Pakistan Army and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles

Doctrine of Offensive-Defense

The Pakistan Army (PA) strategy against India calls for ‘offensive-defense’, also known as the Strategy of Riposte. This strategy calls for the armor heavy Strike Corps of Pakistan Army to seize initiative and attack across a narrow front. This is aimed at both unhinging Indian offensive plans in other sectors as well as seizing territory for later bargaining at the negotiating table. The holding Corps of the Pakistan Army are expected to absorb and delay the Indian offensive. And while the armor divisions are concentrated in the Strike Corps, holding corps have also evolved Corps Reserves centered around independent armor brigades and mechanized brigades for countering Indian offensive as well as for counter-penetration.

 While it can be correctly argued that Pakistan Army has broadly followed ‘offensive-defense’ strategy as witnessed in 1965 war, General Mirza Aslam is credited with crystallizing this strategy. The strategy was demonstrated during 1989 army exercise ‘Zarb-e-Momin’, which was the biggest exercise of the Pakistan Army at the time. And followed the massive Indian Army exercise of late 196-early 1987 ‘Brasstacks’.

The Pakistan Army is faced with a dilemma – creating strong armor/mechanized strike elements against a much larger adversary while also maintaining enough resources for absorbing/countering Indian offensive. And this needs to be done with less than 1/10th resources of its main adversary. This dilemma becomes still more acute when a comparison is done between mechanized resources of the two armies. 

As against Pakistan Army’s 2 x Strike Corps, Indian Army has 3 x Strike Corps. Further, while Holding/Pivot Corps in both armies have independent armored brigades, not only are Indian armored formations bigger in terms of armored regiments and no of tanks, IA also has a unique formation known as RAPID – Re-organized Army Plains Infantry Division.

Each RAPID has an armored brigade apart from 2/3 infantry brigades. The armored brigade has 2 x armored regiments + 2 x mechanized regiments. This structure greatly increases the fire-power of a division in question. There is an offensive and defensive RAPID. 

Take IA’s 10 Corps for example – It has 1 x independent armored brigade (3 x armored regiments + 1 x mechanized infantry regiment) and 2 x RAPIDs ( 4 x armored regiments + 4 x mechanized infantry regiments). In all, this single ‘Pivot’ Corps has almost the same number of armored regiments as a Strike Corps of Pakistan Army!

Though, over past decade, PA has raised new armor regiments and armor brigades and mechanized more infantry battalions, armor and mechanized elements in IA have also seen expansion.

  • Smaller size of formations: The size of armor formations (brigades/division) in PA is relatively smaller as compared to India. For example, armor division of Pakistan and India consist of 5 and 6 armored regiments, respectively. Indian independent armored brigades have 3+1 structure – 3 x armored regiments + 1 x mechanized infantry battalion. Pakistan Army has 2+1 structure. There is also likely slight variation (2-3 tanks) in number of tanks held per armored regiment with IA having a higher number.
  • Anti-Tank battalion:  Pakistan Army has dedicated anti-tank battalions which are classified as Light Anti-Tank (LAT) battalion and Heavy Anti-Tank (HAT) battalions. These AT battalions are in addition to the anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) held at an individual infantry battalion level.

(A) Anti Tank Battalions

Anti-tank battalions are a relatively cheap and cost-effective option to counter a superior mechanized force. It relieves the armor from undertaking defensive tasks and allows the higher formation to preserve its own armor for offensive and counter-penetration tasks. And wherever required, it helps to strengthen the existing anti-tank capabilities. 

(A.1) Light Anti-Tank Battalions (LAT)

During the 1965 war, some infantry battalions, at the scale of one battalion per division, were converted into Reconnaissance & Support Battalions (R&S). These battalions had about 60% manpower as compared to standard infantry battalion but were equipped with much higher firepower. Apart from their standard role of reconnaissance, these units were also used to hold the ground through firepower and act as screening forces.

Sometime in early 90s, the R&S battalions with Infantry divisions were converted into anti-tank battalions. Pakistan Army today has dedicated LAT battalions. LAT battalions are held at Division HQ level and are most likely allocated to infantry brigades under the division at the scale of 1 x LAT Company/Brigade.  

The LAT battalions are equipped with Bakhtar-Shikan anti-tank guided missiles; these missiles are mounted on a 4 x 4 vehicle. However, during 2017 Pakistan Day Parade, an APC mounted contingent of Bakhtar-Shikan missiles from 27 Baloch Regiment was mentioned as LAT battalion.

