Russian forces have suffered staggering tank losses in Ukraine. The weapon perhaps most responsible for obliterating Russian tanks is the FGM-148 Javelin.
The formidable American-made man-portable anti-tank system has been around for almost three decades and is still the best of its kind.
Equipped with such an advanced weapon, Ukrainian forces have been able to carry out a highly effective defense strategy against Russia’s armed forces. Many soldiers on the front lines even refer to the missile launcher as “Saint Javelin, Protector of Ukraine.”
A Special Missile
Since the onset of the invasion in February 2022, the U.S. and its NATO allies have provided Kyiv with a series of military assistance packages. The Center for Strategic and International Studies tallied up America’s contributions from the time the war began through to last month. According to the think tank, the four supplemental aid packages passed by Congress to aid Kyiv’s forces total over $110 billion. Ukrainian forces have received deliveries ranging from armored vehicles to munitions to anti-tank launchers to air defense systems. While all these weapons have contributed to Kyiv’s defensive efforts, the Javelin missile system stands out as perhaps the most important arms delivery.
Javelin Destroys Russian T-80
Without the Javelin, the Russians would certainly have many more surviving tanks. According to expert tallies, Moscow has lost more than two-thirds of its stockpile of more advanced MBTs since February 2022, and the losses will grow as Ukraine’s counteroffensive rages on.
The Javelin has played a critical part in Ukraine’s anti-tank efforts.
Watch the Video
A 29-second clip that circulated in late May showed the missile launcher at work.
In the footage, a lone Russian tank appears in an open, rural area. A missile later darts across the ground and strikes the MBT directly, causing it to erupt in flames, filling the air around it with smoke.
The accompanying caption reads: “Donetsk Oblast, a Russian T-80U takes a hit from a Ukrainian FGM-148 Javelin, most likely fired by the 21st Motorized Infantry Battalion.”
Introducing the Javelin
Designed and developed by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, the FGM-148 Javelin has a fire-and-forget design, enabling its operator to seek cover immediately after launch to avoid counterfire. The missile launcher weighs a mere 50 pounds, making it more mobile than some of its heftier counterparts. Soldiers can easily perch the Javelin on their shoulders, making it a desirable weapon for ground forces.
As detailed by the Military Times, “Upon contact, the foremost of two tandem high-explosive antitank, or HEAT, warheads explodes against the reactive armor, clearing the way for the second warhead to reach the tank’s main armor. The Javelin’s warheads can penetrate steel up to 23.5 inches to 31.5 inches thick.” With a range of more than 1.5 miles, the missile launcher’s warhead can travel 213 feet before it arms.
Since the Javelin was introduced to Ukrainian forces, Russian tanks have suffered greatly. The formidable missile launcher certainly deserves its nickname as Protector of Ukraine.
Donetsk Oblast, a Russian T-80U takes a hit from a Ukrainian FGM-148 Javelin, most likely fired by the 21st Motorized Infantry Battalion. pic.twitter.com/ft8idtrdvn
— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) May 28, 2023
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.
This article has been updated to ensure the coding for the video works properly, as some readers were not able to see it. We apologize for any issues.