A video published by Radio Free Europe depicting a Ukrainian infantry attack on Russian forces near Kyiv reveals how rapidly and extensively foreign-supplied arms have found their way to the frontlines in Ukraine as it resists the Russian invasion.
A minute in one, a soldier can be seen with a Spanish C90-CR launcher on his back, another with a bulkier British-supplied NLAW missile. A 1:54, several soldiers can be seen with black Panzerfaust 3-T munitions.
Altogether, Ukraine is believed to have received around 20,000 anti-tank missiles from Western countries. It’s not that Ukraine’s military didn’t have such weapons before—it just needs them in huge quantities due to the scale of Russia’s invasion.
Most of these weapons are single-use, usually unguided, munitions which can be easily carried by individual soldiers. These are only effective in relatively close engagements common in ambushes or in urban warfare.
However, engaging faraway armor on open battlefields requires heavier and more sophisticated anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM). Ukraine is receiving two types of ATGMs—Javelins and Milans—in more limited numbers.
Not all anti-tank weapons are effective against main battle tanks. A minimum penetration of 450 to 550 millimeters Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA) equivalent is needed to defeat the frontal armor of the oldest T-72A tanks deployed by Russia in Ukraine. But 750-1,200 RHA penetration is likely required against T-72B-series, T-80 and T-90A tanks deployed by Russia.
That said, most Russian armored vehicles in Ukraine are not tanks: heavily armed but lightly armored BMP, BMD and BTR-82 infantry fighting vehicles, MT-LB armored personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery, air defense vehicles and more. These are all vulnerable to even the lightest anti-tank weapons. Side, rear and especially top armor on tanks also tends to be weaker too.
Portable anti-tank weapons also are useful against infantry in buildings and fortified positions, or for destroying materiel targets.
The remainder of this article looks at the various weapons Ukraine has received and media showing their presence on the frontline.
Ukrainian servicemen in between fights, Irpen, Kyiv oblast (03/06/22).
They armed with:
RPG-18 and RPG-26.
M72 EC LAW.
PKM Machine gun.
RPK-74M w Aimpoint reflex sight.
AKS-74 (w reflex sights), AKM, AK-74.
Sniper rifle (IMHO, PGW) – 308/338.
Customized AR-15.#Ukraine pic.twitter.com/lTL2cwCzfh
— Mukhtar Magomedov (@Mukhtarr_MD) March 8, 2022
- Likely over 1,000 Javelin missiles and over a hundred launch units from U.S., Estonia
- K. is reportedly planning to send “a small contingent” of Javelins as well
The Javelin is one of the most capable (and expensive) portable tank-killing weapons out there. Russian tanks have been seen sporting upgrades seemingly aimed at defeating Javelins, though they appear unlikely to work. A U.S. military source claimed Ukrainian troops had fired 300 Javelins by March 2, destroying 280 armored vehicles.
Washington officially delivered at least 77 launch units and 840 missiles by the end of January, while a Ukrainian news source claimed the actual total was 1,200 missiles and 150 launch units. The U.S. and Estonia have delivered additional Javelins since, as recently as February 10.
However, very little footage of Javelins being used in combat by Ukraine has been published—save for the video below.
#Ukraine: Video claiming to show a Russian BMP hit by a Javelin ATGM. Unfortunately, it is quite low quality so identifying the vehcile is hard, but it was totally destroyed. pic.twitter.com/Q8HjDbBIpr
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 9, 2022
A Javelin system consists of a 14-pound reusable launch unit with a powerful infrared sensor, and 35-pound infrared-guided fire-and-forget missiles. The 127-millimeter missiles can penetrate 750mm RHA (or 600mm versus ERA)—but their big trick is a top-attack mode in which they plunge down to smash through the thin top armor of a tank.
The latest FGM-148F model Javelin missiles feature lighter launch unit, range extended to 2.5 miles and tweaked multipurpose warheads. However, Ukraine is likely receiving older Block 0 and Block 1 Javelins with a range of 1.55 miles.
