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Does anyone think that the Dragon ATGMs in 1979 scenarios are too powerful?


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I have no military experience - I am just an enthusiastic reader of things military and wargaming so I am looking for feedback from gamers who have real world experience in this area.  I have read many articles about how "disappointing" the Dragons were/would have been in a shooting war.  

The following is from the relevant wikipedia article on Dragon ATGMs.

Penetration of the basic missile was disappointing, a mere 330mm.  While later variants would improve upon this, the missile was never particularly effective.

Dragon

The basic missile, the Dragon has a 1,000 meter range and penetrates 330mm of armor.

Dragon II

A simple warhead upgrade, the Dragon II, originally "Dragon PIP", received a new warhead that offered a 85% increase in penetration, to about 610mm. Dragon II entered service in 1988.

Therefore my understand is that the expectation was for a likely penetration capability of 330 mm of RHA in 1979.  However, when I create a scenario, my Dragon teams and squads equipped with Dragon are easily killing T64B and T72s at over 1000 meters in frontal encounters - penetration of front turrets and front hulls.  I understand that the T64B of 1979 vintage had frontal armor equivalents of between 500 to 570 mms against HEAT and T72s of 1979 vintage had frontal armor equivalents of between 490 to 500 mms against HEAT.  On that basis, my Dragons should not be regularly killing these vehicles.  However, in-game my Dragons are killing these tanks and creating catastrophic explosions and fires when they make hits.

Any thoughts or feedback would be appreciated.

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Can I have your Dragons?

I've seen Dragons and TOWs reliably bounce off the front of T-64 and up, especially the turret.

It's obviously worth testing, and it's always possible there's an issue, but I don't recognise that in my experiences.

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Markh is right though - the Dragon *should* go through a T-62 in most or all aspects, but struggle against a T-64 or higher - that leap in armour protection is something the US wasn't prepared for, and it's a big reason why the M60A2 Starship was what it was.

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Before jumping to conclusions one needs data. Where the hit occurred and at what angle? Preferably lots of repetition. 

There are a lot of weak spots on tanks and under battle condition the angles that the hits come from can be significant, you could hit the roof or if you hit 30 degree front slope when the tank is going down 30 degree hill you can count out the slopes effect on effective thickness of the armor.

My experience is varied with the Dragon as expected, if the engagement happens to be under laboratory like conditions, meaning front facing hull-down T-64, good luck! But more realistically this is not the case more often than not.

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9 minutes ago, The_MonkeyKing said:

Before jumping to conclusions one needs data. Where the hit occurred and at what angle? Preferably lots of repetition. 

There are a lot of weak spots on tanks and under battle condition the angles that the hits come from can be significant, you could hit the roof or if you hit 30 degree front slope when the tank is going down 30 degree hill you can count out the slopes effect on effective thickness of the armor.

Interesting you mention this, and one of the aspects of CM games I love. In SF I had a Brit Challenger with too much downward angle right as an AT-3 came to make its acquaintance. The missile hit the top of the commanders hatch and destroyed the tank.

 

Not saying that this is what you have observed but maybe. I am actually quite surprised by the dragons effectiveness as well. I personally have witnessed stray shots but generally if it hits, it destroys.

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8 hours ago, zmoney said:

Not saying that this is what you have observed but maybe. I am actually quite surprised by the dragons effectiveness as well. I personally have witnessed stray shots but generally if it hits, it destroys.

I think one of the other factors is the armor protection is fairly uneven on on something like a T-72/T-64. While there are really tough spots like the pockets of composite in the cheeks, there's a lot of areas where even a little change in angle will let a Dragon through. In practice while the best armor of T-72 is impressive for the time, the actual coverage of that best armor isn't great so stopping rounds can be a bit more of dice roll than on an M1 or similar with big consistent blocks of armor.

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My seat-of-the-pants impression (based on nothing quantifiable), is protection against HE on T64/T72/T80 upper bow may be a tad low, it almost feels like armor equivalent against AP and HEAT may be the same number, not higher for HEAT. Shillelagh should be no better at penetrating T72 frontally than Dragon but you still get surprise upper bow penetrations sometimes.

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One thing with dragons, and really any missile in CM games, is how easily tracks are damaged or destroyed from turret hits. I'm not an expert, so maybe that is completely reasonable, but it seems to me that with a missile impact on the turret, the hull of the tank would protect the tracks from feeling the effects of the missile impact. I've had several T64/T80 forces disabled by multiple Dragon hits on the turret breaking their tracks.

