Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW)

Javelin is an anti-tank guided munition that can be carried and launched by a single person, in service with the British Army and Royal Marines

Javelin is a portable Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW) described by the British Army thus;

Javelin, the medium range anti-tank guided weapon replacement for Milan, is an enhanced version of the American weapon proven on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by US forces.

Javelin ATGW is in service with the British Army, Royal Marines and RAF Regiment.

Javelin ATGW

Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW) History

Javelin is a direct replacement for the Milan Anti-Tank Guided Weapon and a de-facto replacement for Swingfire, a vehicle launched anti-tank guided weapon.

Swingfire ATGW

After the cancellation of the Orange William missile in 1959, Fairey had continued development work on wire-guided anti-tank missiles that would result in Swingfire. Introduced in 1969, Swingfire was a brute of a missile. The warhead weighed in at 7kg alone and it had a couple of unique features that set it apart from its rivals.

Upon launch, the missile could immediately switch direction by 90 degrees by using a ‘jetivator’ which controlled the direction of the rocket motor exhaust, and a remote sighting assembly which allowed the launching vehicle to adopt a hull down, or concealed, firing position. The remote sight could be located up to 30 metres away horizontally and 15 metres higher or lower.

Swingfire was carried by two armoured vehicles, CVR(T) Striker and the FV432. The concept for Striker was to provide a long-range anti-tank overwatch for CVR(T) reconnaissance vehicles operating forward of the main armoured force.  Striker could carry five missiles in ready to launch boxes with an additional five stowed in the hull. With the missile launcher in the stowed position, Striker looked like just any other armoured personnel carrier, not the lethal anti-tank machine that it was. In true research establishment fashion, the boffins reportedly determined that the kill probability of each Swingfire was 40%. Thus, it would take precisely two and a half missiles to kill each enemy tank. They also calculated that a vehicle engaging enemy tanks with ATGW (Anti-Tank Guided Weaponry) would only kill two before itself being destroyed. Therefore, five missiles were all that was needed!

FV438 Swingfire

FV 102 Striker CVR(T)

The FV438 was similar to the CVR(T) Striker, armed with Swingfire missiles, although employed differently. A variant of Spartan was also proposed with the TOW Missile and Swingfire was also mounted (or proposed) on a variety of other vehicles.

Spartan TOW


Swingfire Video

The MoD awarded a £35m five year contract to British Aerospace to upgrade the Swingfire wire-guided anti-tank missile system in 1990. It was called the Swingfire Improved Guidance (SWIG) programme. SWIG would replace all the analogue electronics with the latest generation digital systems. Most notably, it would change the guidance from command to automatic command, i.e. the operator now only needed to keep the crosshairs on the target and not manually fly the missile.

Swingfire saw action in 1991 and 2003, after each, the operational analysis was fulsome in its praise, this, for example, from 2003;

.5.6 The Swingfire anti-tank guided weapon system, which is fitted to some UK reconnaissance vehicles, was also of great utility during the combat phase. It was the longest range, integral weapon system available to reconnaissance units and was used in approximately half of their attacks despite representing only a quarter of their main weaponry.

FRES Recce Block 3 did include an overwatch variant but this was removed, and likewise, the earlier TRACER also included a Brimstone armed overwatch variant, before it was cancelled in favour of FRES.

Swingfire and Striker were withdrawn in 2005.

Milan ATGW

In 1972, Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) and Aerospatiale SA formed a joint venture called Euromissile, now part of MBDA, to develop a man portable anti-tank guided weapon and heavier vehicle/helicopter mounted weapon. These two were MILAN (Missile d´infanterie léger antichar) and HOT (Haut subsonique Optiquement Téléguidé Tiré d’un Tube)

MILAN was entered service relatively quickly and soon went on to achieve significant export success, including with the UK and 40 other countries. MILAN uses a Semi-Automatic Command Line of Sight (SACLOS) guidance system with a thin wire used to transmit guidance information from the firing post to the missile.

Milan missile

In British service it saw extensive use in Falklands, from Major John Crossland, OC B Company 2 PARA;

A Milan is an anti-tank weapon, which fires a guided missile with a very substantial warhead over a range of 2,000 metres. I thought, if we can bust them with the Mllans, we can probably get round their flank, get down to Darwin, knock that off and then worry about Goose Green. The Milan was an unorthodox choice, but it was the only powerful weapon we had. Much to our relief, the first round fired was a perfect bull’s eye. It went straight through the bunker window and blew it out completely, and the second one did the same. Four more rounds and that was Boca House cleared out.

