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Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade fire a Javelin anti-tank missile at the Grafenwöhr training area on Tuesday.
Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade fire a Javelin anti-tank missile at the Grafenwöhr training area on Tuesday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade fire a Javelin anti-tank missile at the Grafenwöhr training area on Tuesday.
Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade fire a Javelin anti-tank missile at the Grafenwöhr training area on Tuesday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Pfc. Eric Cramer, 19, (left) of the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, gets some advice on firing the Javelin missile from Pfc. Pruitt Rainy, 20, of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment at the Grafenwöhr training range on Tuesday.
Pfc. Eric Cramer, 19, (left) of the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, gets some advice on firing the Javelin missile from Pfc. Pruitt Rainy, 20, of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment at the Grafenwöhr training range on Tuesday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — The 173rd Airborne Brigade soldiers launched their Javelin missiles into the sky, then watched them thunder down on the turrets of derelict tanks in the training area.

The live-fire training was the culmination of a two-week Javelin training course for 36 soldiers. The top eight graduates got to fire the Javelins.

The live-fire training gives soldiers hands-on experience of how the weapon performs in a combat environment, said Maj. Norris Bodrick, logistics and fielding officer for the Close Combat Weapons Systems Project Office–Javelin in Huntsville, Ala.

Bodrick would not discuss the weapon’s capabilities, saying only that the Javelin is a “close- combat weapon used to impact various targets.”

According to the Army’s Web site, the Javelin is the first “fire- and-forget” shoulder-fired anti- tank missile.

“Javelin’s unique top-attack flight mode, superior self-guiding tracking system and advanced warhead design allows it to defeat all known tanks out to ranges of 2,500 [meters],” the Web site states.

Manufactured by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, the Javelin is 3 feet 6 inches long, weighs 49.5 pounds, has a range of 1.5 miles, and takes two people to operate, according to the Army site.

As of October 2005, more than 1,000 rounds had been fired by U.S. and Australian troops and Marines at tanks and alternate targets in Iraq, according to a Raytheon/Lockheed Martin news release.

But Staff Sgt. Matthew Fillinger, 30, of Helena, Mont., said his unit, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment — formerly 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment — did not use the Javelin much when it was in Iraq from 2004 to 2005.

“We fielded them in 2000 but we haven’t used them much in the last couple of years due to deployments and the rules of engagement downrange … with collateral damage we don’t use them much downrange,” he said.

One of the soldiers who fired a Javelin this week, Sgt. Robert Hoover, 27, of Pensacola, Fla., said he fired one in 2002 and also fired the missile’s predecessor, the Dragon. The Company A, 1-503 soldier said the Dragon had a bigger blast and more kick than the Javelin and was easier for the enemy to detect.

“The Javelin is more accurate and more precise, and we can take cover as soon as it launches. With the Dragon you had to keep your cross hairs on the target all the way,” he said.

It was the first Javelin live-fire for Pfc. Eric Cramer, 19, of Phoenix. The Troop B, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment soldier said he’d never fired any kind of rocket or missile.

“I was a bit nervous, but it was relatively easy to get it locked on. There wasn’t as much kick as I thought there would be. I just felt it (the launcher) get a bit lighter after the missile was gone,” he said.

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