It is likely that some LAT battalions, especially which are part of partially Mechanized Divisions of PA are mounted on M-113 APCs or locally produced Pakistani versions of the same.

Example of some of the LAT battalions are as under:

  • 21 Punjab (LAT) battalion
  • 23 Punjab (LAT) battalion
  • 26 Punjab (LAT) battalion
  • 19 Baloch (LAT) battalion – this is also the parent battalion of Special Service Group (SSG)

(A.2) Heavy Anti-Tank Battalions (HAT)

Pakistan Army also has the concept of Heavy Anti-tank (HAT) Battalions which are held at Corps HQ level. This includes the two Strike Corps – Army Reserve North (ARN, I Corps, Mangla) and Army Reserve South (ARS, II Corps, Multan). Apart from HAT battalions, there exist Independent HAT Companies as well.

 While I don’t have the details of exact number of such battalions (I do have names of some battalions), it highly likely that most Corps facing eastern border have a HAT battalion. And some divisions (mechanized ones in Strike Corps or those in sensitive sectors where large Indian armored offensive is expected) also have HAT Companies.

The HAT battalions and companies are equipped with TOW ATGM missiles and the same are mounted on M-113 APCs or Pakistan’s versions/derivatives of this venerable armored personnel carrier. Considering the relatively limited number of TOW missiles imported by Pakistan, some HAT battalions are also equipped with Bakhtar-Shikan missiles.

Example of some of the HAT battalions are as under:

  • 39 Azad Kashmir (Heavy Anti-Tank) battalion or 39 AK (HAT) battalion
  • 40 AK (HAT) battalion
  • 226 AK (HAT) Company
  • 227 AK (HAT) Company

(A.2.1) M-901 Improved Tow Vehicle

In the early 80s, Pakistan Army also imported 24 M-901 Improved Tow Vehicles from USA. These are dedicated TOW missile platforms based on M-113 APCs. Each vehicle has 2 x ‘ready to fire’ missiles along with 10 reloads. The reloading is done under the armor.

All them are concentrated under Multan based 2 Corps or  Army Reserve South (ARS). ARS is Pakistan Army’s premier armor and mechanized heavy strike formation. Given the number of units, these are most likely held by a single HAT battalion.

Pakistan Army officer standing in front of M-901 ITV. The formation sign on the vehicle is that of Multan based 2 Corps or Army Reserve South. (Source:

(A.3) Organization Structure

While I do not have the details of the organizational structure of such anti-tank battalions (LAT or HAT), one can draw a good approximation considering two main points as mentioned below: 

  •  Most formations below a brigade have company, platoon and section structure. And number of companies, platoons and sections varies as per the role & nature of the unit.
  • A missile launcher along with ready-to-fire missiles and first set of reloads will constitute a basic fire unit.    

 Keeping the above two points in mind, the following deductive reasoning can be applied:

  • In case of LAT battalion, it is a division level asset. 
  • Each infantry division in PA generally has 3 x infantry brigades (some divisions are larger)
  • Therefore, an assumption can be made that each LAT battalion will most likely provide 1 x LAT Company per brigade with 1 x HQ Company.
  • Therefore, a LAT battalion most likely has five (05) companies – 1 x HQ Company, 3 x LAT Companies and 1 x Support Company (for technical support to LAT companies). If each LAT Company has organic technical support elements, than the technical support company can be ruled out. Then each LAT battalion has four (04) companies
  • Each LAT company further likely has between 2 or 3 missile platoons
  • Missile platoons will be further broken down in missile sections. Each platoon likely has 2 or 3 missile sections. 
  • Each missile section is equipped with 1 x missile launcher and with 1 ready-to-fire missiles and 3 reloads + 4 x reserves for total of 08 missiles per section/launcher.

The above argument about number of launchers and missiles can be summarized as such:

  • CASE 1
    • 3 x Missile Companies with 3 x Missile Platoons/Company and 3 x Missile Sections/Platoon
      • 3 x 3 x 3 – 27 launchers
      • @ 8 missiles/launcher – 216 missiles
  • CASE 2
    • 3 x Missile Companies with 3 x Missile Platoons/Company and 2 x Missile Sections/Platoon
      • 3 x 3 x 2 – 18 launchers
      • @ 8 missiles/launcher – 144 missiles

A similar structure likely exists in case of HAT battalions. The only difference being, the companies will be allotted to divisions under the Corps. 

