HJ-8 systems were supplied from Qatar to rebel forces, with ISIS eventually capturing a number of systems, as can be seen above. The missile strike in the video appears to have hit high, maybe in the tank’s turret, potentially saving it from a catastrophic hit. 

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Taliban ambush US convoy with RPGs and a MILAN ATGM leftover from the Soviet Afghan War (Afghanistan, 2000s) [22]

The older footage above is some of the only available video of Taliban forces utilizing a MILAN ATGM against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In classic fashion, we can see the Taliban have positioned themselves on the mountains in preparation of their ambush. This style of ambushes would continue to be employed by the Taliban for the duration of Operation Enduring Freedom, with considerable success against coalition forces.

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Reportedly Hezbollah attack carried out with Tharallah ATGM [23]

The video above was released by Hezbollah purportedly showing their Tharallah ATGM system being used to take out an Israeli armored personnel carrier (APC). We can assume this is the Tharallah system in used due to the quick succession of both missiles being fired. While delivering a deadly strike against the vehicle, the APC does not appear to be equipped with an Active Protection System or appear to be occupied.

Technical Analysis

This section will cover the various makes and models of ATGMs that are in use with insurgent and non-state actors. These will primarily be generation one and two ATGMs. While third and fourth generation and so called “fifth generation” ATGMs exist, there is little to no recorded use and rare possession parts and components of these highly advanced weapons in the hands of non-state actors. Third generation ATGMs encompass the FGM-148 Javelin and Spike ATGM, that feature forms of fire and forget. While Javelin missiles and components have been found in insurgent hands, crucial missing components like the CLU (Command Launch Unit) render them useless. 


First Generation Anti-Tank Guided Missiles


Many first generation ATGM systems are widely considered obsolete by today’s standards due to their very low hit probability, roughly 25-30% on most systems. Coupled with inadequate armor penetration and soon to be expiring shelf life’s not many first generation ATGMs are seen in use in recent years. Below will be details on the 9M14 Malyutka ATGM.

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9M14 Malyutka (NATO reporting name: AT-3 Sagger) [24]

This Soviet era system was the first produced man portable anti-tank guided missile system for the Soviet Union and is more than likely the most widely produced ATGM of all time- due to many former Soviet bloc countries manufacturing their own variants to some extent. It is common to see this missile used by infantry, mounted on ground vehicles and utilized on helicopters. The AT-3 Sagger is capable of engaging targets at ranges of 500 to 3,000 meters and can penetrate over 400mm of armor [25]. The AT-3 Sagger uses manual command to line of sight (MCLOS) guidance system in which the operator must observe both missile and target and guide the one towards the other [25]. It is important to note that the older MCLOS ATGM systems are the hardest to use and effective employment requires extensive training.


Second Generation Anti-Tank Guided Missiles


Second generation ATGM systems represent a leap forward in weapons technology. These systems take advantage of semi-automatic command to line of sight (SACLOS) technology that only requires the operator to keep the sights on the target until impact. Automatic guidance commands are sent to the missile through wires or radio, or the missile relies on laser marking or a TV camera view from the nose of the missile.

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9K111 Fagot (NATO Reporting Name: AT-4 Spigot) Anti-Tank Guided Missile System with 9M111-2 Missile [26]

The AT-4 Spigot was the first Soviet anti-tank guided missile system of what is commonly referred to as second generation anti-tank guided missiles firing the 9M111 missile [26]. The AT-4 Spigot uses semi-automatic guidance system with wired signal transmission. This means a thin wire is attached to the rear of the missile it stays connected during the duration of it flight to the target, receiving aiming adjustments from the operator. Other variants of the AT-4 Spigot include the AT-4A (Spigot-A), AT-4B (Spigot-B) with increased range and improved warhead, and the AT-4C (Spigot-C) that features an improved tandem HEAT warhead [27]


The AT-4 Spigot system includes the 9P135 lightweight tripod launcher that includes an optical sight and computing mechanism. The same launcher can be used with the larger and longer range 9M113 Konkurs missile [28]. It is common to see both the 9M111 and modern 9M111M missiles in use with insurgent and non-state actor groups, along with the 9P135 and 9P135M upgraded launchers. 

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9M113 Konkurs (NATO Reporting Name: AT-5 Spandrel) [29]

The 9M113 Konkurs was developed around the same time as the AT-4 Spigot, with the aim of creating a more powerful missile which can be distinguished from the AT-4 Spigot (9M111 missile) by the bulge at the rear of the missile as shown above. 


While the AT-5 Spandrel is capable of being fired from the 9P135M, M1, M2, and M3 tripod launchers, most formal militaries employ it on armored vehicles [30]. It is commonplace to see these missiles utilized by insurgent forces in a tripod configuration. It is commonplace for these units to be found in use by insurgent groups in the middle east. 


