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Old 07-23-2003, 04:44 AM
thedrifter thedrifter is offline
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Cool Javelin didn't earn its stripes, Marines claim

Javelin didn't earn its stripes, Marines claim

Qualms on missile aren't widespread

By David Hasemyer

July 22, 2003

Marine gunners from Camp Pendleton who fought in Iraq say that missiles from the $1 billion anti-tank Javelin system often missed their targets, leaving those on the front-lines jittery.

"It will either go to the target or it'll be erratic and scare the living bejesus out of you because you don't know where it's going to go," said Capt. Michael McCready, a weapons company commander with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which returned from Iraq two weeks ago.

Because of the weapon's seemingly wayward ways in the early days of combat, the Pendleton Marines instead relied on the decades-old TOW, the wire-guided missile system that is less expensive and, they say, deadly accurate.

The Javelin, which went into service in 1999, was relegated to a back-up role.

The missile ? developed for the Army and used by the Marine Corps and Australian Army ? had been touted for its mobility and sophisticated targeting system. The shoulder-fired launcher and missile weighs about 50 pounds and has a range of 3,281 yards, or about 1.8 miles.

It's known as a "fire and forget" weapon because once the missile is launched, an internal guidance system takes over.

Although some Marines have criticized the weapon's performance, it was praised during testing and by an Army unit that used it in Iraq. Also, the Marine Corps says the recent criticism doesn't represent the experiences of all Marine units.

Also, the military says it cannot comment on the Javelin's effectiveness because not enough information has been gathered from the battlefield.

In a report prepared by the Army's Third Infantry Division, however, an initial assessment was positive. "The Javelin missile was an invaluable weapon in defeating enemy armored forces and reinforced positions," the report read.

Some Pendleton Marines say the Javelin's main problem is its internal guidance system, which draws a bead on heat sources after it is fired. Often the Javelin couldn't keep a fix on its target, causing the missile to hit the ground or overshoot the target, the Marines said.

"They just couldn't lock on effectively," said Cpl. Matthew Stoddard, a gunner.

These Marines say the problems could not have been predicted be cause the gunners had little live-fire practice before the war.

The missiles are too expensive ? about $68,500 each ? to fire in exercises, so the Marines depended on computer simulations.

"Computers are great to fill in the gaps, but there is no substitute for live-fire practice," said Staff Sgt. Eric Young, who was in charge of four crews of Javelin gunners and four crews who fired the TOW missiles.

Forty Marines in Young's unit were qualified as Javelin gunners, but only one had ever fired the missile and that was during a demonstration at Camp Pendleton in November.

Mixed news reports
Media accounts of units firing the Javelin during the war reported hits and misses.
In March, a CBS crew near Umm Qasr watched as Marines targeted a building from which Iraqi soldiers were firing. "The first shot went long. Then they tried again," according to an Internet transcript of the broadcast. "That last anti-tank rocket was a direct hit."

A March account in The New Zealand Herald also described a hit and miss by the missile in a battle at Umm Qasr.

"The first missile fell short," the Internet account said. "The second squarely hit its target."

A CNN team caught a frantic exchange during the Army's advance toward Baghdad April 5.

"The Javelin will not lock onto (the target). There is something wrong with the missile," that Internet transcript said.

The transcript shows that another Javelin was fired, though it is unclear whether the missile hit its target.

The Javelin was authorized by Congress in the mid-1990s. It is a joint project by Raytheon Systems, which produces the Command Launch Unit, and Lockheed Martin, which makes the missile.

Spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin of the Department of Defense said the military is assessing the performance of the Javelin in Iraq and is unaware of any problems. "I have not heard nor seen myself any criticisms made on the record by the Marines" she said.

Capt. Chad D. Walton, public affairs officer for the Marine Corps Systems Command, said there have been no other reports of problems with the Javelin from other Marine units.

"My command, and I'm sure the Army as well, are concerned that the purported statement of one person or a small group receive an undue amount of attention when compared with the performance of the Javelin with the Marine Corps at large," he said.

A spokesman for the Army's Close Combat Missile Systems Project Office at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., said it is unknown how many Javelin missiles were fired by the Army in Iraq and that a review of the weapon's performance in combat is pending.

"Right now, we are still collecting information from the field and from those units that used the system," said Dan O'Boyle, a public affairs officer for the Army.

A spokeswoman for Raytheon Systems, the primary contractor, said the company has heard nothing but praise for the missile's performance in Iraq. "I'm shocked to hear someone from Camp Pendleton say otherwise," said Jennifer Allen.

She said company reports show that Army gunners hit their targets in 31 of 32 shots in practice before being deployed to Iraq. The overall performance reliability in tests for the Javelin since 1996 is 94 percent, Allen said.

Old and new systems
U.S. forces carried the Javelin into action in Afghanistan, though the military says it is unclear whether any missiles were fired.
However, its Command Launch Unit was successfully used for surveillance. The launch unit identifies targets using infrared sensors that can provide greater range than night-vision goggles or conventional telescopic scopes.

In Iraq, anti-armor teams from Camp Pendleton carried both the Javelin and the TOW.

The TOW ? Tube Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-Guided Missile System ? is a much heavier and less mobile system that could expose its shooters to enemy fire.

With the TOW, introduced in the early 1970s, the gunner takes aim with a thermal or telescopic sight, placing the target in the cross hairs and using a red trigger to fire the missile.

The TOW's $16,000, 60-pound missile blasts from the launcher with a fishing-line thin wire spooling out from behind that connects it to the launcher. That wire gives the gunner the ability to direct the warhead to its target from the vehicle-mounted launcher.

The missile does not have an internal guidance system like the Javelin but has a range of 4,046 yards, or 2.3 miles.

Sgt. Young said his unit found an abandoned Iraqi fuel truck and decided to take a practice shot with the Javelin.

The missile missed. "It wasn't what we wanted to see happen," Young said.

Apparently, there wasn't enough heat for the missile's guidance system to lock onto, prompting Young to wonder what might have happened if the abandoned fuel truck had been an Iraqi tank that had been setting ? cold ? in a defensive position.

"How can you have confidence in the weapon if you can't even lock onto the target with it?" Young asked.

McCready, the company commander, said it "will hit close, within a couple of meters, but that's not close enough to kill a tank."

But McCready said he isn't ready to give up on the Javelin. Like any new weapons system, bugs need to be worked out, he said.

"The only way you can learn is by taking things into combat," he said. "We did that and learned there are some issues with the Javelin that need to be addressed."

That, too, is the view of Jack Spencer, a defense-industry analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a research group.

"Despite all of the developmental testing, the only way you can really figure out where the bugs are is to take a system into combat," he said.

"You have to determine whether the problems were pervasive or if they were just a number of isolated incidents, then understand what caused the problems and address those issues."

David Hasemyer: (619) 542-4583;

DAN TREVAN / Union-Tribune
Two Javelin launchers and other weapons were inventoried by Cpl. Jeff Duarte, Sgt. Marcelio Barajas and Sgt. Jason Mills (left to right) before returning stateside this month. Marine gunners from Camp Pendleton who fought in Iraq say that missiles from the $1 billion anti-tank Javelin system often missed their targets.


SSgt. Roger A.
One Proud Marine
Once A Marine............Always A Marine.............
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