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Javelin is a portable anti-tank weapon manufactured by the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin joint venture (JV). It is shoulder-fired but can also be deployed from multiple platforms installed on tracked, wheeled or amphibious vehicles.
Raytheon is responsible for the Javelin command launch unit (CLU), missile guidance electronic unit, system software and system engineering management, while Lockheed Martin is responsible for the missile seeker, engineering and assembly.
Javelin has been deployed extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq for combat missions. The US and coalition forces have successfully conducted more than 5,000 engagements with the weapon system in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Javelin anti-tank missile system is widely being used by the Ukrainian Army against the Russian tanks and armoured vehicles during the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis.
More than 50,000 Javelin missiles and 12,000 CLUs are currently in service with the US armed forces and 19 allied nations. Javelin is expected to be operational with the US until 2050.
The JV completed the first production of Javelin F-Model (FGM-148F) missile, which features a multi-purpose warhead, in May 2020. The JV along with Kongsberg and the US Army conducted a four-shot, multi-platform demonstration at the US Army Redstone Test Center in Alabama in May 2021.
Multiple ground platforms including Oshkosh’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), Qinetiq North America’s Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light (RCV-L), and Flyer Defense’s Ground Mobility Vehicle fired Javelin missile to the targets during the demonstration.
Javelin portable anti-tank missile development
In 1989, the US army awarded a contract for the development of Javelin as a replacement for the M47 Dragon anti-tank missile. The Javelin joint venture was formed by Texas Instruments (now Raytheon Missile Systems) of Dallas, Texas, and Lockheed Martin Electronics and Missiles (now Missiles and Fire Control), of Orlando, Florida, US.
The Javelin entered full-rate production in 1994 and the system was first deployed in June 1996 by the US Army at Fort Benning, Georgia.
The Javelin system saw operational service with the US army and Marine Corps, as well as the Australian Special Forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and is currently deployed in Afghanistan. The CLU is also being used in surveillance operations. The standalone mode usage of the CLU was proved to be effective in target detection and battlefield reconnaissance when it was deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 2,000 rounds have been fired by the US and coalition forces.
The missile achieved a higher range of 4,750m during a demonstration in February 2013. Five Javelins were successfully fired as part of the joint exercise, called Yudh Abhyas, between the Indian and US armies in June 2013. A Javelin missile was successfully test-fired from a turret at Cranfield Ordnance Test and Evaluation Centre (COTEC) in May 2014.
The Javelin JV demonstrated the launch of a missile from a wheeled vehicle’s remote weapon station in July 2014.
The Javelin missile was fired from a Titan unmanned ground vehicle using Kongsberg remote launcher in September 2019.
Javelin for light forces anti-tank guided weapon system (LFATGWS)
In January 2003, the UK Ministry of Defence announced that it had decided to procure Javelin for the light forces anti-tank guided weapon system (LFATGWS) requirement. The initial order was for 18 launchers and 144 missiles. Javelin replaced the Milan system and entered service with the British army in July 2005.
Javelin equips the army’s rapid reaction forces, including 16 air assault brigades, three commando brigades and mechanised infantry. BAE Systems and a number of other UK companies are providing subsystems for the missiles. In October 2004, a further order was placed to equip the armoured infantry and formation reconnaissance forces from 2007, replacing the Swingfire ATGW.
The Javelin system consists of a reusable CLU and modular missile enclosed in a disposable launch tube assembly. It can be used during day and night in all-weather conditions. With a carry weight of 6.4kg, the CLU incorporates a passive target acquisition and fire control unit with integrated day sight and thermal imaging capabilities.
The sight uses DRS Technologies’ second-generation thermal imaging technology, based on the standard advanced Dewar assembly (SADA IIIA). The company also provides the quieter, dual-opposed piston coolers for the sight.
The gunner’s controls for the missile system are on the CLU. The day sight is equipped with x 4 magnification and the night sight with x 4 and x 9 magnification optics.
The round consists of the Javelin missile and the ATK (Alliant Techsystems) launch tube assembly. The range of the missile is 2,500m. Javelin is a fire-and-forget missile with lock-on before launch and automatic self-guidance.
The missile is equipped with an imaging infrared seeker, which is based on a cadmium mercury telluride (CdHgTe) 64 x 64 staring focal plane array in the 8-micron to 12-micron waveband. BAE Systems Avionics is providing the infrared seekers for the British army’s missiles.
The tandem warhead is fitted with two shaped charges: a precursor warhead to initiate explosive reactive armour and a main warhead to penetrate base armour. The propulsion system is a two-stage solid propellant design, which provides a minimum smoke soft launch.
The Block 1 missile upgrade includes an improved rocket motor that reduces time of flight, an enhanced warhead effective against a greater range of targets, 2,500m of improved probability of hit / kills and improvements to the command launch unit and software. In 2008, the improved Block 1 missile full material release was received and the US Army stockpiled the first production lots.