Everyone stood on their feet and cheered!

Milan 2 came into service in 1984, the two are easily distinguished by Milan 2 having a distinctive stand off probe.

Milan and 2 ATGW

The FV120 Spartan Milan Compact Turret (MCT) variant was introduced in 1986 although the Milan missile’s maximum range of 2,000 metres was a significant step down from Swingfire at 4,000 metres.

CVR(T) with Milan Compact Turret

In response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, a coalition was formed that would see 35,000 British personnel deployed as part of Operation GRANBY. 4th Armoured Brigade, 7th Armoured Brigade and HQ 1st (UK) Armoured Division, and 5,000 vehicles, were all shipped to Saudi Arabia in time for the 1991 kick-off. A number of Warriors were modified with a turret-mounted Milan firing post. Although it could not be used on the move it did provide much greater mobility for Milan than the FV432s would have.


Milan was also used in 2003 in Iraq and, until Javelin came into service, Afghanistan.

Milan Iraq 2003

Afghanistan 2006

MIlan Afghanistan 2006

Milan ER is still available from MBDA


TRIGAT began in 1983 with the agreement of France, Germany and the UK to establish the Euromissile Dynamics Group to develop a number of anti-tank guided weapons.

In 1988, the UK, France and Germany signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to cooperate on the joint development of an anti-tank missile family (medium and long-range) that would replace Milan, HOT and Swingfire; Euromissile was intended to be the industrial vehicle.

The missiles were to be called TRIGAT- MR and TRIGAT-LR and both would utilise a tandem shaped-charge warhead and either a laser beam riding or IR homing guidance. The original intent for the MR variant was that it could use Milan firing posts and sighting systems. The LR variant was intended to have a range in excess of 5,000m and employ a terminal dive attack profile to target thinner top armour of armoured vehicles.

Development contracts followed and the missile progressed through early-stage firings.

TRIGAT MR used a laser beam guidance system, like Javelin S15, the operator simply placed the beam onto the target and the missile acquired it and followed it in. A thermal imaging system provided day/night capability and the missile itself had a maximum range of 2,400m. The missile was designed to have a high level of agility for use against fleeting and crossing targets, and with a soft launch system, easy to use in confined spaces.

MR Trigat is a medium range anti tank missile system intended as a replacement for MILAN. The missile has a tandem, high explosive hollow charge which can defeat modern Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) equipped targets. Its general arrangement is similar to Milan and is equipped with a Thermal Imaging sight to allow engagement to maximum range by day or night, in all weather conditions. Range 2000 metres; Missile Launch Weight 18.2 kgs; Firing Post Weight 16.5 kgs; Thermal Sight Weight 10.5 kgs; Guidance Laser Beam Riding SACLOS.

TRIGAT-LR was closely tied to the development of the Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopter but as the UK eventually selected AH-64 in preference to Tiger and A.129 Mangusta, the choice of Hellfire instead of TRIGAT-LR was already made.

The UK signed an MoU for production in 1999 with the expectation of a contract to follow that ensured no gaps would exist between TRIGAT-MR coming into service and Milan going out of service in 2005. Unfortunately, delays in signing from Belgium and the Netherlands and, as usual, Germany revising down their required quantities, meant the delays would potentially leave the UK with a capability gap.

The 1999 National Audit Office Major Projects Report described TRIGAT as;

Medium Range (MR) TRIGAT is a crew-portable anti-tank guided weapon system, for the infantry and Royal Marines, which will be capable of defeating improved enemy armour at a maximum range of 2400m. It will replace MILAN, and comprises a firing post, a missile and a thermal sight, allowing effective operation at night and in adverse weather conditions. MR TRIGAT is a multi-lateral project with the United Kingdom, France and Germany as Pilot Nations and Belgium and the Netherlands as Associate Nations. It is currently nearing the end of full development.

The cost to the MoD at this stage was forecast to be £122 million.

The following year’s report from the NAO told a different story;

As a result of continuing and open ended delays it became clear that the basis on which the UK had agreed to proceed to the I&P phase of MR TRIGAT could no longer be sustained. The Secretary of State announced the UK’s withdrawal from the I&P phase of MR TRIGAT on 28 July 2000

And that was the end of TRIGAT-MR

£105 million costs for no weapons, it was less than the estimate though.

