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NLAW: The Tank-Killer Giving Putin Problems in Ukraine

NLAW missile firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The Javelin anti-tank missile has received much media attention and hype as it has blasted Russian armor in Ukraine. But there is another anti-tank missile making its presence known since the beginning of the war. The NLAW or Next-generation Light Anti-tank Weapon, was supplied by the British to Ukrainian fighters, and it has inspired the defenders with its success. This has led to a new era in which the golden age of tanks may be over.

What Is the NLAW?

The United Kingdom has provided several thousand NLAW launchers to Ukraine. It is a formidable weapon. The NLAW is a “one-shot one kill” shoulder-fired guided munition that can be used against tanks and armored vehicles. The 150mm penetrating warhead can destroy any tank up to 2,600 feet away.

It’s a Team Acquisition Effort

The British and the Swedes got together in 2002 to design the NLAW. It has components made by defense contractors such as Saab, BAE, Thales, and Raytheon. The weapon has a lifespan of 20-years, so it can be stored for a substantial amount of time and then be delivered to the battlefield for a stunning effect.

Easy to Transport

The NLAW is only three feet long and weighs 28-pounds – nicely portable. The great thing about the NLAW is that is can be strapped to the operator’s shoulder and enables the soldiers also to carry a rifle. Once it fires the missile, the launcher can be discarded, and then the operator can just grab another and mount up and move out to a different covered and concealed position. This is great to conduct ambush after ambush, which the Ukrainians have been doing against the Russians.

No Difficult Learning Curve for Training

The British delivered the NLAW to Ukrainian soldiers on the frontlines before the invasion started. So, the defenders have been trained on its use for months. It is straightforward to fire and allows new fighters to learn quickly – even those with little combat experience.

Just Shoot and Scoot

The missile can destroy stationary targets up to around 2,000-feet and moving targets to 1,300-feet. Upgraded versions have a range of 1,600-feet. The NLAW is “fire and forget” not wire-guided, which means the user doesn’t have to maintain a line of sight until it hits the target. It has “predicted line of sight” guidance instead. Operators sight in for three to five seconds, then launch. They can scoot away as the inertial guidance takes over. This is a plus in urban combat and in wooded areas with many places to hide.

Saab explains it this way, “With NLAW, you don’t need a platoon to attack tanks. You can train an ordinary soldier to use the system in an hour. And then you can have NLAW-equipped soldiers across the entire environment waiting for a tank to advance.”

The Golden Age of Tanks May Be Over

The Russians came into the war with a decided quantitative and even qualitative advantage in tanks. They assumed that fast armored columns could punch holes in Ukrainian defenses and speed to their objectives. Tank on tank warfare would then favor the Russians. Vladimir Putin’s forces never imagined that anti-tank missiles such as the Javelin and NLAW could be this effective. It even makes you wonder if tank-on-tank combat is becoming passe.


NLAW anti-tank missile in Ukraine. Image Credit: Ukrainian Military.


NLAW. Image Credit: SAAB.


A soldier is pictured aiming a practice NLAW (Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon). This training aid simulates the real NLAW launcher but fires a laser at armored vehicles equipped to receive the beam.


Russian Infantry Have Struggled 

The Russians also assumed their infantry would be transported quickly to decisive points in critical urban and rural terrain. But Russian armored personnel carriers were destroyed handily by the Ukrainians. Without infantry support, it is difficult to win. Then the tanks, when they survive anti-tank missiles and drone attacks, get ahead of their supply trucks and run out of ammunition, fuel, and food. That leads to Russian soldiers just abandoning their tanks.

NLAW Created Despair in the Russian Ranks 

This state of affairs can be traced back to anti-tank weapons such as the NLAW. The Russians have yet to adjust tactics and seem content backing off and using land-attack missiles and long-range artillery. But these stand-off practices do not allow the invaders to take and hold ground. So, the Ukrainians’ recipe for success is to order more of the relatively inexpensive NLAW launchers. The Russian tankers will not even know what hit them, and those that survive will operate their tanks in fear.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.



  1. Alex

    May 5, 2022 at 8:12 am

    Recently, the whole world saw how a Russian journalist returned to Moscow with nlaw. Even he was able to take it. Ukrainians of Donbass will clear more nlaw and javelins.

    The offer of Ukrainian militants at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol to exchange civilians there for food and medicine is very similar to the demands put forward by the terrorists.

    As for the similar demands of the nationalists who are hiding in the underground premises of the Azovstal plant, then, of course, they are very similar to similar demands that were previously voiced by terrorists in Syria and in other places.

    The remnants of the Ukrainian military group are securely blocked along the entire perimeter of Azovstal. Russian troops are not storming the territory of the plant, but they are suppressing the attempts of the militants blocked there to reach the firing points.

    The flags of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Russia and Chechnya are set over the entire city of Mariupol. The city is completely under the control of the special military operation forces.

    The whole world sees how Bandera Nazis show their true colors. A driven rat will destroy itself sooner or later.

  2. CK

    May 5, 2022 at 9:30 am

    Here we see another predictable tactic – claiming most of the weaponry we send over there either ends up destroyed or captured. Every article that mentions our weaponry is greeted with the same line of attack by the Kremlin trolls.

    The internet is simple – stop the shipment of weaponry. This is actually good news – if they weren’t worried about it, they wouldn’t want us to be sending them in the first place.

    The intent is awash with examples of said weaponry destroying Russian personnel and materiel and – contrary to what they are claiming – almost non-existent with evidence supporting the claim of mass captures and destruction.

    The louder their lies become, the more we know they are afraid!

  3. Alex

    May 6, 2022 at 7:58 am

    Duda said there would be “no more” borders between Poland and Ukraine.
    According to the President of Poland, in the absence of borders, the peoples of the two countries will be able to live together, “building together their common happiness and common strength.”
    “Between our countries – Poland and Ukraine – there will no longer be a border. This border will not exist. So that we live together on this earth, building and rebuilding together our common happiness and common strength, which will allow us to repel any danger or any possible threat.”
    And yet we Poles act smarter. We are not at war, like Russia, but we will gradually take what is ours, and let the stupid Bandera pigs think about our friendship 🙂

  4. Alex

    May 6, 2022 at 9:37 am

    The Bandera Nazis of Ukraine rejoiced that they had arrested the Ukrainian independent journalist Anatoly Shariy in Spain. Anatoly Shariy moved his member on the lips of the Bandera Nazis and is already at large! This is democracy in Europe, and not lawlessness like you have in impoverished Ukraine, Bandera pigs 🙂

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