Over the weekend, the Israel Defense Forces expanded its ground maneuvers in the Gaza Strip. Both in the south and in the north, Hamas and Hezbollah are pinning their hopes on one of the most advanced weapons in their arsenal - the Kornet anti-tank missile. According to reports, since the start of the war, Hezbollah has launched a number of these missiles towards Israel resulting in the death and injury of IDF soldiers. What makes this weapon so lethal and how is the Israeli army fighting against it?
The Kornet: Two warheads on one missile
Experts explain that the Kornet is the latest version of the Russian-made Sagger anti-tank missiles that were familiar to Israel in the Yom Kippur War. While the Sagger was self-guided through a steering wheel and screen, the Kornet uses a laser beam. The operator that fires the missile sets up a tripod with a type of telescope that transmits a laser beam towards the target. The missile rotates around the beam of light. If it deviates from the trajectory, a unique sensor puts the missile back on course.
The missile carries a payload of 4.5 kilograms of explosives, which allows it to penetrate steel over a meter thick. In fact, the Kornet has two types of warheads: the first, is a hollow charge, a type of mechanism that produces an explosion with blast waves that scatter shrapnel over the entire area, thus increasing the impact radius. The second type is a thermobaric head, which scatters flammable particles in the air, including small metals such as magnesium and aluminum, and after a few seconds this ignites a huge blast.
The range of the missile varies depending on its production date. The older generations of the Kornet have a range of 5.5 kilometers, while the new missiles can reach eight kilometers.
Unlike other anti-tank missiles, the Kornet can also follow a straight trajectory, which means that it can also be deployed against outposts and IDF forces. Moreover, experts say that the missile can also hit slow aircraft flying low.
Tel Aviv University Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) senior researcher Dr. Yehoshua Kalisky, an expert on weapons systems tells "Globes." "This is a precise and lethal weapon. I believe that this is the most powerful and most dangerous weapon that Hamas possesses against our forces and against our tanks. We have the technological and tactical knowledge to deal with it. You have to act with great awareness and not underestimate the enemy."
Aerospace and missile expert Tal Inbar tells "Globes," "This is a missile that is perceived as a very powerful weapon and one for which there is not much that can be done against it through passive protection. In terms of active protection, there is something to be done, and this is the solution that has been used in past combat."
The Russian development and Israel's first encounter with it
The missile was developed by the Russians in the 1980s, and it is believed that the technology was transferred to the Iranians in the late 1990s. Dr. Kalisky explains to "Globes" that the Iranians are expert in reverse engineering. "They can make an especially dangerous weapon out of it. That's what happened with their UAVs, after they captured an American one. The Iranians have had the weapon and capabilities long enough, and they had the opportunity to produce large quantities to deliver to Hezbollah or Hamas."
He adds that it is difficult to estimate how many such missiles Hamas and Hezbollah possess, but because the Iranians produce the Kornet themselves, they can produce thousands of them, and smuggle in considerable quantities. "My assessment is that a great many weapons were smuggled through Sinai."
The first operational use of the missile was during the Second Gulf War, when Iraq used it against US armored vehicles. The Israeli forces encountered the missile for the first time three years later, in the Second Lebanon War (2006). Then a number of such missiles penetrated Merkava tanks and Israel suffered losses among fighters who were in buildings. In the campaign in the south, a Kornet missile was fired for the first time in 2010 at a Merkava tank, and although it managed to penetrate its armor, no harm was caused. A few months later, a Kornet missile was fired from Gaza at an almost empty children's bus in a parking lot near Kfar Aza.
What are its disadvantages and how can it be neutralized?
Dr. Kalisky details the many options for neutralizing this missile, due to its disadvantages. "Firstly, there is the Trophy system manufactured by Rafael, which can detect in real time threats from anti-tank missiles and destroy them from the target that it is protecting. This is a missile that scatter explosively formed projectiles that neutralize the missile."
Secondly, because it is a missile that is guided by a laser beam, "The missile moves in a straight line, which means that a straight field of view is required. If the target is fast and moves fast enough, the guidance actions will cause it to deviate from its course and the missile will lose its target. The missile actually does not know how to maneuver."
Another factor that affects the effectiveness of the missile is the presence of smoke and dust in the area. The experts explain that when the missile attempts to operate in an area filled with smoke or dust, the missile's ability to be accurate or reach the target is impaired, and in practice the missile loses contact with the original target.
A further important point explains Dr. Kalisky is that as soon as someone fires a laser-guided missile, the person reveals themselves. As soon as the person reveals themselves, they can be destroyed quickly."
There are different missiles with different attributes. For example, a Russian missile emits more smoke due to its rocket engine, other missiles will emit less smoke and can be launched from inside houses. Therefore, Inbar explains, "There is no missile that defeats everything, just as there is no miracle armor that neutralizes every threat. It depends on a great many factors and variables, and in principle, in the Second Lebanon War we did not have systems like Trophy, so missiles did penetrate."
Inbar adds, "The Iranians are equipping themselves with the best possible innovations," so we should always be prepared for what could have been developed.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 31, 2023.
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