The competition for the supply the French Army with multi-purpose guided weapons is not over yet, even after the French Ministry of Defense has ordered an initial batch of 36 Javelin missiles systems, to equip French forces operating in Afghanistan. According to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency France has requested 76 such systems, plus 260 missiles. The current order that could amount up to $69 million, fulfils urgent operational requirement for Afghanistan operations. The head of the Direction Generale pour l’Armement (DGA) procurement office Laurent Collet-Billon said a follow-on competition will determine which company will win this contract.
The French selection of the Javelin was logical, due to the availability of this weapon and support equipment is more available in Afghanistan, with U.S. Army, Marines and British forces. The Javelin is widely used in theater to suppress and attack snipers and mortar locations firing beyond the effective range of small caliber weapons such as 0.5 machine guns and high power sniper rifles. Its sight module is also used independent of the weapon, for observation and target acquisition at extended range.
However, the requirements for the French acquisition are broader than the limited mission Javelins are performing in Afghanistan. The will be used as successors to Milan-2 anti-tank missiles, used by all French infantry units, and will be called upon to perform as anti-tank and multi-purpose weapons. Despite its near-term selection of the Javelin, France is still undecided which of the two contenders will wind the final award for undred of launchers – the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin team offering the Javelin anti-armor missile or the Israeli/European team offering the Spike missile developed by Israel’s Rafael’s Advanced Defense Systems and produced by the European Eurospike company. The French ministry plans to award the contract to a local prime contractor, most likely EADS/MBDA or Thales, each of these local companies will team with one of the the foreign developers, facilitating local integration, production, training and support.
Sofar the Spike has beaten Javelin in most NATO countries, except the UK, and Ireland. Spike has won major orders in Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. Among the advantages attributed to the Spike are its scalability, multi-purpose warhead and weapon station integration. The Javelin is also undergoing product improvement, to include a planned introduction of a multi-purpose warhead in the near future.