In video after video taken in Ukraine, a puff of smoke and a brief flash of light signal that another clutch of Russian troops are about to die.
Sometimes it is only a split second before that light streaks to a tank or armored vehicle that suddenly erupts in smoke and flame, often bursting from within as ammunition inside explodes.
Rewinding these videos a bit often shows Ukrainian soldiers before the attack, patrolling to an ambush point with large green tubes carried on their backs — each one a gift from Britain. In perhaps 15 seconds, and sometimes even faster than that, the soldiers can unsling the weapon, unfold its aiming sight, release a safety catch and wait for their prey to appear.
The green tubes are called NLAWs, for Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons. They are the result of decades of weapons research dedicated to building small lightweight guided missiles that may have evened the balance of power in combat between the fearsome tank and the soldier.
Compared to the American-made Javelin antitank weapon, which has been hailed by officials at the Pentagon and the White House and sent to Ukraine by the thousands, the NLAW weighs about half as much, costs far less, can be easily discarded, and is optimized for use in the relatively short-range fights Ukrainian soldiers are getting into with the invading Russian forces. [Continue reading…]