Hezbollah's Favourite ATGM

The recent spate of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, part of the larger Israel-Iranian conflict, came to a peak on Sunday, 2nd of September 2019, when two ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles) were fired at an Israeli Wolf APC on the Israel-Lebanon border near the settlement of Yi’ron. Whilst there was an expectation that an attack would happen, being a response to Israeli bombing of Hezbollah personnel in Syria, it is still of use to cover what weapons were used and why.

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One of the most potent weapons in Hezbollah’s arsenal is the 9M133-1 Kornet-E ATGM. The Kornet-E is the export designation for what’s usually known simply as the Kornet, or by it’s NATO reporting name, the AT-14 Spriggan. A long range weapon with a tandem-charge warhead and a range of up to 5000 metres (or over 3 miles), the Kornet was unveiled in 1994 by the KBP Instrument Design Bureau and is a fruit of the Soviet Union’s effort to build a modern, laser guided, and highly effective ATGM.

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Kornet firing by Russian Forces - Credit: Mil.ru

The Kornet has enjoyed considerable export success, including to Syria, which passed on many to Hezbollah, which have used the Kornet and other ATGM variants to great effect against Israeli armour, starting in the 2006 Lebanon War. Generally regarded as cutting edge at that time, the Kornet was the most potent ATGM used in 2006, along with other modern Russian-origin weapons such as the Metis-M and RPG-29.

They were only employed in limited quantities compared to other, older ATGM, but did prove to be one the most effective platforms Hezbollah could employ against IDF armour, mainly down to the very potent warhead and long range. Detailed information on Israeli armour losses remains unclear, especially for Armoured Personnel Carriers and Humvees, but around 20 Merkava tanks were penetrated by anti-tank weapons, mostly the Kornet, such as in the Battle of Wadi Saluki/al-Hujeir, in which two Merkava Mk4 were knocked out by Kornet.

Above: Kornet-E packing cases (With missiles inside) recovered from the Village of Ghandouriyeh, Lebanon, 2006. As can clearly be seen, these ATGM originate from Russian deliveries to Syria.

The Kornet has seen active use by Hezbollah since, such as in the January 2015 Shebaa farms incident, in which a Hezbollah unit using multiple Kornet destroyed two IDF vehicles, killing 2 and wounding 7.

So this brings us to the recent events involving Hezbollah’s use of Kornet against an IDF vehicle in September 2019, a likely attempt to replicate the results of the January 2015 attack. In this case, two Kornet were fired from Lebanon, which both missed, striking the road close to the APC. Whilst initial information was unclear, it later emerged that there had been no Israeli casualties at all. However, if the two missiles had indeed struck the APC with multiple IDF soldiers inside, then there would certainly be multiple casualties and a completely destroyed vehicle.

Since the video doesn’t show the launcher or missiles clearly, it is currently unclear if the Kornets launched were manufactured by Russia (Kornet-E, as previously mentioned) or by Iran, who have manufactured the Kornet as the “Dehlavieh” since 2012 and may have supplied Hezbollah with that variant.

There are multiple reasons for Hezbollah to use a Kornet strike as opposed to an raid, IED, or other means.

The long range of the Kornet (up to 5km) means that the IDF APC could be struck precisely whilst the operators remain within Lebanon, with no need to attempt to cross the border. This minimises risk to the ATGM team, while ensuring that the fire is as accurate as possible, as opposed to indiscriminate rocket or mortar fire, or even shorter range ATGM such as the 9K111.

Based on Estimations by @ELINTNews

In fact, the roughly 2.6km distance of the dual ATGM strike is well within the Kornet’s comfortable range, even within the range of 9K113 “Konkurs” ATGM. However, the Kornet’s superior warhead make the probability of a kill against even a lightly armoured Wolf APC even higher. The Kornet also likely has superior optics for the ease of use of the operator. Although the Kornet is often supplied with thermal optics (1P79 series, or RU244TK/RU150TK in the case of Iran) in this case it’s unclear if only basic 1P45-type optic was used by Hezbollah.

Image

Hezbollah Kornet/Dehlavieh on the Syria-Lebanon border, 2017, via @Rufus_McDonald

Given the Kornet’s storied history of effectiveness against Israeli armour (notwithstanding the IDF’s recent use of Trophy APS mounted on Merkava MBT to almost completely nullify Hamas’ RPG & ATGM), the Kornet is also an icon of Hezbollah and it’s military strength.

Regardless of the fact that in this case, both Kornet fired missed the vehicle completely, seemingly only causing minor damage, it’s unlikely this is the last we see of this ATGM, as it’s one of the most potent that Hezbollah have.

Header GIF credit: @Jtruzmah