Development and manufacture of antitank guided weapons have been carried out for half a century all over the world. Within this period these guided missile systems have turned out to be in the demand and most popular type of high precision weapons due to combination of such advances as simple operation, reliability, pin-point guidance and affordability. High popularity of antitank guided weapons is easily explained by its capability to cause damage to the enemy that shall be crucially higher than friendly force expenditures. In fact one-two antitank guided missiles shall be enough to kill the enemy tank, missiles prices being by ten or even hundred times lower than that of MBT.
Initially antitank guided missile systems were developed to fight tanks. However modern battlefield scenario has greatly changed - large-scale hostilities between tank armadas have given way to scattered fights in local conflicts. And on this new battlefield ATGW have appeared to be attractively effective not only against MBT but also against other small-size targets including lightly armored and soft vehicles, cars, fortifications, manpower, enemy infrastructure, fire points and snipers.
The Kornet-E weapon system developed by JSC "KBP named after Academician A. Shipunov" in the early XXI century remains to be one of the mostly demanded antitank missile systems in the world military market. Due to availability of a shaped-charge warhead primarily designed to engage heavy armor contributed by a thermobaric high explosive warhead of blast effect Kornet-E ATGW has become an effective defense and attack weapon capable to destroy a wide range of targets on the modern battlefield.
Open media read that the Kornet-E system, including self-propelled home-made versions, is being used intensively and effectively in the current local warfare in the Middle East against all and any military armaments, equipment and manpower (Figure 1).
However the current development trends put forward new tasks to be provided by this type of the weapon, including: extended effective firing ranges; improved mobility; guidance automation to reduce operator’s influence on the engagement success; "fire and forget" or "fire, see and adjust" features; capability to fight various aerial targets.
Oversea designers prefer to meet these requirements by mounting different guided weapon modules on lightly armored carriers. Herewith they mainly use missiles equipped with IR or TV seekers.
This approach has advantages and drawbacks, and the most serious trouble is high price of the "expendable" part – a missile with a seeker causing significant financial expenditure to equip equal army units.
With a financial factor in mind and to solve the above tasks, JSC "KBP named after Academician A. Shipunov" has created the Kornet-EM multi-purpose missile system which realizes stat-of-the-art capabilities using breakthrough engineering solutions which allowed to obtain advanced ATGW with quite a number of new attractive features (Figure 2).
Main Technical and Performance Data Firing range by day and night, m
|- 9M133M-2 ATGM||150-8000|
|- 9M133FM-3 GM||150-10000|
|- 9M133-1 ATGM, 9M133F-1 GM||100-5500|
|Guidance||automatic, remote control in direct laser beam (beam rider technology)|
|Ammunition load, pc||16|
|including ready-to-fire missiles||8|
|Firing modes||1 missile from 1 launcher|
against 1 target
2 missiles from 1 launcher
against 1 target
2-4 missiles from 2 launchers
against 2 targets
|Possibility to fire Kornet-E ATGM||yes|
Advancement of science and technology at the beginning of the XXI century gave birth to innovative technologies and new materials and thus allowed to realize "fire and forget" or "fire, see and adjust" principles without using a seeker onboard the missile due to alternative solution to have a target auto-tracker added to the ground-based equipment installed on board the vehicle. This approach allowed transfer seeker functions from an "expendable" part of the weapon system into its "constant" multiple-use part.
Machine vision plus the target auto-tracker increases target tracking accuracy by 5 times compared to the previous ATGW generation and thus provides for high fire accuracy at ranges up to 10 km.
Availability of an automatic target engagement mode shall reduce the Operator’s psychophysical problems, simplify requirements to his skills and thus shall cut the time required for training.
The crucial part of the new weapon system is its automated launching unit (ALU) designed on the principle of modular approach which have been always traditional for the Kornet family (Figure 3).
The main part of ALU is its sighting and guidance module (SGM) with televiewer and thermal imager channels (TV/IIR sight), four missile launching guides and independent elevation and azimuth drives. SGM is fixed on a special frame which together with a sliding roof is installed in the opening on the carrier roof. The frame has a lifting mechanism provided to put SGM up for firing and to return it back for travelling. This frame also houses various electronic components which control SGM and ALU operation in general.
On the move ALU has its travelling configuration with SGM located horizontally inside the vehicle and thus being invisible from outside. To fire, SGM shall be raised outside with the help of the lifting mechanism, put vertically and fixed to provide a firing position.
Two ALU carried by the vehicle are independent in operation and yet do not require one more operator. It offers the following advantages: only one operator is required to control both ALU; the weapon system can simultaneously engage two targets with different azimuth, range and elevation; 2-fold increase in the rate of fire and target engagement rate; capability to deliver fire to the one target and to search for another one simultaneously.
The ALU control is to be provided by the Operator from the Operator’s station inside the carrier, and it comprises a control console and LCD monitor. Using this monitor the Operator observes the outside situation, searches for targets and provides target tracking. The operator can select a surveillance mode – using TV or IIR channel and either in a wide or in a narrow field of view. He shall use console controls to produce the following commands: to put ALU up into a firing position and to return it back inside, to start ALU laying vertically and horizontally; for the TV/IIR sight control and target tracking; for selected target tracking (in an automatic mode as well), missile selection, missile launch and guidance.
