The latest news craze is about the possible delivery of US anti-tank weapons (the FMG-148 Javelin is often mentioned) to the Nazi junta in Kiev. These stories typically include a discussion of “defensive” vs “offensive” and “lethal” vs “non-lethal” weapons and always display a child-like belief in the existence of some magic technology which would perform miracles on the battlefield. None of that has anything to do with the real world and this is why the folks who write this kind of nonsense like to hide their ignorance by peppering their articles with nonsensical figures such as range, armor penetration, guidance system types or expressions like “fire and forget”. The truth is that all these self-appointed experts all quote each other and all parrot the official propaganda line which tries to suggest that the delivery of weapons to the Ukraine could be a game changer. The latter is actually true, but not in military terms. So let’s try to make sense of all this nonsense.
First, forget goofy concepts like “defensive” vs “offensive” and “lethal” vs “non-lethal” weapons. All weapons are lethal and they are all offensive, at least potentially. Even the putatively “defensive” ones actually can be used to “defend” offensive weapons/units/forces and are therefore play a very important role in the offense. Even a combat fatigue or a flask of water is offensive when used in the offense because it makes the offensive possible in the first place.
Second, modern warfare is simply too complex to make it possible for one weapons system to radically change the face of the battlefield. When Hezbollah used the Russian-made RPG-29, the AT-14 Kornet and the Metis-M and successfully destroyed the most advanced Israeli tank, the Merkava-4, that did not by itself determine the outcome of the war. Yes, the Israelis were shocked by the defeat of their best tank, but no more than by the Hezbollah missile strike on INS Spear, a Saar-5 Class destroyer or, for that matter, by the well-prepared fortification system Hezbollah had built over the years right across the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Frankly, this western obsession with military high-tech (along with an equally infantile belief that more expensive weapons are for some reason better than cheaper ones) is a reflection of a culture which has long stopped relying on courage, patriotism and even good tactics to win wars. All this Hollywood like nonsense came tumbling down in 2006 when second-rate Hezbollah forces (the best one were kept in reserve north of the Litani river) defeated the best of the best of the putatively “invincible” Israeli forces, including the famous “Golani Brigade”. And Hezbollah won precisely because Hezbollah fighters displayed the moral and intellectual qualities which are so clearly lacking nowadays in western military forces. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah very clearly explained that during his “Divine Victory” speech when he said:
How could this group of mujahidin defeat this army without the support and assistance of almighty God? This resistance experience, which should be conveyed to the world, depends – on the moral and spiritual level – on faith, certainty, reliance [on God], and readiness to make sacrifices. It also depends on reason, planning, organization, armament, and, as is said, on taking all possible protective procedures.
Needless to say, western military ‘experts’ chose to ignore his words and instead made a truly valiant effort to simply forget it all. Fair enough – what could they have to say about morals or spirituality anyway? As for the regime in Washington, it simply declared that the Israelis won, end of discussion.
This amazing ability to believe your own propaganda is also what is misleading US decision makers to pretend like the delivery of “defensive” anti-tank missiles to the Junta in Kiev will meaningfully alter the balance of power between, on one hand, the Ukrainian army and assorted death squads and, on the other, the Novorussians. It won’t. If only because the US has *already* delivered anti-tank weapons to the Ukrainians (via Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and others). We know that thanks to a recent report by SouthFront which obtained exclusive photos of the contract between the Ukrainian state-run company Spetstechnoexport and the American company AirTronic USA on the delivery of lethal weapons to Ukraine (see here). And this is just one example, there are probably many more.
True believers in the US propaganda will reply that the “advanced” Javelins are much more capable than anything seen in the Ukraine so far and that their delivery would really make a difference. Let’s look into this claim a little closer.
It is true that the Javelin is a rather complex and high-tech system. Unlike most other anti-tank weapons, the Javelin, once fired, does not need to be controlled as it guides itself against its target, which makes it possible for the firing crew to seek cover and not to have to worry about hitting the target (hence the “fire and forget” characterization). The Javelin can also hit the enemy tank from the top, where the tank’s armor is typically much thinner than in the front or sides sectors. Do these characteristics make the Javelin some kind of super-weapon? Not at all.
For one thing, one should take all the claims about the tactical-technical characteristics of the Javelin with a solid pound of salt. It is one thing to have this system operated by professional experts in perfect conditions and at zero risk, and quite another to try to use it against actual Russian tanks protected by infantry, snipers, artillery and their own missile systems. Add to this very complex terrain and often extreme weather conditions (mud, fog, rain, heat, snow, winds, vegetation, villages, cities, etc.) and the quasi-miraculous capabilities of any fancy weapon system suddenly begin to rapidly decline. Besides, the Javelin naturally has all the disadvantages inherent to most infrared targeting and guidance systems such as the dependence upon a slow and short-lived cooling system, the fact that the missile cannot be controlled in flight and that its guidance system is susceptible to deception by means of various heat sources.