The Philippine Army's Interest on the FGM-148 Javelin Anti-Tank Missile System

The forces from both the United States and the Philippines joined in taking part in what it considers being the largest bilateral exercises for this year, as well as the largest iteration of that exercise to-date, whereby the latter took a chance of testing and firing one of the U.S. sophisticated systems, and they are now seeing interest of getting it as part of the Horizon 3 plans and programs of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

FGM-148 Javelin Philippines, Balikatan Exercises 2023, BK23, Friends Partners Allies, Free and Open Indo Pacific, PH-US Alliance
Both the U.S. and Philippine troops fired the FGM-148 Javelin Anti-Tanks in a live-fire exercise in Fort Magsaysay. 
This is a U.S. Army photo captured by Staff Sgt. Brenden Delgado, distributed via DVIDSHUB.

Troops from both the United States and the Philippine Armed Forces have conducted the largest iteration of the Balikatan Exercises held to-date, and also the largest bilateral exercises of any type held by the Philippines for the year 2023. With this bilateral exercise, plus the participation of a small contingent from the Royal Australian Armed Forces, comes with its new introductions that are nonexistent in the previous iteration of the exercise.

Just recently, several troops from the Philippine Armed Forces test-fired some FGM-148 Javelin Anti-Tank Missile System for the first time as the U.S. troops introduced it to the Philippine troops for them to try to and witness the capability and packed firepower it brought, as some troops familiarized the systems as they have taught by instructors from the United States Army during the Salaknib Exercise 2023, held weeks before this largest bilateral exercises took place.

The announcement came as early as March 2023, at least a month before the actual Balikatan Exercise took place, whereby several personnel from the Philippine Army have subjected on a 'Subject-Matter Experts Exchange' or SMEEs between them and their counterparts in the United States Army. The lectures made throughout the exercise Salaknib, especially on the functions and usage of the FGM-148 Javelin Anti-Tank Missile System, will help the troops apply the knowledge in an actual firing exercise that took place recently on Fort Magsaysay.

As troops in the Philippine Army who played a part in the exercises learned and have an experience on how to use and fire the FGM-148 Javelin Missiles, it is of no surprise that the leadership is now looking forward in procuring such anti-tank missile systems, although it is worth taking note that the Armed Forces of the Philippines comes with similarly functioning anti-tank systems, of which will discuss comprehensively in this topic.

As Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr told on a news report that the leadership expressed its interest in getting the FGM-148 Javelin Anti-Tank Missile System under the Horizon 3 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, we will cover multiple discussions regarding the development and performance of the systems, especially its well-noted contributions on the ongoing war effort that takes place in Eastern Europe, as a smaller country fight for its survival against a larger, more formidable neighbor.

Javelin Missile, Philippine Army, Horizon 3, AFP Modernization, Lockheed Martin
Here is an FGM-148 Javelin missile, launched from an armored vehicle.
Image Source.

As countries produce and deploy their armored vehicles, specifically the use of either Light or Medium Main Battle Tanks into combat that packs a lot of firepower that overwhelms the battlefield aside from its sheer speed that may quickly wins the war on their favor given that they did a blitzkrieg, it comes as no surprise that others produce anti-tank countermeasures that will stop these menacing armored columns from their tracks, giving that sense of deterrence and a chance of giving a fight against enemy armor at any other day.

This article from Center for Strategic and International Studies or CSIS on missile defense basically tells a lot regarding the development of the FGM-148 Javelin missile, whereby while it is a development that came into fruition from the final years of the Cold War as a creation of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA that replaces the old FGM-77 M47 Dragon Anti-Tank Missile, its effectiveness has fully documented during the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict, in which it increases the interest from the leadership in getting such systems as part of the ongoing modernization efforts.

To summarize the elaborative article linked above, the United States Army established the “Advanced Anti-Tank Weapon System-Medium” (AAWS-M) program in 1984 intended to replace the FGM-77, with the Pentagon presented an award that will enable further development of the missile system in 1989 which comes with the naming designation of "Javelin", bearing the name of the FGM-148 anti-tank missile today. It took them almost a decade before a first firing test took place in 1993, in which an actual human test-fired a missile long before troops of the Philippine forces did the same thing with U.S. troops three decades later, in the year 2023.

The first production of the FGM-148 Javelin Anti-Tank Missile System took place in 1997, which is still in continuous production and development up to the present time we publish this article, with Lockheed Martin now transitions to the latest FGM-148F variant over the previous FGM-148E variant of the missile system. Take note that the Javelin anti-tank missile system has multiple variants that have produced since its introduction, as we further discuss the details regarding this topic.

