WASHINGTON ― Raytheon and Lockheed Martin’s joint venture for the Javelin has completed production of its first F-Model of the shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon, meant to be more lethal against advanced armor and soft targets, the companies announced Wednesday.
Though there’s no contract for international customers yet, Poland could be in line to be the first. The European country recently completed negotiations with the U.S. to buy 180 Javelin missiles and 60 launchers for its paramilitary Territorial Defence Forces, launched in 2016 amid tensions with Russia.
“I believe that the Poland case actually hasn’t been determined which way it’s going to go yet, so they could make the F-Model available to them, or they could take the E-Models out of stock,” said Javelin Joint Venture Vice President Dave Pantano. “That would be up to the government-to-government process to make that determination.”
The weapon’s final assembly takes place in Troy, Alabama, with 511 in the first lot and deliveries to U.S. government set for this fall.
The new model, also known as FGM-148F, has an advanced multipurpose warhead that combines charges to defeat explosive-reactive armor, and it has a fragmenting steel case for striking unarmored and lightly armored targets, according to the team. Its new command launch unit boasts a reduction in weight and an improved target tracker.
“The warhead now combines multiple effects into one,” Pantano said. “It multiplies fragmentation, as well as the standard high-explosive anti-tank [charge]. So now the war fighters are prepared for any mission, without having to switch out different rounds for different targets.”
Taiwan drew an immediate protest from China last year when the former asked to purchase more than 100 tanks from the U.S., along with air defense and Javelin systems. (Several kinds of Chinese-made tanks have been reportedly seen with explosive-reactive armor.)
European allies with an eye on Russian armored vehicles are likely to be interested in the F-Model, according to James Hasik, a defense industry analyst and senior research fellow at George Mason University.
“This is definitely about Russian armor. The Javelin is, by all accounts I’ve heard, a great weapon, but recent developments in active protection systems may lend some concern for its continued ability to reliably destroy tanks. I’d encourage any defense ministry in Europe, but especially those along the eastern frontier, to buy a lot of those or a similar weapon," Hasik told Defense News.
“I should also note that the dual-purpose warhead is a welcome feature. The infantry ideally should have a single weapon for engaging multiple types of target. That’s less essential with other arms, which may have a few more seconds to think about how to react, and more carrying capacity for multiple types of weapons.”
Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak announced in a tweet last month that talks to buy Javelins were complete and that Warsaw was working to get more light anti-tank missiles. “This is not the end of strengthening these abilities,” he said.
Days earlier, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that Poland was cleared to buy the Javelin missiles and 79 command launch units for $100 million. The sale will help Poland “build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” DSCA said.
Domestically, the Pentagon last year awarded the joint venture a production contract for 2,100 F-Model missiles after passing qualification tests. The full-rate production agreement for the FGM-148F replaced the FMG-148E (Block 1).
The president’s fiscal 2021 budget request in February asked Congress for $210 million, or 773 Javelin missiles for the Army and 98 for the Marine Corps; that’s up from the $163 million Congress enacted in FY20.
In October, the U.S. Army delayed plans to integrate the Javelin atop the Stryker combat vehicle over problems were discovered in connecting the weapon to the vehicle’s remote weapons station. The Army also plans to mount a 30mm cannon on the vehicle.
Officials with the joint venture expect to restart the Stryker efforts this summer or early fall.
Also last year, an Estonian robot at Redstone Arsenal Test Center in Alabama test-fired the missile using a Kongsberg remote launcher on an unmanned ground vehicle. The Titan unmanned ground vehicle was built by Qinetiq North America and the Estonian company Milrem Robotics.
Joe Gould is the Congress and industry reporter at Defense News, covering defense budget and policy matters on Capitol Hill as well as industry news.