Ukrainian Troops Have Nobody To Call To Troubleshoot Their Javelin Missiles

The Washington Post has spoken with a U.S. Army veteran and volunteer trainer who revealed that an obscure tech support line may be keeping Ukrainian forces from using their Javelin missile systems. In what feels reminiscent of reaching general IT services as a civilian, the source explained that a Javelin shipment was missing ‘instruction cards’ that include a phone support number, which has exacerbated problems related to servicing the anti-armor missile systems.

In an article the Post published today, a reporter spoke with Army veteran Mark Hayward who has been on-site in Ukraine assisting forces in repairing the Javelin missile systems, among other technologies, as needed. Aside from mentioning that they have had to cannibalize parts from video game controllers and deal with shoddy Google translations of instruction manuals in order to get broken Javelins back in the field, Hayward noted that instruction cards, which include phone numbers to a support hotline, were not contained in Ukraine’s Javelin shipments.

“Importantly, Hayward said, it appears the Javelins sent to Ukraine do not include instruction cards directing military personnel to call a toll-free number if the weapons malfunction or otherwise require repair,” reads an excerpt from the Washington Post article. “He has opened several cases of them but found no such card, and training cadres across multiple units have told him they were unaware of any Javelin support line, he said.”

The oddity of a Javelin missile call center is, as Hayward described it, a relatively standard facet of Javelin shipments to the United States, meant to provide end-users with expert guidance if their own troubleshooting efforts are unsuccessful. However, this critical resource does not appear to be common knowledge to the public, and Hayward notes what a disservice it would be if Ukrainian forces were not provided with the same instructional support that the U.S. military is offered.

FGM-148 Javelin. Wikimedia Commons

In an attempt to better understand who or what exactly is behind this helpline, the Washington Post said obtained a copy of the Javelin instruction card and tracked down the phone number’s origin themselves. Being that the Javelin is manufactured through a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Missiles and Defense, a deduction led the reporter to a phone number associated with the Lockheed Martin offices in Orlando, Florida. Once contacted, the reporter was connected with the media relations division where the Lockheed Martin representative who was reached proceeded to redirect any additional questions about the helpline to the Pentagon.

The Defense Department is said to have been no help either and provided the Washington Post with minimal detail regarding the logistics and support procedures in place for Ukrainian Javelin shipments. There was also no explanation offered as to why the instruction cards alone were missing from the Javelin packages sent to Ukraine either, further clouding the odd new development for all parties involved. The apparent lack of urgency to make sense of what could very well be a miscommunication is undoubtedly curious because, without operational Javelins and reliable repair and support processes, Ukrainian forces could lose the ground that the anti-armor capability has since helped them hold. 

Javelin missiles in production at a Lockheed Martin facility. Lockheed Martin

The Javelin missile has cemented itself as a staple of Ukrainian forces’ anti-tank operations and is part of the reason that they have been able to achieve the approximated 1,400 Russian tank losses since the start of its war with Russia. Granted, they have received an increasingly diverse arsenal of explosives and missile systems from across the globe that have certainly contributed to those kills, but the Javelin has become particularly symbolic of the United States’ allyship with Ukraine.

The utilization of the Javelin has been so significant throughout the conflict, in fact, that the logistical issue may pan out to be the result of a poorly handled supply-and-demand ratio. In April, Congress even considered invoking the Defense Production Act to ensure the supply of both Javelin and Stinger missiles remained steady, effectively raising questions about the Defense Department’s ability to meet the need. Those questions have since been answered, which you can read all about here.

In May, concern about being able to quickly train additional Ukrainian soldiers on the Javelin system also began to mount. As the conflict raged on and a number of additional soldiers and volunteers entered the ranks, training procedures struggled to account for everyone. A delivery of corresponding Javelin training kits themselves was specifically requested by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and was later confirmed to The War Zone by Ukrainian Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov. However, it is unclear if the kits have arrived in Ukraine, and the Washington Post article stated that the Javelin shipments in question were also missing the computer-based programs typically included in the training curriculum. 

There have even been reports that Ukrainian troops are resorting to reaching out to old military connections for assistance with troubleshooting their Javelins. In June, Task & Purpose revealed that a Washington National Guardsman had received a call from a Ukrainian soldier that he had met during a past training exercise asking if he could assist him in addressing a complication with his Javelin. The collaboration is said to have been successful, with no thanks to any instruction card or customer service helpline.

Complicating the Ukrainian forces’ ability to reach said hotline could prove to be both massively irresponsible and a gigantic waste of money. The United States and its allies have sent a staggering amount of Javelin missiles to Ukraine, depleting a significant portion of their own inventories, with deliveries dating back to before the Russian invasion was officially launched in February 2022. Each singular Javelin missile costs roughly $200,000, with the entire shoulder-fired system (one missile and a reusable targeting system) totaling around $440,000, based on 2023 budget documents. These figures reflect just how important it would be to maintain the efficacy of the Javelin, which will be a difficult thing to achieve without even an established and reliable 1-800 customer support number. Just the thought of the massive logistical operation of sending thousands of these missiles to Ukraine, and the hundreds of millions of dollars involved in it, but all the while nobody seemed to have taken the time to make sure a 1-800 support number is available to the end-user is almost a caricature of institutional incompetence, if this is indeed a widespread issue as.

Even without the help of a call center, Russian tank kills continue to stack up for Ukrainian forces. Their missile arsenal remains a force to be reckoned with, so one could imagine how lethal it would become once a solidified maintenance and support procedure begins to bolster its usability.

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