Tiny sample, but lends credence to what I suspected. Javelin missiles sent to Ukraine are likely mostly drawn from older Block 0 stocks (FGM-148A/B/C/D), and would have been nearing the end of their shelf-life. https://t.co/ZHe8b2xlHG
— Amael Kotlarski (@JakOSpades) March 11, 2022
Russia appears to have captured its first fully intact Javelin missile and launch unit this March—an inevitable development for any weapon used on the frontline.
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) March 11, 2022
- 3,615 NLAW launchers from the United Kingdom as of March 9
- 100 NLAWs sent from Luxembourg
A Ukrainian fighter – standing next to a destroyed Russian tank – tells CBS news how effective the British supplied NLAW ATGM has been in Ukraine and asks for more.🔥
— Jimmy (@JimmySecUK) March 9, 2022
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 8, 2022
Oh, and spot the TWS. pic.twitter.com/azHdCVq8QN
— Cᴀʟɪʙʀᴇ Oʙsᴄᴜʀᴀ (@CalibreObscura) March 11, 2022
Weighing 27 pounds, the single-shot NLAWs are undoubtedly the most capable short-range anti-tank weapon provided to Ukraine. Accurate out to 600-800 meters due to a predictive guidance system, the NLAW can furthermore be programmed to launch lethal top attacks against better-armored targets.
The imagery of NLAWs being delivered to units in their plastic containers is widespread, and the weapon have become iconic symbols of Western aid and Ukrainian resistance in a similar fashion to the U.S.-supplied Javelin.
— Mikko Mäkelä 🇫🇮 🇺🇦 (@mikko__makela) March 4, 2022
Russian forces have been recorded capturing over a dozen NLAWs.
Russian soldier with an unused NLAW in Ukraine pic.twitter.com/FftiIxCatJ
— Intel Air & Sea (@air_intel) March 4, 2022
- 1,000 from Germany
- 400 rockets and 50 Panzerfaust 3 launchers from The Netherlands
1400+ delivered total
#Ukraine: More foreign military aid delivered to Ukraine – the Ukrainian forces received a batch of German Panzerfaust 3 anti-tank launchers.
Based on previous reports, Ukraine should receive 1400+ Panzerfaust 3 from Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. pic.twitter.com/1jovFuGfgq
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 8, 2022
Like the NLAW, the German Panzerfaust 3 is a light anti-tank weapon that can threaten main battle tanks. Each munition, once mated with its reusable launch unit, weighs 34 pounds and can be safely fired from enclosed spaces.
The latest DM72A1 round has a second ‘tandem’ charge on a retractable probe to defeat explosive reactive armor (ERA) liberally bricked on Russian tanks. It can penetrate 1.2 meters of RHA equivalent or 900 millimeters of armor reinforced with ERA. Videos show launchers in Ukraine equipped with the IS2000 a computer-assisted laser sight, which increases effective range against moving targets from 300 to 600 meters.
- 1,379 delivered by Spain to equip Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces
🇺🇦🇪🇸The Ukrainian Army received the Spanish jet grenade launcher Instalaza C90.
— The RAGE X – Conflict News -❌ (@theragex) March 7, 2022
The 10.5-pound single-shot C90 system is effective out to 350 meters. It comes in variants that can penetrate between 400 and 500 millimeter RHA.
M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW) Ukraine
- 200 M72A2 LAW one-shot anti-tank weapons Belgium
- 4,500 M72A5 and/or M72A7 LAW from Canada (announced March 3)
- 1,500 M72A5 from Finland
- 2,700 M72A7 EC LAW from Denmark
- 2,000 M72A6 (or NM72F1) from Norway
The M72 was the U.S.’s ubiquitous single-shot disposable anti-tank weapon first issued in the 1960s. Ukraine is now receiving 11,000 M72s of various marks from five different countries.
The 5.5-pound A2 and 8-pound A5 models can pierce 300mm RHA equivalent, while EC or ECLAW model can penetrate 450mm. The A6 and A7 models are more effective against infantry but penetrate less armor (150mm). M72s are accurate out to 200-220 meters.
