The proposed Foreign Military Sale (FMS) has just been approved by the U.S. State Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which must notify Congress of FMS arms exports.
Lithuania had originally asked to buy 111 FGM-148F Javelins and 10 Javelin Command Launch Units (CLU) launchers, at a total cost of $28.3 million. Lithuania has upped the purchase to include 341 Javelin missiles, 30 CLU launchers, plus battery chargers, training, simulators, and support equipment. The estimated total cost of the new package is $125 million.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a NATO ally that is an important force for ensuring peace and stability in Europe,” according to the DSCA announcement. “The proposed sale will help Lithuania build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements. It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist Lithuania in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability. Lithuania will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.”
Javelin: What Exactly Is It?
Lithuania is already familiar with the Javelin, after a 2015 sale that included missiles mounted on M1025A2 HMMWV vehicles.
The Javelin is a man-portable anti-tank missile used by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, and more than 20 other nations, including Estonia and most recently Ukraine. Weighing 49 pounds with launcher and missile, and a range of 2 to 3 miles, it can be fired by dismounted personnel, from vehicles, or even from inside bunkers and buildings.
Equipped with an infrared seeker, the missile is a fire-and-forget weapon, where the operator can launch it and then move to another position while the missile autonomously homes in on the target.
Particularly important is that Javelin is a top-attack missile that climbs up to 500 feet before diving onto the vulnerable top armor of tanks. Its tandem warhead – a dual warhead – can penetrate missile defense systems on Russian tanks, such as the Kontakt-5 Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA), which detonates to destroy or deflect anti-tank missiles and shells.
Interestingly, there are reports – based on photos circulating on social media – that Russian tanks have been modified to defeat a top-attack missile like the Javelin. These include slatted armor to prematurely detonate the missile’s warhead, and possibly a jammer to disrupt infrared seekers.
But the technical capabilities of the Javelin are arguably less important than the fact that Lithuania is beefing up its anti-tank capabilities as Russian troops appear poised to invade Ukraine. In addition to the Javelin, Lithuania has also bought Swedish-made Carl Gustav rockets.
The tiny Baltic States know very well that they can’t defeat a full-scale Russian invasion. However, man-portable anti-tank – carried by light infantry operating on home terrain – might possibly repel a very small incursion, and could inflict substantial losses on a Russian invasion that would include large numbers of armored vehicles.
A seasoned defense and national security writer and expert, Michael Peck is a contributing writer for Forbes Magazine. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy Magazine, Defense News, The National Interest, and other publications. He can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.