A lightweight version of the soldier-fired Javelin missile launcher this month passed a key milestone on the way to a full-rate production decision in 2023, the first test launch by a gunner, a Raytheon Technologies [RTX] official said on Tuesday.

In addition to being the first test launch by a “gunner soldier,” the Oct. 5 event was a “critical part of our qualification program” for the lightweight command launch unit (LWCLU), Brad Barnard, executive director of precision fires and maneuver for Raytheon Missiles & Defense, said at the Association of the United States Army conference.

Javelin Joint Venture, a teaming arrangement between Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Raytheon Technologies, received the first low-rate initial production contract for LWCLU in June for 200 of the launchers. The contract is for $33.5 million. First deliveries under the contract will occur in 2025, Barnard said, noting that long-lead material purchases are occurring now.

Barnard highlighted four key new characteristics and capabilities of the LWCU, including a 30 percent reduction in volume and 25 percent cut in weight over the current Block 1 model, allowing it to fit in a standard issue backpack.

The new launcher will lower the “physical burden on the gunner,” Barnard said.

The LWCLU also costs less because it addresses obsolescence issues with the existing model, Barnard said. It also features an improved sensor display and signal processing capability that enables better range and resolution and faster target acquisition, Barnard said. The system is also more effective in “adverse weather, in what we call a dirty battlefield,” he said.

The range of the Javelin missile won’t increase due to the improved capabilities of the launcher, which currently is 2.5 kilometers and 4 kilometers in certain operational environments, Jerry Brode, vice president of close combat systems for Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control segment, said during the briefing.

The LWCLU can also connect to the Army’s network, linking it with other platforms.

“This enables the handoff of targets from Lightweight CLU to other platforms on the battlefield for those targets to be addressed and facilitates dismounted and mounted ops in real-time,” he said.

The goal is to produce 600 LWCLUs annually at full rate production. The Javelin team has been able to address any supply chain concerns, Brode said.

The LWCLU has been in development for more than eight years. Barnard and Brode said that that the lessons being learned from the Ukrainian army’s use of the Javelin anti-tank missile system in its war against Russia have reinforced the Army’s original requirements.

The Javelin team is currently producing missiles at a rate of 2,100 per year, with the goal to get to almost 4,000 annually in 2026, which is the F model of the missile. The increase in production has been driven over the past 18 months by U.S. and international demand, Brode said.