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Javelin: The Tank-Killer Missile Killing Russia’s Tanks in Ukraine

Javelin
1st Lt. Ryan Rogers assigned to 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), fires the Javelin shoulder-fired anti-tank missile during platoon live fire exercise at Fort Campbell, Ky. Jan. 30, 2019. (U.S. Army Photo by Capt. Justin Wright)

Javelin: The Most Famous Anti-Tank System in the World? A mainstay of the United States armed forces’ anti-tank arsenal, the FGM-148 Javelin system, has found significant use in a variety of conflicts since its service entry in 1996. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the United States’ decision to supply the Javelin system to Ukraine’s armed forces quickly turned the weapon into a household name in its own right. 

Russia Ukraine

Image of Javelin anti-tank missile. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

What Is the Javelin? 

The FGM-148 consists of two constituent parts. The first of these is the reusable command launch unit (CLU), which is the sight of the system that facilitates target acquisition and surveillance.

Unlike the weapon tube, which is disposable, the CLU is reusable.

With a range of 2,500 meters (but with demonstrated effectiveness at 4,000 meters in certain conditions), Javelin can be classified as a “medium-range” weapon.

While Javelin was designed to be a man-portable system at its core, the system can also be mounted on a variety of types of vehicles.

Used by the United States Army and Marine Corps as well as a variety of U.S. allies in Europe and around the world, the Javelin system is a “fire and forget” missile system that relies on lock-on before launch.

Javelin: Some History

Javelin is a man-portable anti-tank guided weapon produced by the Javelin Joint Venture between Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

Development on the system began in 1989 to replace the M47 Dragon anti-tank weapons missile. After entering production in 1994 and service in 1996, Javelin saw service in Iraq in Afghanistan with use in more than 5,000 engagements by 2019.

Scheduled to be in the U.S. military’s inventory until 2050, the Javelin system continues to be updated and produced.

Most recently, the F-Model of the Javelin missile first entered production in 2020 and includes improvements to the missile’s warhead to defeat reactive armor as well as improved case fragmentation that enables the user to strike lightly armored or unarmored targets.

A lighter “G-Model” has followed it in development. When the United States government placed an order for 2,100 additional Javelin missiles, more than 45,000 missiles and 12,000 CLUs had been produced.

Javelin Missile

Javelin Missile

U.S. Marines fire the FGM-148 Javelin Missile during a live-fire range for exercise Platinum Lion at the Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, Dec. 15, 2016. The exercise brought together eight NATO Allies and partner nations for a live-fire exercise aimed to strengthen security and regional defenses in Eastern Europe. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Michelle Reif)

Joe Biden Ukraine

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii (May 15, 2019) – U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Troy Mole, section leader, Combined Anti-Armor Team, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, fires a shoulder-fired Javelin missile during Exercise Bougainville II on Range 20A, Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, May 15, 2019. Bougainville II is the second phase of pre-deployment training conducted by the battalion in order to enhance unit cohesion and combat readiness. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson) 190515-M-LK264-0004.

Ukraine U.S. Ally

Image: Creative Commons.

Javelin’s assembly plant in Troy, Alabama, was the centerpiece of a recent trip by President Joe Biden to make a case for additional weapons deliveries to Ukraine, including the Javelin. 

The employment of the missile system by Ukraine against Russia’s invasion has brought it significant notoriety, even becoming a meme in itself through campaigns such as the viral “Saint Javelin” fundraising drive. U.S. supply of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine began as early as the beginning of the Trump administration in 2018, but it was not until the outbreak of war that wider arms deliveries began to pick up steam. In the early days of the invasion, Javelin-wielding Ukrainian troops made effective use of their anti-tank systems to halt Russian armored columns at strategic points.

High demand for the missiles in Ukraine, as demonstrated by the use of nearly 300 missiles in the first week of the invasion, has put strain on US stores of the anti-tank system, as U.S. Javelin missile procurement had only reached 2,037 units between FY 2020 and 2022. By some estimates, nearly a third of the U.S. stockpile of Javelins has already been depleted as the anti-tank weapon, which would take years to replenish.

The FGM-148 system is designed to be an anti-tank workhorse of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps and has already seen significant service already around the world. Consistent efforts to broaden the system’s versatility will make it indispensable on future battlefields. 

Wesley Culp is a Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He regularly writes on Russian and Eurasian leadership and national security topics and has been published in The Hill and the Diplomatic Courier. He can be found on Twitter @WesleyJCulp.

Written By

Wesley Culp is a Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He regularly writes on Russian and Eurasian leadership and national security topics and has been published in The Hill and the Diplomatic Courier. He can be found on Twitter @WesleyJCulp.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Alex

    May 7, 2022 at 10:28 am

    The US is losing the war in Ukraine. The whole world is watching how Russia beats the Anglo-Saxons.

