The NLAW missile (sometimes called the MBT LAW) is a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon, like a bazooka.
Despite its chunky size, it is designed to be lightweight and usable by a single soldier in the field.
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Meanwhle Swedish firm Saab designed the technology behind it.
Pro-Ukrainian military news site www.mil.in.ua carries pictures purporting to show NLAWs being unloaded during mid-January in Ukraine, and says: “Production of NLAW is carried out at Thales Air Defence in Belfast with the cooperation of other British companies.”
Thales’ east Belfast missile factory has definitely been building them in recent years – although no-one from Thales, the MoD, or Unite the Union was able to say whether production of the weapon still goes on at the city’s plant right up to the present day.
Saab Dynamics executive Görgen Johansson had said in 2017 that the firm had been considering alternative sites for making the weapon.
The British Army uses the weapon, which is said to be about 12.5kg (28lb) carries a 1.8kg (4lb) explosive charge and is accurate to a least 600 metres (about 2,000ft).
It is designed so it can explode in the air directly above a tank, where the armour is often thinnest, instead of slamming into the thickly-plated body of the vehicle.
On January 17, defence minister Ben Wallace had told the Commons: “[T]he UK will provide both training and defensive capabilities to Ukraine to help it best defend itself.
“Within that same principle, I can today confirm to the House that, in light of the increasingly threatening behaviour from Russia and in addition to our current support, the UK is providing a new security assistance package to increase Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.
“We have taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light, anti-armour defensive weapons systems.
“A small number of UK personnel will provide early-stage training for a short period of time within the framework of Operation Orbital before returning to the United Kingdom.”
The Daily Mail online reported that 2,000 of these anti-tank missiles had been sent to Ukrainian forces by mid-January, with more possibly on the way.
In addition, Forbes has reported that about 30 UK paratroopers had been dispatched to train fighters to use them.
Nick Craven, a reporter on the ground working for the Daily Mail, has reported that Ukrainian Lt Col Ihor Bezogluk told him: “God save the Queen! Thank you to Great Britain for giving us the NLAWs...
“These missiles have changed the war for us. It means we can fight the Russians and it doesn’t matter how many of them there are now that we have a way of stopping their armour.
“The Russians cannot scare us with numbers anymore.”
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