Consider the Javelin anti-armor missile launcher. It's a portable antitank weapon -- a soldier mounts the weapon on his or her shoulder, acquires a target and fires. The Army calls the Javelin a fire-and-forget missile. That's because the missile has a sophisticated guidance system on it that will seek out the acquired target. The soldier can pull the trigger, look away and change positions before the enemy even knows it's under attack.
The interface for the Javelin system is the command launch unit (CLU). The CLU contains a sight and monitor system that allows the soldier to view targets at up to four times magnification during the day. Infrared cameras allow the soldier to operate the Javelin launcher in the dead of night and they provide up to nine times magnification. The CLU also has a computer system that soldiers use to define targets. Even without a missile launch tube, a soldier can use a CLU to perform surveillance on an enemy at night [source: Army-Technology.com].
A loaded Javelin launch unit weighs 49.5 pounds (about 22.5 kilograms). It's 3.5 feet long (approximately 1 meter). Normal operation requires two soldiers per launcher -- one to site targets and fire while the other reloads the launcher between shots. The maximum effective range for a Javelin missile is 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) [source: U.S. Army].
The soldier firing the missile can choose from two attack modes: top-attack or direct-path. Selecting the top-attack mode tells the missile to fly in an arc and then dive sharply to hit the target directly overhead. The direct-path mode tells the missile to fly directly toward the target in a straight path. The soldier chooses the mode based upon the defenses the target possesses and the missile does the rest.
The Javelin system packs a lot of sophisticated technology into a compact and portable package. Engineers designed the CLU to be easy to operate. Even so, the Army doesn't expect soldiers to be able to pick up an unfamiliar piece of equipment and use it effectively on the first try. With that in mind, the Army invested in a special training program to acquaint soldiers with the Javelin system.
So how does the Army train future Javelin users without firing an actual missile? Find out in the next section.