Armor: Good Enough To Slow The Russians Down


December 6, 2014: Seeking a relatively inexpensive and effective way to stop, or at least delay, any Russian invasion, Estonia has ordered $55 million worth of American Javelin anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) and launchers (CLU). This package includes training and technical assistance in addition to 120 launchers and 250 missiles. Estonia, and the other two Baltic States (Lithuania and Latvia) are recent NATO members and are stocking up on anti-armor weapons in light of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Estonia does not expect Javelin to stop a determined Russian invasion but to delay them long enough for NATO reinforcements to start arriving.

The Javelin, introduced in 2002, weighs 22.3 kg (49 pounds, with disposable launch tube and battery/seeker coolant unit) and is launched from a 6.4 kg (14 pound) CLU (command launch unit). The CLU contains a 4x day sight and a 9x heat sensing night sight. The missile has a tandem (two shaped charge explosives, to blast through reactive armor) warhead that can hit a target straight on, or from the top. This latter capability enables the Javelin to destroy any existing tank (including the U.S. M1) with its 8.2 kg (18 pound) warhead. Maximum range is 2,500 meters. Best of all, the seeker on the missile is "fire and forget." That is, once the operator gets the target in the CLU crosshairs and fires the missile, the computer and seeker in the missile warhead memorizes the target and homes in on it. The infantry love this, because it allows them to take cover once the missile is fired (and makes it pretty obvious where they are firing from).

Since ATGMs first saw action in the 1970s operators (who had to guide the missile to its target) quickly discovered that in the time it took (up to 15 seconds) for the missile to reach its target, enemy troops would often shower them with machine-gun fire. In response to that most recent ATGM designs seek to deal with that using features like "fire and forget."

Another Javelin feature is "soft launch", where the missile is popped out of the launch tube by a small explosive charge, small enough to allow the Javelin to be fired from inside a building. Once the missile is about eight meters out, the main rocket motor ignites. The minimum range is, however, 75 meters. It takes about 20 seconds to reload a CLU after a missile has been fired. Javelin users have been very impressed with the CLU and missile. Not just because of the ease of use and accuracy, but because the missile is combat proven and is known to be very effective against non-vehicle targets. The CLU also performs well as a night vision device, which is how many American troops use it in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Russians have also noted the success and capabilities of Javelin and respect the system.





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