The man portable deployment of 9M113 series of missiles has proven much more common place in conflict zones due to the fact that 9P135M (and later 9P135M-1, etc.) control units with the 9M113 Konkurs missiles were adopted as part of the standard loadout for Soviet BMP-1 and BMP-2 [31]. As a result of the proliferation of the BMP-2, additional 9M113 series missiles were produced and exported in large numbers to Soviet client states and remain in service around the world [31]


Variants of this missile system are as follows: AT-5 Spandrel (Konkurs) and AT-5B Spandrel (Konkurs-M) [32].

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9M133 Kornet (NATO reporting name: AT-14 Spriggan) [33]

The 9M133 Kornet (AT-14 Spriggan) is also known as the 9K135, and is a modern Russian made anti-tank guided missile system developed as a more capable and longer-range alternative to the earlier AT-4 Spigot and AT-5 Spandrel. For dismounted infantry use, the AT-14 uses the 9P163-1 launcher, consisting of a tripod, 1PN79-1 thermal sight unit and associated 1PN45-1 optical tracker and guidance computer. 


The physical appearance of the 9P163-1 launcher is the best way to tell the difference between the AT-14 and other Russian made anti-tank guided missile systems. The AT-14 also uses a laser beam riding guidance system instead of a wire guided system found on previous systems. Of all the ATGMs in use in modern combat zones, the AT-14 is one of the most common employed by non-state actors and insurgent groups in the middle east, such as the Islamic State, Hamas, and Hezbollah to name a few.


The AT-14 makes uses of the following types of missiles: 9M133 Tandem HEAT, 9M133-1 Tandem HEAT, 9M133F-1 Thermobaric Warhead, 9M133M-2 Tandem HEAT, 9M133FM-2 Thermobaric Warhead, 9M133FM-3 HE Fragmentation. 

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9K115-2 Metis-M (NATO reporting name: AT-13 Saxhorn-2) [34]

The Metis-M is an enhanced version of the Metis (AT-7), first introduced in 1992. It is a light, man portable anti-tank guided missile, similar to the European Milan. This system uses the SACLOS wire guided configuration with an effective range of up to 2,000 meters for the updated M1 system [35]. The short range of the previous 9K115 Metis was seen as a major drawback to the system. 


The structure of the Metis-M system includes: 9P151 launcher with sight-guidance device, guidance drives and missile launch mechanism, thermal imaging sight 1PN86BVI “Mulat-115”, 9M131 missiles placed in transport and launch containers, test equipment 9V12M and 9V81M [34]


It is important to note that the AT-13 Saxhorn has not been sold internationally to other countries as much as the Fagot, Kornet, and Konkurs missile systems. Evidence of AT-13 use in combat is much less documented. 

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Libya GNA Rahbat Aldrou Tajoura Brigade fighter on the frontline in Tripoli operating a Russian 9K115-2 Metis-M ATGM [36]

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BGM-71 TOW operated by U.S. Army solider in Afghanistan [37]

The BGM-71 TOW is a mid-cold war era anti-tank missile developed in the United States of America. The name TOW is an abbreviation for “Tubed-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire command data link, guided missile.” [38]. While the TOW is capable of being employed in a variety of fashions, such as mounted on light vehicles, armored vehicles, and helicopters, the most common method of employment by insurgent groups is by tripod. 


The TOW is wire guided and uses SACLOS guidance. The tracker included in the launch post detects the IR beacon on the missile and calculates course corrections. These are sent via the wire to the missile which adjusts course accordingly. This guidance mode requires the operator to man the launcher until the missile has hit its target [38]


There are 5 TOW missile variants available for this system: Basic TOW, I-TOW (BGM-71C Improved), TOW-2, TOW-2A, TOW-2B (top attack warhead). The use of American TOW missiles by non-state actors has been heavily documented in the Syrian civil war. 


The relative scarcity of ATGMs (in Syria) began to change in the spring of 2014 when the United States allowed its allies (mostly Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Jordan) to start supplying TOW ATGMs to selected rebel groups under the Timber Sycamore program. Specifically, the TOW-2A was supplied, a model optimized to deal with tanks that are using reactive armor [39]. One of the conditions for getting new TOW missiles (rebel groups) was to provide video evidence of their use; an anti-proliferation measure with the goal of preventing ATGMs from ending up with extremist armed groups. Hence, many TOW ATGMs strikes were uploaded to YouTube by the vetted groups, which made tracking SAA (Syrian Arab Army) armor losses considerably easier. The number of supplied TOW ATGMs gradually increased as more rebel groups were approved to get them and more crews finished training [39]

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Toophan ATGM [40]

The Toophan anti-tank guided missile system is an Iranian produced copy of the American BGM-71 TOW. Iran reversed-engineered the American TOWs that had been imported into the country from the U.S. prior to the 1979 Iranian Revolution. 


