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Javelin Turns VAB Into An Anti-Tank Weapon
by James Dunnigan
December 12, 2011

France has bought American Javelin missile systems for use in French VAB armored vehicles serving in Afghanistan. At least ten of the 13 ton, 4x4 VAB wheeled armored vehicles are being equipped with six Javelin missiles and two launchers each. A Javelin system consists of a launcher (or CLU, for Command Launch Unit) and several missiles. This weapon was first used during 2003 invasion of Iraq. It is a "fire and forget" missile with a 2,500 meter range and the ability to knock out most armored vehicles (except for the most modern ones, and then only having problems when hitting their frontal armor.)

Several hundred Javelins were fired in 2003, and several thousand to date. One advantage of the Javelin is its weight. The sight and firing unit (CLU) weighs 6.8 kg (15 pounds), while the missile, which comes in a sealed, 6.1 kg (13.5 pound) firing tube, weighs 9.8 kg (21.5 pounds). What the troops really like is the simplicity (you get the target in the cross hairs, pull the trigger, and that's that) and reliability of the system. French troops saw the Javelin in action in Afghanistan, and eventually, an order was placed.

The only down side is that each missile costs over $80,000. Simplicity and reliability come at a price. But throw a CLU and a few missile tubes (each is about a meter, or 42 inches, long) into the back of a vehicle, and you're ready to take out armored vehicles, a bunker or a building the bad guys won't come out of. The CLU also makes an excellent night vision device, and troops often use it that way with great success.

This was not the first upgrade for the VABs in Afghanistan. Three years ago, France ordered fifty Kongsberg PROTECTOR Remote Weapon Stations (RWS) for use on its VAB (which normally carries a 12.7mm machine-gun, and this weapon will be installed in the RWS). The RWS has proved to be a real life saver, not to mention anxiety reducer, for troops who drive through bandit country a lot, and man the turret gun. You're a target up there, and too often, the bad guys get you. Not with an RWS. The gunner is inside the vehicle, checking out the surroundings (with night vision and telephoto capabilities). The RWS also has a laser rangefinder built in, as well as a stabilizer mechanism to allow more accurate fire while the vehicle is moving. These systems cost about a quarter million dollars each, and can mount a variety of weapons (M2 12.7mm caliber machine-gun, MK19 40-mm automatic grenade launcher, M240B 7.62mm machine-gun and M249 5.56mm squad automatic weapon).

Since many troops have years of experience with video games, they take to the RWS quickly, and very effectively. The U.S. Army has already bought over 7,000 of the Kongsberg RWS. The French plan to eventually buy over 300.


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