On August 10, Russian state media published reports claiming that the U.S. defense contractor Raytheon had admitted its Javelin anti-tank missiles were ineffective in the Ukraine war. Stories appeared in Vzglyad, UF.ru, AIF, Tsargrad, Evening Moscow, Business Gazeta, and others trended on Yandex.ru.
The reports came as the United States announced a new round of military aid for Ukraine, worth $1 billion, that includes 1,000 Javelins and other high-tech weaponry and ammunition.
Russian disinformation has been trash talking the Western weapons flowing into Ukraine. What’s different this time is the claim that the U.S. manufacturer of Javelins, Raytheon Missiles & Defense, admitted that its weapons didn’t work.
These latest reports originated from an RT (Russia Today) “investigation,” headlined: “The fall of ‘Saint Javelin’: Why the Javelin has proven ineffective in Ukraine.”
RT claimed to have obtained internal Raytheon documents, and embedded in the piece three infographics, one marked with the “Raytheon Missile Systems” logo, that compare the technical characteristics of similar weapons systems, and argue they prove that Javelins are inferior.
Those claims are false. The infographics are not from Raytheon, and Ukraine has used Javelins to destroy Russia’s best tanks.
“Those documents were not created by our company, and the efficacy of the Javelin speaks for itself,” Mike Nachshen, senior director of international communications at Raytheon, told Polygraph.info when asked about the RT report.
Javelins are “probably the most sophisticated and most powerful” anti-tank weapon, Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Stars and Stripes military news outlet in March.
Stars and Stripes described the Javelin’s advantages, including its ability to lock “onto a target’s thermal picture,” light weight, the reduced debris and smoke from its launch and the increased safety for its operators. Javelin operators do not need to track the target, allowing them to change position and reload.
“While the Javelin can target any kind of vehicle that emits heat, it is most potent against tanks since it can strike from the top.” Stars and Stripes wrote. “This is why it’s called a Javelin, like the spear thrown in track and field events that falls to the earth at a steep angle.”
The Javelin’s effectiveness in Ukraine prompted the British military to purchase 513 of them from Raytheon, in a deal worth $300 million, The National Interest reported on August 9.
The reference to “Saint Javelin” in RT’s headline reflects the U.S. missiles' wide popularity in Ukraine. A cartoon of Mary Magdalene holding a Javelin missile has become an iconic symbol of Ukraine’s “seemingly miraculous resistance against overwhelming Russian forces,” wrote Matthew Parent, from the Belfer Center at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, in March.
Ukrainians have painted murals and written songs about Saint Javelin.
“Ukrainians are cleverly using Javelin missiles to destroy Russian armor,” The National Interest defense editor Kris Osborn wrote in February. “[T]he U.S. Department of Defense has been clear that sending Javelins may prove to be a crucial factor in stopping Russian attacks and giving new life to Ukrainian fighters.”
The latest aid package brings total U.S. military support for Ukraine to $9.8 billion since Russia launched its full-scale invasion February.
Polygraph.info has debunked other false Russian claims that the U.S. has been supplying Ukraine with “junk.”