This did result in a bit of a problem, the Milan systems would be life-expired by 2005.


With TRIGAT-MR cancelled, the UK needed a Milan replacement, and it needed one fast. A development project was not possible but competition was.

The replacement for Milan was called the Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon System (LFATGWS).

In September 2001, the Defence Procurement Agency awarded one-year Assessment Phase contracts to Raytheon/Lockheed Martin and Matra BAE Dynamics.

Defence Procurement Minister Lord Bach said:

This new weapon will defeat the most sophisticated armour and defensive countermeasures that we expect to be deployed by hostile forces in future – and we will be able to upgrade the weapon to cope with the threat as it evolves. The same weapon will equip all our light and mechanised infantry for the next 20 years. We are also studying the procurement of a new longer range guided weapon for use by our armoured infantry

Raytheon/Lockheed Martin entered their Javelin system and Matra BAE Dynamics, the Rafael Spike-MR (GILL), shown below.

SPIKE British Army Trials

Despite the trials being hampered by the UK Foot and Mouth outbreak and 9/11 attacks in January 2003, the winner was announced;

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): The Ministry of Defence has selected the JAVELIN weapon system, produced by a joint venture of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, as the preferred solution to the requirement for a new Light Forces’ Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (LF ATGW). This follows a rigorous and comprehensive assessment phase, which included comparative live-firing trials between JAVELIN and the SPIKE system (offered by Rafael and MBDA). Taking all of these factors into account, JAVELIN provides the best overall solution to our LF ATGW requirement in terms of risk, affordabilty, operational effectiveness and value for money.

JAVELIN, which is already in service with the United States Army, will provide the British Army with a significantly improved capability when it replaces the existing MILAN system. The weapon system is highly manoeuvrable, man-portable and is capable of destroying the most advanced tanks and armoured vehicles at ranges up to 2.5 km.

The contract, subject to satisfactory conclusion of negotiations, will be placed shortly. It will be worth over £300 million and is expected to create or sustain over 300 jobs across the United Kingdom in a diverse range of manufacturing companies.

A small number of modifications were made before the standard Javelin entered service with the UK. A tripod was added to provide an option for a more stable firing platform, especially for extended surveillance using the extremely capable sighting system. And that was the second major improvement, the sighting system was improved from the basic system

Javelin entered service with 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando Brigade in July 2005, four months ahead of schedule.

The initial order was primarily for 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando Brigade but in 2004, an additional £100 million order was placed for Javelin systems to equip Armoured Infantry (AI) and Formation Reconnaissance (FR) forces. It was at this point that the initial intent was to study a longer range weapon to replace the now out of service Swingfire.

Dismounted Javelin teams would have to do.

Lord Bach, again;

Javelin is already in service with the US Army and has proved its worth in recent operations in Iraq. It can be moved quickly around the battlefield but also has enough power to take out the most heavily protected tanks and armoured vehicles.  We agreed a contract to provide the weapon to 16 Air Assault Brigade, 3 Commando Brigade and the Mechanised Infantry last year and have now agreed an additional purchase for other infantry and reconnaissance units, ensuring they are equipped with the very best weaponry available. It took less than a year to go from formulating the requirement to signing the contract – a contract which promises to deliver an exceptional combination of capability and value-for-money. This is a prime example of the benefits that SMART acquisition can bring. I am delighted the purchase will help to sustain some 200 jobs around the UK.

Another order for Javelin was placed in 2009 for an additional 1,300 missiles.

Javelin saw extensive use in Afghanistan.


Royal Marines from Fire Support Troop, Charlie Company, 40 Commando.


In 2016, Raytheon announced a successful series of test firings in the vehicle launched role;

The Javelin™ Joint Venture team, a partnership of Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), successfully demonstrated Javelin’s ability to engage targets beyond its current 2.5 kilometer range requirement during a series of ground vehicle launch tests. The five tests were conducted for the U.K. Army at the Salisbury Plain Training Area in Wiltshire, England. During the U.K. Army-sponsored tests, the Javelin missiles were mounted on a Spartan armoured fighting vehicle and fired via the Kongsberg M151 Remote Weapon Station. Each missile flew between 1.2 and 4.3 kilometers, hitting the stationary ground target in each test. “Javelin’s effectiveness in this demonstration enables mounted infantry to confidently engage targets at ranges that surpass other weapons in this class,” said John Halvey, Javelin Joint Venture president at Raytheon Missile Systems. “This range, coupled with vehicle integration, enhances overmatch for mounted infantry units.” The live-fire tests confirm Javelin’s greater than 94-percent reliability rate and demonstrate Javelin’s capability to engage targets from increased standoff distances on various platforms.

