The MAPATS ("MAn-Portable Anti-Tank System") is an anti-armor solution produced by the Israeli concern of Israeli Military Industries (IMI). The weapon is more a complete "battlefield system" than either the launcher or missile itself. The complete kit includes the missile, launcher, tripod assembly and required optics. Specialized training is required for fulfilling the weapon's complete potential. While the MAPATS weapon system is categorized as a "man-portable" solution, it also shares the capability of mounting onto a variety of vehicles including all-terrain, open-air JEEP-types. In many ways, the MAPATS mimics the American TOW-2 anti-tank guided missile series and has proven effective in its given role.
Operation of the MAPATS system is such that the operator manually actuates the firing process to which then the missile is launched free of the launch tube, the ejection motor being jettisoned shortly after launch. The operator must then keep the crosshairs within the optical setup directly on the target's center mass as the missile rides the projected infra-red laser-generated beam directly to the target. Upon impact and subsequent penetration, the 156mm missile detonates in an appropriate fashion. The missile maintains constant course corrections via its onboard autopilot which is honed into the projected beam. The MAPATS comes complete with night vision/low level light support for "after-hours" work. Beyond its use in the anti-armor role, the MAPATS can also be used to engage low-flying, slow-moving aerial targets though this particular course of action requires a steady hand and excellent timing all the while remaining hidden from danger. Elevation of the traverse system is limited to +30 degrees. Due to its laser-riding feature, the MAPATS missile cannot be jammed or countered by any typical electronic jamming or chaff/flare dispenser solution. Effective range is between 300 and 6,000 meters. The missile can penetrate up to 1,200mm of armor thickness, assuming basic steel protection is targeted, and is powered by a 2-stage solid rocket motor.
All MAPATS missiles are delivered in containers sealed at the factory level. The entire unit is then inserted into the launcher and, when the missile is fired, the container is left behind and removed from the launch tube, ultimately replaced with another ready-to-fire sealed unit. The process takes just seconds and allows an anti-tank team the capability to engage multiple targets (or one target multiple times) as needed. The portable nature of the design allows a team to displace from one advantageous location to another. The inherent back-blast of such units limits their indoor usage due to safety reasons.
The MAPATS has been in operational use since 1984 and units are manufactured on a needed basis, delivered directly to the Israeli Army. Several foreign parties have also procured the type in number including Chile, Ecuador, Estonia and Venezuela. A modernized version of the weapon system emerged in the 1990s and included such changes as an improved guidance procedure and all-new propulsion motor. Various warheads have also been developed including standard tandem HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) and HE (High-Explosive) types, the latter for assailing fortified bunker-type positions.
The "MAPATS" name also doubles as the word "explosion" in the Hebrew language.