Country of origin United States Entered service 1996 Armor penetration 800 mm Range 2 500 m Missile length 1.1 m Launch tube length 1.2 m Missile diameter 0.13 m Launch tube diameter 0.14 m Carry weight 22.3 kg CLU weight ~ 6.4 kg Warhead weight 8.4 kg Warhead Tandem HEAT Guidance system Infrared imaging

       The FGM-148 Javelin is a US-made man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile. It was fielded to replace the M47 Dragon .

       In the mid 1970s the US Army adopted the M47 Dragon anti-tank guided missile. It was a shoulder-fired weapon with a wire guidance. This anti-tank missile had a reliable design and very good performance. However by the late 1980s the M47 became out-dated. Its effective range was limited to 1 000 m. Also penetration power of the M47 was insufficient to defeat latest main battle tanks with heavy armor. So the US Army awarded a contract to develop a new anti-tank guided missile to replace the M47 Dragon.

       The Javelin was jointly designed by Texas Instruments (now Raytheon missiles systems) and Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin). In 1991 the first test flight of the Javelin succeeded. In 1994 first firing test was successful and missile hit the target at a range of 2 000 m. In 1995 mass production of the FGM-148 Javelin began and in 1996 it was delivered to the US Army and US Marine Corps. The Javelin has been exported to about 20 countries including Australia, France and United Kingdom. It was widely used during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq it destroyed several T-55 , Type 69 and Asad Babil ( T-72 ) tanks and military trucks. In Afghanistan it was successfully used against Taliban bunkers and fortifications. Recently United States supplied a large number of these anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, these were widely used against the Russian armor.

       Currently the FGM-148 Javelin is one of the most advanced man-portable anti-tank guide missile system in the world. It can destroyed any current main battle tank. It can also target low flying helicopters. Only some existing anti-tank missiles, such as Israeli Spike can compare with the Javelin. A close copy of the Javelin, called the HJ-12 , recently emerged in China. This Chinese missile has similar specifications and capabilities as the Javelin.

       The Javelin is a man-portable fire-and-forget type weapon. It is shoulder-fired but can also be installed on the tripod or tracked and wheeled armor vehicles. Currently the M3 Bradley cavalry fighting vehicle can use Javelin missiles instead the TOW missiles.

       The Javelin missile system is operated by a crew of two. It consists of two parts, including the Command Launch Unit (CLU) and launcher tube with missile. The CLU is reusable, while launcher tube is disposable. The operator must attach a tube with missile to the CLU before each shot. After each shot the operator detaches empty tube and attached another one with missile for the next shot. The CLU has multiple channels with thermal imager for surveillance, scouting and target prioritization. It can operate at night and in all weather conditions. The gunner can choose the best channel depending on environmental conditions. When the gunner determines the target, coordinates are sent to the missiles seeker.

       The missile locks on the target before launch. During flight it guides automatically. During that time the operator can detach an empty tube and from the CLU and attach another tube with missile. It takes about 15 seconds. Alternatively the crew can leave a firing position.

       There are two modes of attack: top attack and direct attack. The top-attack flight mode is used to engage tanks and other armored vehicles. After the launch the missile climbs upward and then dives towards the target. This method is very suitable to destroy main battle tanks, because most of them have only a minimum level of armor protection in the upper part of the turret. In direct attack mode the missile flies directly to the target. This mode is used to engage buildings, bunkers, weapon crews and concentrations of enemy troops. In the direct attack mode the Javelin can also engage low-flying helicopters.

       The missile is equipped with imaging infrared seeker. The missile has an 8.4 kg tandem shaped charge warhead. A precursor warhead detonates any explosive reactive armor and the primary warhead penetrates the base armor. The Javelin is capable of destroying any existing main battle tank in the world.

       The Javelin missile has a soft launch capability. In the first stage of the launch the missile is thrown forward about 20 meters via a small compressed gas cylinder which is located at the back of the missile. When the missile thrown away from the operator, the main engine turns on. This feature make it a very suitable for use in urban environment and closed areas, such as buildings, without any risk for the gunner.

       Maximum firing range of the Javelin is 2 500 m. Recently the manufacturer developed a version of the Javelin with a range of 4 750 m.

       The Javelin proved to be an extremely effective weapon. In 2022 Ukrainians used hundreds of these missiles against Russian armored targets. At some point Pentagon reported that out of 112 Ukrainian Javelin missiles launched, 100 missiles reached their targets. That's 89% hit probability. This missile proved to be extremely effective against even the most heavily armored Russian main battle tanks, such as the T-80BVM , T-90 and T-72B3 . Basically the Javelin proved to be a one shot, one kill type of weapon against hostile armor. Even though this weapon is already in service with the US forces for well over 2 decades.


       FGM-148A, initial version of the Javelin.

       FGM-148B, improved version of the Javelin.

       FGM-148C, further improved version of the Javelin.

       FGM-148D, export version of the Javelin.

       FGM-148F, fitted with multi-purpose warhead. It is much more effective against enemy personnel, weapon crews, buildings and lightly armored or unarmored vehicles. This missile is still lethal against tanks.

       HJ-12 is a Chinese copy of the Javelin. This Chinese missile has similar specifications and capabilities as the Javelin. Actually there are more similar Chinese advanced anti-tank guided missiles, similar to the Javelin that are being offered for export. These include GAM-100 and TS-01 anti-tank guided missiles.

       Article by ALI MOHAMMADI

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