(B) Anti-Tank Missiles

Pakistan Army employs two main types of ATGMs. These are as under:

(1) Bakhtar-Shikan: 

  • This is the licensed produced copy of Chinese HJ-8/Red Arrow-8 ATGM. Employed by infantry and anti-tank battalions.
  • A version of the missile has also been adapted for use by AH-1 ‘Cobra’ helicopter gunships.
  • The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Arms Transfer database shows that a total of 23,350 HJ-8 missiles were contracted in 1989. And these were license manufactured between 1990 and 2016
  • However, other credible sources say that PA tested first home produced Bakhtar-Shikan in 1997. It is quite likely that production began in 1997.
  • A 19 year period (1997-2016) to produce these number of missiles means a per annum production rate of ~1,229 missiles. This is unlikely to be the case. 
  • Two things could’ve happened. One, an initial batch was procured off-the-shelf from China and Pakistan devoted its interest to produce the missile locally; and that initial production was at low rate. Secondly, local production and subsequent induction picked steam after 2001 when the US funds started flowing. This is because till September 2001 event happened, Pakistan defense overall was in a bad shape due to lack of funds.

(2) BGM-71 Tow-2: 

228 AK (HAT) Independent Company with M-113 APC and TOW-2 ATGMs
  • Used by Heavy Anti-Tank Battalions/Companies and AH-1 ‘Cobra’ helicopter gunships
  • The SIPRI database documents three instances of TOW missiles being ordered by Pakistan; these were in 1981, 2004 and 2007.
  • Considering the missiles ordered from USA in 2004 and 2007, the number of TOW-2 missiles ordered (and supposedly held) by the PA is 5,205. I’ve not considered the 1,005 missiles ordered in 1981 and received between 1983-96 because these are beyond their shelf life; these were most probably exhausted in training.
  • TOW-2A missiles are a precious resource and this explains why HAT battalions are held at Corps HQ level or in Independent HAT Companies allotted to few important Divisions.
  • The use of Bakhtar-Shikan on AH-1 ‘Cobra’ gunships most likely stems from the lack of enough quantity of TOW missiles and their price. The topsy-turvy nature of US-Pakistan relationship would be another factor; post 1998 nuclear test, Pakistan did not have access to most US systems including TOW-2 missiles. Bakhtar-Shikan was a good alternative

(C) Missile Details

This section provides details of the missile and sub-types employed by the Pakistan Army.

