The story of "Javelin": How it may help Ukraine even the odds

Ukrainian forces are reportedly using the Javelin to kill Russian tanks.
Christopher McFadden

Ukrainian forces are reportedly using a form of "Guerilla Tactics" to even the odds against a numerically superior Russian foe. One of the key weapons in their fight against belligerent invading forces is the American-developed FGM-148 "Javelin" missile launcher. A portable "fire-and-forget" anti-tank missile system, these rockets can be fielded by a carrier and fired by a single user. 

The weapon was first introduced into the American Armed Forces in 1996 and is 3.5 feet long. 

Since the rocket it comes with can seek and destroy its target using automatic infrared guidance systems, the "Javelin" is an ideal weapon for destroying enemy armor from a relatively safe distance. In fact, the user does not need to maintain eye contact with the target once fired and can quickly flee to cover after launch. 

The weapon's warhead, called HEAT, is also very potent against heavily-armored targets, like tanks. This is because it is designed to detonate against the top of a target which is traditionally the weakest part of something like a tank. They are also ideal weapons to be used against fortifications. 

The weapon has, to date, been used in thousands of successful engagements over various theatres of war around the world. This includes, but is not limited to, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and, of course, Ukraine. 

In Ukraine, defending forces are reportedly using it to help close off key intersections and "choke points" by disabling or outright destroying Russian supply lines and heavy armor. For example, as reported by CNN on the 28th of February, 2022, a Russian column of armored vehicles had apparently been decimated during an attempt to cross a bridge. 

This bridge, with its narrow entry point, would have made an ideal location for a sudden ambush. It must be noted, however, that various other weapon systems could have achieved a similar result, but these would require artillery or aircraft-mounted systems. 

With Russia pretty much controlling the air for most of the current hostilities, the most likely weapon is probably the "Javelin". 

javelin rocket system
Source: Stuart A Hill AMS/Wikimedia Commons

This is exactly the kind of tactics retired Lt. Col. Scott Rutter faced in Iraq and explained in an interview with TN1 regarding the events in Ukraine. 

“I think it's almost going to be like what the Republican Guard attempted to do to us as we were moving up, which was to try to find key terrain and key intersections to disrupt the formations. The Iraqis were a little bit effective. As we were moving up on key intersections, they tried to hold those intersections to destroy, disrupt and delay. That is probably what the Ukrainians are going to attempt to do,” Rutter explained.

Of course, without extensive inside knowledge of the situation on the ground, experts like Rutter can only really speculate. 

Who makes the "Javelin" anti-tank missile system? 

The "Javelin" anti-tank missile system is made by Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin joint venture (JV). It primarily comes in a shoulder-fired variant, but can also be installed on tracked, wheeled, or amphibious vehicles. 

Raytheon is responsible for designing and building the weapon's "Command Launch Unit", or CLU, guidance electronic unit, system software, and system engineering management. Lockheed Martin is responsible for the missile seeker, engineering, and assembly. 

The "Javelin's" story begins in the 1970s when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began the "Tank Breaker" program in response to deficiencies identified by the Army and Marine Corps in their existing infantry anti-tank weapon. To this end, in the 1980s the U.S. Army introduced its Advanced Anti-Tank Weapon System - Medium (AAWS-M), which was officially given the "green light" in 1985. 

After some proposals were received by various private contractors, Texas Instruments (the same company best known for its calculators) and Martin Marietta (later incorporated into Lockheed Martin) were awarded a joint venture contract to develop a suitable system. After several years of development, the system completed its first test flight in 1991, and in 1993 it completed its first test-firing. 

Low production levels were authorized in 1994, and the first "Javelins" officially entered service in 1996.  

The Army later renamed the weapon Javelin, which entered full-scale production in 1997. It was the world’s first medium-range, one-man-portable, fire-and-forget anti-tank weapon system.

As the conflict now draws in on Ukrainian cities like Kyiv, it is likely that the use of weapons like the "Javelin" will prove pivotal to the outcome of the conflict. At present, European and NATO forces are doing what they can to provide materiel for Ukrainian defenders. The U.S. Department of Defense, for its part, has been clear that sending "Javelins" may prove to be a crucial factor in stopping Russian attacks and giving new life to Ukrainian fighters.

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