Alessandro Pellegrino, Staff Reporter, The Pawprint
The American Javelin missile is an infrared-guided anti-tank weapon. For the Ukrainian army it is a powerful ally in the conflict with Russia and has become the symbol of American support for Kyiv. It is mainly meant to take out enemy tanks. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu at a Russian Security Council meeting said four days ago that Ukraine has more American-made Javelins than some NATO countries have.
The Javelin consists of a reusable launcher, called “Clu” (command launch unit) and a “Heat” missile, which is enclosed in a launch tube which is disposable. The missile follows the target by itself by means of the heat that this emanates. It has a range of nearly 5 kilometers.
The javelin can be used in two ways: with a direct attack that directly hits the target at a higher altitude from the launch point of up to 60 meters. Or it can be fired vertically up to 150 meters and then plunge into the target. In this second way it manages to hit the upper part of the tanks, generally protected by a lighter armor. However, modern Russian tanks are equipped with a protection system, a “reactive” armor made up of explosive plates attached to the outside that impact the missile just before the explosion. To get around the problem, the Javelins mount a “tandem” warhead , equipped with two shaped charges. With a first explosive charge they overcome the initial protection and then penetrate the armor of the tanks with another more powerful charge.
When the trigger is pulled the javelin is ejected from the launcher so that it reaches a safe distance before the rocket’s main engine fires. This serves not to hit the shooter with the propulsion jet and to allow him to remain well hidden or move away.
A single missile costs around $ 70,000 and between launcher and missile, each weapon system costs around $ 225,000.
Despite the lofty name, it’s not exactly the equipment you’d want to run through the trenches with: every single Javelin missile weighs 22 kilos. However, it is much more manageable than other anti-tank systems such as the Tows, which between launcher and missile with container are close to the quintal.
Entered into service in 1996, during the war in Afghanistan, the Javelin was used in anti-guerrilla operations. Well-trained marksmen were able to deliver precision shots against unassailable enemy positions with traditional heavy machine guns and grenade launchers, such as caves and fortified positions. Today “Saint Javelin” is a meme on Ukrainian social networks and a line of accessories and clothing that donates its profits to war orphans.
The Javelin has a design called “fire-and-forget”, as it allows soldiers to leave the attack position immediately after launch, without having to aim the missile at the target and risk a counterattack. In fact, they are equipped with an automatic infrared guidance system; after docking and launch, the missile chases and hits the target in total autonomy, without further intervention by the operator. The launcher can be used by one or two soldiers.
Among the main advantages of the Javelin is the possibility of being used from inside buildings, they also have a range of 4.5 kilometers, much more than the 800 meters of the NLAW system, another ballistic system used by Ukrainian troops against the advanced by the Russians, although the latter is also considered a particularly valuable weapon. Javelins are quite expensive weapons; a single missile has a price of about 80 thousand dollars.