Weapons and Kit

What is the Javelin anti-armour weapon?

The UK is to begin delivering the anti-tank Javelin weapon to Ukraine – but what is it and what can it do?

Developed and produced for the US Army and Marine Corps, the Javelin is an extremely powerful shoulder-fired anti-armour system.

Heavier than the NLAW (Next generation Light Anti-tank Weapon) at 24.3kg, the "fire and forget" Javelin system allows the user to lock onto a target, fire and then focus on a different target, with a range of 2.5km.

The Javelin is a complex and powerful weapon that has been supplied to Ukraine by the American military for several years –  including 300 that were delivered in January.

This week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the House of Commons the UK would also "shortly be starting the delivery of small consignments of anti-tank Javelin missiles" to Ukraine.

What the Javelin does and how

The anti-armour weapon automatically guides itself to the target after launch, using infrared technology, wherein the missile locks onto any heat signature present in the target.

This allows the gunner to take cover, avoid counterfire and allow for repositioning after firing, or to reload ready to engage with another threat.

Using an arched top-attack profile, Javelin climbs above its target for improved visibility and then strikes where the armour is weakest.

To fire, the gunner places a cursor over the selected target.

The Javelin command launch unit then sends a lock-on-before-launch signal to the missile.

Watch: Royal Dragoon Guards show off anti-tank weapons in Lithuania.

The weapon, with its soft launch design, can be deployed from multiple platforms, it can be safely fired from inside buildings or bunkers and used during the day or night in any kind of weather.

Even a glancing blow from a Javelin may be enough to incapacitate a tank, if not fully destroy it.

The NLAW and Javelin have already been used effectively against Russian armour, combating their invasion of Ukraine. 

An anti-tank squadron from the Royal Dragoon Guards recently showed off the weapons on an exercise with the Lithuanian Army that was planned before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.