The Javelin Is Wrecking Putin’s Army

The Javelin Is Wrecking Putin’s Army. By Ross Pomeroy.

The FGM-148 Javelin portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile.

Since the start of Putin’s dastardly invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian freedom fighters have extensively utilized the American-made weapon system — co-produced by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon — to rain destruction down upon the Russian military’s armored vehicles. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry estimates that 102 tanks and 536 armored vehicles had been destroyed as of February 26th. The Javelin likely factored heavily into that rousing combat success.

“This weapon allows a single soldier to target and destroy even the most heavily armored main battle tank with an almost guaranteed kill rate, at great range and with minimal risk,” Army Capt. Vincent Delany wrote of the Javelin for West Point’s Modern War Institute. …

With the Javelin, a soldier using the portable, reusable Command Launch Unit looks through an infrared sight to locate a target up to an incredible 2.5 miles [4 km] away. When the user spots a target, he operates a cursor to set a square around it, almost like cropping an image. This is then sent to the onboard guidance computer on the missile itself, which has a sophisticated algorithmic tracking system coupled with an infrared imaging device. When the missile locks on to the target, the operator can launch the self-guided weapon and quickly relocate or reload to fire another missile at a different target. …

The missile rises high into the air, up to 490 feet, then blasts down on its target from a steep angle, striking the top of an armored vehicle or tank, where the armor is typically weakest. …

Ukraine had been shipped roughly 77 launchers and 740 missiles before Putin invaded. Many, many more of each are now on the way courtesy of the U.S. and European allies.

Modern weaponry has shifted the advantage to the defense. Cheap, smart missiles mean anything that can be seen can be hit, and big capital-intensive weapon systems no longer rule the battlefield.

A Javelin missile costs about US$175k, and the launcher about twice that. A modern tank, however, costs around US$5m. A novice can learn to use a Javelin in minutes, whereas it takes months to train a tank crew.