Biden heads south to tout use of Javelins in Lockheed Martin visit

US has already supplied Kyiv with more than 5,500 of the anti-tank missiles

President Joe Biden highlighted American workers' efforts to produce Javelins as the US sends more arms to Ukraine. US. Reuters
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President Joe Biden on Tuesday praised the "gigantic difference" employees at a Lockheed Martin facility are making in Ukraine's fight against the Russian invasion.

"We built the weapons and equipment and help defend freedom and sovereignty in Europe years ago. That's true again today," he said in remarks in Troy, Alabama.

"Every worker in this facility and every American taxpayer directly contributed to the case for freedom [for Ukraine]," he said.

The president's trip to the Deep South comes as analysts say the US is nearing a point where it may have to start reducing the number of Javelin anti-tank missiles it sends to Ukraine so it can maintain its own supply.

The Javelin, which is manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is a portable anti-tank weapon that can be shoulder-fired by a single soldier. The weapon has proved to be a remarkably effective tool for Ukraine in its fight against the much larger Russian military.

The mobility of the weapon and its use of infrared technology — which allows soldiers to “fire and forget” and retreat to cover before the missile hits its target — make it an extremely important component of the Ukrainian military’s arsenal.

“It has what's called a top-attack capability, which is, it can either fly directly at the target, or it can go up in the air and hit the target from above,” said Mark Cancian, a retired US marine colonel who is a senior adviser at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“That's useful for armoured vehicles because the armour on top is typically much thinner.”

The White House has delivered more than 5,500 Javelins to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February — but that number may not increase by much.

The Lockheed Martin facility can produce more than 2,100 missiles per year, the White House said, however the US Army reports the country has built fewer than 38,000 since production first started in the early 1990s.

Analysts such as Mr Cancian say the US may be approaching an uncomfortable point when it comes to sending Javelins to the Ukrainian battlefield.

“We are dipping into the stocks that had been reserved for war plans and therefore introduce some risk,” Mr Cancian told The National.

The US has so far been able to transfer equipment to Ukraine without affecting military readiness, the White House said.

Still, the president urged Congress to quickly pass the $33 billion in supplemental funding he requested last week as well as a bill to ensure access to semiconductors, of which each Javelin requires 200.

"We either back the Ukrainian peoples that defend their country or we stand by as Russia continues its atrocities and aggression," Mr Biden said.

The Pentagon says the Javelin “line” to Ukraine remains “open” and that it is keen to keep it that way.

“We’re working with the contractor to see what has to be done to continue to keep that line going and open because it has proven to be an important piece of Ukraine's self-defence,” a senior defence official said.

Mr Cancian pointed out that even if Ukraine does not receive any more Javelins, there are other effective anti-tank missile options that the US and its allies are already supplying.

He believes, however, that the conflict will grind to a stalemate before Ukraine “runs out of Javelins".

Updated: May 03, 2022, 10:09 PM