Thursday, 11 November 2021

An Elusive Tank Hunter: Mali’s 9P133 ATGM Carriers

By Thomas Nachtrab in collaboration with Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
The Malian Armed Forces used to operate large quantities of armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) received from the Soviet Union. In addition to acquiring sizeable numbers of T-54B MBTs, PT-76 light tanks and BTR-60 armoured personnel carriers (APCs), several more types operated in the shadows of their more numerous counterparts. One of these types is the 9P133 Malyutka, an anti-tank variant of the BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicle. Instead of the original turret, the 9P133 features an elevatable launcher with six 9M14 Malyutka anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). 
Compared to the earlier 9P122 Malyutka, the 9P133 has improved optics and can launch the more capable 9M14P and 9M14P1 ATGMs, up to eighteen of which can be carried onboard depending on the missile type used. The 9P133 is operated by a crew of two, consisting of a driver and gunner. Entering service in large numbers with Warsaw Pact countries and nations in the Middle East, the vehicle was later superseded by the 9P148 'Konkurs' armed with five 9M111 Fagot or 9M113 Konkurs ATGM missiles. Nowadays all but a few vehicles have been retired from active service worldwide.
The exact delivery date of the 9P133s to Mali remains unknown. According to the SIPRI Arms Transfer Database, the Malian Army received a shipment of 20 BRDM-2s from the Soviet Union in 1975. [1] Declassified information released by the CIA reveal the delivery of up to 128 BRDM-2s to Mali by 1985, a number of which were likely 9P133 tank destroyers. [2] Their only known public appearance was in March 1991, when six vehicles took part in a large military parade. [3] This likely constituted the entire inventory of these systems in Mali.
Sadly nothing more is known about their service history in Mali or whether they took part in the 1985 Agacher-Strip War against Burkina Faso. The career of the 9P133s is believed to have ended somewhere during the 1990s, when the Malian Army retired much of its heavy weaponry amid a changed security situation and a decrease in the country's defence expenditure. There is little doubt that the niche role that the 9P133 fulfilled made it one of the first vehicle types to be retired, ending the career of this elusive tank hunter in Malian service.

[3] "L'armée malienne sous Moussa Traoré : dernier défilé avant mars 1991"