Serbia offers POS 145 an alternative to US Javelin anti-tank guided missile

In the modern evolution of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), Yugoimport, a Serbian defense company, has introduced its alternative to the American FGM-148 Javelin, the POS 145. These two systems, designed to neutralize armored threats on the battlefield, may share the same overarching goal but diverge significantly in their design philosophies and operational characteristics. In this comprehensive comparison, we delve into the key differences and similarities between the POS 145 and the FGM-148 Javelin.
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The Serbian POS 145 ATGM, manufactured by Yugoimport, was displayed at the Partner 2023 exhibition (Picture source: Army Recognition)

The POS 145 distinguishes itself by its lightweight design, with the missile weighing in at 15 kg and the complete system, including the container, totaling 17 kg. Adding the Command Launch Unit (CLU) brings the weight to 22 kg. In contrast, the FGM-148 Javelin is notably heavier, with a weight of approximately 22.3 kg when accounting for its launch tube and CLU. The lighter weight of the POS 145 could potentially offer advantages in terms of portability and rapid deployment, a crucial factor in dynamic battlefield scenarios.

Both the POS 145 and the FGM-148 Javelin have a maximum effective range of 2.5 kilometers, providing them with the capability to engage targets at a significant distance. However, the POS 145 has a minimum engagement range of 0.4 kilometers, which is considerably greater than the Javelin's minimum range of 65 meters. This difference may make the FGM-148 Javelin more versatile in close-quarters combat situations, where engagement distances are minimal.

Both missiles employ tandem-shaped charges designed to penetrate modern tank armor effectively. The POS 145's warhead weighs 6.4 kg and is engineered to penetrate over 1,000 mm of Rolled Homogenous Armor with Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA). While specific penetration capabilities for the Javelin's warhead remain classified, it is known to have a heavier warhead, weighing 8.4 kg. This could potentially provide the Javelin with greater lethality, and US military training documents suggest that it can penetrate all known armor, including in excess of 762 mm of rolled homogenous steel.

The larger diameter of the POS 145 (145 mm compared with 114 mm for the Javelin) means that it can use a heavier warhead with greater destructive power. On this point, Yugoimport also beat another superpower, China. In fact, its HJ-12 ATGM is 'only' 135mm in diameter.

The POS 145 exhibits a rate of fire of one missile per minute, and it can be reloaded as it comes in two main parts, the missile tube and the launch control unit called the CLU. However, the missile and tube form a single unit, and once fired, the empty missile tube must be discarded, necessitating the carrying of additional missiles/tubes by the unit or squad. In contrast, the American FGM-148 Javelin is a disposable system, with the entire launch tube discarded after use, making it less suitable for sustained engagements.

The POS 145 utilizes a video/infrared homing head for its guidance system and offers terminal guidance, enabling the operator to adjust the missile's trajectory toward the target as needed. On the other hand, the FGM-148 Javelin employs infrared guidance and is a fire-and-forget system, meaning that once the missile is launched, no further guidance is required from the operator. Both systems share the advantage of allowing the operator to reposition after firing, enhancing survivability on the battlefield.

The POS 145 claims a hit probability exceeding 80% against static targets and over 70% against moving targets traveling at 25 km/h. While specific hit probabilities for the FGM-148 Javelin are not publicly disclosed, the system is generally considered highly accurate. The Pentagon once reported that out of 112 Ukrainian Javelin missiles launched, 100 successfully reached their targets, reflecting an impressive 89% hit probability.

One notable feature of the FGM-148 Javelin is its top-attack profile, wherein the missile climbs above the target and strikes it from above. This approach exploits the generally weaker armor on the top of tanks. In contrast, the POS 145 relies on a direct attack approach and does not offer the top-attack capability.

In conclusion, the POS 145 and the FGM-148 Javelin present distinct design philosophies and operational characteristics. The choice between these two anti-tank-guided missile systems ultimately depends on specific operational requirements and the trade-offs that commanders are willing to make in terms of weight, range, and guidance systems. Both systems, while different, offer effective solutions to neutralize armored threats on the modern battlefield.