Given that it is a full development that involves key agencies within the United States government starting with DARPA up to the joint venture of both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon that made further development of the FGM-148 Javelin Anti-Tank missile systems possible, its performance and capabilities are worthy to check into, especially that its primary design is to eliminate armored threats, specifically main battle tanks.

Sabrah Tank, Philippine Army, Elbit Systems Ltd., Philippines Sabrah Tank
The Philippines is an archipelagic nation, and armored threats only arise once enemy forces successfully land its armored vehicles, tanks in particular, into the country's coastline.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

As the leadership of the Philippine Army has plans of securing a handful of FGM-148 Javelin Anti-Tank Missile System as part of their push of improving the land service branch's capabilities under the Revised AFP Modernization Program, let us take note that the country does not have armored threats internally, and such threat only arises once a conflict goes regional, with an opposition force employs its armored vehicles into combat.

One thing to point out from this thought is that the Republic of the Philippines itself is an archipelagic nation with around 7,640 islands, and by that essence, it does not have any land border with another country in Southeast Asia, let alone a regional superpower like China. Hence, the plans of securing Javelin Anti-Tank Missile System munitions only make sense if the country's coastal defense efforts fail and the troops and armored equipment from the opposition forces have managed themselves, landing on the country's territory.

Despite being an archipelagic nation dotted with multiple islands, the Armed Forces of the Philippines having a handful of FGM-148 Javelin Anti-Tank Missile System may come as a redundancy, whereby despite having a full reliance on naval vessels and coastal defense efforts on assuring that the Opposition Forces or OPFOR does not land on the country's beaches, the systems come as a guarantee of creating more trouble on the aggressor forces by increasing further destruction, making a likelihood of an invasion more expensive as it is on the ongoing conflict in the Eastern Europe.

Troops having such systems are a helpful augmentation to the Philippine Army's Armor 'Pambato' Division's fleet of Light Tank such as the Israeli-made Sabrah Tank (see image above) and other armored personnel carriers like the remote-controlled weapons systems armed M-113 Infantry Fighting Vehicles and the VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 armored vehicles, as a fully armed and capable infantry together with the said armored vehicles gives more trouble to the invading force, making the incurring losses unbearable to their end through time.

Hence, as the country's first line of defense relies more on its navy and air force to keep foreign threats from getting into the core territory while threatening the sovereignty and interest of the citizenry, getting several of these anti-tank munitions are just part of ensuring peace through deterrence, and in an event that a conflict takes place, God forbid, works as a weapon that minimizes the capability of an enemy force from inflicting more destruction to citizen lives and property.

Saint Javelin, Philippine Army, FGM-148 Javelin, Ukraine
The Saint Javelin art, inspired by the ongoing Ukrainian resolve to defend their nation.
Image (c) Chris Shaw.

Since its first production in 1993, the Javelin anti-tank missile system has seen action in several theaters of war as used by several troops and units within the United States forces, especially in conflicts that took place in both Iraq and Afghanistan, almost two decades before it became prominent in the ongoing conflict in the open fields of Ukraine, used by the defenders against the armored units of the Russian armed forces.

One theater of war that has seen the prevalence in terms of FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile used in combat is the recent and still ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as the latter used it on the defense of their country from the waves of armored vehicles that the former deploys, inflicting more damage to the invading units more than they replace (with sanctions playing the factor) as they lost almost half of their key battle tanks during the combat.

The usage of the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile and its success in deterring the Russian aggression in Ukraine caught the attention of other countries, such as the case in the Philippines, whereby its capabilities has showcased into them by their counterparts in the United States Armed Forces throughout the conduct of the Exercise Balikatan 2023. On another note, China also took notice of the FGM-148 Javelin’s overall capabilities, as they are seeking to find ways of creating any form of technology that defends their armored vehicles and tanks from this sophisticated missile system.

To the country’s northern neighbor, the island nation of Taiwan has set to receive its first delivery of the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles from the United States, whereby they expect to receive at least 200 munitions of the missile for the year 2023, while the remaining 200 more munitions of the Javelin may get delivered by the year 2024, totalling the overall numbers to at least 400 of the munitions.

The deal is part of the island country’s acquisition of Abrams Tanks, TOW anti-tank missiles, and Stinger anti-air missiles in a deal with the United States in 2019 as part of their ever-increasing defense efforts amidst increased aggression from China’s desire to invade the country it considers as a so-called ‘renegade province’ that the mainland sees as a need to reunite, under the red banner.