Identifying Toophan missiles from BGM-71 TOWs can be difficult. But the best way to identify Iranian Toophan missiles is by their turquoise band or faint black band on the rear of the launcher. Modern American TOW tripods have black rings, while Toophan feature yellow rings, as shown in the picture above. 


Because the Toophan is produced by Iran, it is common to see this system in use by insurgent groups that are backed by Iran, such as Hezbollah.

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Rapid Support Forces fighter with Toophan missile in Sudan [41]

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Chinese HJ-8 ATGM [42]

The HJ-8 or Hingjian-8 is a second-generation tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided anti-tank missile system which was originally deployed by China’s People’s Liberation Army since the late 1980s. The HJ-8 series can be considered the Chinese equivalent of the US BGM-71 TOW and Franco-German MILAN / Euromissile HOT anti-tank missiles [43]


The HJ-8 is a combination many experts believe of three western antitank missile systems obtained from nations in the Middle East and Asia that were then examined and reverse engineered and modified: the tripod from the US BGM-71 TOW; the tracker-control unit from the French/German MILAN; and the missile from the UK Swingfire [43]

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An HJ-8 equipped to a Kurdish Humvee. Photo via Kurdish social media [44]

In recent years, specifically the international campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, there has been increased use of Chinese made anti-tank weapon systems. While the exact method and sponsor of the transfer of these highly sophisticated weapons is disputed, multiple sources point to Qatar providing Chinese made ATGMs from Sudan. This implies that the Sudanese government was aware of the actual end user of these weapons once Qatar took possession.


Qatar is strongly suspected to have supplied Syrian rebel groups with these weapons after first buying them from Sudan, and the hardware could have eventually worked its way to the Peshmerga via captured Islamic State stockpiles, according to one theory from the weapons monitoring group Armament Research Services [44].


Qatar is thought to have supplied various weapons procured from Sudan to rebel forces, including Chinese FN-6 MANPADS. Several other weapons produced in China and known to be in service with the Sudanese Armed Forces may also have been supplied by Qatar to rebel forces, including M99 anti-material rifles, QLZ-87 automatic grenade launchers, small arms ammunitions, and mortar projectiles. A source in Syria indicated that “anti-tank missiles” were provided by Qatar, and it seems likely that these may have included HJ-8 type systems [45].

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Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades (Armed wing of Hamas) fighter in Gaza with a North Korean (DPRK-made) Bulsae-2 ATGM [46]

The Bulsae-2 is a North Korean produced ATGM that is based off the reversed engineered Soviet 9K111 Fagot. The main difference between the two systems is the North Kore produced battery and the optical sighting system, making it easy to differentiate with other ATGMs. The Bulsae-2 is a second generation ATGM utilizing SALCOS wire guidance system.


North Korea has carried out extensive arms sales to Iran and smuggling operations to non-state actors that are hostile to the United States and its allies. This is written in detail on the Arms Control Wonk website (Oryx Blog on DPRK Arms Exports ( In the article on DPRK arms exports, the authors layout how groups like Hamas have come to be in possession of North Korean ATGMs. 


The following excerpt explains one of many ways; “The Al-Qassam Brigades is likely to have received the missiles from North Korea via Iran through an elaborate network of smugglers and backdoor channels ranging from Sudan to the Gaza Strip. This likely happens in a similar fashion to how this is done with other transports: after delivery to Port Sudan, the weaponry is transported overland to the Gaza Strip via Egypt, as was supposed to be done with the delivery onboard the Klos C, which was intercepted by the Israeli navy near the coast of Sudan in the Red Sea.” [47]

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The MILAN is a Franco-German developed anti-tank guided missile that entered service back in 1972. The MILAN is the most successful Western European anti-tank missile ever made and is only surpassed by the BGM-71 TOW when it comes to international customers. It is in service for nearly 50 years and has been exported to more than 40 countries [48]


The French were very generous with the MILAN and it was even sold to regimes that weren’t exactly allied with the West, including Egypt, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Its simplicity and firepower soon earned the MILAN a sterling combat record and MILAN’s have been sold in every continent except Antarctica. All in all, the MILAN’s customer list has reached 41 countries and at least several non-state groups [48]


A prominent example of proliferation of the MILAN ATGM’s was the transfer of MILAN systems from the United States to the mujahedin in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. Just before the withdraw, the United States increased its arms supplies to Afghanistan to ensure that the Soviet decision to leave would hold. The United States provided the mujahedin, for example with Stingers and MILAN anti-tank missiles [49]. Leftover MILAN ATGMs would later be used by the Taliban to target coalition forces in Afghanistan. 