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5 hours ago, SgtHatred said:

One thing with dragons, and really any missile in CM games, is how easily tracks are damaged or destroyed from turret hits. I'm not an expert, so maybe that is completely reasonable, but it seems to me that with a missile impact on the turret, the hull of the tank would protect the tracks from feeling the effects of the missile impact. I've had several T64/T80 forces disabled by multiple Dragon hits on the turret breaking their tracks.

Yeah , i did one test with that in mind where t80b where getting sot by m-150:

(only 1 test for now) No matter where the tank is getting hit, be it turret to lower hull(all frontally), be it pen or no pen, the track will always get damaged.
It feels weird. I personally that it should be like that for near miss with arty. What i don't know is , should i tank take damage to its tracks when its getting hit by an atgm on the turret?

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Posted (edited)
On 5/25/2021 at 1:19 PM, The_MonkeyKing said:

Before jumping to conclusions one needs data. Where the hit occurred and at what angle? Preferably lots of repetition. 

Did a bit of repetition - recorded the outcome of 550+ Dragon hits on various Soviet tanks at various aspects.

I'll keep it to the point:

  • If a Dragon manages to score a penetration, it is a guaranteed K/O - 292 penetrating hits recorded, all of which resulted in a (often catastrophic) K/O.
  • The real weakness of the Dragon is reliability. I didn't keep track of how many nosedived and hit the dirt short of target, but it was a lot; and that's considering the Dragon teams were not being fired upon.
  • T-55s and T-62s have no protection against the Dragon - first hit to connect is a guaranteed penetration at all aspects and hit locations. I stopped recording 55s/62s results after the first 48 frontal hits resulted in 100% K/O rate.
  • All other Soviet MBTs seem almost impervious to the Dragon in the upper frontal arc (front turret, weapon mount, upper front hull). Of 280 hits that landed in upper front, only 2 managed to penetrate (0.07% rate). 
  • At the same time, all other arcs offer no protection - of the 290 hits recorded to sides (even at rather shallow 30* angles and including turret sides) and most importantly lower front hull - all scored a penetrating hit, a 100% K/O rate.

So a true case of YMMV:

  • On one hand, a T-64/72/80 in a perfect hull-down position might appear "invincible". During one contrivance, I had to stop after 30 (thirty) consecutive hits failed to K/O a single T-72; however, make no mistake, there was not a single relevant subsystem left functional on that tank.
  • Where as on the other hand, something as simple as a 30-degree traversal of the turret relative to the ATGM team pretty well guarantees a K/O on the first shot to reach the target.

I think no matter which side of the Dragon ATGM you find yourself in, such dramatically polarized results can most certainly lead to frustration.

p.s. In case anyone is curious what my last two hours looked like, here's a 12 min segment - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2midc46M9CA

(You can also get a sense of how many missiles fail to reach target ... or even clear the launcher, as a few unlucky teams caught their own shrapnel)

 

Edited by Roter Stern
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30 minutes ago, Roter Stern said:

Did a bit of repetition - recorded the outcome of 550+ Dragon hits on various Soviet tanks at various aspects.

I'll keep it to the point:

  • If a Dragon manages to score a penetration, it is a guaranteed K/O - 292 penetrating hits recorded, all of which resulted in a (often catastrophic) K/O.
  • The real weakness of the Dragon is reliability. I didn't keep track of how many nosedived and hit the dirt short of target, but it was a lot; and that's considering the Dragon teams were not being fired upon.
  • T-55s and T-62s have no protection against the Dragon - first hit to connect is a guaranteed penetration at all aspects and hit locations. I stopped recording 55s/62s results after the first 48 frontal hits resulted in 100% K/O rate.
  • All other Soviet MBTs seem almost impervious to the Dragon in the upper frontal arc (front turret, weapon mount, upper front hull). Of 280 hits that landed in upper front, only 2 managed to penetrate (0.07% rate). 
  • At the same time, all other arcs offer no protection - of the 290 hits recorded to sides (even at rather shallow 30* angles and including turret sides) and most importantly lower front hull - all scored a penetrating hit, a 100% K/O rate.

So a true case of YMMV:

  • On one hand, a T-64/72/80 in a perfect hull-down position might appear "invincible". During one contrivance, I had to stop after 30 (thirty) consecutive hits failed to K/O a single T-72; however, make no mistake, there was not a single relevant subsystem left functional on that tank.
  • Where as on the other hand, something as simple as a 30-degree traversal of the turret relative to the ATGM team pretty well guarantees a K/O on the first shot to reach the target.

