The weapons that are turning the Russian hunters into prey - analysis

The Ukrainian military has upgraded its Soviet-era equipment in recent years with Western weapons that have so far been able to slow the Russian advance.

 Ukrainian service members unpack Javelin anti-tank missiles, delivered by plane as part of the U.S. military support package for Ukraine, at the Boryspil International Airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine February 10, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)
Ukrainian service members unpack Javelin anti-tank missiles, delivered by plane as part of the U.S. military support package for Ukraine, at the Boryspil International Airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine February 10, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)

As the war in Ukraine continues, thousands of anti-tank missiles are on their way to the war-torn country from NATO member states and other countries to repel invading Russian military hardware and forces.

A total of 18 countries will be sending military support to Kyiv following a plea by Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov to send the besieged nation anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.

“We need as much Stinger [anti-aircraft] and anti-tank weapons as possible,” said Reznikov, seated at a conference table with a Ukrainian flag behind him. “In order to provide for reliable procurement of equipment, you may deliver it to Poland. From there we will transport them across the land and quickly saturate our defense.”

On Saturday, countries around the world answered his call, including countries like Germany, which had a long-standing policy of not transferring weapons to conflict zones, or Switzerland, which has had a long-standing policy of neutrality.

The countries pledged thousands of dollars of support and vowed that the weapons, including thousands of anti-tank missiles, would reach Ukraine within days, heading over the border by land – since Ukraine’s airspace has been closed – before being dispersed to troops on the frontlines.

 A woman and a child wait in a bus after fleeing from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the border crossing in Siret, Romania, March 1, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/STOYAN NENOV) A woman and a child wait in a bus after fleeing from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the border crossing in Siret, Romania, March 1, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/STOYAN NENOV)

Ukraine’s military has been largely reliant on Soviet-era equipment, but has upgraded its military in recent years with Western weapons that have so far been able to slow the Russian advance.

Since Russia’s invasion last week, Ukrainian troops have destroyed dozens of columns of Russian vehicles with anti-armor Javelin missiles and simpler Next Generation Light anti-tank weapons (NLAW).

The Javelin and NLAW anti-tank weapons have become critical in a war that has seen fighting in both urban and rural areas. While they are not cheap (each single-shot NLAW unit is over $40,000), the mobile operators of the shoulder-launched missiles are able to fire and forget as they select their next target.

Weighing just 12.5 kg., the NLAW portable, shoulder-launched system has an effective range of 20-800 m., and can hit targets within seconds. It can be used in almost any position, from high up in rooms of a residential building, from behind a tree, or even from inside a ditch. The system is effective both during the day or at night, and its armor-piercing warhead can destroy a range of targets from tanks to trucks, cars and helicopters.

The Javelin is a lightweight, man-portable, shoulder-fired missile system that has been combat-proven to destroy armored threats. The fire-and-forget medium anti-tank system, with a range of between 65m and 4,000m, can be used as an urban assault weapon. The Javelin can destroy a wide range of targets in two different attack modes: a top attack, where the system strikes the weakest point of the target, or a direct attack for soft targets.

The system is also quite simple, with operators needing only 72 hours of training, making it a clear choice for the Ukrainians who do not have the luxury of time to learn new weapons systems.

Even prior to the Russian invasion, the UK had already delivered 2,000 NLAWs to the embattled county. Thousands of Javelins had also been delivered to Kyiv by the United States. The thousands of others on their way will boost and replenish stockpiles of weapons able to destroy Russian armor.

Though systems like the Bazooka Panzerfaust are also on their way to Ukraine, these shoulder-fired missiles have become so central in the war that a meme of “St. Javelin of Ukraine, Mary Magdalene holding a Javelin with the flag of Ukraine as her halo” has become an increasingly familiar sight on social media.

In another example of how the NLAW is seen as an invaluable tool in the war, one Ukrainian soldier told The Daily Telegraph: “How do you say in English, ‘God Save the Queen?’”

With the Russian military relying heavily on their armored platforms to conquer Ukraine, these anti-tank missiles have become key to stopping Russian President Vladimir Putin.

These are the systems that will turn the hunters into the hunted.