(C.1) Bakhtar-Shikan

Bakhtar-Shikan missile with complete firing post. Notice the BGM-71 TOW inspired tripod
  • Bakhtar-Shikan missile is Pakistan’s licensed copy of the Chinese HJ-8 or Red Arrow-8 anti-tank guided missile.
  • It is second generation, wire-guided, semi-automatic command-to-line-of-sight (SACLOS) anti-tank missile.
  • The missile consists of four components. These are (data in parenthesis is weight in Kg):
    • Missile inside missile case – 25 kg (missile only is 11.2 kg)
    • Tripod – 23 Kg
    • Guidance unit – 24 Kg
    • IR Goniometer – 12.5 Kg.
  • IR Goniometer – As per, “the IR goniometer is mounted on the left side of the launcher and, as well as serving as a day sight, also receives and modulates IR signals from the missile and feeds resulting deviation signals to the guidance unit. A night device can also be fitted.”
  • Apart from use by the infantry on man-pack basis, the missile is mounted on 4×4 vehicles and Armored Personnel Carriers (APC).
  • APC consist of imported M113 APCs as well as locally manufactured modification of M113 APC by Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT).
  • The base modification of M113A2 APCs is called ‘Talha’ while a Bakhtar-Shikan mounted version of ‘Talha’ APC is called ‘Maaz’.
  • Each Maaz APC has a single missile firing post with further 8 reloads. It is said that the missile firing post is retrieved inside the turret for reload. It has crew of four people.
  • As is evident from the weight of each sub-component, Bakhtar-Shikan is not exactly a man-portable missile.
  • The total weight of the system (missile + firing post) is close to 85 Kg. It can be carried on man-pack basis and would be man-portable only for very short distances. 
  • The data available about the missile weight and weight of encased tube (with the missile inside) is 11.2 Kg and 25 Kg, respectively. I’ve not come across reason for such high weight of the empty missile tube (~14 Kg). Generally, the empty missile tube weighs about 1-2 Kg.
  • Only in case of AT-5B ‘Spandrel’ or ‘Konkur-M’ (used by Indian Army) does the missile tube weigh ~10 Kg because the tube has a gas generator. This gas generator ejects the missile from the tube before the main motor kicks-in. 
  • But in case of HJ-8/Bakhtar-Shikan, the missile tube is ejected backward and there is considerable back-blast. This rules out any device to eject the missile.
The picture shows the empty missile tube traveling backwards; considering the back-blast and distance covered by the missile case, the are rear to the missile firing post has to be clear. (Source:
  • Further, as the pictures below shows, given the dimensions of the firing post, the soldier has to be in kneeling position to fire the missile. This is because of the position of the aiming device. While the elevated missile firing post gives better line of sight, it is also a bigger target and exposes the missile pilot during the entire phase of missile flight.
PA soldier firing the Bakhtar-Shikan missile. Notice the size and dimensions of the missile firing post and location of aiming device. The missile is also HJ-8A version without tandem warhead. (Source:
Another image of Pakistan Army’s missile team firing the missile with missile pilot in kneeling position. This one is also the HJ-8A version (Source:
  • The missile has also been adapted for use on AH-1 ‘Cobra’ helicopter gunships.
  • The video below of Pakistan Army exercise dates from 2006. As the commentary says, it involves adaptation of Bakhtar-Shikan missile and demonstration of night-firing by AH-1 helicopter gunships.
  • The weight aspect of HJ-8 flows from the design philosophy where HJ-8 was meant to mirror heavy western ATGMs like BGM-71 ‘TOW’ and Euromissile HOT.
  • The most visible impact is the heavy tripod of HJ-8 or Bakhtar-Shikan missile which copies from the American TOW missile. It given the missile 360-degree swivel capability.
  • Another aspect of HJ-8 missile borrowed from French MILAN anti-tank missile is that fact that the missile tube (in which the missile is encased) is pushed backwards when the missile is fired. Though, the rearward travel of HJ-8/Bakhtar-Shikan missile tube seems to be much higher as compared to Milan missile. 

(C.1.1) Variants of Bakhtar-Shikan

  • The basic HJ-8 missile has evolved over the years. The picture below shows this evolution with various models of HJ-8 leading to HJ-9. PA at this stage does not operate HJ-9. 
  • The basic HJ-8A missile was followed by HJ-8C missile in early 90s; HJ-8C missile featured a probe in-front with a precursor charge followed by main HEAT warhead. 
  • This was meant to neutralize the Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) which had started proliferating on Soviet origin tanks. 
  • The HJ-8E missile is a further improvement on HJ-8C with range increased from 3,500 meter to 4,000 meter. This missile was ready by late 90s and is supposed to have improved guidance system, thereby increasing the kill probability.
Evolution of Chinese HJ-8 series of anti-tank missiles
  • Considering that Baktar-Shikan is licensed copy of HJ-8 missile, it is but natural that Pakistan Army will also induct the progressive versions of the same missile. 
  • Pakistan started displaying a tandem warhead version of Baktar-Shikan missile from 2002 onward. This tandem warhead version is most likely to be a licensed copy of HJ-8E missile with tandem warhead and enhanced range.
  • The new missile launcher also has option of attaching a thermal imager to allow for acquisition and targeting of enemy mechanized assets at night. As per, “system can be fitted with a PTI- 32 thermal imager which can detect tank sized targets at a range of 4,000 m and identify tank size targets at a range of 2,000 m”
  • While it is likely the tandem warhead version will start replacing/supplanting the pure HEAT warhead versions in the PA service, the exact numbers and status of such a program are not known (at least to this author).
Tandem warhead version of Bakhtar-Shikan missile displayed during IDEAS 2014. Most likely to be a version of HJ-8E missile. (Source:
  • Malaysia had placed an order for Bakhtar-Shikan missiles in 2001 which as per SIPRI database was completed in 2002-2003 period. As the picture of the missile below with a probe in front shows, Malaysia operates the tandem warhead version of the missile.
Malaysian Army APC mounted Bakhtar-Shikan missile in action. Notice the probe in front of the missile; this makes it most probably the HJ-8E version. The picture also captures the massive back-blast. (Source: 
  • Interestingly, in the 2014 International Defense Exhibition and Seminar  (IDEAS) exhibition, Pakistan had also displayed the ‘Light’ version of the Bakhtar-Shikan missile. This is based on the NORINCO HJ-8L version. HJ-8L version is an attempt to develop a genuine man-portable ATGM which consists of a much smaller & lighter firing post (smaller tripod and guidance cum aiming device). It retains the same missile. The total weight of this system is said to be under 25 Kg. 
  • However, apart from redesigned and new guidance units and imaging tools, it is highly likely that Chinese have also developed a new missile case. This is because with older missile + missile tube itself weighing 25 Kg, the overall weight of the missile + firing post cannot be under 25 Kg.
  • HJ-8 missile variants have seen considerable use in Syria by various forces. These missiles have been credited with taking out many modern MBTs in the civil war.

