- DoD photo by: EDDIE McCROSSAN
A video showing an ISIS-fired, Russian-made anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) obliterating a US-made M1 Abrams tank illustrates the disturbing degree to which the US’s tanks have fallen behind on the modern battlefield.
The video shows what Dan Goure of The Lexington Institute identifies as a Kornet ATGM striking the back of an Iraqi Abrams tank. The tank then spews a spectacular stream of fire, and though the video doesn’t clearly show the fate of the crew, they may well have died.
Such an attack represents a big win for ISIS, a loss for the Iraqi people trying to reclaim the city of Mosul, and a glaring warning to US soldiers and Marines: Next time it could be you.
In Syria alone, eight different types of ATGMs threaten any armored division, the Congressional Research Service states. There’s no reason to believe a more favorable situation exists in Iraq.
The US’s M1 Abrams, first introduced in 1979, has undergone a number of updates to deal with evolving threats on the battlefield, but it has fallen behind in a key area – active protection.
Though Iraq fields a different version of the Abrams, the Russian Kornet ATGM fires a tandem round, which can theoretically also destroy US versions of the tank which have explosive reactive armor.
Active protection systems (APS) involve a range of sensors that see incoming missiles and counter them with a hail of shrapnel or an explosion, thereby intercepting the incoming missile before the tank takes the hit.
But only one battle-tested APS exists in the world, and it’s Israeli. In 2006, top tier Israeli Merkava tanks fought against largely unarmored Hezbollah divisions, but ATGMs defeated a considerable number of the tanks.
In the 2014 Gaza conflict with Hamas, Israel faced a similarly armed opposition, but it didn’t lose a single tank. The difference was APS.
The US hasn’t faced a near-peer adversary in ground combat in some time, and during that time its tank operations have atrophied. Currently, researchers are trying to source a good APS to deploy on US tanks, but no decisions have been made yet.
Meanwhile, Russia claims to have succeeded in creating an APS for its new Armata tank family.
The destruction of the Iraqi tank by ISIS fire should serve as a wake up call to the US armed forces: Lead the pack or be left behind.