I think no matter which side of the Dragon ATGM you find yourself in, such dramatically polarized results can most certainly lead to frustration.

p.s. In case anyone is curious what my last two hours looked like, here's a 12 min segment - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2midc46M9CA

(You can also get a sense of how many missiles fail to reach target ... or even clear the launcher, as a few unlucky teams caught their own shrapnel)

 

Makes sense. The areas on the 64 and 72 protected by the composite armor are all very focused on the frontal arc. From the sides the armor is just steel and not very thick steel at that. 

 

H

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39 minutes ago, Roter Stern said:

Did a bit of repetition - recorded the outcome of 550+ Dragon hits on various Soviet tanks at various aspects.

I'll keep it to the point:

  • If a Dragon manages to score a penetration, it is a guaranteed K/O - 292 penetrating hits recorded, all of which resulted in a (often catastrophic) K/O.
  • The real weakness of the Dragon is reliability. I didn't keep track of how many nosedived and hit the dirt short of target, but it was a lot; and that's considering the Dragon teams were not being fired upon.
  • T-55s and T-62s have no protection against the Dragon - first hit to connect is a guaranteed penetration at all aspects and hit locations. I stopped recording 55s/62s results after the first 48 frontal hits resulted in 100% K/O rate.
  • All other Soviet MBTs seem almost impervious to the Dragon in the upper frontal arc (front turret, weapon mount, upper front hull). Of 280 hits that landed in upper front, only 2 managed to penetrate (0.07% rate). 
  • At the same time, all other arcs offer no protection - of the 290 hits recorded to sides (even at rather shallow 30* angles and including turret sides) and most importantly lower front hull - all scored a penetrating hit, a 100% K/O rate.

So a true case of YMMV:

  • On one hand, a T-64/72/80 in a perfect hull-down position might appear "invincible". During one contrivance, I had to stop after 30 (thirty) consecutive hits failed to K/O a single T-72; however, make no mistake, there was not a single relevant subsystem left functional on that tank.
  • Where as on the other hand, something as simple as a 30-degree traversal of the turret relative to the ATGM team pretty well guarantees a K/O on the first shot to reach the target.

I think no matter which side of the Dragon ATGM you find yourself in, such dramatically polarized results can most certainly lead to frustration.

p.s. In case anyone is curious what my last two hours looked like, here's a 12 min segment - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2midc46M9CA

(You can also get a sense of how many missiles fail to reach target ... or even clear the launcher, as a few unlucky teams caught their own shrapnel)

 

Wow, that's science!

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On 5/27/2021 at 5:34 AM, domfluff said:

Dragons should kill BMPs pretty easily, and BMPs killing BMPs is an unfortunate side-effect of being a BMP :D

BMP1s and 2s are still way better than BMP3s. Those things are VBIEDs that happen to contain dismounts. One thing I learned very early was to get the dismounts a good way away from BMP3s so they don't get wiped out by the secondary explosion. 

 

H

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2 hours ago, Roter Stern said:

Did a bit of repetition - recorded the outcome of 550+ Dragon hits on various Soviet tanks at various aspects.

I'll keep it to the point:

  • If a Dragon manages to score a penetration, it is a guaranteed K/O - 292 penetrating hits recorded, all of which resulted in a (often catastrophic) K/O.
  • The real weakness of the Dragon is reliability. I didn't keep track of how many nosedived and hit the dirt short of target, but it was a lot; and that's considering the Dragon teams were not being fired upon.
  • T-55s and T-62s have no protection against the Dragon - first hit to connect is a guaranteed penetration at all aspects and hit locations. I stopped recording 55s/62s results after the first 48 frontal hits resulted in 100% K/O rate.
  • All other Soviet MBTs seem almost impervious to the Dragon in the upper frontal arc (front turret, weapon mount, upper front hull). Of 280 hits that landed in upper front, only 2 managed to penetrate (0.07% rate). 
  • At the same time, all other arcs offer no protection - of the 290 hits recorded to sides (even at rather shallow 30* angles and including turret sides) and most importantly lower front hull - all scored a penetrating hit, a 100% K/O rate.

So a true case of YMMV:

  • On one hand, a T-64/72/80 in a perfect hull-down position might appear "invincible". During one contrivance, I had to stop after 30 (thirty) consecutive hits failed to K/O a single T-72; however, make no mistake, there was not a single relevant subsystem left functional on that tank.
  • Where as on the other hand, something as simple as a 30-degree traversal of the turret relative to the ATGM team pretty well guarantees a K/O on the first shot to reach the target.

