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Charles Brown BrownBingb at
Sat Mar 29 15:06:51 MST 2003

Two-Fisted Trouble?
Russian Anti-Tank Missile May Give Iraq Extra Punch

March 27 
— When the U.S. Army recently lost a pair of its ultimate
ground battle vehicles, the M1 Abrams tank, to Iraqi ground
forces fighting in southern Iraq, the knock-out punch came
from a weapon Iraq was not expected to have — a Russian
missile called the Kornet-E.

What Is It?

The Kornet-E is an "export" version of an anti-tank missile
developed specifically by the former Soviet army to counter
the threat of modern battle tanks such as the Abrams,
America's previously-uncontested "queen of the

Weighing about 63 pounds, the Kornet and its guidance
system can be easily carried and operated by one or two

How Does It Work?

The Kornet operates similar to other so-called anti-tank
guided missiles, or ATGMs, used by the United States and
other armies.

Once the missile is set up on its tripod, a soldier looks
through the weapon's optical sight for a target such as a
tank. He then shines a laser beam on the target and
launches the missile.

A rocket boosts the Kornet out of its sealed tube and
follows the laser beam to the target.

The missile contains high explosives specially arranged
within the warhead. Just before the missile impacts a
tank's armor, the "shaped charge" explodes and produces a
jet of heat that burns through the tank's metal skin.

When the jet burns through the armor and reaches the
interior of the tank, the molten armor becomes super-hot
fragments that kill the crew and detonate the tank's

What's So Different About Kornet, Then?

Modern tanks, such as the Abrams, counter the threat of
most ATGMs with an exterior layer of so-called reactive or
explosive armor — essentially, boxes of shaped charge

When an ATGM detonates against such armor, the tank
"reacts" by automatically exploding its own charges. The
force of the explosion is intended to push the intense heat
from ATGM's lethal blast away from the tank's metal skin,
protecting the crew inside.

But the Kornet defeats explosive armor by using dual
warheads of shaped charges. The first destroys the tank's
protective layer of explosives, allowing the second warhead
to burn through the metal beneath, with catastrophic

According to military experts, the anti-tank version of the
Kornet can penetrate up to 3.9 feet of armor and can be
launched from as far away as 5,500 yards. Well trained
soldiers are able to launch up to two missiles per minute
by merely discarding the used launch tube and attaching the
system's laser-aiming device onto a new missile.

What Makes the Kornet an Additional Concern?

Unlike other anti-tank weapons believed to be in the Iraqi
arsenal, the Kornet-E can be used against coalition tanks
in any kind of weather, day or night. Its laser-guided
system makes it extremely difficult to counteract, say
military analysts.

Also, the launch of a Kornet is difficult to spot. Coupled
with a hard-to-detect guidance system, analysts say the
missile could be used against low-flying helicopters
vulnerable to its high-explosive warhead.

What's more, the Kornet can carry another type of warhead
called thermobaric or incendiary explosives. These
munitions release a fine spray of fuel before denotation.
The resulting explosion creates a rapidly expanding
fireball that literally consumes all oxygen within an area.

Such missiles would be used against "soft" targets such as
buildings, exposed infantry, or light- or non-armored
vehicles such as trucks. 

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