The main smart component of the ALU equipment is an information-management system which integrates the Operator’s console with SGM to provide a single system, delivers Operator’s commands to ALU actuating components and registers/controls ALU parts operational resource.
In the combat process the Operator shall detect a target on the monitor display, aim SGM at this target so as to put a target image inside a target auto-tracker gate, produce a target acquisition command to the target auto-tracker, select a missile type to be fired, and launch a missile when the auto-tracker is ready. When these steps are done the Operator’s job is finished: SGM shall be tracking a target and guide a missile to the target automatically by target auto-tracker commands. But if the Operator detects a more vital target he can stop automatic guidance and send the missile to a new target. Thus the Kornet-EM system offers "fire and forget" and "fire, see and adjust" principles realization.
New missiles have been developed to be used with this weapon system: the 9?133?-2 antitank guided missile with a flight range up to 8 km and the 9?133F?-3 guided missile with a flight range up to 10 km. Moreover this weapon system has a "long arm" advantage, i.e. capability to effectively fight the enemy remaining safe beyond the enemy return fire.
In general the 9?133?-2 antitank guided missile (ATGM) has borrowed the design solutions from its predecessor used with the Kornet-E system. But it outperforms the latter in range being extended from 5500 m to 8000 m due to aeroballistics optimization, and also has a modernized shaped-charge warhead which provides 10% increase in armor penetration up to 1100 – 1300 mm. With this enhanced missile the Kornet-EM weapon system has obtained capability to engage all modern MBT enjoining possibility of high potential growth to counter future tanks with increased armor protection (Figure 4).
The 9?133F?-3 guided missile turns out to be radically new in the class of missiles used with ATGW (Figure 6). It has an extended flight range up to 10 km, thermobaric WH of blast effect and it is equipped with a proximity fuse. The 9?133F?-3 guided missile has been designed to engage various lightly armored and soft targets such as cars, buildings, bunkers, manpower, fortifications, infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers as well as small size low level air targets like helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and others. In accordance with the selected target the Operator can switch off or switch on the proximity fuse, i.e. one and the same missile can be used as against ground-based targets (proximity fuse is switched off – explosion shall be on impact) so as against aerial targets (proximity fuse is switched on – explosion shall be near the target).
The missile with a proximity fuse and a flight range of up to 10 km contributed by machine vision, high guidance accuracy and target auto-tracker available with ALU makes Kornet-EM obtain the innovative feature – capability to engage low velocity aerial targets (helicopters, UAV).
New capabilities of the Kornet-EM weapon system are well combined with the attractive features borrowed from its predecessor – Kornet-E ATGW based on the Kvartet Launching Unit – among them possibility of a salvo fire, i.e. engagement of a single target by two missiles riding in one and the same laser beam. This firing mode is very helpful to fight hard armor and the targets provided with an active protection system. Two missiles shall be launched from the same launching unit with a short time interval (less than 2 s), one missile shall initiate ERA and the second missile shall hit the target.
By now Kornet-EM ATGW has been proved in all required tests and is being serially manufactured and installed on the Tiger-M vehicle against the contract with the overseas Customer. Yet the ALU modular design allows integrate the Kornet-EM system with practically any vehicle, of foreign manufacture as well, provided the carrier load capacity and inside volume are enough to do it. In case a carrier load capacity is 1.0-2.0 tons single ALU shall be installed, if a load capacity is 1.7-1.9 tons it shall be possible to install two ALU.
The comparative analysis of the mobile Kornet-EM version and its foreign equivalents shows that in traditional missions Kornet-EM outperforms the weapon systems, which use ATGW with a seeker to provide homing, by 3-5 times estimated on the basis of cumulative factors, and yet the Kornet-EM is easier to use and to provide services to, has 2-3 times less price for its guided missiles being an expendable part of the weapon system and thus a crucial factor which determines weapon system service costs when it is in the army.
Moreover Kornet-EM is available as a tripod version with the 9P163?-2 launching unit. In this configuration Kornet-EM enjoys all the advantages of the Kornet-E system with the latter high capabilities that have been proved in the recent local conflicts (Figure 5).
The design of the Kornet-EM launching unit is practically identical to the one used with Kornet-E ATGW. Main upgrade efforts were undertaken towards modernization of the sighting and guidance unit (SGU) and the latter was developed to have a new sighting channel with adjustable magnification (12? and 20?) and thus to provide more convenient operation for the User at long target ranges. To ensure high guidance accuracy at 10 km range, the laser guidance channel has been also modernized.
Moreover, a new thermal sight – 1PN79M-3 – was designed to be of the third generation and configured for a closed-loop operation without cooling bottles as those used with the earlier Kornet-E thermal sight.
High design similarity between the Kornet-EM and Kornet-E launching units provides for minimized Customer’s costs of old system replacement by the upgraded one – practically there is no need to provide fresh training for users and technicians.
Pioneering technical solutions together with high guidance accuracy, formidable warheads, operation reliability and simplicity shall ensure high market demand worldwide as for the self-propelled version so as for the tripod variant of Kornet-EM ATGW for the next 10-15 years.
The advertorial is based on the article of N.I. Khokhlov, O. Y. Yastrebov, M.I. Andreev, N.V. Solovyev