Procurement: Nothing But A Few Of The Best


February 26, 2010: France is buying the Javelin anti-tank missile. The order includes 260 missiles and 76 fire control units (CLU, for Command Launch Unit). This weapon was first used during 2003 invasion of Iraq. It is a 9.8 kg (21.5 pound) "fire and forget" missile with a 2,500 meter range and the ability to knock out most armored vehicles (except for the most modern ones, and then only having problems when hitting their frontal armor.)

Several hundred Javelins were fired in 2003, and over a thousand to date. One advantage of the Javelin is its weight. The sight and firing unit (CLU) weighs 6.8 kg (15 pounds), while the missile, which comes in a sealed, 6.1 kg (13.5 pound) firing tube, weighs 9.8 kg (21.5 pounds). What the infantry really like is the simplicity (you get the target in the cross hairs, pull the trigger, and that's that) and reliability of the system.

The only down side is that each missile costs over $80,000. Simplicity and reliability come at a price. But throw a CLU and a few missile tubes (each is 42 inches long) into the back of a hummer, and you're ready to take out armored vehicles, a bunker or a building the bad guys won't come out of. The CLU also makes an excellent night vision device, and troops often use it that way with great success.

In France, the Javelin was competing with the similar Spike MR, which is cheaper, but heavier. The French wanted a replacement for their Milan 2 system, which is much older, and heavier, technology. The ease of use and proven battlefield performance of the Javelin proved crucial. French troops have seen the Javelin used in Afghanistan, and knew what they wanted. But in the long term, France may well develop a similar weapon to replace Milan 2. But for now, the troops need Javelin in Afghanistan, where it is an excellent weapon for taking down Taliban fighters at a long distance, and with great accuracy.





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