Country of origin
TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided) is a heavy anti-tank
missile. It was developed by Hughes Aircraft Company during the mid
and late 1960s. It was designed for both ground and heliborne
applications. Production contract was awarded in 1968. It was first fielded in the 1970.
This missile was first used in combat in 1972. Currently the TOW is one of the most
widely used anti-tank guided missiles in the world. Over 650 000 of
these missiles have been made. It is still capable after 50 years of service. Currently the TOW
anti-tank missile and its variants are used by more than 45
countries around the world. In 1997 the
Hughes Aircraft Company was taken over by Raytheon. So development
and production of this anti-tank missile now comes under Raytheon
The TOW has
destroyed tanks, mostly Russian, during the war in Vietnam, the
Arab-Israeli Wars, the Iran-Iraq War, Gulf War, and now Syria. It
proved itself as a very effective weapon.
In the basic
infantry form the TOW launcher is mounted on a portable tripod. The missile is carried in a sealed container. It is
clipped to the launcher before the launch. This weapon
is serviced by a crew of three soldiers, including commander, gunner
and assistance gunner. The launcher can be disassembled and
transported by the crew. The TOW launchers are typically used by
separate anti-tank companies for heavy anti-armor work.
The original missiles
are wire-guided. First production missiles had a maximum range of 3 000 m.
Although it was estimated, that the basic TOW missile could
penetrate 500-600 mm or Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA), according to
now unclassified study it penetrates only 430 mm.
missile has semi-automatic guidance. It is not a fire-and-forget
type weapon. It requires the shooter to keep the target in the line
of sight until the missile impacts. Once the missile is launched the
optical sensor on the sight continuously monitors the position of
missile in relation to the target. The sensor corrects the
trajectory of the missile by sending electrical signals that are
passed on by two wires. The communication by wires with the missile
can not be jammed by the enemy. The latest missiles of the TOW are
produced both with wire- and wireless guidance. These newer wireless
missiles require no special alterations to the launcher.
launcher is widely carried on various vehicles, and even helicopters.
The launcher can be mounted on
It is employed as the main anti-tank weapon by
infantry fighting vehicle and
Bradley cavalry fighting vehicle. Also there are dedicated
anti-tank missile carriers, based on the
The M1134 is used by the US Army, while the LAV-AT is used by the US
Marine Corps. Also there is an obsolete M901 anti-tank missile
carrier, based on the
armored personnel carrier chassis, that is still in used by some
basic missile of the TOW. It has a range of 3 000 m and penetrates
430 mm of RHA. It was first fielded in 1970.
has improved range to 3 750 m. This missile flies faster and has a
longer wire. Otherwise it is similar to the basic BGM-71A.
(Improved TOW), or BGM-71C. It was adopted by the US Army in
1976. This missile has improved shape-charged warhead. It also has
an extensible probe that triggers detonation of the warhead and
provides optimum detonation distance. The probe is extended after
the launch. This missile penetrates 630 mm of steel armor.
TOW 2 is an upgraded version of the TOW. It entered service with the
US Army in 1983. This weapon system is composed of new BGM-71D
missile, new reusable launcher, missile guidance set, and sight
system. The launcher is lighter. It is compatible with all previous TOW
missiles. It has thermal optics and can be used at night. The new
missile has a larger warhead (5.9 kg) with extensible probe, as well
as improved guidance. It has a range of 3.75 km and penetrates 900
mm of steel armor. Over 77 000 BGM-71D anti-tank guided missiles
TOW 2A or
BGM-71E. It appeared in 1987. It has a tandem warhead and is
intended to defeat tanks with Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA). It
penetrates 900 mm of steel armor behind ERA. Newer missiles,
starting from the TOW 2A are produced both in wireless and
wire-guided forms. The wireless missiles require no special
alterations to the launcher. Over 34 000 of the BGM-71E missiles
have been delivered. In 2003 these missiles were used by US Marines
in Iraq, destroying several Iraqi
TOW 2B or
BGM-71F is a top-attack missile. It appeared in 1987. This missile
explodes above a tank to penetrate its thin top armor. In concept it
is similar to a Swedish
BILL. It has a
maximum range of 4 200 m. Its warhead weights 6.14 kg. This missile
lacks extensible probe. These anti-tank missiles are produced in
wireless and wire-guided forms. First unit was equipped with these
missiles in 1992. In 2003 these missiles, alongside with the TOW 2As
were used by US Marines in Iraq, destroying several Iraqi
tanks. The conflict marked the first operational firing of the TOW
2B missiles. However during combat in Afghanistan the TOW 2B was
found to be less effective than the older TOW 2A.
TOW 2N was
an improved anti-tank system, that used missile with wireless data
link. It appeared in 1989. However this weapon was not adopted by
the US military.
BGM-71G is a
top-attack missile with different warhead. It also lacks extensible
BGM-71H is a
bunker-busting missile. It is used against buildings or fortified
structures. This missile has a range of 3.75 km. This missile is
produced in wireless and wire-guided forms.
TOW 2B Aero
is an extended-range version with a maximum range of 4.5 km.
Previously this weapon was known as TOW 2B (ER). This missile is
produced in wireless and wire-guided forms.
an Iranian reverse-engineered version of the TOW.