Shoulder fired man portable rocket was first used in the Second Word War by the Nazi forces. Panzerfaust was developed in the year 1942 and was effectively used by the Nazi infantry against allied armored vehicles. In urban combat during the Second World War, the Panzerfaust was believed to have accounted for 70% of the allied tanks destroyed. The Panzerfaust was lightweight, had low recoil and suitable for the shoot and scoot combat tactics in urban warfare. Post Second World War, Soviet developed RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) was extensively in the Vietnam War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Mogadishu, Middle East and Chechen Conflicts.
The RPGs were meant to be used at ground targets as an anti tank system, but they were also used against low flying fixed wing aircrafts and helicopters. Though RPGs are unguided systems, some of them managed to take down aerial units. RPGs are also used to destroy bunker placements that were too tough for conventional assault rifle. Most of RPGs were used against lightly armored APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers) and main battle tanks. The ability of RPGs to successfully destroy main battle tanks diminished with the use of composite and reactive armor in tanks. MPATGM (Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missiles) were derived from large anti-tank guided missile system that were prevalent during the cold war. The present generation of MPATGM possess characteristics such as fire and forget and high penetration power against main battle tanks.
NLAW (Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon) is a lightweight single shot man portable anti tank guided missile system developed by SAAB. The system weighs about 12.5kgs at it is considered to be one of the easiest MPATGM to use. NLAW targets the tanks top side which is the least armored part of the entire vehicle. NLAW has two modes of operation. It can be used in direct mode where the missile will fly in the direction as which It is pointed at. It can also be fired in top attack mode where the missile uses the predictive line of sight guidance algorithm to optimise the trajectory of the flight part to fly close to the top of the vehicle and fires the explosive penetrator downwards on to the target. This action is triggered by the proximity fuse in the warhead. The weapon can be used on static targets that are at a range of 550-600 meters and moving targets at a distance of 350-400 meters. It is believed that the UK dispatched numerous NLAW to Ukraine to bolster defensive capabilities.
The Javelin anti-tank missile is a developed by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. The system uses infra-red guidance system to defeat main battle tanks. It is believed that the javelin system has armor penetration in excess of 750mm of steel armor. The weapons system is similar to the NLAW with respect to the modes of operation. It can fly directly at the target or penetrate an armored vehicle from the top. But unlike NLAW, Javelin does not fire the penetrator downwards, the missile initially climbs and then it swoops down to hit the target. Javelin is also believed to have been shipped to Ukraine to bolster Ukraine’s defensive capability against armored vehicles.
MPA (Missile Moyenne Porte) is an infra-red guided 5th generation anti-tank missile guided system developed by the French MBDA. The MPA is capable of penetrating more that 900mm of armor. The missile system is multipurpose and can be integrated on to vehicles and boasts. The fire and forget capability of the missile helps in shoot and scoot tactics and survivability of the operating crew. The system has an operational range of 4+ kms in all weather conditions and suitable for indoor launches.
Israeli Spike LR II is a 5th generation anti-tank missile system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The missile system is believed to have low LCC (Life Cycle Cost) and because of this characteristic the system is exported to more than 20 nations. The system has an operational range of more than 5kms. The missile systems supports modes such as Fire and Forget, Fire and Observe and Fire to Coordinates. The missile had tandem HEAT warhead capable of destroying all modern main battle tanks. The missile has a claimed penetrating power of more than 850mm behind explosive reactive armor. The system can also penetrate reinforced concrete up to 200mm. In fire to coordinates mode the missile can use 3rd party target designation using high speed wireless datalink.
The Indian MPATGM system developed by the state owned DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organisation) along with VEM Technologies is a fire and forget, infra-red guided missile system is in final stages of completion. The missile is a fire and forget system with an operational range in excess of 2kms. It will be replacing the older Konkurs and French Milan systems.
The modern battlefield will be dominated by advanced MPATGM man portable anti-tank guided missiles systems with capabilities such as smaller and lighter form factor and longer shelf life. It will continue to be the weapon of choice for defeating armored columns such as main battle tanks in engagements at long range as well as urban combat.