Modern anti-tank weapons are guided missiles, able to change their course during flight. A few are still ballistic, following a path determined only by the aim point and the thrust of the projectile, similar to the older bazookas or recoilless rifles, with no guidance system.
M-220 Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided missile (TOW) mounted on HMMWV.
An anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) can be guided into the target by several methods, such as laser guiding, laser marking, TV camera, wire-guiding etc. Early guided anti-armor missiles such as M-220 TOW relied on wire that spooled out behind the missile in flight allowing the fire team to continue to guide it to target. The most advanced ATGMs have options for "fire-and-forget" and even "fire-and-fix", for example the Javelin Anti-Tank Missile that uses a small thermal imaging TV camera and sophisticated computer guidance.
With the onset of guided anti-tank missiles in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which enabled most tactical vehciles to mount some sort of anti-tank weapon, the World War II concept of the tank destroyer as a separate class of armored vehicle gradually disappeared.
Click on the link to go to individual Olive-Drab.com pages for each type of anti-tank missile:
Characteristics of Anti-Tank Missiles
Shoulder Launched Munitions are recoilless weapons that are effective in attacking enemy personnel, light armored vehicles, bunkers and other field fortifications. Although they do not generate as much destruction as heavier weapons, they can be fired from hidden areas with proper ventilation, such as the tops of buildings. With the introduction of the AT4 CS Antiarmor Munition, they can even be used in confined spaces, a tremendous advantage when fighting in an urban environment. The lightweight design of Shoulder Launched Munitions allows for the necessary mobility of soldiers in battle situations.
Heavier missile munitions require a supporting mount on a vehicle, helicopter or other platform. Their more powerful warheads are effective not only against heavy armored vehicles but can also destroy bunkers and other fortifications.
The rough ordering of capabilities of the infantry missiles and munitions of today is as follows:
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