#Ukraine: Note that the 72nd Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Army has already put the Danish-delivered M72 EC launchers into use (EC means Enhanced Capacity, can penetrate up to 450 mm RHA), along with UK-supplied NLAW and Ukrainian RPV-16 thermobarics. pic.twitter.com/YmwAVbKrjK
— Cᴀʟɪʙʀᴇ Oʙsᴄᴜʀᴀ (@CalibreObscura) March 7, 2022
- 5,000 AT4 and AT-4 CS (Pansarskott m/86 and m/86BU in Swedish service)
The Swedish-built AT4 single-shot recoilless weapon weighs 14.8-pounds and can penetrate the equivalent of 450 millimeters RHA on targets. Its 84-millimeter rounds are accurate out to 500 meters, or 300 against moving targets. Ukraine has received both the regular model, which produces a dangerous backblast and the CS model which has a lower velocity but can be safely used from inside buildings.
Carl Gustaf (84-millimeter)
- 2000 84-millimeter rounds and 100 launchers from Canada
The Carl Gustaf is a Cold War-era recoilless rifle. The reusable 31-pound launcher can theoretically surge up to six shots in a minute in an emergency. However, the author hasn’t yet seen imagery of Carl Gustafs in Ukraine.
- 815 RPG-18s from Greece on February 27
— War Noir (@war_noir) March 9, 2022
Greece reportedly delivered disposable RPG-18 light anti-tank rockets it had acquired from East Germany, as well as AKM assault rifles and some 122-millimeter Grad rockets to Ukraine via two of its C-130 transports. The 64-millimeter rockets have the same performance (on paper) as an M72A2 and weigh only 5.7 pounds. Ukraine’s military already uses RPG-18s.
- Unknown quantity from Poland
The RPG-76 “Mosquito” is a disposable single-shot rocket-propelled grenade system developed by Poland for paratroopers in the 1980s and used by Polish troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2018 Warsaw unsuccessfully sought to sell retired stocks of 24,589 RPG-76s; now Ukrainian soldiers have been recorded training to use them.
#Ukraine: Another gift from NATO; UA forces training with newly delivered RPG-76 Komar single-use RPG, made in Poland in great quantities during the Cold War.
Though these aren't very effective against modern Russian MBT, they would still work against structures & light armour. pic.twitter.com/yjycel94uJ
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 12, 2022
Weighing just 4.6 pounds, this compact aluminum weapon has a folding stock and can be safely fired from inside buildings or vehicles. It’s accurate out to 150-250 meters (sources differ) and can penetrate 260 millimeters RHA equivalent.
- A “few dozen” Milan anti-tank guided missile systems (likely the count of launchers, number of missiles is surely greater) were delivered by France from 2/25-2/28
- Milan 2 deliveries by Italy announced Feb. 28
The Milan is Europe’s equivalent of the U.S. TOW-missile, a Cold War weapon guided by wire out to a range of 1-1.5 miles. The semi-automatic guidance system requires the operator to keep the target fixed in a sight and the missile adjusts course as needed. Italy is giving either Milan-2s or the tandem-charge Milan-2T model; these can penetrate 550 or 880-millimeters RHA equivalent respectively.
It’s unknown if France is sending over more advanced 125-millimeter infrared-guided Milan-3 weapons with longer range and more powerful tandem charges, or older Milan missiles. While the Milan isn’t cutting edge, Ukraine has received relatively few ATGMs and can use every system they can get.
More tanks, please
Ukraine also can use armored vehicles to replace losses—and is receiving hundreds of used ones from a particularly generous donor: the Russian army, which has abandoned so many in Ukraine, in fact, that photographic evidence counts more Russian fighting vehicles abandoned and/or captured than destroyed in combat.
#Ukraine: The Ukrainian Territorial Defence forces in #Sumy Oblast attacked another Russian column; as a result a Msta-S 152mm self-propelled howitzer and two T-72B tanks were captured, although another T-72B is claimed destroyed also. pic.twitter.com/HQq1qMJXJC
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 11, 2022
These vehicles are nearly all familiar to the Ukrainian military and use the same ammunition. Thus Kyiv may be able to regenerate losses to its armored units—at least if it retains enough control of battlegrounds to tow them away and quickly refurbish them for use against their former operators.
Sébastien Roblin writes on the technical, historical, and political aspects of international security and conflict for publications including the 19FortyFive, The National Interest, NBC News, Forbes.com, and War is Boring. He holds a Master’s degree from Georgetown University and served with the Peace Corps in China. You can follow his articles on Twitter.