    • mcswell

      May 7, 2022 at 12:53 pm

      You live in a fantasy world. The same world as Baghdad Bob.

    • Seethe

      May 8, 2022 at 8:32 am

      Copium

  2. Vladolph Putler

    May 7, 2022 at 7:19 pm

    The Javelin, though impressive, gets way too much credit.

    Ukrainian artillery has killed more tanks. Domestic Ukrainian remote SACLOS systems have also killed plenty. As have unguided systems such as NLAW, Soviet era RPG’s and even antique LAW tubes.

    But the most interesting, (IMO) is the employment of heavily tinkered COTS drones dropping RPG warheads with fin kits. The fanciest weapon in the world is useless if you can’t field it in adequate numbers. The effect of an RPG warhead on the lid of a MBT is catastrophic more often than not. bizarrely scalable and cheap. ISIS may have invented it, but the Ukrainians made it *work*. Same effect on target as a Javelin, but for hundreds of dollars instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Handfuls of national guard (basically amateur militia) used these things to *DEVASTATING* effect on the 40 mile convoy. Perhaps significantly responsible for stalling the whole thing.

    But ultimately none of these toys killed any tanks at all. Determined Ukrainians did. After *everyone* said they would lose. I suppose when Russia is defeated, we may finally find out just how those Ukrainians manage to walk around with those giant iron balls bonking around. 😉

  3. Alex

    May 8, 2022 at 10:44 am

    German journalist Thomas Röper continues to publish his materials with photo and video evidence. The lies of the Bandera Nazis stop working, the CIA specialists cannot even help.

    “When we crossed the border, the Ukrainian border post was pretty much destroyed, but that’s all. There were several cars on the side of the road then, which, as our companion told us, were hastily moved across the road by the Ukrainian army to block the road. But tanks cannot be stopped by several cars .

    In addition, we did not see any damage, except for some damaged safety fences. The Russian army passed there without meeting any resistance, and in all the places where we passed, everything was intact, not a single window was broken. Life also went on as usual, shops and gas stations were open, cars were driving, people were on the streets, and so on. If someone did not know, nothing would indicate that an army had just passed through here.

    Experienced fellow journalists, such as a Dutch journalist with experience in Syria, found this very impressive. She told us that she knows her differently than she knows Syria because when the US Army advances, helicopters fly forward, shooting at anything that moves to prevent ambushes. She told me that even if no civilians were harmed, the devastation where the US Army had advanced was significant.

    This was confirmed by an American among journalists, a former US Marine. By the way, he has an interesting story, because he has been living in Russia for six years and received political asylum because he asked too many critical questions in the United States on a sensitive topic. In the USA, of course, they tell it differently, but that’s another topic.

    What also stood out was the poverty in Ukraine. For those who, like me, still know Russia from the 1990s, there was a feeling that they had traveled back in time to the 90s. Today Russia is a clean country with modern cities where entire districts have been rebuilt. I have linked a video that makes this clear.

    Ukraine still looks the same as the then Russia. Broken roads, dilapidated bus stops, dilapidated, dilapidated houses, a lot of old Soviet cars and so on. Even the joyless clothes of people reminds of the 90s in Russia. It touched me very much because it brought back some memories of that time and the problems of my friends at that time. But this can only be understood by those who have experienced it for themselves.

    I expected that the opponents of the Russian military operation would not talk to us, because they should be afraid of Russian soldiers. However, everything was exactly the opposite. The opponents told the Russian soldiers to their faces that they were not welcome here and that they should go home. They are clearly not at all afraid of Russian soldiers and call them names, sometimes harshly, to which Russian soldiers stoically do not react.

    Those who are afraid, we all quickly noticed, are the supporters of the Russian operation. They walked past the soldiers and unobtrusively whispered words of gratitude and something like “finally!” or “Don’t go again!” them.

    Disgruntled people also grabbed every microphone and stood in front of every camera, expressing their displeasure, while the supporters of the operation were difficult to film and interview the supporters of the operation. One of the few exceptions was an elderly woman who said she was 72 and not afraid. She almost cried with joy in front of the camera and thanked Russia.

    The fear, as I learned from whispering conversations with some of the stakeholders, is that Russia might leave again, and then they will have to expect reprisals and even worse consequences for their propaganda of Russian intervention, as they did after the Maidan. The most famous, but far from the only case was the Odessa tragedy in May 2014, when more than 40 people were burned alive in Odessa by Maidan supporters. This massacre is cynically called “Odessa barbecue” by nationalists in Ukraine and has not yet been disclosed.

