Kyiv – Ukraine has received the first shipment of long-awaited FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles and launch units from the United States, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed last week.
In March, the U.S. State Department approved the first shipment of Javelin systems to Ukraine at an estimated initial cost of $47 million.
The deal includes 210 Javelin missiles, 37 command launch units, as well as training, and support.
In late 2017, the U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, authorizing for Ukraine $350 million in military aid, including – for the first time – access to lethal weaponry.
"I welcome the delivery of Javelin systems to Ukraine,” Poroshenko said on Facebook, confirming the arrival of the weapons. “I can only confirm that, yes, the long-awaited weapon was delivered to the Ukrainian army. It significantly strengthens the powerful deterrent effect of our combat capability and Euro-Atlantic security," the President added.
About 40,000 Javelin systems have now reportedly been manufactured and delivered, and Ukraine joins a very small list of non-NATO countries (alongside the likes of Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and Georgia) who have procured the weapon.
(British Royal Marine Commandos launched an American-made Javelin missile against a fortified Taliban position in Afghanistan's Helmand province, 2008. Today, $47 million worth of the heat-seeking, bunker-busting weapons are delivered to the Ukrainian military for deployment in Donbas. NATO military advisers will train Ukrainian soldiers in how to make each $100,000 missile hit its mark. Photo credit: Public domain).
Costly and Deadly Missile System
The Javelin anti-tank missile is a “fire and forget” portable anti-tank weapon that uses heat-seeking technology to hone in on targets from above, hitting the weakest point in a target's armor.
The weapon – that manufacturers say has a 94% effectiveness rate – was developed for destroying armored vehicles like tanks and personnel carriers, but has also proven useful in countering buildings, bunkers and helicopters.
In Afghanistan and Iraq, the weapon has proved popular with light infantry and special forces in neutralizing small fortifications. Military sources here in Ukraine say the weapon will be deployed in the Donbas region as soon as possible.
American soldiers require two weeks of training to familiarize themselves with the system before they can take it into combat. NATO military advisers are expected to train Ukrainian soldiers in its usage.
The weapons are an expensive acquisition for Ukraine's modernizing military. A single Javelin launch unit costs an estimated $170,000 and each missile is worth around $105,000.
Stepan Poltorak, Ukrainian Minister of Defense also welcomed the arrival of the weapon, saying it “will enable Ukraine to proceed from theoretical to practical preparation” and will allow his forces to “create a powerful anti-tank reserve” force.
Military and Technical Assistance
Earlier this year, U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, freeing the Pentagon to immediately allocate $200 million in military and technical assistance to Ukraine. These funds will be used to finance the acquisition of military equipment, training of soldiers and logistical support.
The assistance also includes intelligence support for Ukraine's security forces.
The new law has significantly expanded the parameters of the U.S. support for Ukraine in the field of security and defense.
These ties are expected to become even stronger, according to some analysts.
"Nobody should think that this transaction suffices or will terminate American defense ties to Ukraine,” wrote Dr. Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, in a recent op-ed for the Second Line of Defense publication.
“Quite the opposite is true,” he added. “This relationship is only beginning and in the interests of both parties needs to go even further."
U.S. Doubles Down on Cybersecurity Support
Meanwhile, American officials have continued to put their money where their mouth is by doubling their financial support for strengthening cybersecurity in Ukraine.
The country is increasingly seen as a front line against Russian-backed cyber sabotage and a testing ground for new hacking techniques.
“We've discussed the issue of cybersecurity and I can proudly announce that we will double the amount of assistance to strengthen this [in Ukraine] from $5 million to $10 million," announced Wess Mitchell, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
The U.S. Army's Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative is also working to increase the resilience of Ukrainian military networks by establishing a new, sophisticated cyber-operations center for Ukraine's Ministry of Defense.
The United States has been one of Kyiv’s most consistent supporters since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the subsequent war in the East of Ukraine, that has so far claimed more than 10,300 lives.
Posted May 6, 2018.
Jack Laurenson contributed to this story.