The US military announced an upcoming sale of Javelin flyover top attack missiles to Georgia, the Caucasian republic, last week. A November 20 news release from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) revealed $75 million worth of missiles and their launch units are ready to be delivered pending approval from the US government.
Georgia is a former Soviet republic and fought a short war with the Russian Federation in 2008. The conflict and its ambiguous ending marked the start of a downward spiral for ties between Russia and the US, who are once again confronting each other across Europe. While Georgia has spent the last several years rebuilding its armed forces, the arrival of Javelin missiles represents the most lethal US aid delivered to the embattled country yet.
The DSCA published an inventory of the Javelin package just days after the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Tblisi. The actual contents are quite modest and include:
…four hundred ten (410) Javelin Missiles, and seventy-two (72) Javelin Command Launch Units (CLUs) (includes two (2) Javelin Block 1 CLUs to be used as spares). Also included are ten (10) Basic Skills Trainers (BST); up to seventy (70) simulated rounds; U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance; transportation; and other related elements of logistics and program support. The total estimated cost is $75 million.
Should the sale be approved next year, the Georgian army receive 72 CLUs and 410 missiles. These are all sourced from existing US Army stock:
The prime contractors will be Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin Joint Venture of Orlando, Florida, and Tucson, Arizona. However, these missiles are being provided from U.S. Army stock and the CLUs will be obtained from on-hand Special Defense Acquisition Fund (SDAF)-purchased stock. There are no known offset agreements proposed in conjunction with this potential sale.
The Javelin is considered the best flyover shoot down or top attack ATGM in the market although it can be argued the Israeli-made Spike and its variants, thousands of which have been sold to NATO armies, are superior. Georgia’s southeastern neighbor Azerbaijan is another devoted customer of Spike missiles.
Several countries are capable of manufacturing ATGMs similar to the Javelin, albeit with different characteristics. China, France, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey have portable flyover missiles available for export although demand for these is dismal compared with the Javelin that’s been sold to numerous US allies.
Sending Javelins to the Georgians is a clear signal the US is pursuing an encirclement strategy against Russia from the Baltics until the Caucasus. Moscow is still more proactive in its own neighborhood as it strengthens its grip on Armenia, another Caucasian state reliant on its arms, and cultivates alliances among the Central Asian republics.
Javelin missiles are meant for destroying tanks and, with a repeat of the 2008 war being Georgia’s worst nightmare, possessing a Javelin stockpile works as a deterrent against the threat posed by Russian armored columns. It’s a bit strange then, how the DSCA insists, “the proposed sale of this equipment will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
For Georgian troops to train and deploy with the Javelin also marks a huge advance in firepower. The Republic of Georgia’s military is too small to retake the rebel enclaves in Abkhazia and South Ossetia that are protected by Russian forces. Hence, its doctrine is focused on territorial defense. Although Georgia’s domestic arms industry can manufacture rocket launchers, its inventory lacks genuine anti-armor weapons.
Whether or not Georgia maintains a large enough stockpile of either Soviet-era or Ukrainian ATGMs remains contentious. With the Javelins, however, the Georgian military can hasten its transition away from old kit and equip itself to US/NATO standards–its soldiers train with M4 carbines and M24o machine guns. Plans are underway for rebuilding a force structure along the same lines. Tblisi intends to pay for this effort with a NATO mandated military spending hike that equals %2.2 of annual GDP.
Most of Georgia’s military equipment are sourced from Eastern Europe, Israel, and Turkey. Time will tell if more US-made gear reaches them in the years to come.