“These successful ground tests validate Javelin’s long-range engagement capability,” said Rich Benton, Javelin Joint Venture vice president and Javelin program director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “These tests also reinforce Javelin’s maturity and readiness for deployment from vehicles and other platforms.

Kongsberg, the supplier of the remote weapon system used in the test also confirmed a number of additional details;

KONGSBERG recently delivered a fully configurable, dual-weapon system that includes a 12,7mm or 40mm AGL as the main weapon and an integrated 7,62mm or Javelin as the coaxial weapon. The system design enables configurability on a mission to mission basis for maximum flexibility.

Supporting the growing interest in an integrated ATGM capability, the UK’s Armoured Trials and Development Unit (ATDU) successfully conducted a Javelin missile trial leveraging a fully integrated missile on the M151 PROTECTOR RWS. The firing trials were also supported by KONGSBERG and the Javelin Joint Venture (JJV) program.

In all, ATDU fired five Javelin missiles from the M151 PROTECTOR whilst mounted to UK MOD armoured vehicle known as a Spartan. The Firing Trials included the firing of three Block 0 missiles at ranges of 1500, 2500, and 3200 metres and two Block 1 missiles at ranges of 3500 and 4300 metres. All five missiles struck the designated targets, including the engagement that was defined at 4300 metres – one of the longest Javelin engagement distances trialed to date.

The most interesting of these was the 4.3km outer range of the trial.

Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW) Capabilities

Javelin is a fire and forget man-portable anti-tank guided weapon comprising two main components, the missile itself and the Command Launch Unit (CLU)

Javelin Missile

With a stated range of 2.5km, the missile weighs 11.8kg and is armed with a tandem shaped-charge warhead. The tandem warhead has two charges; the precursor initiates explosive reactive armour and then the main warhead is initiated to penetrate armour underneath.

The missile is equipped with a lock-on before launch and automated self-guidance system that uses an imaging infra-red sensor based on a 12um cadmium mercury telluride (CdHgTe) 64 x 64-pixel focal plane array.

Javelin Missile

Javelin uses a soft launch system to reduce launch signature and enable firing from confined spaces. The small launch motor ejects the missile clear of the tube and when at a safe distance, ignites the propulsion motor.

A selectable flight profile allows the missile to engage directly or in a top attack mode.

Javelin flight profile

The missile is contained in a sealed Launch Tube Container which is discarded when fired.

Javelin has been tested to 4,750m and fired from a variety of weapon mounts and platforms. Developments have also included a multi-purpose warhead that is better suited to attacking non-armoured vehicle targets, as was common in Afghanistan.

Command Launch Unit (CLU)

The clip-on Command Launch Unit (CLU) weighs 6.4kg and provides the passive target acquisition, fire control unit and integrated day and thermal imaging sight.

UK javelin uses a DRS Technologies 2nd gen thermal imaging sight with x 4 and x 9 magnification optics. Target information is passed to the missile and whilst the gunner can observe and control the missile during flight, the missile is ‘fire and forget’ if needed.

A tripod assembly is also available for UK Javelin CLU’s and in many cases, the CLU is used as a standalone observation system.

The US has developed a lightweight CLU that is 70% smaller, 40% lighter and with a 50% increase in battery life. It also has a range of other improvements, GPS and network connectivity for example.

Improved CLU

Javelin Lightweight CLU

Javelin Lightweight CLU Image 2

No orders for the lightweight CLU or new missiles were announced by the MoD as of July 2021





Remote Weapon System

Although not integral to the currently in service Javelin missiles it is worth noting that Javelin has been successfully integrated with the Kongsberg Protector RWS as part of ongoing UK trials and development work.

Javelin Kongsberg Protector RWS CVR(T)

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Change Status

Change Date Change Record
 26/04/2016 Initial issue
29/07/2021 Refresh and format update

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