Other improvements include a digital display, software processing enhancement and remote view of the gunner display in an RS-170 standard video format. The Javelin missile also features fragmentation for anti-personnel effects and a multipurpose warhead (MPWH) with shaped charges for armoured vehicles.
Missile system operation
The system is deployed and ready to fire in less than 30s and the reload time is less than 20s. The missile is mounted on the CLU and the gunner engages the target using the sight on the CLU, by placing a curser box over the image of the target. The gunner locks on the automatic target tracker in the missile by sending a lock-on-before-launch command to the missile. When the system is locked-on, the missile is ready to fire, and the gunner does not carry out post launch tracking or missile guidance.
Unlike laser beam riding or conventional wire or fibre-optic cable guided missiles, Javelin is autonomously guided to the target after launch, leaving the gunner free to reposition or reload immediately after launch.
A soft launch ejects the missile from the launch tube to give a low-recoil shoulder launch. The soft launch enables firing from inside buildings or covered positions. Once the missile is clear, the larger propellant in the second stage is ignited and the missile is propelled towards the target. The weapon has two attack modes, direct or top attack.
The gunner selects direct attack mode to engage covered targets, bunkers, buildings and helicopters.
The top attack mode is selected against tanks, in which case the Javelin climbs above and strikes down on the target to penetrate the roof of the tank where there is the least armour protection.
The missile is launched at an 18° elevation angle to reach a peak altitude of 150m in top attack mode and 50m in direct fire mode.
Javelin anti-tank missile orders and deliveries
More than 50,000 missiles and 12,000 command launch units have been produced, to date. Javelin has been selected by Taiwan, Lithuania, Jordan, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Ireland.
In June 2004, the Czech Republic signed a letter of agreement (LOA) with the US Government to provide the Javelin system. In November 2004, the UAE requested the foreign military sale (FMS) of 100 Javelin launchers and 1,000 missile rounds.
In June 2006, Oman requested the FMS of 30 launchers and 250 missiles. In July 2006, Bahrain requested the FMS of 60 launchers and 180 missiles. Contracts for the supply of the missile system to the UAE and Oman were placed in July 2008. In October 2008, Taiwan requested the sale of an additional 182 missile and 20 launchers.
Canada has also been authorised to make such a purchase but has not pursued the option to date. India had also proposed purchasing Javelin system through the FMS route, but it preferred Spike missile over Javelin. France also ordered 260 missiles and 76 launchers for $69m.
Production of the Block 1 missile began in 2006. Successful qualification firings took place in January 2007.
In December 2008, the Javelin JV was awarded a contract to upgrade 404 Block 0 command launch units to Block 1 configuration.
In July 2009, the Javelin JV was awarded a five-year, $298.6m support contract for the Javelin anti-tank missile and command launch unit. Under the contract, the US army was provided with repair support, depot spares, training and data. The JV received another contract from the US army in October 2009 for the production of the Javelin close combat weapon system. The $214m contract included the Javelin missiles, CLUs, training and field support.
The Javelin JV received a $176m contract in December 2009 from the UK Ministry of Defence for more than 1,300 Javelin missile rounds and related engineering support. The delivery of the missiles began in 2010.
In August 2010, the US army awarded a $309m contract to the JV to produce Javelin missile-firing systems for infantry troops. The first Javelin missile was fired from the Common Remote Operations Weapon Station II (CROWS II) mounted on a Stryker IFV in December 2010.
Saudi Arabia requested a possible sale of 150 Javelin guided missiles and 20 Javelin CLUs in November 2010.
Qatar also requested the FMS of 500 Javelin guided missiles in March 2013, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
The Javelin JV was awarded a $176m contract in September 2013 to produce and deliver 842 Block 1 missile rounds and 120 CLUs for the US army and Marine Corps, in addition to the armed forces of Oman, Jordan and Indonesia.
Georgia requested to buy 410 Javelin missiles and 72 CLUs worth $75m in November 2017. Another request to purchase 82 Javelin FGM-148 missiles and 46 CLUs worth $30m was made by the country in August 2021.
In March 2018, Ukraine requested to buy 210 Javelin missiles and 37 CLUs worth $47m.
Javelin JV inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) for joint production of the anti-tank missile system in February 2020.
In the same month, the Estonian Ministry of Defence and Estonian Defence Forces took delivery of 128 anti-tank missiles from the US as part of a contract signed between the Estonian Center for Defense Investment and the US Department of Defense.
Poland requested to buy 180 Javelin missiles, 79 CLUs and related equipment for an estimated cost of $100m in March 2020. Thailand requested the FMS of 300 Javelin FGM-148 missiles and 50 Javelin CLUs in July 2021.
The US government approved the sale of 230 Javelin missiles and associated equipment worth $125m to Lithuania in December 2021.