(C.2) BGM-71 TOW-2A

TOW-2A equipped M-113 APC of the Pakistan Army
  • Tube Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire Guided or ‘TOW’ is the most famous of US anti-tank missiles and one which has been produced the most.
  • It is a heavy anti-tank missile with the heaviest warhead amongst land based anti-tank missiles. The missile weighs about 22 kgs with the whole firing post including the missile weighing close to 90 kg.
  • Guidance is Semi-Automatic Command to Line of Sight (SACLOS) meaning the missile pilot has to keep tracking the target till impact.  The guidance signals are transmitted through wires (wire-guided) or one-way secured radio-frequency link (RF). The RF based guidance does not make the missile ‘fire & forget’. It simply replaces the wire as a medium of delivery guidance.
  • From its first version in early 1970s, the missile and attached paraphernalia have undergone continuous upgrade.
  • At present, there are two main avatars of the missile, along with variants of these two dominant types. The details of the same are as follows:
Technical details of various versions of TOW anti-tank guided missile

Different versions of TOW missiles (TOW-2B ‘Aero’ is not shown):


TOW-2B ‘Aero’ – compare the front section with standard TOW-2B shown above.

  • Internal diagrams of TOW-2A and TOW-2B.
  • TOW-2B ‘Aero’ differs from TOW-2B only in terms of shape of front section.
  • In case RF versions, the rear section of the missile has RF receiver instead of wire-dispenser 
RF guidance version of various types of TOW missile
  • Components of the TOW launcher complex which comprises of tripod, guidance unit, batteries, optical sights, and steering unit.

(C.2.1) Number and Type in Pakistan Army

  • As discussed earlier, Pakistan Army acquired various versions of BGM-71/TOW missiles in three tranches. These details of the order are as follows (Year of Order/Quantity/Usage):
    • 1981 – 1,005 – To be used on AH-1 ‘Cobra’ helicopters and M-901 ITV
    • 2004 – 2,007 –  TOW-2A variant; to be used on AH-1 ‘Cobra’ helicopters
    • 2007 – 3,198 – TOW-2A-RF variants
  • The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notification about the 2007 sale of TOW-2A missiles gives the following break-up of the order:

The Government of Pakistan has requested a possible sale of 2,769 Radio Frequency (RF) TOW 2A Missiles, 7 RF TOW 2A Fly-to-buy Missiles, 415 RF Bunker Buster Missiles, 7 RF Fly-to-buy Bunker Buster Missiles, upgrade of 121 TOW Basic/TOW-I launchers to fire TOW II configuration for wire-guided and wireless missiles, TOW Data Acquisition Systems, gunner aiming sight, testers, cameras, spare and repair parts, technical support, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, technical data and publications, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $185 million

  • Given the quantity of missiles ordered and likely to be held (5,205), TOW-2A is a precious resource for Pakistan Army.
  • The stock is most probably divided between the Pakistan Army’s Army Aviation Corps (AAC) which operates the AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunships and the Heavy Anti-Tank (HAT) battalions.

(D) Lessons for India

The Arab-Israel war of October 1973, known as the Yom-Kippur war (or the Ramadan War as per the Arabs) offers insight into the tank versus anti-tank missile scenario. It has lessons for India because the adversary (Pakistan) intends to use ATGMs to blunt India’s superior armor capabilities.

