UK replenishment of Javelin anti-tank missiles will take years

The UK has spent significant quantities in recent months securing production of critical munitions to replenish stock granted to Ukraine, but delivery of F-series will not begin until 2027.

The vast quantity of UK Javelin anti-tank missiles granted to Ukraine to aid Kyiv in its war against Russia will not begin to be replenished until 2027 at the earliest, when the first batch of F-series munitions arrive in-country, it has emerged.

Within days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 the UK had sprung to action, donating thousands of munitions to Kyiv. By mid-July 2022 the UK had sent 6,900 Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons (NLAW), Javelin, Brimstone and other anti-tank weapons, committing at the time to providing a further 1,600 anti-tank weapons “in the coming weeks”.

Although this rapidly depleted stockpiles, the UK continued to send military equipment to Ukraine with number of anti-tank systems, including Javelin, reaching in excess of 10,000 by late-April 2024. This support continues and has amounted to more than £4.6bn ($5.7bn) since Russia’s 2022 invasion.

Such has been the quantity of ammunition provided to Ukraine that the UK’s stockpiles of critical military capabilities like the NLAW and Javelin have been severely reduced, leading to a concerted effort to try and replenish its stores.

However, James Cartlidge, Minister for Defence Procurement, said on 30 April that the UK MoD had “yet to take delivery” of the Lightweight Command Launch Units for the Javelin system, with initial deliveries expected in 2026.

However, the Javelin F-model missiles, required to replenish stocks Granted in Kind to Ukraine, were scheduled to be delivered in two batches, “in 2027 and 2028”, Cartlidge said.

UK spending £1bn to replenish munitions given to Ukraine

In an April 2024 UK Government response to a UK Parliament Defence Committee report as to whether the country’s military was prepared for war, it was stated that almost £1bn in contracts had been placed to replenish UK stocks of equipment and munitions already granted to Ukraine.

Specifically, this included replenishment contracts for NLAW, Starstreak High Velocity Missiles, Lightweight Multirole Missiles, Javelin missiles, Brimstone missiles, 155mm artillery rounds, and 5.56mm rifle rounds.

The UK Government withheld the exact quantity of stockpile holdings on grounds of national security, however conceded that the war in Ukraine “highlighted to the UK and allies that we all need to invest more in munitions to increase stockpile levels and ensure we have the industrial base required”.

In February 2023 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that the US State Department approved the Foreign Military Sale of up to 600 Javelin FGM-148F missiles for a total estimated cost at the time of $125.1m.

In March 2023 the UK announced that it would procure a small number of Carl-Gustaf recoilless rifles from Saab, in a move that would provide some anti-armour capability for UK forces.

The Javelin anti-tank missile: a staple of Nato forces

Developed by US defence companies RTX and Lockheed Martin, the Javelin is a portable, shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon, which can also be installed wheeled, tracked, or amphibious military vehicles.

A workshare arrangement sees RTX responsible for the Javelin’s command launch unit, missile guidance electronic unit, and system engineering management, while Lockheed Martin takes responsibility for the missile seeker, engineering, and assembly of the missile itself.

As well as its use by Ukrainian forces against Russia, the Javelin saw extensive use in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by Allied and Nato forces.

More than 50,000 Javelin missiles and 12,000 CLUs are currently in service within the US armed forces and over 20 allied nations and expected to remain operational within the US military until 2050.

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 requirements. The initial order was for 18 launchers and 144 missiles. Javelin replaced the Milan system and entered service with the British army in July 2005.

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