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Javelin vs. NLAW: Which Missile Is Better at Destroying Russian Tanks?

NLAW in Ukraine
NLAW anti-tank missile.

Following a visit by President Joe Biden to its facility in Alabama last week, Lockheed Martin Corp announced that it has plans to nearly double production of the Javelin missile. This anti-tank weapon has aided Ukraine in its fight against Russia. The defense contractor said it will boost output to 4,000 units per year, up from the 2,100 that are currently produced yearly.

Ukraine

NLAW anti-tank weapon. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The increase will take a couple of years, however. It will be crucial to replenish supplies of the weapons, as the United States has seen its stockpiles depleted.

The FGM-148 Javelin Advanced Anti-Tank Weapon System-Medium (AAWS-M) is considered to be among the world’s best shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons. It is currently operated by a dozen nations. Each missile weighs 11.8kg while its command launch unit (CLU) and round weigh 6.5kg and 15.9kg respectively.

The man-portable launcher fires a 127mm (5-inch) round that is equipped with an 8.4kg (19 pounds) tandem-charge HEAT (high-explosive anti-tank) warhead. It is equipped with optical sight and thermal imaging.

The Javelin is actually not the only anti-tank weapon employed by the Ukrainian military. In fact, the joint British-Swedish developed Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapon (NLAW) – also known as the MBT LAW or RB 57 – has been even more widely deployed.

It is guided by predicted line-of-sight (PLOS), and can be used to carry out an overfly top attack (OTA) on an armored vehicle or a direct attack (DA) on structures and non-armored vehicles.

The NLAW is considered to be excellent at close range, from 20 to 600 meters, and is ideal in combat actions in urban areas, including cities and villages, as its soft-launch system means that the missile is ejected non-explosively, and can be used by infantry from within an enclosed space.

Weighing just 27.5 pounds, it is easy to fire, and light enough that the operator can still carry an additional weapon such as a rifle. NLAW can be used in an attack from almost any position, from up high in a building to behind a tree or even in a ditch/trench.

Operators can fire down 45 degrees and can shoot from inside a building, from a basement, or from the second floor of a building out of the range of most tanks.

The Javelin, with an effective range of 1 to 2.5 kilometers or about 1.5 miles, is ideal in an open field. It is also a fire-and-forget platform that utilizes automatic infrared guidance that allows the user to take cover and avoid counter-fire immediately after launch.

As it is a passive weapon and produces little backblast, tank crews are largely unable to detect a Javelin in the area until it’s fired.

NLAW

Ukrainian marine with NLAW ATGM. Photo: Marine Command.

The NLAW is also a smaller weapon, which again makes it ideal for the urban fighter, but the most significant consideration could be the platform’s respective costs. Each Javelin system costs around $178,000, while replacement missiles cost an additional $78,000 – while the unit cost of the NLAW is around $40,000.

But the ability of a single operator to destroy an enemy tank with either platform: priceless.

Mykolaiv

A Marine with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, fires an FGM-148 Javelin during a TOW battle drill aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 28-29, 2014. The Marines were performing basic TOW drills using live fire and maneuver to ensure they were ready for future deployments.

Mariupol

Javelin Missile. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Alex

    May 12, 2022 at 10:17 am

    OK. In Ukraine, 10,000 Russian and 1,000 Russian tanks are destroyed every day. It’s not even funny to read, but it’s not interesting anymore. Let’s talk about the collapsed Russian economy:

    The Russian ruble has become the best world currency in 2022. On Thursday, May 12, Bloomberg reported.

    According to the latest data, the ruble has grown by 11 percent against the dollar since the beginning of 2022. Thus, it has become the leader among the 31 major currencies monitored by the agency’s experts.

    The strengthening of the currency came after the measures taken by the Russian government against the backdrop of Western sanctions, writes Bloomberg. It is clarified that the authorities introduced capital controls, and also obliged exporters to sell foreign exchange earnings. In particular, in March, the President of Russia announced a new procedure for paying for gas by European consumers.

    As similar examples, the authors of the article cite the Turkish lira and the Argentine peso, which failed to achieve maximum growth rates after the decisions of the governments of these countries. The Russian currency, on the contrary, responded well to the measures taken, Bloomberg experts conclude.

    Only facts, not squeals and fantasies of Bandera Nazis and Slavophobes.

    • paperpushermj

      May 12, 2022 at 12:57 pm

      2 points ….1st the Dollar has dropped in value…2nd the Ruble is backed with Gold

  2. Jacksonian Libertarian

    May 12, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Engagement Ranges have increased from: RPG 100 meters, 7.62×39 200 meters, 5.56×45 300 meters, 7.62×51 600 meters, to NLAW 800 meters, Javelin 1500 meters (newer models and switchblades >1500 meters) over the last couple of decades.

    The tactic of screening tanks with rifle armed infantry to protect them from RPGs, has been made useless in the face of missiles being fired from beyond rifle range.

    The purpose of rifles in combat has changed with missile armed troops, to “breaking contact” from kinetic warfare. This puts rifles in the position of the side arm in today’s Missileman kit, as a weapon of last resort when the enemy gets too close (inside 500 meters).

    This large expansion in combat range has put a priority on sensing, locating, and targeting the enemy. Being the first to shoot is much more important when the reliability of guided missiles to hit on the first shot is 90%+. Experience has shown that thousands of rounds are fired from rifles and machineguns for every soldier killed by them. Contrasting that with the one-shot, one-kill of guided missiles, demonstrates the massive changes on the battlefield.

  3. Alex

    May 12, 2022 at 11:54 am

    Russia’s oil revenues have grown by 50% since the beginning of the year, despite trade restrictions imposed after the start of a special operation in Ukraine, writes Bloomberg citing a report by the International Energy Agency.

    “Russia has earned approximately $20 billion monthly since the beginning of 2022 from cumulative sales of oil and petroleum products at an export level of 8 million barrels per day,” the document says. As the IEA noted, supplies from Russia continue to flow despite the fact that the EU is currently discussing a ban on energy imports, and major international oil companies Shell and Total Energy promise to stop purchases.

    Russian energy resources are in high demand in Asia, especially in India and China. Experts emphasize that the reduction in the supply of refined products from Russia, such as diesel fuel, fuel oil and naphtha, has exacerbated tensions on world markets. At the same time, stocks of so-called middle distillates (some types of petroleum products that are obtained as a result of the distillation of hydrocarbons, including heating and marine fuels) are at their lowest level since 2008.

    Another collapse of the Russian economy. I am sure that in Russia they clap and thank you.

  4. Eddie

    May 14, 2022 at 1:45 pm

    Does anybody know the lead times for manufacturing NLAWS? If the US is running low on supplies and its lead times for manufacturing them are 24 months, is this a disadvantage? If the NLAWS are manufactured a lot quicker, is this a better option? I agree they have both done great things so far and I hope they continue to do so, lets hope they don’t run out before the end

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