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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

School of Infantry students shoot the works, herald new antitank era

By Cpl. Jose A. Figueroa | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | November 21, 2000

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON -- Students at the School of Infantry here kicked it into high gear Nov. 8, in an effort to expend their M-47 Dragon antitank guided missiles surplus to make room for the new Javelin antitank missile.

"Usually, there is one Dragon for each class and the top student is the one to fire it.  Now, every student will get to fire one," said Sgt. Dennis Hixson, antitank instructor, SOI.  "It's a big deal for the antitank assaultman because it is seldom fired and carries a $7,000 price tag, per round."

Starting January 2001, the Dragon curriculum becomes obsolete and replaced by Javelin curriculum at SOI.  Through the assistance of a classroom simulator, the Javelin system will be taught.

"The Javelin will never be fired at the school because of the $123,000 price tag," said Sgt. Shane Pauly, antitank instructor, SOI.  "Once it is mass produced the price will probably jump down to $77,000 per round."

However, students may continue to fire remaining Dragon rounds until all are expended.  

According to Hixson, approximately 75 percent of the Fleet Marine Force has incorporated Javelin training and no longer uses the Dragon.  It is the Corps' goal to have 100 percent of fleet forces trained on the Javelin system by January 2001.

The Javelin system is expected to increase the survivability of the antitank assaultman because of the missile type.

"It's the first fire-and-forget system ever," Hixson said.  "You don't have to wait until impact to be able to move."

Currently, the Dragon missile uses a wire-guided system forcing the assaultman to optically guide the missile to its target.  From the moment the missile is fired, until impact, it takes approximately 10 to 20 seconds. 

"This places the assaultman in harms way," Hixson said.  "He may hit a tank, but other tanks in the area can zero in on him while he is guiding the Dragon.  Before you know it, you are dead.

"With the Javelin, all you have to do is aim in on the target and fire.  Once out of the tube, the missile is on its own program and you could immediately move on to another position and fire another," Hixson added.

Another advantage to the Javelin system is that it is capable of being fired indoors.  Unlike the Dragon, the Javelin uses a soft-launch concept.  The missile is ejected into a safe distance from the assaultman and, once cleared, it fires its rocket.  With the Dragon, it would be suicidal to fire from inside a building because of the back-blast, according to Pauly.

Once the Javelin is launched, it actively seeks its target until confirmation of impact. 

"Even if the target moves, the (new) Javelin will look for it and then close in," Pauly said.  "It will hit its target 99.9 percent of the time."

With the ushering in of the new Javelin antitank missile system, the face of antitank warfare is forever changed, thus making the Javelin the most lethal weapon in "any infantry arsenal," according to Hixson.

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