The venerable Javelin anti-tank guided missile system (FGM-148 Javelin), the man-portable, anti-armor, guided munition system created by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, is reportedly one of the weapons that have been a game-changer for Ukrainian forces. The Ukraine Armed Forces reportedly destroyed 251 Russian tanks and armored vehicles in just a few days of fighting, possibly due to the usage of Javelins, NLAWs, and drones combined.

In 2021, the United States supplied Ukraine with 30 Javelin systems and 180 Javelin missiles as part of the annual military aid worth more than $450 million (along with several other supply packages) to bolster the US-Ukraine military and diplomatic relationship. As recent as January 2022, a shipment of new Javelin systems and missiles also arrived as the United States and Ukraine were anticipating a military offensive by Russia that did eventually come true the past few days, unfortunately. Over the course of the years, it’s been reported that more than $2.7 billion worth of military assistance had been sent to Ukraine since the 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was especially excited about his country having Javelins stating last January, “Javelins in Kyiv! A new cargo of security aid – launchers & missiles – with a total weight of about 80 tons. We expect the arrival of the 4th from the big flock of birds soon.”

Looks like the Ukrainians are putting these Javelins to good work and apparently, scared the Russians so much that they installed iron cages on their T-72s on top of the tanks in an apparent attempt to add more armor (crudely designed and attached) to defend against Javelins and drone strikes from above. These makeshift armor cages, which were first seen in November in Crimea, had been described to be similar to slat armor that possibly could defend against strikes from above. Similar additional armors were also seen in action in Libya and Syria, particularly the side-armor designed to repel and defend against RPGs. A more updated and upgraded version of the T-72, the T-72B3 has the modern Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armor that is also used on the T-90A.

This would seem like a smart decision, but ultimately futile as these Javelins can punch a hole through the tanks and completely destroy them.

Russian tanks equipped with iron cages to defend against Javelins (INF News). Source: https://inf.news/en/military/eac0a230d17e68d456c973a7c573e5dd.html
Russian tanks equipped with iron cages to defend against Javelins (inf.news)

The result? 251 tanks were destroyed, many of which were T-72s and T-64s. The improvised anti-missile cages were definitely a failed attempt to counter the all-mighty Javelin as various destroyed Russian tanks littered Ukrainian soil. This shouldn’t be a surprise as the Ukrainian Armed Forces did conduct live-fire exercises with Javelins in 2021, firing at Cold War-era T-64 turret mounted on a BTR armored vehicle.

In fact, the weapon was so praised in Ukraine that a “St. Javelin of Ukraine” has emerged on social media with various iterations in what is now both a salute to the weapon’s lethality and as a meme to mock the Russians and their tanks. Designed with the Christian Mary Magdalene in mind, a reimagined version of her carries a US-made Javelin in a symbolic effort for resistance against the Russians and their advance. Yup, rather than a rosary and some prayerful hands, the iterations have Mary cradling an FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile launcher, wearing blue and yellow or shades of green to symbolize military fatigues.

The St. Javelin meme had been so famous that an Instagram account was created for it containing news clippings and memes about the ongoing Russian invasion. Another version of the meme also features an FIM-92 Stinger, an infrared homing surface-to-air missile (SAM).

St. Javelin seems to be looking favorably upon the Ukrainians despite being outgunned and outnumbered on paper. Just recently, Ukrainian forces claim to have destroyed a convoy of 56 Chechen tanks and fighting vehicles, killing top Chechen general Magomed Tushayev, who heads the 141 motorized regiment of the Chechnya National Guard, according to the Times of Israel. The Chechen forces were also deployed as assassins to kill Zelensky, his family, and Ukrainian military and government officials, the report could not be independently verified, but rest assured that SOFREP will be on the lookout for more evidence.

Another four Russian tanks were also destroyed by Ukrainians in Kharkiv along with 50 troops on February 24. However, the reports of the total number of tanks destroyed by the Ukrainian Forces remain fluid due to continuous fighting. Regardless, the Javelins and the NLAW short range anti-tank missile, made by the UK and Sweden, will have an impact if Russian tanks roll into the tight streets and multi-story buildings where the MLAW can be employed with less risk to the operators.

A Javelin being fired by a US Marine at a simulated enemy tank at Pohakuloa Training Area in Hawaii (US Marine Corps via Raytheon). Source: https://www.raytheonmissilesanddefense.com/what-we-do/land-warfare/precision-weapons/javelin-missile
A Javelin being fired by a US Marine at a simulated enemy tank at Pohakuloa Training Area in Hawaii (US Marine Corps via Raytheon Missiles & Defense|Raytheon Technologies Corporation)

In an interview with Coffee or Die, US Medal of Honor Recipient Clint Romesha, explained that the T-72 and T-64’s reactive armor shields won’t work against a Javelin missile. This is because the top of a Russian tank turret is much thinner when compared to other areas of the tank. More so, Russian T-72s and T-64s store their ammo underneath the tank’s turret; thus, when it is hit by a missile, the ammo ignites, leaving it destroyed with its turret often blown off the top of the tank

According to Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, the Javelin has a 94% engagement success rate with a range of 65m to 4,000m in operational conditions. More so, it utilizes a top-attack engagement trajectory with the minimum signature launch and missile flyout capability, which, as has been said, is the weakness of Russian-made tanks. The weapon is also said to be resistant to Active Protection Systems and countermeasures. It also just takes 72 hours to train military personnel to use the weapon, making it tremendously easy to use.

Ukraine isn’t running out of these weapons soon. Last February 26, US President Joe Biden ordered the State Department to release $350 million to Ukraine under the Foreign Assistance Act for military defense purposes, a package that may include Javelins and Stinger missiles. The Netherlands will also supply 200 Stinger rockets to Ukraine, along with Berlin, which will deliver 400 rocket-propelled Panzerfaust III anti-tank systems(The Russians can’t be too happy to be facing Panzerfausts again). Aside from the Stinger rockets, the Netherlands will also deliver 50 Panzerfaust-3, with the United Kingdom delivering 2,000 NLAWs as well. At just $175,000 per missile, the Javelin is the cost-efficient weapon of choice to stand up to those Russian tanks.

 

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