 The 1973 war is a landmark event because it became the proving ground of two new weapon systems in modern warfare – anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) and anti-aircraft missile. Success of these two systems forced a major rethink in tank warfare and air combat in terms of tactics, design of weapon system and development of measures & countermeasures.

 Egyptian Army employed thousands of Soviet Union supplied 9M14 ‘Malyutka’ (NATO reporting name: AT-3 ‘Swagger’) ATGM. 

While the Israeli intelligence and its general staff were aware of this weapon system with Egyptians, they did not consider it as an effective countermeasure to their armor.

This faulty assessment caused the Israeli heavily – Israel Defense Forces (IDF) lost about 800 tanks in this war with Egyptian ATGM teams accounting for 20%-25% of the total losses. But the real impact of ATGM was felt in the initial days of the war when the Israelis were completely taken by surprise by the ATGM and the efficacy of Egyptian anti-tank defenses.

During first two days of the war, Israelis lost about 260 tanks – bulk of these loses were on account of ATGMs.

But the anti-tank teams were highly effective because the Egyptians employed innovative anti-tank tactics. In the words of one Israeli tank commander[1]who led the initial counter-attack against the Egyptian Army:

“We were advancing and in the distance, I saw specks dotted on the sand dunes. I couldn’t make out what they were. As we got closer, I thought they looked like tree stumps. They were motionless and scattered across the terrain ahead of us. I got on the intercom and asked the tanks ahead what they made of it. One of my tank commanders radioed back: ‘My God, they’re not tree stumps. They’re men!’ For a moment I couldn’t understand. What were men doing standing out there—quite still-when we were advancing in our tanks towards them? Suddenly all hell broke loose. A barrage of missiles was being fired at us. Many of our tanks were hit. We had never come up against anything like this before….”

Another example of how much thought Egyptians had given to anti-tank warfare based on ATGM is given below[2]:

“According to one report, the Egyptians, with an abundance of SAGGERs, established a defence that lured the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) into a Kill Zone which optimized the potential of both SAGGERs and RPG-7s. The IDF tankers saw Egyptian tanks in the far distance and closed to do battle; however, they were unaware of great numbers of camouflaged RPG-7s and SAGGERs forward of the Egyptian tanks”

This is shown in the image below (taken from the same document):

The Israeli Armoured Corps did evolve tactics to counter the Egyptian anti-tank teams; these tactics meant the armour advancing under the cover of artillery and with supporting infantry (mounted on APC/IFV and dismounted). ATGM placed a restriction on the free reign which the armour had against the infantry.

But the wide-spread use of anti-tank missiles did not make the Main Battle Tank (MBT) obsolete. In words of a CIA Report[3] on analysis of 1973 Arab-Israel War done in 1975:

“Antitank weapons like the Sagger and RPG-7 took a heavy toll of Israeli armour. But they did not render the tank obsolete. The initial impression created by the Egyptian use of antitank missiles was artificially reinforced by the inappropriate tactics used by the Israelis in the first few days of the war

“Antitank weapons like the Sagger and RPG-7 took a heavy toll of Israeli armour. But they did not render the tank obsolete. The initial impression created by the Egyptian use of antitank missiles was artificially reinforced by the inappropriate tactics used by the Israelis in the first few days of the war. It is probably safe to say that no large, modern army will again make the mistake of using unsupported tanks against massed infantry.

The Israelis rediscovered some ancient principles in seeking a response to the antitank weapon threat posed at the beginning of the October war. Foremost, the Israelis found that no single weapon can long dominate the battlefield. Victory requires the use of a balanced force with many complementary offensive and defensive elements. The battlefield, in short, is a complicated environment and no one weapon or arm of service can function effectively on it without the active aid and cooperation of others. This is reassuring for the Israelis, since the effective and flexible use of mobile forces under difficult circumstances is precisely the area in which they hold the greatest comparative advantage over the Arabs”.

The same report also adds the following about Israeli adaptation to this new threat in course of the war:

“Despite all the problems, however, the Israelis once again proved the importance of flexibility in maintaining their superiority. The most striking example of this is provided by the Israeli response to the Arab–particularly Egyptian–antitank weapons. By 8 October the Israelis had recognized the flaws in their armor tactics and adopted a defensive procedure under which they waited for the Arab armor to attack and then took the Arabs under fire from extreme range. This made it difficult for the Arabs to bring their antitank weapons forward. This change of tactics by the Israelis took maximum advantage of the longer range of most of their tank guns and the superiority of their long-range tank gunnery.

