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Video Above: Top Army Weapons Buyer Details Future Attack Technology

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Ukrainian-fired Javelin anti-tank weapons have been incinerating and destroying Russian tanks and armored vehicles for months now with great effect, a tactical reality which likely explains some of the key reasons why Ukrainian defenders were able to stop a much larger mechanized Russian force of armored vehicles trying to capture Kyiv. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the Pentagon’s latest Presidential Drawdown Authority aid package to Ukraine includes 1,000 new Javelins.

Javelin Anti-Tank Weapons

A Senior Pentagon Official specifically cited Javelins as being extremely effective in the opening days of the war. Anti-armor weapons, and their effective use against heavy advancing armored vehicles, are emerging as a defining element in the ongoing war in Ukraine.

A Soldier from the Idaho Army National Guard, Charlie Company, 2-116th Combined Arms Battalion, 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team makes Idaho National Guard history with the first firing of a Javelin anti-tank missile. Idaho Army National Guard photo by Thomas Alvarez. In a historic moment of training for the Idaho Army National Guard, soldiers from Charlie Company, 2-116th Combined Arms Battalion, 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, fired the FGM - Javelin portable anti-tank missile on Sunday while conducting a series of field training exercises scheduled for the week on the Orchard Combat Training Center ranges.

A Soldier from the Idaho Army National Guard, Charlie Company, 2-116th Combined Arms Battalion, 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team makes Idaho National Guard history with the first firing of a Javelin anti-tank missile. Idaho Army National Guard photo by Thomas Alvarez. In a historic moment of training for the Idaho Army National Guard, soldiers from Charlie Company, 2-116th Combined Arms Battalion, 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, fired the FGM - Javelin portable anti-tank missile on Sunday while conducting a series of field training exercises scheduled for the week on the Orchard Combat Training Center ranges.

Javelins, which were provided to Ukrainians prior to the Russian invasion, were specifically mentioned by a Senior Pentagon official as being extremely impactful, particularly in the opening days of the war.

The Javelin’s on-the-move targeting ability has been of great value to Ukrainian fighters seeking to maneuver into attack position against advancing Russian vehicles before dispersing to avoid counterattack. These kinds of tactics can use terrain, buildings or key intersections, bridges and chokepoints for quick strike hit-and-run missions.

Certainly small arms fire of any kind would not be able to destroy a small column of advancing armored vehicles. Certainly any narrow area vehicles have to transit through, or urban areas between buildings, would seem to leave armored vehicles vulnerable to Javelin fire or destruction from other kinds of air-and-ground based anti-tank weapons.

This tactical use of anti-armor weapons likely played a pivotal role in stopping Russia’s attempted attack on Kyiv. As Russian forces tried to close in on more urban areas, including buildings and narrow streets, Javelin- armed Ukrainian dismounted units to attack armored vehicles from hidden or more “obscured” locations.

U.S. Army Infantry Soldiers fire an FGM-148 Javelin during a combined arms live fire exercise in Jordan, Aug. 27, 2019.

U.S. Army Infantry Soldiers fire an FGM-148 Javelin during a combined arms live fire exercise in Jordan, Aug. 27, 2019.

The Javelin can dismount and operate as a shoulder-fired weapon used by small groups of soldiers on the move or also mount and fire from tactical vehicles as well, such as those that go off road. The concept of a top-down attack certainly makes sense as something of tactical relevance, but apart from being deployable on mobile, off-road vehicles, there is nothing mentioned about what might better enable that kind of attack? Any weapon, if fired from an advantaged point at higher altitudes, should it be able to go off road, can exploit a tactical advantage and strike from the top down.

The Army’s ongoing upgrades to the Javelin anti-tank missile offer an interesting point of reference, as a new Raytheon-built Lightweight Command Launch Unit for the weapon actually doubles the attack range.

More recent innovations, slated to enter production in 2022, also incorporate improved sensor fidelity and a “fast lock” for improving attacks on the move. Army officials previously told Warrior last year that the service is also engineering a new warhead for the Javelin as well.

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Carl Gustaf Weapons

Ukrainian fighters will soon be firing more 84mm, reusable, recoilless shoulder-fired Carl Gustaf weapons able to destroy enemy targets hidden behind rocks, trees and buildings, in part because the Pentagon is sending as many as 2,000 anti-armor rounds to Ukraine in its latest $775 million aid package.

The strategy is clear, as the Pentagon seeks to reinforce and build upon what could be called the unexpected success of Ukraine’s anti-armor fight against Russian invaders. Using special hit-and-run tactics, ambushes and dispersed groups of surprise attackers at key intersections and crosspoints, Ukrainians firing anti-armor weapons have demonstrated a massive ability to slow down, thwart and even destroy Russian mechanized armored advances.

Carl-Gustaf M4

Carl-Gustaf M4

Senior Pentagon officials are clear that the weapons support packages are specifically intended to emphasize and support this successful Ukrainian anti-armor effort. This includes 1,000 more Javelins, TOW missiles and thousands of additional anti-armor rounds.

“We're providing 2,000 anti-armor rounds. Now, these are just the rounds because the Ukrainians have a number of existing anti-armor and anti-personnel weapons systems. Many of them were provided by allies and partners. One example is the Carl Gustaf system. So we're providing these rounds to complement those existing systems,” a Senior Defense Official told reporters, according to a Pentagon transcript

The Carl-Gusfaf was used by US Army soldiers in Afghanistan, has also been used by U.S. Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and Special Forces since the late-80s, Army weapons developers explained.

The weapon, called the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, known as the Carl-Gustaf, was ordered by the US Army more than 10 years ago in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire, Army weapons developers said in an Army essay as far back as 2012.

The Carl-Gustaf, which is manufactured by Saab, includes an airburst capability with its High Explosive, or HE, round, The HE airburst round uses a mechanical time fuse set before the weapon is loaded.

Airburst rounds can be pre-programmed to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon's effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.

Several Carl Gustafs were initially sent to Afghanistan years ago as part of a limited operational assessment. The Army purchased the weapon by joining with U.S. Special Operations Command in a combined purchase from Saab.

The anti-armor, anti-personnel, shoulder-fired multi-role weapon is 42-inches long, weighs 21 pounds and can fire up to four rounds per minute, Saab North America developers explained years ago.

"It is not a guided munition," Saab Weapons developers said years ago, adding that the weapon can utilize thermal sights to provide Soldiers with the ability to shoot at night and reach the proper range.

The Carl Gustaf is also able to fire anti-tank, flechette, illumination, enhanced armor, smoke and High Explosive Dual Purpose rounds, Army weapons developers explain. The HE round can be set to detonate upon impact or explode on “delay” after penetrating the target.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven -the 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.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization