A U.S. Army Rifle Task Force Commander of the famous attack on the Iraqi Republican Guard at the Baghdad airport during Operation Iraqi Freedom called the now famous Javelin anti-tank missile a “very effective weapon.”
The Mighty Javelin
This kind of assessment from years ago makes sense in light of the fact not only did U.S. Army attackers during OIF destroy Iraqi tanks during the attacks, but the weapon has literally wreaked havoc and devastation upon Russian armored vehicles seeking to invade Ukraine. Not only are the weapons themselves extremely effective as anti-armor munitions, but they were especially effective in Ukraine and OIF due to the tactics with which they were used.
Retired Lt. Col. Scott Rutter, who led U.S. Army unit attacks, as a Rifle Company Commander, on the Republican Guard, said Iraqis tried to use narrow passageways, buildings, or uneven terrain at key points from which to launch ambushes or hit-and-run attacks.
Javelins in Ukraine
These kinds of tactics, using dispersed groups of decentralized, dismounted fighters, have proven very effective against Russian tanks. Ukrainians have, for example, destroyed at least 1,100 Russian tanks, according to many open-source reports. In fact, some estimates and assessments place the number of destroyed Russian tanks much higher at 2,000 and the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense says they have destroyed more than 3,400 Russian tanks.
U.S. & NATO Javelins
The Javelin anti-tank weapon, which has arrived in Ukraine in large numbers from the U.S. and NATO allies, has been a large element attack for the Ukrainian army.
In recent years, Raytheon and Lockheed have upgraded the Javelin’s targeting, range, and lethality with software upgrades and innovations of great consequence. Raytheon has engineered a new Lightweight Command Launch Unit (CLU) over the last several years that actually doubles the range.
Several years ago, Army officials with the Javelin Product Office, Program Executive Office Missiles & Space told Warrior Maven that the new Lightweight CLU reduces weight by 30 percent, and Raytheon developers said the CLU has a constant zoom targeting technology able to pinpoint targets from much greater distances.
Other Javelin upgrades include the introduction of “fast-lock” targeting technology, which improves the ability to lock on and destroy a moving target. As for explosives, Raytheon and the Army have also been developing new warheads for the Javelin.
These innovations certainly improve the lethality of anti-armor weapons used by dismounted infantry, which have been effective in armored warfare as far back as WWII, according to a 1985 report from Fort Leavenworth’s U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Combat Studies Institute.
The challenges of facing the fast-advancing offensive tactics used by Nazi Panzer tanks made defensive postures extremely difficult and complicated. During these years, the essay maintains, Allied forces discovered the merits of using dismounted infantry for “offensive” counterattacks against the approaching tanks. In essence – meet “offense with offense.”
“The counterattack has long been termed the soul of the defense. Defensive action against a tank attack calls for a counterattack in the same general manner as against the older forms of attack … There is no reason why anti-tank guns, supported by infantry, cannot attack tanks just as infantry, supported by artillery, has attacked infantry in the past,“ the essay, “Seek, Strike and Destroy: U.S. Army Tank Destroyer Doctrine in World War II,” states. (Dr. Christopher Gabel).
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.