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BGM-71 TOW



Overview


BGM-71 TOW

US army soldier launching a TOW missile from a tripod mounted launcher.
Source: US Army - © Public domain

Origin
United States
Type
Anti-tank missile
Entered service
1970
Status
In service
Development
1963 - 1968
Developer
United States
Production
1968 - present
Producer
United States - Hughes (now Raytheon)
Number produced
620.000 by 2001
Designations
TOW / Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided
BGM-71 (US military service)
Notable users
United States

Description


Introduction

The TOW is mid Cold War era anti-tank missile of US origin. It was developed in the 1960's to replace the older 106mm M40 recoilless rifle and French Entac and AS-11 missiles in US service. The name TOW is an abbreviation for "Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire command data link, guided missile". The TOW was designed to be fired from tripod, vehicles and helicopters in order to reduce cost and ease logistics. Due to the continuous modernization of the missiles and launch systems the TOW remains an up to date weapon system that will remain in use for many years to come.

Design

The TOW missile is a wire guided missile that is launched from a tube. The missile has a conventional layout with the warhead at the front, cruciform wings in the middle, four control vanes and single-stage solid propellant rocket motor at the rear. Over time the warhead and other components have been updated to improve the performance.

Guidance

The TOW is wire guided and uses SACLOS guidance. The tracker included in the launch post detects the IR beacon on the missile and calculates course corrections. These are sent via the wire to the missile which adjusts course accordingly. This guidance mode requires the operator to man the launcher until the missile has hit its target.

Firepower

The TOW missile is a very capable missile and in its latest form can be used to take out most armored vehicles. The first version had a penetration of The maximum range is 3.75 km and a version with 4.5 km range is being developed. If not obscured by smoke the SACLOS wire guidance system ensures a good chance to hit the target, even when the target is moving.

Platforms

The TOW missile can be launched from the M220 tripod launcher. The M220 is very heavy and cumbersome and can only be carried over limited distances by infantry. Usually the launcher is mounted on a light vehicle such as the M151 MUTT and HMMWV. Other vehicle based launchers include the M901 Improved TOW Vehicle, M2 Bradley, LAV AT, Stryker and various non-US vehicles. The TOW can also be used by helicopters such as the compact Hughes MD-500 and many versions of the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter.

Users

The first and foremost user of the TOW is the US military. The TOW is also used by most European nations and various other US allies around the world. Unlicenced copies, called the Toophan, are produced in Iran. The TOW is expected to remain in use with US forces until the year 2050.

Variants


BGM-71 TOW

Overview of TOW family of anti-tank missiles.
Source: Raytheon - © Copyright lies with original owner

List of TOW variants

Basic TOW
First operation variant of the TOW missile, later named Basic TOW to distinguish it from the Improved version. BGM-71A has a 3 km range while BGM-71B increases this to 3.75 by means of a longer guidance wire.
I-TOW
BGM-71C Improved TOW has an improved shaped charge warhead. This features and extensible nose probe for optimal standoff range.
TOW-2
BGM-71D is the first of a new generation TOW missile with improved guidance and new rocket motor. The TOW-2 has a single HEAT warhead with a much improved penetration over the I-TOW.
TOW-2A
BGM-71E is similar to the TOW-2, but has a precursor charge for improved performance against explosive reactive armor.
TOW-2B
BGM-71F is a variant of the TOW-2 with a top attack warhead. The TOW-2B flies over the target and has a downward facing shaped charged warhead.

Details


Facts BGM-71A/B Basic TOW BGM-71C I-TOW BGM-71D TOW-2 BGM-71E TOW-2A BGM-71F TOW-2B
General
Origin
United States
Type
Anti-tank guided missile
Dimensions
Weight
18.9 kg
Diameter
152 mm
Wingspan
0.45 m center wings
0.34 m tail fins
Length
1.17 m
Guidance
Method
Wire guidance
Operating mode
SACLOS
Warhead
Type
Single HEAT
Weight
3.9 kg
Penetration
430 mm RHA
Propulsion
Engine
Solid propellant rocket motor
Range
3.0 km for BGM-71A
3.75 km for BGM-71B
65 m minimum
Max speed
Up to 300 m/s
About 200 m/s at 3 km distance

Media


Platforms


Tripod

The tripod mounted launcher is commonly used with the TOW. It provides a solid platform, but is also quite heavy and only man-portable over short distances.

M151 Mutt

Many TOW launchers have been fitted to light open topped low silhouette utility vehicles such as the M151 MUTT.

HMMWV

The HMMWV is one of the primary platforms for the TOW launcher in use with US infantry formations.

AMX-PRAT

Dutch tank destroyer created by fitting a pedestal mounted TOW launcher to existing AMX-VCI armored personnel carriers.

Panzerjäger 90

Swiss tank destroyer based on the Piranha 6x6 wheeled chassis. Two TOW missiles are ready to fire.

M901 ITV

American tank destroyer based on the M113 chassis. The Emerson retractable launcher has two TOW missiles ready to fire.

LAV-AT

American tank destroyer based on the LAV-25 wheeled infantry fighting vehicle. The LAV-AT has two TOW missiles ready to fire.

Stryker ATGM

American tank destroyer based on the Stryker chassis.

YPR-765 PRAT

Dutch tank destroyer equivalent to the US M901 ITV, but based on YPR-765 chassis.

Related articles


106mm M40

The TOW replaced the M40 recoilless rifle as a tripod and light vehicle mounted anti-tank weapon for infantry in the US army.

HOT

The French-German HOT missile is an anti-tank missile of similar size, range and guidance method. Unlike the TOW there are no man portable launch systems for the HOT.

9K113 Konkurs

The Konkurs (NATO: AT-5 Spandrel) is the Soviet counterpart to the TOW, having similar range and being wire guided as well.