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South Korea Can Export The Raybolt (Almost) Anywhere

July 22, 2022
Via LIG Nex1/South Korean media.

The value of portable anti-tank missiles can’t be ignored and the trend lines are racing toward a point where they become universally available in excessive quantities. Although the emergence of craft-made low tech missiles made from commercially available parts is still some years off when it comes to fire-and-forget ATGMs options are aplenty. A struggling newcomer is the AT-1K Raybolt, the “mid-range infantry missile” made by LIG Nex1, that is comparable to the Lockheed Martin/Raytheon FGM-148 Javelin in its appearance and operation. To date exports abroad are scarce, except for a Middle Eastern buyer who distributed them in Yemen, but customers might be scrambling for it soon.

The Raybolt is meant to have a single operator who can launch it either seated, crouching, prone, or standing up. The weapon system has two main components–a launch tube holding the 120mm missile and the handheld command and guidance launcher unit–with an optional folding tripod. To use the Raybolt as many as three soldiers are involved, with two of them carrying the portable missile containers. Once the launcher is affixed on a tripod the missile container is attached with its frontal buffer removed–there are triangular rubber covers on either end of the container. The Raybolt is programmed to launch a fire-and-forget munition with two modes to choose from: as a line-of-sight munition and as a top attack munition. In the latter the missile exits the container and achieves a steep flight path before its descent toward its target and explosion.

According to LIG Nex1 the Raybolt has a maximum range of 2.5 kilometers and launching indoors is possible because of its two-stage propulsion system. Initially the missile shoots out of the container with a limited back blast from its ejection motor. In a top attack launch sequence the main ejection motor fizzles by the time the missile exits the container and twin jets on the missile’s airframe adjust its flight path as it gains altitude and descends rapidly. When used to target within the line-of-sight the Raybolt’s missile only uses its ejection motor to reach the target. The Raybolt’s sophistication makes it attractive to end users who need new anti-armor weaponry but as a top attack ATGM it coexists with rivals from China, Japan, and even North Korea. The success of foreign sales are also dimmed by the US’ own influence over its allies, who acquire Javelin ATGMs as security guarantees, and the competition from Israel’s popular Spike missiles. Another three Asian countries–India, Iran, and Turkiye–have top attack ATGMs they are eager to sell abroad, further eroding global market share.

Of course, while South Korea pursues arms exports much the same way France is–boosting domestic industry and reaping sizable profits–a crucial difference is these military products were meant to defeat North Korea. The Raybolt has been in service with the ROK Army for several years now. It helps enlarge and improve a collection of anti-armor weaponry that’s stacked against the North’s tank fleet. Direct fire anti-tank weapons employed by the ROK Army include the 90mm M67 recoilless rifle, the 105mm M40 recoilless rifle, the AT4 and Carl Gustaf recoilless rifles, the Panzerfaust 3, the M72 LAW, and a licensed copy of the Alcotan C-100. The anti-tank missiles in service are Metis, BGM-71 TOW/TOW 2, AGM-114 Hellfire, and the Spike NLOS. A disadvantage of operating foreign ATGMs is their controls and munitions may expire or malfunction over time. With the Raybolt and recent non-line-of-sight missiles such as the Taipers these have begun mass-production as needed at negligible cost.

The armored threat posed by North Korea can’t be dismissed. With 4,000 operational light, medium, and main battle tanks these are effective at supporting mass infantry assaults after intense preparatory bombardment and, with the older T-62 and Chonma Ho tanks, serving as artillery. A lot of North Korean armored vehicles might be considered obsolete but there’s sufficient evidence a large percentage have extremely lethal primary and secondary armaments. This is where the Raybolt proves its worth; it guarantees South Korean infantry engage enemy armor at medium ranges with terrain advantages–deep valleys and steep slopes–concealing their positions along the DMZ. At the moment the Raybolt’s tandem launcher for the ring turret on a Kia LTV looks awkward (China, Israel, and Russia are better at designing multiple launchers for ATGM’s) but this may change soon.

The Raybolt is available for export to most countries.

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