Friday, September 3, 2010

French Await Javelin for Afghanistan Training

French defense officials hope a shipment of 260 U.S.-built Javelin antitank missiles and 76 launchers will land this month, allowing training to start in October and be deployed in Afghanistan at the beginning of next year, an industry executive said Sept. 2.

A signing of the long-awaited contract, worth about $70 million, took place July 9 at the French Embassy in Washington as part of a Foreign Military Sale deal between the governments.

The U.S. side has delivered the equipment, which French officials hope will be put on board and shipped to France this month. That would allow training to begin at the Canjuers Army camp in southern France. Training is in the hands of the Javelin joint venture, which comprises Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

French Army planners are keen to equip their soldiers in the Afghan theater with a powerful weapon against the thick walls of houses and compounds that provide highly effective cover for insurgents.

France has lost 49 soldiers in Afghanistan. President Nicolas Sarkozy said Aug. 25 at the annual conference of French ambassadors here that France would stay in Afghanistan "as long as necessary."

The purchase of the relatively small number of Javelin missiles was made against a backdrop of fierce competition from MBDA, which offered the Milan ER, and Rafael of Israel, which offered the Spike.

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