It’s no secret that I’m a big armor guy. I like tanks and armored warfare, which means I spend a lot of time thinking about how best to kill enemy tanks, which means analyzing antitank missiles. Time to tear one apart: the Franco-Canadian Eryx. It’s not very good. I don’t see the niche that it fills as being all that useful, and it doesn’t fill it well.
Eryx was designed to replace the short range LRAC F1 rocket launcher. The LRAC F1 is a light, reusable rocket launcher, and as such, is unguided. This means that it’s cheap and cheerful, and can be used against bunkers and other emplacements. But it’s range limited, since it’s really hard to engage a moving vehicle at any kind of distance. And it’s old, and since the rocket must be fully contained in the launch tube, it’s penetration is somewhat limited too.1 So the French wanted something new, with more range and armor penetrating power. They enlisted the Canadians to increase the orders and defer costs. The result is a weapon that fills an odd niche.
The Eryx is decidedly range limited: it’s only good to 600 meters. Compared to the Milan, which is older, the Eryx comes up short. Milan has a range of 2,000 meters, and an extended range variant is available that pushes the range to 3,000 meters. Milan penetrates more armor than Eryx, and has a better sighting system as well. Both Milan and Eryx are Saclos-guided, but Milan just does it better. And Eryx really doesn’t offer much in the way of weight savings, which leaves me confused. Why bother bringing it along? Why not just issue more Milans to your anti-tank teams? Unlike the LRAC F1, it’s not light enough to issue to the average infantry squat, unless they’re mechanized and have weight to spare, in which case the Milan is the better choice.
Of course, we have better missile systems than the Milan now, like the Javelin and the NLAW. Both of these come in around the same weight as Eryx, and are top attack, so they’re stupidly more effective. Javelin and NLAW are both fire and forget weapons too, which means the operators can leave the launch site after launching, since the launch signature of any antitank weapon insures it will be counterattacked immediately.
It might not seem fair to compare the SACLOS Eryx to the fancy new Javelin, but the Eryx was introduced in 1994, and Javelin was introduced in 1996. Unlike Milan, Eryx is not an old legacy system that we have significant warstocks of. It hasn’t been produced in large numbers. I’m not sure why France and Canada didn’t wait a little more and focus on getting a modern fire and forget ATGM system that was top-attack capable. It’s time to kill one of the few things the Peace Dividend failed to get rid of.
1.) A decent first order approximation for HEAT warhead penetration is that it’s proportional to the diameter of the warhead. This serves as a pretty good comparison metric, provided that we’re comparing warheads of the same generation/sophistication.