US approves Ukraine’s purchase of 150 Javelin anti-tank missiles

Notification follows the approval of $47 million worth of Javelin missiles and launch units in March 2018

The U.S. has approved Ukraine’s purchase of Javelin missiles and launch units at an estimated cost of nearly $40 million, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said on Thursday, October 3.

Ukraine requested to buy 150 Javelin missiles and 10 Javelin Command Launch Units, training devices, support equipment, training and support services, and other related elements, DSCA said in a release.

The total estimated cost is not to exceed $39.2 million, the release said.

“The Javelin system will help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements,” DSCA said.

Raytheon is the primary contractor.

The State Department formally authorized the sale with the informal approval of Congress, Bloomberg first reported on Tuesday.

The Javelin purchase is in addition to, but separate from a previous $250 million military aid package that President Donald Trump withheld in June before asking Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor” in a July 25 phone call that has triggered an impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The administration lifted the hold on that sale, originally approved in June, on September 11 following backlash from Congress, Politico reported.

During the call, Zelensky reiterated his government’s desire to purchase more Javelin anti-tank shoulder-fired missile launchers. Trump responded by asking Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is likely to be Trump’s top challenger in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

The U.S. Defense Department’s General Counsel directed top Pentagon officials on Thursday to prepare to preserve and turn over all pertinent records relating to the Ukraine aid, Assistant Defense Secretary for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.

The Ukrainian government is at war against eastern separatists backed by the Russian government. Nearly 13,000 people have been killed since the start of the insurgency, which broke out in April 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The U.S. has sent Ukraine $1.6 billion in military and security aid since 2014. In 2017 the Trump administration approved the U.S.’s first lethal arms sales to Ukraine since the conflict began.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of funneling troops and arms to the pro-Moscow rebels across the border. Moscow denies the allegations.

FGM-148 Javelin fire-and forget anti-tank guided missile

The FGM-148 Javelin is a U.S.-made man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank guided missile which locks on and uses automatic infrared guidance, allowing the user to take cover immediately.

The Javelin’s high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead can defeat modern tanks by attacking them from above, but the system can also use a direct-attack mode against buildings and helicopters.

The tandem warhead carries two shaped charges: a precursor to detonate explosive reactive armor and a primary warhead to penetrate base armor.

The U.S. previously approved the sale to Ukraine of 210 Javelin missiles and 37 launch units, including spares, in March 2018 at an estimated cost of $47 million. A joint venture between Raytheon and Lockheed Martin to produce the anti-tank weapon has since been awarded a number of contract modifications for foreign Javelin sales.

The purpose of the sales has been “to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression,” Joint Staff Spokesperson Air Force Colonel Patrick Ryder told reporters Thursday.

Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s president, which was reported by a whistleblower, shows the U.S. president has considered sales of the sophisticated weapon system as leverage over the Ukrainian government.

The July phone call was not the first time the prospect of the Trump administration’s Javelin sales hung over Ukrainian officials.

Weeks after the U.S.’s first approved sale in 2018, Ukraine’s chief prosecutor halted four ongoing criminal investigations involving Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, allegedly over concerns that the Trump administration may withhold the sales, the New York Times reported last year.

A Ukrainian opposition source who spoke to The New York Times at the time said he did not believe there had been a quid-pro-quo between U.S. and Ukrainian officials over halting the investigations.

Manafort, who came under intense scrutiny in the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, was jailed in the U.S. earlier this year on charges of tax and financial fraud relating to his work advising Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin former President Viktor Yanukovych.

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