The Israeli attack on 8 October appears to have been the last attempt to use tanks in the unsupported 1967 style and even then the Israelis may have been drawn in by their initial success. Within four or five days after the beginning of the war, the Israelis were adopting tactics which reduced the threat from Arab antitank weapons to manageable proportions. This adjustment in the midst of combat provides a fair measure of the flexibility of Israeli leadership and the thoroughness of low-level training.”

(E) Conclusion

  • Pakistan Army possess strong anti-tank capability which will be a challenge to Indian mechanized formations in any future conflict.
  • The main objective of these anti-tank formations is to prevent a break-out by Indian armored formations. Using speed, mobility, terrain familiarity and stand-off range of their missiles, they intend to blunt Indian mechanized offensive.
  • With ability to engage targets at night, they can spring surprise on any advancing armor column. Working in conjunction with some armor and/or AH-1 ‘Cobra’ gunship helicopters will make for formidable force.
  • They will play an important role in next Indo-Pak war. And like the Israelis in 1973 war, Indian Army will have to evolve tactics to counter them. And while Israelis were taken by surprise, Indian Army knows the existence of this capability. 
  • Apart from counter-tactics, Indian Army also needs to invest in technological solution like Active Protection Systems (APS) for its main battle tanks. 

Please share your comments, review(s), views. And do point out factual errors.

[1]The Yom Kippur War 1973 (2): The Sinai by Simon Dunstan

[2] US Army Training and Doctrine Command: TRADOC Bulletin February 1975

[3]Intelligence Report- The 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Overview and Analysis of the Conflict (released 2012)

15 Comments on "Pakistan Army and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles"

  1. Very well researched and has an in-depth analysis.

  2. As always, very nice and detailed post. Wish you were a full time defence journo 🙂

  3. Rohit, outstanding work! Truly impressive. I shall be referring to this article in my forthcoming book on 2-front war as a resource for people wanting more info an Pakistan ATGMs.

    Very minor correction: the R&S battalions were formed after US reorganized Pakistan Army in late 50s and early 60s. The US approved only 7 infantry battalions per division (except for 12 Division AK, which was not part of the reorganization). So the R&S Bn, 48 106mm RCL and 48 jeep mounted LMG was to give greater punch. It was a formidable addition. Plus the Pakistanis would concentrate their MMGs when the Indians attack and caused us considerable damage. My notes from 1971 say their inf bns had 24 MMG's, 8 RCL, and 2 LMG per section. This was from our Army, but now I'm not so sure they had that many MMGs.

    Right after 1965 Pakistan shifted to 9-battalions per div because they were severely hampered by shortage of infantry. You can imagine the situation when 2 of your 3 bdes in the div had only 2 bns each.

  4. Where have you been all my life?! Very nice blog, congratulations!

  5. Really high-quality and well researched article. You can teach most of the so-called defence journalists and defence analysts a thing or two about good research and simple presentation.

    We've tipped our hats on BRF

  6. Excellent work.. .well done

  7. Anon, that's just the point about Rohit – he is not a journalist! He is a serious researcher who takes his time with his posts so he can do quality. That's why we see so few by him.

  8. Excellent work. Amazing analysis

  9. Wonderful paper. Well researched.

    Regarding the option of using APS, given the cost we may not be able to have APS on 2000-3000 tanks. There needs to be research in to soft kill mechanism against Pak ATGMs. Smoke, ways to fool IR/IIR, better tactics etc.

    UAV/UCAV, army aviation doing a sweep of target areas are of critical importance.

    Ofcourse the golden rule, don't take tanks to places, where it is not suppose to go!

  10. Absolutely correct on the golden rule. People think tanks can go anywhere. They cant: you have to carefully reconnoiter ground before you start bashing on.

