St. Javelin! The protector saint of Ukraine
When the first tanks rolled off the production line in the 1910s, their impact on the battlefield was immediate and striking. Clad in armor, they were impervious to all but the largest caliber of weapons.
Early models were, to put it mildly, not very reliable, but they soon became very powerful and fearsome weapons of war.
Effectively heavily armored self-propelled guns, tanks today still play a vital role in many armed forces around the world. But they are far from invulnerable.
With all the best will in the world, you can only add so much metal to a machine before it becomes too heavy to move. For this reason, tank designers must handle a series of trade-offs to prioritize where and how much armor a tank has.
One of the main areas where a tank’s armor is at its thinnest is on top. Normally unlikely to receive direct impact, this is one area where the tank can save weight.
However, it also has a potential weakness to be exploited. And that is exactly what weapons like the FGM-148 “Javelin” were designed to do.
The "Javelin," also called the Advanced Anti-Tank Weapon System-Medium (AAWS-M), is a portable anti-tank missile system made in the United States. First introduced in 1996, it has been constantly improved over its service life.
In the US military, it was designed to replace the M47 “Dragon” anti-tank missile.
Its innovative fire-and-forget design uses automatic infrared guidance, which lets the user take cover as soon as the shot is fired. This differs from wire-guided systems, like its predecessor, the "Dragon," that required the user to guide the weapon throughout the fight.
With its powerful high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead, this system can destroy modern tanks by coming at them like regular missiles, then arcing up and dropping on top of them just before impact.
This makes it hard to stop the missiles, but it also takes advantage of a real chink in the tank's armor. The warhead itself is another innovation in the field of battle.
A shaped charge, the warhead works because an explosive charge inside the warhead collapses a metal liner into a high-speed explosively formed penetrator (EFP) jet. This jet can penetrate armor steel to a depth of seven or more times the diameter of the charge.
The effect of the EFP's jet is only kinetic; the round has no explosive or flammable effect on the target. HEAT warheads don't have to be fired at high speed like an armor-piercing round does because they rely on the kinetic energy of the EFP jet to do their job.
While it has served the United States Army for many years, the “Javelin” has become a household name thanks to the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine. It has proven so effective that of the 112 or so missiles launched, 100 have hit and destroyed their targets.
This has proved critical for the conflict, so much so that some newborn Ukrainian children have been christened “Javelin” or “Javelina.”