The Corps is slowly phasing out its aging anti-tank guided missile TOW systems across the infantry and adding additional Javelin systems in their place, according to Corps officials.
Four Javelin anti-tank missile systems will be added to the Corps’ weapons companies, bringing the total to 12, according to a command release. The man-portable fire-and-forget Javelin system will bring increased lethality to the Corps and better protection to operators.
“This is to off-set the elimination of four Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) missiles in the company, and the eventual elimination of TOWs in the battalion,” the command release reads.
The development comes as the Corps continues to revamp its infantry forces to take on sophisticated opponents like Russia and China.
At an annual ground awards dinner May 3 Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller announced his decision to reduce the size of the Marine infantry squad from 13 to 12.
The decision was one of a slew of changes the Corps has been making to kit up and organizationally alter its grunts after reviewing recommendations from a series of experimental ground exercises known as Sea Dragon 2025.
The move to the Javelin will provide grunts with a more portable anti-tank system, boosting their capabilities to take out Russian or Chinese tanks in a future war.
The heavier and more cumbersome TOW systems still require an operator to guide a missile all the way to the target before impact, potentially putting an operator at risk.
The Javelin is a fire-and-forget system, meaning an operator needs only to lock onto a target and allow the infrared targeting system to guide the warhead to the target.
Javelin provides the Army and Marine Corps a “man-portable, fire-and-forget, medium-range missile with enhanced situational awareness and precision direct-fire effects to defeat armored vehicles, fortifications and soft targets in full spectrum operations,” reads the Navy’s fiscal year 2019 budget documents.
“Javelin has a high kill rate against a variety of targets at extended ranges under day/night, battlefield obscurants, adverse weather and multiple” countermeasure conditions.
Legacy TOW systems have been around since the 1970s with various upgrades. But the Corps slowly has been phasing out its older M220 model with the upgraded M41A7 Saber weapon system across its infantry and tank battalions.
The Saber system, which is part of the TOW family of systems, adds a better targeting and surveillance system that allows operators to engage targets with more precision and at further ranges. But the Saber system still requires an operator to guide the missile to its target.
The phasing out of the older TOW for the upgraded Saber version leaves the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions as the only units that will be fielding the older TOW models.
The Saber was first mentioned in Marine Corps defense budget documents dating back to fiscal 2011.
The Javelin has also been a big hit with American allies on the front lines of Russian hostilities.
In March, the U.S. State Department cleared the sale of Javelin systems to Ukraine, where the government is still amid a confrontation with Russia over its annexation of Crimea and support of proxy forces in eastern Ukraine.
And in November, the State Department cleared a nearly $75 million sale of Javelin systems to the Georgia.
Georgia has been at odds with Russia over its support of separatist groups in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In 2008, Georgia and Russia engaged in a small five-day war over the two regions.