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Problem: Ukraine Needs Tech Support for Javelin Anti-Tank Missiles

Javelin Like in Ukraine
Javelin anti-tank missile being fired along with a mortar. Image credit: UK government.

What is the number for Javelin missile tech support? One of the great downsides of our “high-tech world” is that when things go wrong, and a solution can’t readily be found, users must pick up the phone and call the dreaded “tech support” to resolve the issue. According to a 2016 survey, Americans will spend upwards of 43 days of their life on hold waiting for tech support! This problem is made worse by the fact that in recent years, tech support has stopped being available 24/7, and calls must be made during “normal business hours.”

That is bad enough when the cable box isn’t working or the computer is locked in an endless reboot cycle, and rarely is life on the line. However, for some Ukrainian warfighters, the lack of tech support for their FGM-148 Javelin portable anti-tank missile systems is a deadly serious problem.

As first reported by The Washington Post this week, though the Pentagon had rushed to send more than 5,000 Javelins to Ukraine, many are inoperable. The weapons arrived, but the training modules, spare batteries, and other basics that the U.S. military relies on to use the Javelins failed to make it.

The paper of record quoted Mark Hayward, a U.S. Army veteran and volunteer trainer, who explained, “We’re sending equipment. But have we decided not to do tech support?”

Hayward said that Ukrainians have had to cannibalize electrical components from a video game controller after an expensive component was found to be defective. In another case, a Javelin was thought to be broken until it was in fact discovered that the user instructions were “gummed up” via Google Translate.

Lack of Tech Support

The Ukrainians couldn’t call tech support – and yes, in the 21st century defense contractors do offer such remote help for many systems. However, the missile launcher’s instruction cards that included the support hotline’s phone numbers were not included in the shipments. According to the Post, Hayward opened several units and found that the cards were missing.

It has been reported that the call center that provides tech support remains an important asset for U.S. troops, who may be unable to solve problems on their own in the field. However, it appears that the Biden administration hasn’t actually extended that level of tech support to Ukraine.

The United States Department of Defense (DoD) hasn’t addressed whether support-line cards were actually removed before the transfer of the weapons. For now, we can simply assume Ukraine wasn’t offered a “Gold Plan” with their Javelins!

Basic Training

The FGM-148 Javelin has been a highly effective weapon, one that has been credited with destroying scores of Russian tanks in Ukraine. However, it is also a complex system that is far more complicated to operate successfully than other shoulder-fired weapons. In fact, it is shipped to units with a 258-page user manual – in English of course. It also requires special batteries and an argon coolant to operate.

Early in May, U.S. lawmakers even expressed concerns that Ukrainian fighters weren’t getting the necessary training to operate the Javelin.

“Obviously the Javelins have the ability to significantly help Ukrainian forces,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) had told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing last month. “But what we’re hearing is that the new Ukrainian troops are not provided adequate training to operate these $200,000 weapons systems.”

The issue was so great that the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense requested that the United States also provide Javelin training kits. Ukrainian Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, confirmed the need for the Javelin training kits to The War Zone last month.

Each Javelin missile reportedly costs roughly $200,000, while the entire shoulder-fired system (one missile and a reusable targeting system) totals around $440,000, based on 2023 budget documents. It would be an extreme waste of U.S. taxpayer dollars if those weapons are supplied and Ukrainians can’t actually use them – especially if it was because of the lack of a training manual or a tech support number to call.

Of course, for a soldier on the ground in Ukraine, it may not just cost money – it could cost that fighter his life.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

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