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Portable anti tank weapons in 2024 - the view from the frontline

The friend of our publishing house and, hopefully, a future author, has prepared a new exiting article for us. This time it is about the modern day use of the anti-armor weapons. This article is part of the broad research on the Russian aggression in Ukraine that our team is working on. Here you can check out the first article from the author on that topic - M249 vs PKM comparison.

The background and important remarks

This article is being written in the mid-spring of 2024. This is important to note, as the tactics change constantly and this article might not have practical advise at the time when you read it. However, it captures the moment in history - of how the Russian armor was fought and destroyed at the time. The reader should also consider the source of information.

m72 nlaw javelin at-4
Light armored vehicles can be destroyed with almost any anti-tank weapon

Various units have their own specifics - they will be fighting tanks and armor vehicles in different way and by different means. In this case, the author represents light infantry. These guys don't have tanks, little to no artillery support and most of the operations they conduct are dismounted. Because of that, heavy anti tanks weapons are rarely assigned to these units. As the name suggest - they rely on light weapons, mainly on those disposable grenade launchers. Common ones are discussed in the following paragraphs.

Multiple use grenade launchers - RPG-7 and Carl Gustaf

Ukrainian Forces, being second biggest inheritor of the Soviet Army, cannot avoid Soviet weapons, which are still predominant in the majority of the units. Hence, almost every member of the ZSU have been trained on RPG-7. And it is actually not a bad weapon - it fits its niche very well and there is still a huge number of both launchers and grenades for it.

RPG-7 from our book "Soviet Weapons of the Afghan War"

The RPG-7 can be found in almost every post-Soviet Army unit and Ukrainian Army is not an exception. The battle order states that every infantry section is supposed to have one. The realities of war make sure that this number is more flexible - depending on the task at hand, numbers of these grenade launchers can change. Our author, being in a mobile group within his light unit has not used RPG-7 in the actual battle, but had a lot of practice on a shooting range - every member of the team has to remember how to use the launcher. The grenades used for target practice were always the standard PG-7, but of different producers: Romanian, Polish, Bulgarian and even some with Portuguese writing on them.

Carl Gustaf is also present in the unit - though mainly in the fire support group. Due to its bulkiness, light units prefer not to use it, especially during dismounted operations. However, members of the regiment still get their hands on them, it is essential that everyone is familiar with major weapon systems. Later we will have to make a separate article on it.

ATGMs - Javelin, Spigot, Stugna and others

ATGMs played a vital role in the first days of the Russian aggression in Ukraine - a well known fact. Javelins destroyed dozens if not hundreds of russian tanks in the early weeks of the invasion, allowing Ukraine to regroup its forces and eventually push out the leftovers of the RusFed forces from the capital. However, the war has change since then. The practical application of the ATGMs has shifted as well.

Javelin in Ukraine
Javelins played vital role in the early days of the invasion

The unit in question does have some Javelins in their armories, but never had any significant number of missiles for it. The reason is simple - they were formed as a light infantry after the initial months of invasion and tank-fighting was never their primary task. So, while some people did get a chance to put their hands on these beast of weapons, they ever been used in practice. But of course, we will make an article on it if we ever get a chance to interview a real experienced used of the system.

Soviet and Ukrainian ATGMs are more common in the Ukrainian Army as a whole and are quite often mounted on light vehicles - even on technicals. Then again, it is a wide topic to discuss and calls for a separate article.

Screen of Ukrainian Stugna ATGM. The Arabic interface is there because it was exported to Arabic countries

Disposable launchers - NLAW, AT-4, M72 LAW and Soviet RPGs

Now, those who have read so far may ask - do these guys use any anti-tank weapons at all? The answer is positive. Being a foot unit, they count every kilogram of weight. Carrying an RPG-7 or similar launcher adds up to 10kg of weight, which becomes "dead" weight the moment you run out of grenades to shoot. Luckily, military industry came up with a good solution more than half century ago.

NLAW in Ukraine
While being a very capable weapon that able to destroy any tank, it is a very heavy and bulky weapon

Disposable launchers are, essentially, the munition with almost 100% of useful weight. The launching tube is usually quite light and can be thrown away after shooting. These qualities made such launchers very popular in regular forces around the world and Ukrainian Army is not an exception.

NLAWs are very good weapons, with good precision and high firing range. They are quite heavy and too dependable on the batteries, so have their limitations during dismounted operations. Most often they are carried when the unit definitely knows that it will be fighting against enemy heavy armor. AT-4 launchers are also highly valued, but again, a little too heavy for the light infantry maneuvers.

AT-4 in Ukraine
AT-4 is a good weapon for trench warfare

So, we are finally coming to the actual weapon of choice in 2024 - the light disposable grenade launchers. We are talking about M72 LAW and Soviet RPG-22. Both of these work perfectly well for the Ukrainian dismounted infantry. These weapons are light, unaccountable, good enough to neutralize an enemy in a trench or a building, can easily penetrate light armor and, with a bit of luck, even damage a tank. The M72 LAW become more and more common as the Soviet stocks are about to dry up completely. Every grant would usually bring at least one of these grenade launchers with him, sometimes extending the number to three launchers per person, depending on the mission intel.

M72 LAW in Ukraine
M72 LAW is the most useful anti-tank weapon for the light infantry

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