    In general, the life of opponents of the authorities in Ukraine after the Maidan was not safe, political assassinations were not uncommon, and the UNHCR also mentioned this more than once in its human rights reports on Ukraine. But it is one thing to know this and read about it, and quite another when you experience this fear so tangibly. Fear was also manifested in the fact that many did not even want to be seen in the background of the picture. Most of them avoided the cameras and always walked behind the cameramen so as not to get into the frame.

    And something else was said in the reaction of people. Due to the fact that we were under the protection of Russian soldiers, people might think that we were pro-Russian. But when they heard that we were from the West, many refused to talk to us at all. Many would probably talk to the Russian media, but almost no one wanted to be in front of a Dutch, Italian or even American camera.

    Один из согласившихся настоял на том, чтобы интервью давали на английском, а не на русском, потому что боялся, что западные СМИ исказят его слова. Это был опыт, которого я не ожидал в Украине. Затем он положительно отозвался о российской военной операции.

    Where we were, life basically went on as usual. What shocked me was the fear of the people who support the Russian side. Seeing this, this anxiety of the people, it was depressing. I was also surprised by the visible poverty in Ukraine. I didn’t expect to see it so clearly. The infrastructure is still from the Soviet Union and since then little has been done, much has fallen into disrepair, especially empty factories and really bad roads stand out.

    I was pleased with the man’s answer to the question of who is more Russian or Ukrainian in the city. His answer was:

    “We don’t make any difference! Besides, so many nations live here; Armenians, Georgians, Greeks, we are all one family!”

    That’s what I wish for Ukraine to return to this: to be one big family, because it was this Maidan government that they wanted to expel from Ukraine, relying on radical nationalism.

    The Ukrainians will be able to defeat the Bandera Nazis in the same way as their ancestors once did.”

  4. Alex

    May 10, 2022 at 11:07 am

    And now, instead of tantrums and fantasies, let’s face it.

    Zelensky is a Kremlin agent.

    So in just two months:

    1. Actively extorted money from the West.

    2. Strengthened the ruble.

    3. In addition to the Crimea, he gave Donbass to Russia.

    4.. Turned off the gas at the whole of Europe, sending it to the Middle Ages.

    5. Ruined the pockets of drivers, farmers, entrepreneurs and manufacturers in the EU and the US.

    6. Since the beginning of the special operation, almost all major competitors from Russia have left, making room for Russian entrepreneurs.

    7. Begging for so many weapons that even Scholz said that the Bundeswehr was running out of weapons “for himself.”

    8. He collected all the crap of the Ukrainian Nazi subculture – tattooed Nazis, outcasts, idiots, maniacs, murderers from Europe and other countries in one place, where the Russians kill them in batches and promptly deliver them to Bandera.

    9. United the Russian people around their leader. Russia has never known such powerful support for the actions of the President and his cabinet during all the terms of his reign.

    10. He sent into emigration the entire corrupt beau monde of the Russian stage and cinema, with pockets full of “wishes” from the grateful Russian people.

    Never before has Russia been as good as under Zelensky.

  5. Alex

    May 10, 2022 at 1:49 pm

    Jim Chambers (Fergie Chambers) – a journalist from NY spoke about how he SAW the attacks of Ukrainian fascists on peaceful Ukrainians. He told how he SAW what horrors the Bandera Nazis were doing to the Ukrainians. He said that food and medicine appeared when the Russian Liberators came.

    He told how he SAW Nazi paraphernalia wherever the military of Ukraine abandoned their positions (swastikas, Mein Kampf books, paintings by Hitler, Bandera, etc.).

    He SAW how opponents of the regime of the Ukrainian authorities were detained, tortured and killed. He told how the people of Ukraine are waging their struggle for existence and for peace without Bandera Nazis. He spoke about how the Russian liberators help civilians and the Ukrainians ask the Russians not to leave. The Ukrainians are upset that the Russians came late, they should have come earlier.

    He said: “Our American weapons have only exacerbated the useless bloodshed in a battle that the Ukrainian fascists can never win. I am ashamed to carry an American passport with me. The world desperately needs a Russian victory: at the end of Ukrainian Nazism and at the end of the American NATO empire. World needs victory for freedom.”

  6. Alex

    May 10, 2022 at 2:01 pm

    Graham William Phillips is an outstanding British journalist who objectively and unbiasedly covers events in Ukraine.

    He is in a war zone and interviews all sides. He confirms the existence of Bandera Nazis who brutally torture and kill Ukrainians just because they do not want to see Bandera Nazis in their country.

    He confirms that the Ukrainians are asking the Russian liberators not to leave them anymore and not to leave.

    It is interesting to see how Graham interviews Aiden Aislin, a Briton who fought on the side of Ukraine as part of the Nazi Azov Battalion and was taken prisoner in Mariupol.

    The truth will always see the world thanks to such professionals, and not propagandists, who sometimes have never been to Ukraine and are thousands of miles away.

    No Nazism. We – free people will win.

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