On 3 May, President Joe Biden visited the Lockheed Martin facility in Alabama, a major armory of the US military manufacturing that supplies weapon systems to Ukraine in its war against Russia. The visit, the first since President Biden took office and perhaps since his time as Vice President with former President Barack Obama, was described as being “unprecedented” and it indeed is, particularly because it carries with it a special recognition of the military institution that, according to US estimates, has managed so far to cause Russia to stumble militarily.
Implications of the Visit
Biden’s visit to the Lockheed Martin weapons plant was perhaps motivated by the facility’s work on producing Javelin anti-tank missiles, which proved to be a decisive weapon in the Russia-Ukraine war.
Javelin is a 15.9 kg man-portable missile that enabled Ukraine to inflict serious damage on Russian armored vehicles. This missile system, of which Ukraine had had a few before the war, has become increasingly in demand given the developments that the war imposed on multiple fronts. In effect, Ukrainian units were able to use these missiles efficiently, inflicting heavy losses on the columns of tanks that ignited the spark of the war on the Ukrainian cities. Perhaps a remarkable example of the effective use of Javelin was clear in the early weeks of the war when it was used against the huge column of armored vehicles that moved towards Kyiv and continued to advance from the north and northwest along an estimated distance of 35 km, reaching the border, 10 km near the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital. After Weeks of this strategic positioning, described by Russian media and official statements as a siege of the capital that paves the way for entering it or bringing down the Ukrainian regime, Russia announced withdrawing its columns and redeploying them according to a different plan.
At that time, some sketchy reports on this withdrawal were released. They, however, failed to reveal the truth about what exactly happened and attributed this retreat to the heavy losses that the Russian incurred, particularly with regard to tanks. Since then, the significance of Javelin missiles started to unfold.
Towards Greater Support
In his statement at the Lockheed Martin facility, Biden urged the Congress to approve additional funding that would allow Lockheed Martin to expand the production of Javelin missiles and their ammunition, in a way that help meet the needs of Ukraine, which, according to US reports, fire about 500 Javelin missiles daily. Given the $304 billion generous support the United States provided to Ukraine over two months, Biden isn’t likely to opposition within the Congress, whose Democratic and Republican members are psyched to get into this fight against the Russian regime and seem to be in agreement on this, tilting either to hardline or more strict positions.
Currently, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies are involved in a joint venture to develop the Javelin system, a project considered the most promising and the one the meets developments of asymmetric warfare. Since 1996, the US military has been equipped with a relatively old model of Javelin that proved of high precision and effective in destroying armored vehicles.
Today, with the outbreak of the Ukraine war, the US military plans to invest more in the development research of Javelin, efforts that have given rise recently to an advanced variant called Javelin FGM-148F, which has proven remarkably efficient in the Ukrainian theater of operations. Javelin FGM-148F is a major development of the multi-purpose warhead as it maintains its high lethality against armored vehicles while being reinforced with lethality against personnel, vehicles, and personnel carriers.
The Raytheon-Lockheed Martin joint venture development research was geared towards developing a new variant that has a lower cost and weight, which would give it comparative advantages, along with the steady development of its accuracy and firing range. These were the aspects that needed development based on the wide use of Javelin in Ukraine in different combat environments and areas that are mostly populated and that pose the dilemma of waging urban and suburban wars and represented a great challenge to the Russian advancement and decisiveness of the battle. Perhaps this is why there were several rounds of negotiations with Kyiv to create “safe humanitarian corridors” to evacuate cities and areas where the fight is taking place, a call that Kyiv rejects. In this vein, there have been several accusations and counter-accusations by both sides on the use of civilians as human shields to impede military decisiveness. Seemingly, the new advanced weapons, such as Javelin, among others, achieve effectiveness on different fighting axes and enable Ukrainian fighters to carry out maneuvers that inflict serious losses on Russia. In return, Russia responds with more fire and wide destructive power aimed at inflicting heavy losses on the Ukrainian military units, which would push them to reconsider their retrenchment within cities, particularly with the associated blow to their morale, given their capability to continue to fight.
Russia’s response wasn’t only restricted to inflicting direct losses on the Ukrainian forces as Moscow declared that Western arms convoys to Ukraine are legitimate targets of the Russian army. Evidently, the Russian military intelligence is engaged in a fierce struggle with its counterparts in order to obtain information regarding the West’s supply lines into Ukraine. While Russia didn’t manage to completely cut out these supply arteries, it succeeded in launching high-impact strikes and disrupted the pace of access to the West’s supply. The most striking example of these strikes was the Russian long-range missile strike on 13 March on the Yavorovsky military base, located 30 km from the far west of Ukraine near the Polish border.
However, the latest and most dangerous strike took place this week, which may represent an advanced Russian aerial targeting of supply lines. Unexpectedly, NATO announced that it expeditiously sent combat fighters to track and intercept Russian aircraft that were executing mysterious overflight in unconventional air border areas of NATO countries.
This emergency aerial response from NATO took place a few times) sometimes over the Baltic Sea and at others in the Black Sea region) against the background of the overflight of Russian aircraft in these areas without filing a flight plan and without communicating with air traffic controller, which was interpreted by NATO Air Intelligence as being sudden and secret overflights that chase specific targets. NATO aircraft that flew to track and intercept airspace violations by Russia took off from Poland, Denmark, France, Spain, Romania and the United Kingdom, following NATO’s detection of new paths taken by Russian aircraft, which indicates these countries feel an imminent or looming danger, if Russia’s subsequent air attack was interpreted as a test of NATO’s speed of response.
This article was originally published in Arabic on 15 May 2022.