Video footage shared online this week shows what the aftermath of a Javelin “top attack” looks like in Ukraine. The video footage, reportedly of an FGM-148 Javelin missile attack from the Ukrainian military, shows a Russian tank being completely destroyed – but not before it erupts into flames.
It should be noted that 19FortyFive clearly cannot independently verify the video’s authenticity. However, we did reach out to several experts who study Russian and Ukrainian military technology, and to the best of their knowledge, the video did at least appear authentic to them.
“A clear example of the aftermath of the FGM-148 Javelin top-attack mode from the 92nd Mechanized Brigade of Ukraine – an accurate hit on a Russian tank leading to an instant ammo cook off,” popular military analysis Twitter account Ukraine Weapons Tracker writes in a post accompanying the video.
In the footage, which appears to have been recorded by a rotary-wing UAV, a Russian tank can be seen stationary on a Ukraine road. The footage pauses briefly to show the incoming Javelin missile, and the tank very quickly erupts into a large ball of flames. Debris can be seen moving in all directions across the road and into the surrounding trees.
As the fire dies down, the wrecked remains of the Russian tank are seen left behind on the road.
What is the Javelin Missile, and How Does It Work?
The FGM-148 Javelin is an American man-portable surface-to-air missile developed by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. It is one of the earliest weapons donated in large numbers to Ukraine by NATO countries and remains one of the most powerful and versatile weapons available to Ukrainian fighters.
The missile system, in service since 1996 and constantly being redeveloped and upgraded, is a “fire-and-forget” system that uses an infrared system to identify and track its targets.
#Ukraine: A clear example of the aftermath of the FGM-148 Javelin top-attack mode from the 92nd Mechanized Brigade of Ukraine – an accurate hit on a Russian tank leading to an instant ammo cook off. pic.twitter.com/fsBqfaJL3v
— ?? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) July 20, 2022
The FGM-148 missile, or Advanced Anti-Tank Weapon System-Medium, is a portable missile system designed to be launched from over the shoulder. It requires only one soldier to operate the rocket, and despite its small size, its high-explosive warhead creates a blast strong enough to destroy a tank.
The “top attack” mode mentioned by Ukraine Weapons Tracker refers to a way of launching the missile that sees it climb sharply after being launched and then cruising at a high altitude. Once the rocket identifies its target, it quickly points downwards and lands directly on top of the vehicle. By striking directly from above, the high-explosive anti-tank warhead can destroy even the most modern tanks with advanced armor.
The Javelin missile can also be used to attack targets from the side, although the video shows how effective – and how much more precise – the top attack mode can be.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.