FGM-148 Javelin Specifications, Saint Javelin, Anti-Tank Missile Specifications
Here is some primary information regarding the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile.
Screenshot Source.

The FGM-148 Javelin comes with its specifications, as the missile payload’s weight being 11.8 kilograms, its diameter being 127mm missile, its wingspan having 0.38 meters, and length having 1.08m missile. On another note, its system dimensions come with a weight of 22.3kilogram, including the Command Launch Unit or CLU, while the CLU itself only weighs 6.1 kilograms, with the munition itself carrying more weight to the anti-tank missile system itself. 

The diameter of the launch unit comes with a 142-millimeter tube, while its length comes at around 1.2 tube that has the capability of carrying a warhead with a tandem-shaped charge, with penetration of over 600-millimeter rolled homogeneous armor or RHA of an armored vehicle even behind Explosive Reactive Armor or ERA, powered by a solid propellant rocket motor that has with a subsonic maximum speed and it comes with an impact fuse configuration that will trigger its destructive power once it gets to the target’s armor setup.

Comparing this to other anti-tank missiles that the Armed Forces of the Philippines have, especially with the Philippine Navy’s SPIKE-ER and SPIKE-NLOS missiles produced by Rafael Advanced Systems, Ltd., whereby the former has the range of around 400 meters to 8 kilometers, and the latter has the overall range of at least 25 kilometers, both have a longer overall maximum range than the FGM-148 Javelin’s 4.5 kilometer maximum range as these Israeli-made systems came with a platform like a tripod or a fixed launcher for it to launch.

On another note, still regarding the comparison between the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles that the Philippine Army desires to have and the SPIKE missiles of both ER and NLOS variants that the Philippine Navy already has in its inventory, the longer ranges that both SPIKE missiles mentioned also comes at the cost of its weight, as it gives the Javelin the advantages of getting carried on the shoulder, getting its mobility that comes along the infantry that carries it. 

The weight of the SPIKE-ER variant comes at around 46 kilograms, including the missile itself that weighs 33 kilograms, while the SPIKE-NLOS variant comes at around 165 lbs, or around 74.85 kilograms after conversion. The weight of the munitions makes sense, especially for the Philippine Navy regarding its installation onboard its AW-159 Wildcat Anti-submarine helicopters, along with other platforms such as its Multipurpose Attack Craft or MPAC Mk.3 variants and Shaldag V-derived Nestor Acero-class FAIC-Ms.

A Philippine Navy Multipurpose attack craft tested its SPIKE-ER missile.
Image Source.

As both the Philippines and the United States successfully conducted its largest iteration of the Balikatan Exercise to date, so does the exchange of essential military knowledge that has shared throughout the conduct of the bilateral military engagement, particularly regarding the knowledge in operating and getting a live-fire practice using the one of the most sophisticated anti-tank missiles currently in service with the United States Armed Forces.

Its increased reputation during the ongoing conflict that is taking place in between Ukraine and its larger neighbor Russia, especially regards to the increasing statistics of tank losses that the latter incurred since the start of its invasion on top of tank abandonments and stretched logistics, the performance that the FGM-148 Javelin Anti-Tank Missiles showcased caught the attention of the Philippine Army leadership that the considerations of acquiring it is not a surprise.

While the weaponry has the attention of the Philippine Army leadership, it does not mean a finality in their decision to secure such platforms, as there may be factors such as commonality and logistics coming into play given that their counterparts in the Philippine Navy already has several of Rafael Systems’ SPIKE-ER and SPIKE-NLOS anti-tank missiles, and getting such platforms instead of having the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile systems from the United States are considered a win, given those considerations.

Although the Philippine Army may find commonality regarding its logistics with the Philippine Navy if it considers the SPIKE anti-tank missile systems from Israel’s Rafael Systems Ltd., the same goes applicable with the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles, especially if the constant bilateral exercises with the United States comes in the equation as having such platforms increases the interoperability between both nations, as this interoperability comes as one of the key priorities aimed throughout the exercise.

As the bilateral defense guidelines has set-up by both the governments of the Philippines and the United States as a signal of what they call as ‘modernization’ of both nations’ alliances with the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty as the foundation, it remains to be seen how will it weigh to the continuous Modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, especially that whether the Philippine Army gets the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles depends on the current conditions on defense relations, and the future projections of where the direction of how defense dynamics between the Philippines and the United States will go from that day onwards.

(c) 2023 PDA.

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