Javelin is a portable anti-tank weapon, supplied by Raytheon/Lockheed Martin JAVELIN Joint Venture.

It is shoulder-fired and can also be installed on tracked, wheeled or amphibious vehicles. In 1989, the US Army awarded a contract for the development of Javelin as a replacement for the M47 Dragon anti-tank missile.

Its primary role is the protection of combat units and static locations against low level air attack. Javelin is an evolution of the Blowpipe system.

Javelin entered full-rate production in 1994 and the systems were first deployed in June 1996 by the US Army at Fort Benning, Georgia

Over 9,000 missiles have been produced. The Javelin system saw operational service with the US Army and Marine Corps and Australian Special Forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom in March/April 2003.

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 is for 18 launchers and 144 missiles.

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Javelin replaced the Milan system and entered service with British Army rapid reaction forces, including 16 Air Assault Brigade, three Commando Brigade and the army’s Mechanised Infantry, in 2005.

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.

The Javelin system consists of the Command Launch Unit (CLU) and the round. The CLU, with a carry weight of 6.4kg, incorporates a passive target acquisition and fire control unit with an integrated day sight and a thermal imaging sight.

The sight uses DRS Technologies second-generation thermal imaging technology, based on the Standard Advanced Dewar Assembly (SADA IIIA). 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 eight to twelve micron waveband.

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 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 Command Launch Unit 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 conventional wire guided, fibre-optic cable guided, or laser beam riding 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.

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And of course it can go wrong…