I think no matter which side of the Dragon ATGM you find yourself in, such dramatically polarized results can most certainly lead to frustration.

p.s. In case anyone is curious what my last two hours looked like, here's a 12 min segment - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2midc46M9CA

(You can also get a sense of how many missiles fail to reach target ... or even clear the launcher, as a few unlucky teams caught their own shrapnel)

 

Good stuff. Yeah, that all sounds correct to the accounts, including the failure rate.

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Posted (edited)

Perhaps another data point some might find interesting is frontal arc survival chances for the T-64/72/80s. Those three models and their variants were converging on the same numbers, so I'm calling them equal for simplicity.

This is of course not in hull-down and is not a reflection of Dragon's lethality - but rather the odds of hitting the lower front hull sweet spot at 980 meters.

This is also only counting hits which connected with the target, not shots fired - so does not account for Dragon's (lack of) reliability.

dragon.png.bea42a9d00a66c414c4f79e67e8bc505.png

TL;DR - about a 50% chance that a single Dragon hitting a T-64 or better from the front will knock it out. It compounds from there with multiple hits - >90% of K/O if four hits are allowed to connect.

Seems the lesson for anyone playing OPFOR is to keep your T-64/72/80s hull down or roll the dice with shoot-and-scoot. With Dragon teams being plentiful and carrying 3 ATGMs each, the odds are still very much against any Soviet MBTs caught in the open.

Oh yeah, and send the T-55/62s to the scrapyard. 😁

Edited by Roter Stern
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Posted (edited)

In general, the base T-72 had at least 4 turret options:

1973-74: adapted from T-64A with a combined filler of high hardness steel

1974-76: homogeneous (probably this variation is in the game); also, apparently, their large backlog was partially used after the 76th, especially for export

1976-78: combined, with an insert of heat-strengthened quartz ("sand rods")

1978-79: similar to the previous one, but without a tide under the TPD-2-49 sight due to the complete transition to the quantum TPD-K1 (which was partially installed since 1976 in  socket for TPD-2-49 with a bore of the sighting channel and a plug of the right window under the optical rangefinder tube)
True, the documentation in the public domain apparently is not for all of them, especially for the filler, so it will be more difficult to prove here. 

Edited by HUSKER2142
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The deaths following penetrations are not surprising - there's not a ton of room in a Soviet tank, and almost everything you're going to hit is going to be ammunition in the autoloader, which isn't going to end well.

The main issues the Dragons have in practice (aside from failure rate, correctly reflecting the difficulty in firing the thing) is that it has a 1km range.

As with any ATGM, there's a huge launch signature. That means you're exposing your position and having to keep exposed for several seconds, whilst being firmly in a range where the opposing MBT can easily destroy you. If you miss, you die. If you fail to kill the target, you die. Further, the MBT can lethally engage you at ranges well beyond those which you can engage them - 2km is nothing special here.

The advantages are ubiquity - the US platoons have three Dragons and five MGs per platoon, so there's one per squad in practice. That's a really nice capability, but it's not the primary capability of the US (the Dragon is not a Javelin). Ranged firepower should be based around a combination of TOW and MBT. Active Defence doctrine had the unit decamping when the enemy was in range of the medium antitank weapons (i.e., Dragon). That means that Dragons were not supposed to be the primary tank killers, but instead a volley of Dragons might be the signal to get a move on and get back into the transport.

In general, M47 Dragon is "fine". It's a valuable capability to have, but it's not something you can rely on, and it doesn't need to be.

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  • 3 weeks later...

There's a new Youtube video up for Between Two Farhbahns where a T72 absorbed two Dragon and three M60A2 HEAT hits to the turret without being penetrated. The vehicle was parked in a hull-down spot facing the incoming rounds so there was little chance of a lucky hit to a vulnerable spot. I think it may also have been inside Shillelagh's minimum range which meant the missile couldn't be used. Its telling that after the second hit the T72 wasn't firing back. The tank was finally dispatched by another M60A2 firing on it from a different angle.

Dragon, 152mm HEAT and 105mm HEAT all had penetration numbers somewhere around 330mm. TOW penetration was originally estimated at 600mm but the rounds fell far short in real world tests at 430mm. It appears the US had little hard knowledge on T64 armor. The earliest open source mention I could locate for T64 estimated turret front armor to be 100mm. Ouch, they guessed wrong by a factor of 5!

Edited by MikeyD
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