  11. Normally one uses artillery to neutralize ATGMs before launching an attack. The ATGM crews reduce their vulnerability by digging stepped foxholes. Or you put the ATGM under armor. The M-113 APC is protected against 12.7mm HMG fire and airburst shrapnel. You also dig the APCs in behind earth/sand berms, constructed like a 3-sided box, with the back side open to roll the APC in and out. Man portable ATGMs are excellent for ambushing the enemy in built-up areas. As anonymous has said (above) there are countermeasures against ATGMs. The problem for the attacker is that if an ATGM platoon in ambush takes out 2-3 tanks in an attacking squadron, or 2-3 BMPs in a mechanized company, the tendency is for the attacker to stop. Using both artillery and dismounted infantry, the ATGMs are cleared out and the advance resumes. But vital time and momentum has been lost. Of all the anti-tank weapons, the attack helicopter in the defense is the most dangerous because of its speed, mobility, and nap-of-earth flying. Its difficult to cope with these things if they're operating behind buildings, tree-lines, and dips in the ground. The attack helicopter in the offense can be very vulnerable. Both the attacker and defender will use UAVs as aerial scouts. Its suggested that if the attacker runs into ATGMs, he should accelerate through and scatter as is done for regular ambushes, and then reform behind the ATGMs to continue the advance without pause. The problem here is that unless the attacker knows where the ATGM posts are, he is in danger from flanking fire and running into the next ATGM platoon. As Rohit has explained, artificial obstacles make the attackers job harder. Adding scatter mines laid by specially equipped trucks, helicopters, or fighters during the course of the battle or just prior creates huge complications. The danger is not the minefield you know, but the one you don't know. This really brings things to a standstill because you don't know how wide and deep the mines are laid. Also, you use minefields to channel the attacker into fire traps. The idea of bring the attacker to a standstill is to seize the initiative from him and counterattack. You can imagine these operations are immensely difficult to launch and coordinate. That's why they say the side that makes the fewest mistakes wins. And they all say that luck counts for a great deal. BTW, both attackers and defenders have a new weapon available: electronic spoofing, which aims to let a tank platoon appear like a company on adversary sensors. So there you are, shooting away, but two of three targets are fake.

  12. you have raised important and pertinant questions regarding the pakistani army and its capability ,hope our defense planners and soldiers on the ground have made solutions for the ATGM threat, i believe active protection systems have a big role to play,as usual u have given a solid presentation congratulations

  13. Wonderful paper. Well researched.

    Regarding the option of using APS, given the cost we may not be able to have APS on 2000-3000 tanks. There needs to be research in to soft kill mechanism against Pak ATGMs. Smoke, ways to fool IR/IIR, better tactics etc. pak air force

  14. this is an awesome article. I am sorry I am late to the party !!!

    Indian Planners not only have to be worried about the asymmetrical threat axis of ATGM systems on 4×4 / 6×6 / 8×8 / Tracked, UAV, Helos and tank hunting teams of PA.
    PA also has effectively inter spread .50 Cal HMGs, and MANPADs at FEBA

    This configuration adds more attrition to thin skinned, vulnerable armor, APC and other mobile systems of IA it also denies IA the use of UAVs, Helos and other flying elements.

    The throw weight of the combined HMG ATGM teams is 1500m to 2500m zone, this effectively begs the question, how has the screening R&S Elements of IA Evolved.

    – Does IA system out gun, outperform, out-range and has a better throw weight.
    – Does it possess effective night fighting systems other SATA systems
    – Did it ever try ( in my naive mind) to upgrade the BRDM 14.5kpvt HMG with a 20mm/25mm bush master with effective integrated surveillance and detection system to lay-down long range effective disruptive suppressive dissuasive fire before more critical BMP & other armour systems get exposed to PA
    – Has IA tried to discuss tactics of integrating LAV / LAFV equipped with rapid firing 90mm / 105mm guns like the French Italian Canadian forces to use them as flanking systems and neutralized posts, pillboxes, APCs and other wheeled assets and deny the enemy its own forward, screening systems and make the PA R&S / AT systems redundant or threatened.

    – IA must also integrate MANPADS and Pick up truck based HMGs of calibers between 12.7 to 20mm at Inf Bn level giving them their own long range disruptive supressive firepower with mobility & flexibility ( The Russians have raised a pick up truck based Mech regt after the Syrian experience)

  15. Pakistan Zindabad, Thank you so much for posting such an informative post, I listened to a beautiful defence day song, I really like, give it a listen… Salam Jawan | Faraz Nayyer | 6 September Pakistan Defence Song 2019 | Aye Putter
    Salam Jawan | Faraz Nayyer | 6 September Pakistan Defence Song 2019 | Aye Putter Hattan Te Nai Wikdey

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