One of the two greatest equalizers in the current Ukraine conflict is the U.S.-made Javelin anti-tank missiles. The other would be the U.S.-made Stinger anti-aircraft missile. In this piece we will focus on the former, and Ukraine’s love for the devastating tank-busting weapon.
Being a devout Catholic country, many Ukrainians have dubbed Mary Magdalene, known as the “Apostle of the apostles,” and a symbol of redemption, as St. Javelin.
In a viral meme, Mary Magdalene can be seen cradling the non-religious FGM-148 Javelin portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile. And though they may not actually be praying to her, she is becoming quite the symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
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As Euronet reports:
Having started as a meme, St Javelin of Ukraine, as she is now known, is becoming an increasingly familiar sight on social media and elsewhere.
In her most recent iteration, the halo encircling her head is not the radiant gold you would expect from centuries of religious iconography but rather the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. Her flowing robes are green, reminiscent of khaki army fatigues.
And ‘St Javelin’ is certainly watching over Ukrainians, especially those facing powerful Russian tanks. RealClear Science notes that: “Ukraine’s Defense Ministry estimates that 102 tanks and 536 armored vehicles had been destroyed as of February 26th. The Javelin likely factored heavily into that rousing combat success.”
They have even proven successful against the more modern Russian tanks with various anti-tank countermeasures such as explosive reactive armor.
And why is that? RealClear Science explains that the Javelin overcomes this defense by having two warheads, one to deal with the reactive armor, and the second to impact the tank’s primary armor. It describes the Javelin system further:
“This weapon allows a single soldier to target and destroy even the most heavily armored main battle tank with an almost guaranteed kill rate, at great range and with minimal risk,” Army Capt. Vincent Delany wrote of the Javelin for West Point’s Modern War Institute.
So how does this ‘holy’ piece of military machinery work? Laypersons might be envisioning a bazooka-like operation, but anti-tank weapons have evolved considerably since that quintessential rocket launcher was deployed in World War II. With the Javelin, a soldier using the portable, reusable Command Launch Unit (CLU) looks through an infrared sight to locate a target up to an incredible 2.5 miles away. When the user spots a target, he operates a cursor to set a square around it, almost like cropping an image. This is then sent to the onboard guidance computer on the missile itself, which has a sophisticated algorithmic tracking system coupled with an infrared imaging device. When the missile locks on to the target, the operator can launch the self-guided weapon and quickly relocate or reload to fire another missile at a different target.
RealClear Science adds that the Javelin has two big innovations. One is that it offers a “soft launch” where the first motor creates just enough thrust to launch the missile out of the tube but is completely burned before the nozzle exits the tube, leaving no exhaust to hit the operator. The second flight motor then ignites a safe distance away to propel the missile to its target.
A second innovation of the Javelin, notes Real Clear Science, is that it strikes from above:
The missile rises high into the air, up to 490 feet, then blasts down on its target from a steep angle, striking the top of an armored vehicle or tank, where the armor is typically weakest.
“The Javelin can defeat Arena [the Russian anti-missile radar] while in top-attack mode, due to the missile descending from too steep an angle for the system to engage properly.”
Ukraine had approximately 77 Javelin launchers and 740 missiles before Putin invaded, but many more are now on the way from the US and NATO allies. Many are praying that St Javelin will continue to ensure the Ukrainians will have continued success with its missiles against the Russian bear. ADN