Estonia buys arms killing from a kilometre

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Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces Major-General Riho Terras says Estonian antitank capacity is good as it stands but needs updating. 

In near future, Estonia will acquire 80 Javelin anti-tank missiles, the demo shooting of which happened near Tapa, yesterday. The weapon will also be used by conscripts.

How great the probability of a Javelin hitting the mark over one kilometre? «95 percent,» said US Army Sergeant Black, in charge of the demonstration. He went on to explain that a 100 percent guarantee cannot be given due to human errors. According to the Sergeant, the weapon’s effective shooting distance reaches up to two kilometres. 

His eyes were shining. Why? Just before answering the question, he was able to fire two shots. This is no ordinary practice, as a shot costs €60,000. Even for the Americans, this is so expensive that they are trained on simulators and in reality US soldiers do one or two shots a year. That’s all.

The shot itself looks like a cartoon: the marksman does the click, the missile jumps out. In a moment, it develops a flame and rushes towards the target.

The Sergeant said Javelin is one wonderful means to fight off tanks. «Complete with a missile, it only weighs 22 kilograms,» he explained. Thus, it needs no vehicle to for transport and can be carried in hand. As a rule, it is used by two-three member units.

In Estonian defence forces, Javelins will be used by combat pairs, one of the men being a helper. Training goes fast: they complete a two week course, take an exam, and a specialist is born.

And conscripts can have a shot? «Definitely, conscripts will undergo training and shoot with these,» said Maj. Gen. Riho Terras. Javelins will be employed by all military units.

He hopes the purchasing contract will be entered next year. Officially, these come at about €90,000 apiece, but it is planned to acquire both weapons and rockets below the official purchasing price. In the opinion of several high-ranking officers, this is a realistic expectation. After the buy, specialist training will commence. While entering the contract, future maintenance and repairs are considered.

The Maj. Gen. added that Estonian anti-tank capacity is impressive. Why the Javelins, then? «We are in a situation where we need to replace the Milan-system, to maintain our excellent anti-tank capacity,» said Terras, pointing out that there comes the time when weapons depreciate and equipment inevitably needs updating. The Milans will be used as long as possible, parallel with Javelins, till the missiles expire or the storage runs out. After that, Estonia’s anti-tank capacity will be relying on Javelins.

Javelins were used both in Afghanistan and Iraq. «In Iraq, they were fired at real armoured targets i.e. tanks,» said Major Tõnis Metjer. The weapons are mainly to fight off tanks, but it is also possible to hit low-flying helicopters. In Iraq, Javelins were used by both Americans and Brits.

The only alternative to Javelins would be the Israeli anti-tank system Spike, used also by Finns. Allegedly, however, these are more expensive to keep.

Americans were first armed with Javelins in 1996, the initial battle experience dates to 2001, in Afghanistan. By now, close to 20 nations use them, such as Lithuanian and Norway. Also, Javelins are used by Special Forces of several NATO member states.


•    Effective firing range: 65–2,000 metres

•    Weight: 7 kg, with the stand 11 kg

•    Warhead weight: 15.5 kg

•    Armour penetration: 750 mm

•    Rocket guidance method: «fire-and-forget» i.e. the missile, after being fired, will lock on to the target automatically.

•    Crew: 2

•    Producer: Raytheon & Lockheed Martin