Editor’s Note: This article was first published in HistoryNet, our sister publication. subscribe to your newsletter on here.
From the moment Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his “special military operation” on February 24, 2022, his target, Ukraine, has proven to be anything but an easy fruit. As fierce as their resistance was, however, it would not have lasted as long – three months and counting, as of May 2022 – if not for the vital weaponry and ammunition provided to the Ukrainians by various foreign supporters through what it represented. a 21st century form of the WWII Lend-Lease program.
Among the most notable weapons, credited with withstanding crushing waves from Russian tanks, is a state-of-the-art guided missile, operated by infantry. The Americans who produced it call it the FGM-148 AAWS-M (for “Advanced Antitank Weapon System-Medium”), but many of its current users call it the “Saint Javelin, Protector of Ukraine”.
What is Javelin?
The FGM-148 entered service in 1996 as a replacement for the M47 Dragoon. The latest model is the FGM-148F, and an updated FGM-148G is in the works.
Weighing in at 49 pounds, the Javelin features advanced electronics that have been progressively improved to give the operator the ability to shoot and forget. Using the attached Command Launch Unit, the operator aims and fires, the missile being spring-loaded before igniting and traveling towards the target at a rate of 1,000 feet every seven seconds, guided by an infrared seeker in the nose.
Upon contact, the main of the two tandem high-explosive anti-tank, or HEAT, warheads explodes against the reactive armor, clearing the way for the second warhead to strike the tank’s main armor. The Javelin’s warheads can penetrate steel up to 23.5 inches to 31.5 inches thick. With an effective range of over 1.5 miles, the Javelin’s warhead travels 213 feet before cocking – but it produces a backblast that the user must take into account.
Although its range falls below the 2.3-mile effective range of the BGM-71 tube-launched, optically-guided, wire-guided, or TOW missile, the Javelin is much lighter and more practical for operation by a single trained infantryman. Like the TOW, however, it can be mounted on a vehicle, if one is available.
How accurate is the Javelin?
The United States claimed that of the first 112 lances used, 100 hit targets, both directly and from overhead trajectories, where the tank’s armor is thinner and more vulnerable to penetration.
The Command Launch Unit, which can magnify targets up to four times, can be removed from the weapon system and used as a lightweight optical device and night vision.
Who uses Javelin?
Javelins were sold to military services around the world, and the US Army, US Navy, and Australian forces used them to good effect in Iraq and Afghanistan, where their accuracy at greater ranges than other weapons made them useful against enemy strengths as well as moving vehicles.
While it has seen its share of combat since its introduction to the service, it was in Ukraine that the Javelin achieved legendary status. The country had already purchased 210 missiles and 37 launchers in March 2018 for $47 million, followed by another order in June 2020 for a further $150 million.
These quickly came into play when Putin sent in the tanks, making the Russian advance expensive on all fronts. The Ukrainians have claimed over 230 tanks and armored vehicles destroyed so far, although it should be noted that they have other anti-tank weapons that may also have contributed to this statistic.
The Javelin doesn’t have its weaknesses either, particularly its vulnerability to losing the contrast needed for a missile block at dawn or dusk, or if the target shoots clouds of smoke that block infrared.
The main complaint from Ukrainians about the Javelins, however, is that they never seem to be enough. They have already received more than 5,500 missiles, and the United States and other allies have pledged to send more, but they are expensive and time-consuming to produce — 6,840 a year at $176,000 per system. In helping the Ukrainians, the US sent up to two-thirds of its existing arsenal, which cannot be replaced immediately.
Fortunately for the Ukrainians, they have a supplement of other effective light infantry anti-armor weapons and have become adept at making every shot count. For now, though, the Javelin has acquired such a literarily iconic place in the Ukrainian arsenal that reports have emerged of a local artist creating a simulated piece of traditional religious art depicting Mary Magdalene holding a javelin. Newborn Ukrainian babies were named “Javelin” or “Javelina”.