Putin knows he has a big problem on his hands: NATO and the West are giving Ukraine modern tanks.
How will Russia respond, knowing that he may not have modern armor to challenge them on the battlefield?
Well, he can do the same thing Ukraine did when they were faced with a similar challenge back in 2022 – use lost of anti-tank missiles.
Here Comes the Kornet
Moscow is preparing for the influx of main battle tanks (MBT) Ukraine is expected to receive in the next few months. Western nations, including the U.S., recently announced plans to deliver a variety of Leopard 2, Challenger and M1 Abrams MBTS to aid Ukraine’s defensive efforts in the war. Since Russia is estimated to have already lost roughly half of its tank fleet in the last year, the Kremlin knows it cannot compete with a growing and more sophisticated Ukrainian armada. For this reason, Moscow has begun testing unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) loaded with anti-tank missiles.
Back in April, Russia’s space agency chief published footage depicting Marker UGVs launching test Kornet anti-tank missiles.
Russian officials had previously claimed that the Kornet could take out the German-made Leopard 2 tanks specifically. However, considering the Kremlin’s track record of misrepresenting the true capabilities of its weapons systems, the Kornet may not be as lethal to Ukraine’s MBTs as propagated.
A brief overview of the 9M133 Kornet
The Soviet Union began conceptualizing the Kornet anti-tank missile in the late 1980s.
By 1994, the weapon was debuted by the KBP Instrument Design Bureau as its new modular system capable of engaging any target from a variety of platforms. The third-generation system was developed to succeed Russia’s older Fagot and Konkurs missiles. While Western armies primarily use anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) with shorter rangers, the Kornet has a longer range of eight kilometers. The missile’s increased weight makes it a heftier ATGM than some of its Western counterparts like the Javelin and the Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapon (NLAW), but is still lighter than the American-made TOW system.
Specs and other capabilities
Equipped with a semi-automatic command-to-line-of-sight (SACLOS) laser guidance, the Kornet can engage a target head on in a direct attack profile, as explained by Army Technology. Kornet missiles are fired with shaped charge HEAT warheads to effectively take out MBTs sporting ERA or other high explosive warheads. An additional technical component of the Kornet is its day/night thermal sight with zoom capability, which can magnify targets to a higher degree than its Javelin ATGM counterpart. The Kornet comes in both an infantry portable variant and a vehicle-mounted variant. In the past, the anti-tank missile has been integrated into a BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle.
Moscow is counting on its Kornets to wipe out Ukrainian MBTs
The Kornet has been exported to several countries, including Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Greece. These Russian-made anti-tank systems were used by Iraqi special forces during the Iraq War to attack U.S. armored vehicles. The Kornets were also used by Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War in attacks targeting Israel. Russia believes the Kornet will see success in Ukraine by destroying Western-made MBTs.
In February, Russia’s state-tech corporation Rostec said that “vulnerable” Leopard 2 tanks would be successfully wiped out by its anti-tank weapons – including the Kornet. According to the state-run media outlet TASS, “Combat experience has shown that these tanks can be obliterated even with old man-portable anti-tank missile systems that are considerably inferior by their performance to weapons operational in the Russian Army, in particular, Kornet anti-tank missile systems.”
The upcoming warmer months in Ukraine are expected to coincide with a flare-up in battle. Now that an influx of Western MBTS will has joined Ukraine’s soldiers on the ground, Moscow will work hard to expand its ATGM arsenal.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.