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A Mujadi in the Soviet-Afghan War with an M16A1 and MILAN Launcher [50]

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Tharallah ATGM in recently released Hezbollah propaganda video [51]

The Tharallah ATGM is a system in use by Hezbollah in Lebanon. Recently released images and videos of the system in use on a range show it uses two anti-tank missiles mounted on one launch unit allowing for the rapid firing of both missiles in roughly 0.5 seconds, which would in theory allow this system to defeat vehicles with Active Protection Systems (APS) that on average take 1.5 seconds to reload after defeating an incoming projectile. The system is equipped with 9M133 Kornet-M anti-tank guided missiles. 


The name “Thar Allah” is of significant cultural and religious importance, associated with Imam al-Husayn, a prominent figure in Shia Islam, symbolizing divine retribution for the bloodshed of Imam Husayn. This title represents the concept of seeking vengeance for a murder, and it pertains to avenging Imam Hasyn’s martyrdom, a central concept within the beliefs of Shia Islam, which is the branch of Islam followed by Hezbollah militants [51]


In recent years, following the fallout of Middle Eastern conflicts such as the Libyan Civil War and Syrian Civil War, the use of ATGMs has increased by insurgent groups. This increased reliance on deadly ATGMs has not gone unnoticed, and as such, a recently released document from the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) addresses the modern ATGM problem for U.S. forces. The complete write up can be found here - An Ode to the Sagger Drill: Addressing the Modern Anti-Tank Guided Missile Problem Set | AUSA.


According to the Defense Intelligence Agency – Missile and Space Intelligence Center open-source database, 577 ATGM firings were observed in 2022 and 382 ATGM firings were observed from January 2023 to September 2023 from Bangladesh, China, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, Russia, Syria, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine and Yemen. And, over the past 10 years, over 4,000 ATGM firings worldwide have been observed in open sources [52]. The below graph taken from the previous mentioned article provides a great visualization on which model ATGMs have been the most widely used in the conflict in Syria. 

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Countermeasures to ATGMs for conventional military forces have been relatively similar to countermeasures employed for anti-tank rockets, and due to the nature of both attack methods, they will remain similar for the indefinite future. Common ATGM countermeasures employed by Western militaries can be best broken down into three categories – Hard-Kill, Soft-Kill, and Doctrinal. 


Active Protection Systems (APSs) are designed to improve the survivability of ground combat vehicles against ATGMs, rocket-propelled grenades and recoilless rifle threats using either “soft-kill” or kinetic “hard-kill” mechanisms [52]


Soft kill countermeasures cause a projectile to miss the target without physically interacting with the projectile itself. These mechanisms include infrared jammers, laser spot imitators, laser warning systems and radar jammers that interfere with the guidance mechanism or the enemy operator [52]. There are various types of soft kill systems in use all around the world, that incorporate varying levels of sophistication, a notable system is the very rudimentary system developed by the Syrian Arab Army in response to U.S. supplied ATGMs to rebel groups - The complicated Syrian War has served as an evolving platform for weapons and tactics. – The Greanville Post .


Hard-kill systems destroy or neutralize ATGMs by intercepting them with a projectile before they can hit the target platform. Historically, forces employing ATGMs have often been able to overcome hard-kill countermeasures through changes in TTP. For example, if an APS is designed to neutralize two ATGMs, it can be overcome by the tactic of always firing multiple ATGMs in quick succession [52]. The renewed conflict between Israel and Hamas is a great example of Active Protection Systems in use on a modern battlefield against insurgent groups utilizing modern ATGMs and tandem warhead RPGs. A considerable amount of footage has been released by Hamas showing off their fighters engaging Israeli armor with deadly tandem warhead rockets, although there has been little evidence of successfully destroyed Israeli combat vehicles, suggesting their APSs have been defeating the anti-armor threats. 

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Doctrinal countermeasures focus on training and guidance outlines that soldiers learn in formal field manuals that are created by their respective branch of service. These field manuals will include instructions on countering ATGM threats through certain battle formations and evasive actions to take in the event they are targeted by an enemy ATGM team. For the U.S. Army, the latest official doctrine that was implemented was FM 7-7, Mechanized Infantry Platoon and Squad, published in 1985. FM 7-7 provides guidance for a react-to-ATGM focused on the Sagger and Sagger-like capabilities [52]. This is incredibly outdated guidance, considering the AT-3 Sagger is considered by most experts to be a relatively obsolete ATGM on todays battlefield. The United States Army currently finds itself in a position of establishing up to date doctrinal countermeasures to ensure operational success on the modern battlefield littered with ATGMs in use by insurgent groups and non-state actors. 

Endnotes & Works Cited (Chicago-style)

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