The case of the “sacred javelina”: why the javelin proved ineffective in Ukraine


At the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, the US Javelin guided missiles were touted as extremely effective anti-tank weapons. An analysis of RT shows that its actual performance is limited due to several factors.

By Ivan Erofeyev

Almost immediately after the launch of the special operation in Ukraine, the United States began supplying the Ukrainian armed forces with FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles. A veritable cult of the Javelin arose in Kyiv as a universal “weapon of vengeance” that would destroy literally all Russian armored vehicles. Later, enthusiasm gave way to criticism. rt internal working documents of the company Raytheon, which manufactures the Javelin, are available. As it turned out, the system is not as good as advertised in flyers for the foreign market.

“Yes, we had the Javelin, sure… They didn’t prove particularly great, especially in city fights. We couldn’t fire them once. In my opinion, it’s an absolutely useless weapon because there’s always something that bothers “, complained the captured commander of the 36th marine infantry brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Colonel Vladimir Baranyuk. He took part in combat operations in Mariupol and was captured after an attempt to break out from the premises of the “Azov-Mash” plant.

“They brought us two javelins. While taking them away from the car, we broke one. With the second, we later tried to figure out how to shoot it. Someone read the instructions, another watched it on YouTube. English spoke of nobody told us, and it wasn’t explained to us,” said a Ukrainian prisoner who was captured near Popasnaya.

Silver bullet against Russian tanks

In total, Washington delivered over 7,000 Javelin systems to Ukraine after the start of the special operation. Deliveries were so extensive that stocks of these anti-tank missiles in the USA itself were running out, according to the US news portal Business Insider reported. In addition, the Javelin are very expensive – a system with six missiles costs about $ 600,000.

After the start of deliveries in March-April 2022, a veritable cult of this weapon arose in Ukraine. Newborns were named after the anti-tank missile, “icons” were painted on house walls in honor of the “holy Javelina”. The FGM-148 was considered a miracle weapon, a panacea and a terror for Russian tanks.

The system was commissioned by the US Army in 1996. The manufacturers intended it to solve two key problems of the “infantry of the future”.

The first problem is the long preparation for firing. To keep the gunner in direct line of sight of the tank for the shortest possible time, the Javelin was equipped with a missile with a self-homing missile head. Using an optical sight, the program “draws” the outline of the target, the coordinates of which are fed into the missile’s data memory. The shooter can press the button and leave his position. After that, the system works independently.

The second problem is the guarantee of destruction of the target. For this, the manufacturers changed the trajectory of the rocket. The Javelin retained the possibility of a direct attack, but its distinctive feature was approaching the target from above and hitting the tank’s roof.

Everything looked very convincing on paper.

Eight out of eleven shots – missed

According to public information, the firing range of the FGM-148 can be up to five kilometers. However, in the internal documents of the manufacturer Raytheon, the rt are available, the maximum range is twice as small, just 2.5 kilometers.

The Javelin is in the range of the old systems BGM-71 TOW from 1970 (the latter has a range of 3.7 kilometers) and even heavy mortars. Of course, the mortars have a weaker impact. Also worth noting: a TOW is ten to twelve times cheaper than a Javelin and, according to open information, costs between 45,000 and 50,000 US dollars.

A questionnaire from a Raytheon internal document filled out by US veterans of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan states that about a third of attempts to fire a Javelin were “accompanied by problems”. It is important to note that we are talking about trained US soldiers who received javelin training and practiced at firing ranges. Even they had problems in combat conditions.

Report to Raytheon states that the Javelin’s effectiveness differs from that declared. For example, out of eleven test shots fired by the FGM-148 at a stationary target, only three resulted in its being shot down.

In terms of effectiveness, the Javelin is little superior to the test results of the TOW. The latter are hardly impressive either: two hits in 14 shots.

The report also contains other notable information. For example, it states that a frontal shot at a Russian T-80 tank from a distance of 150 meters has “minimal effect”.

The sources of rt in the special operations area in Ukraine add that despite public statements about the range of the FGM-148, Ukrainian military personnel tried to deploy the system from close range and inevitably came into view of the tank crew. Most of the time, the shots weren’t fired into the roof, but rather from the front.

Special Ukrainian context

In June, Alex Horton, an analyst at the Washington Postpublished an article in which he fundamentally questioned Ukraine’s ability to use the Javelin effectively.

After receiving the supplies, Ukrainian military personnel dropped expensive electronics and missiles, stored FGM-148s in damp basements, shook weapon crates and broke the optics of the CLU control modules. This not only precluded the javelin from being ready for immediate use, but from being turned on as such.

The vast majority of missiles are, according to sources from rt arrived in Ukraine with discharged accumulators. The batteries are built into the case and are necessary for turning on the anti-tank system and for operating the guidance and cooling systems of the self-homing missile head. In most cases, Ukrainian military left the missiles intact – but not operational – because they were unloaded.

In addition, the systems delivered from the USA did not have school modules. Ukrainian fighters were forced to practice using live ammunition.

The difficulty of use and the fragility of the systems became key factors that precluded large-scale deployment of the FGM-148. Instead of American missiles, the Ukrainian armed forces preferred to use Soviet RPG-7s, whose ammunition was supplied from several European countries, including the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

According to military expert Dr. Konstantin Sivkov had not taught the Ukrainian armed forces how to use the Javelin:

“This is a complicated system. It is only effective under certain conditions. A number of procedures are necessary before combat use. It can only be used by a qualified and trained army, which does not include the Ukrainian one. The missile warhead has from this system a smaller penetration than the Soviet anti-tank missiles. Basically, the missile is effective only when fired from above. It is not always possible to shoot at tanks in this way. In severe heat, the missile often fails. Overall, it has the system proved bad.”

Translated from Russian.

more on the subject – According to US broadcasters, 70 percent of Western weapons do not reach troops

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