Russian Kornet Anti-Tank Missile FAQ

ByABC News
March 27, 2003, 2:36 PM

March 27 -- When the U.S. Army recently lost a pair of its ultimate ground battle vehicles, the M1 Abrams tank, to Iraqi ground forces fighting in southern Iraq, the knock-out punch came from a weapon Iraq was not expected to have a Russian missile called the Kornet-E.

What Is It?

The Kornet-E is an "export" version of an anti-tank missile developed specifically by the former Soviet army to counter the threat of modern battle tanks such as the Abrams, America's previously-uncontested "queen of the battlefield."

Weighing about 63 pounds, the Kornet and its guidance system can be easily carried and operated by one or two soldiers.

How Does It Work?

The Kornet operates similar to other so-called anti-tank guided missiles, or ATGMs, used by the United States and other armies.

Once the missile is set up on its tripod, a soldier looks through the weapon's optical sight for a target such as a tank. He then shines a laser beam on the target and launches the missile.

A rocket boosts the Kornet out of its sealed tube and follows the laser beam to the target.

The missile contains high explosives specially arranged within the warhead. Just before the missile impacts a tank's armor, the "shaped charge" explodes and produces a jet of heat that burns through the tank's metal skin.

When the jet burns through the armor and reaches the interior of the tank, the molten armor becomes super-hot fragments that kill the crew and detonate the tank's ammunition.

Whats So Different About Kornet, Then?

Modern tanks, such as the Abrams, counter the threat of most ATGMs with an exterior layer of so-called reactive or explosive armor essentially, boxes of shaped charge explosives.

When an ATGM detonates against such armor, the tank "reacts" by automatically exploding its own charges. The force of the explosion is intended to push the intense heat from ATGM's lethal blast away from the tank's metal skin, protecting the crew inside.