Rare combat footage of an FGM-148 Javelin destroying a Russian BM-21 rocket launching system has emerged from the Ukrainian battlefield.
1945’s Sebastian Roblin posted the video, taken last April, to his Twitter feed. Although we cannot independently verify the authenticity of the video, the images demonstrate the intended use and celebrated effectiveness of the Javelin system.
In the footage, a Ukrainian operator kneels, takes aim, and fires. The Javelin missile launches from the Command Launch Unit, climbs at a sharp angle and disappears from sight.
Several seconds later, the missile descends from above, atop the Russian B-21, causing the Russian vehicle to explode.
The FGM-148 Javelin, or Advanced Anti-Tank Weapon System-Medium (AAWS-M) is an American-made portable anti-tank missile. The Javelin has been in service for nearly three decades, after making its debut in 1996.
The system was a welcome improvement over its predecessor, the M47 Dragon, which relied on a wire-guided system to track a target. The wire-guided system was troublesome because it required operators to stay put while a spool of wire unraveled between the missile and the operator, allowing the missile to track the target. The M47 Dragon operator was essentially tethered to the deployed missile.
By contrast, the Javelin uses an automatic infrared guidance system, which tracks the infrared light emission from a target. The infrared guidance is a “fire and forget” system, meaning the operator doesn’t have to sit tight while the missile tracks its target. Instead, the operator can fire the Javelin and get the hell out of harm’s way.
The Javelin can be operated with two distinct flight profiles.
The first, depicted in the video footage, is a top-attack — a setting that allows for the Javelin to attack armored vehicles from above, where their armor is typically the thinnest. In top-attack mode, the Javelin missile climbs sharply after launching, reaching a peak altitude of 490 feet. The second mode, direct-attack, is ideal for use against fortifications, helicopters, or targets hiding beneath some form of obstruction. In direct-attack mode, the missile reaches a peak altitude of 200 feet.
In either mode, the missile launches with a “soft launch.” In a soft-launch, the missile ejects from the launcher before the motors ignite — making it harder for enemies to identify the launcher’s location.
Whether attacking from above, or from head-on, the Javelin delivers a high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead. The HEAT warhead is a shaped charge, which is a form of explosive that focuses the effect of the explosion’s energy. In the case of the HEAT warhead, the shape is designed to penetrate armor.
To achieve this effect, the HEAT warhead has an explosive charge that collapses a metal liner located within the warhead, creating a high-velocity superplastic jet. The superplastic jet is what penetrates the armor. Curiously, penetration is achieved through kinetic effect — meaning there is no explosive or incendiary sequence initiated upon impact.
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