The M47 Dragon, known as the FGM-77 during development, is an American shoulder-fired, man-portable anti-tank guided missile system.
The introduction of the M47 Dragon anti-tank missile in the mid-1970s marked a historic breakthrough in missile technology. Never in modern warfare with a single soldier has enough firepower to destroy tanks and armored vehicles at a safe distance. The M47 Dragon has been a mainstay in American anti-tank weapons for a long time. It is also actively used by the armies of Iran, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, the Netherlands, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Taiwan. On September 8, 2009, the US Army destroyed their last batch of M47 Dragon missiles at the Anniston Defense Weapons Center in Alabama, signaling the end of an era after 34 years of loyal service.
The M47 Dragon, known as the FGM-77 during development, is an American shoulder-fired, man-portable anti-tank guided missile system. It is designed to be extremely convenient, the soldier only needs to remove a protective head and press the trigger. It does not require the complexity of combat as previous anti-tank missile systems.
The M47 Dragon uses a so-called “tracking control assembly” (TCA) guidance system previously used on the TOW and Shillelagh missiles. With this system, all that is required of the infantryman is to look through an amplifying optical sight and keep it exactly aligned with the objective. An anti-tank warhead with a high explosive anti-tank warhead and was capable of defeating armored vehicles, fortified bunkers, main battle tanks, and other hardened targets. The fairly basic warhead can penetrate 330 mm of armor plate. Dragon II is a simple warhead upgrade, received a new warhead that offers an 85% increase in penetration, to about 600mm.
The Dragon utilized a rocket-propelled missile projectile featuring a hollow charge warhead intended to defeat the armor protection schemes of the day. The weapon held a maximum engagement range out to 1,500 meters though proved most effective between 75 meters and 1,000 meters. Due to its wire-guided nature – a limited length of wire unspooling from the launch system – the missile could only travel a certain length before its effectiveness was reached. The missile traveled at a speed value of 200 m/s.
The weapon system required a crew of just one, making it an ideal, portable anti-tank weapon – particularly in urban fighting. The advantage of the M47 over other systems of its kind is flexibility. Along with the TOW missile, it was always a significant threat to Soviet armored forces such as the T-55, T-62, T-72 and even the T-80.
The M47 Dragon also has “shocking” weaknesses that are only revealed until it is decommissioned. A study by the US Army found that the combat accuracy of the M47 Dragon was only 20% due to the system’s limitations. And the “ridiculous” thing is, the missile’s electronic circuits can be affected by salt water thereby reducing its combat range, which ironically the M47 was equipped with the US Navy. The M47 is also equipped with a night vision system, but it is too bulky and complicated to install.
By the early 1990s, with the appearance of Javelin, the US Army and Western countries quickly eliminated the M47 Dragon. However, it is still active in Iran’s rapid response forces and special forces. Previously Iran bought the M47 Dragon from the US and reversed the design, and now it is produced domestically under the name Saeghe.