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TOW 2 Wire-Guided Anti-Tank Missile, United States of America




Key Data


TOW 2 wire guided missile

The BGM-71 TOW wire-guided heavy anti-tank missile is produced by Raytheon Systems Company. The weapon is used in anti-armour, anti-bunker, anti-fortification and anti-amphibious landing roles. TOW is in service with over 40 armed forces and is integrated on over 15,000 ground, vehicle and helicopter platforms worldwide.

TOW 2 missile system development

The TOW missile system has been in service since 1970 with more than 650,000 missiles produced. Current production versions are: TOW 2A (BGM-71E), which entered production in 1987 with over 118,000 missiles delivered; TOW 2B (BGM-71F), which entered production in 1991 with over 40,000 missiles delivered and is designed to complement rather than replace TOW 2A; TOW 2B Aero; and TOW 2A bunker buster (BGM-71H).

A production contract for the new extended-range TOW 2B Aero was awarded by the US Army in February 2004. The contract was for 976 missiles, delivered by December 2006. A US Army contract for more than 2,700 TOW 2B and TOW 2B Aero missiles (including practice rounds) was placed in July 2004. TOW 2B Aero with ITAS has been selected for the US Marine Corps' next-generation AAWS-H (anti-armour weapon system-heavy) programme.

The TOW 2 missile system was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which constituted the first operational firing of the TOW 2B missile.

TOW 2 missile orders and deliveries

"TOW 2 is used in anti-armour, anti-bunker, anti-fortification and anti-amphibious landing roles."

In August 2005, Kuwait requested the sale of 436 (292 TOW 2A, 144 TOW 2B) TOW missiles.

In September 2006, the US Army placed the first production contract, with five one-year options, for the new TOW 2B RF missile, a wireless version.

In October 2007, the US Congress was notified of the proposed sale of 2000 TOW 2A missiles to Pakistan and 2000 TOW 2A missiles to Israel.

In November 2007, Canada placed an order for 462 TOW 2A RF bunker buster missiles, the first export order for this missile variant.

In January 2008, Kuwait requested the sale of 2,106 TOW 2A RF and 1,404 TOW 2B RF missiles.

In September 2008, Egypt requested the sale of 6,900 TOW 2A missiles to replace its ageing inventory.

In July 2010, the US government placed a $55m contract with Raytheon to deliver TOW missiles to Saudi Arabia under a foreign military sales agreement.

Raytheon Technical Services received a $77.9m contract in March 2012 to deliver logistics and engineering support for subsystems and related equipment of the US Army TOW missiles.

In October 2012, Raytheon was awarded a $349m five-year contract to deliver 6,676 new wireless TOW missiles to the US military.

TOW 2 vehicle and air-mounted missile systems

The missiles can be fired from the ground using a tripod-mounted launch tube or installed on vehicles. The TOW missile system can be fitted as a single-tube pedestal mount on military vehicles or as two-tube or four-tube under-armour systems on vehicles such as the improved TOW vehicle M901, Desert Warrior, Piranha, US Marine Corps LAV, Dardo Hitfist and Bradley M2/M3.

Airborne TOW is in service in more than 13 countries. Over 2,100 units have been delivered and helicopters fitted with the TOW missile include the AgustaWestland Lynx, AgustaWestland A129, Bell Textron 206L, UH-1 Huey, Hughes 500MD helicopter, Eurocopter Bo 105 and Bell Textron AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter.

TOW anti-armour missile

The missile has command to line-of-sight guidance. The weapons operator uses a telescopic sight to view a point on the target and then fires the missile. The missile has a two-stage ATK (Alliant Techsystems) solid propellant rocket motor. The operator continues to view and track the target through the sight. Guidance signals from the guidance computer are transmitted along two wires, which spool from the back of the missile to the control system on the missile. The Chandler Evans CACS-2 control system uses differential piston type actuators.

"The TOW missiles can be fired from the ground using a tripod-mounted launch tube."

TOW missile warheads are supplied by Aerojet of Sacramento, California, with production facilities in Socorro, New Mexico.

The missile is fitted with a high-intensity thermal beacon, which provides a long-wave infrared tracking source and a xenon beacon for short-wave tracking. This dual-tracking system provides increased resistance to electro-optical and infrared countermeasures.

TOW 2A anti-tank missile

For penetration of tanks protected with explosive reactive armour (ERA), TOW 2A is equipped with a tandem warhead. A small disrupter charge detonates the reactive armour and allows the main shaped charge to penetrate the main armour.

TOW 2A bunker buster missile

A 'bunker buster' variant of the TOW 2A, to defeat field fortifications, bunkers and urban structures, has been developed and fielded by the US Army. The TOW 2A bunker buster has a range of 3,750m. It is scheduled to arm the US Army's anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) variant of the Stryker combat vehicle family.

TOW 2B anti-tank missile

TOW 2B, operates in a 'flyover shoot down' top attack mode, unlike other versions which are direct attack. It features a dual-mode target sensor designed by Thales (formerly Thomson-Thorn) Missile Electronics, which includes laser profilometer and magnetic sensor, and new warhead section, produced by Aerojet.

"The TOW 2 missile system was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom."

It resembles the TOW 2A but without the extendible probe, and is armed with two explosively formed tantalum penetrator (EFP) warheads. The EFP warheads detonate simultaneously, one pointing downwards, the other slightly offset to give an increased hit probability. The warhead material is designed to generate pyrophoric effects within the damaged target.

TOW 2B Aero anti-tank missile

An extended range TOW 2B missile, TOW 2B Aero, has a range of 4.5km, which is achieved in only a few seconds longer than the flight time of TOW 2B to 3.75km.

Two modifications are made to the TOW 2B. A longer wire is required for the longer range and a new aerodynamic nose has been fitted to allow stable, controllable flight to the extended range, while using the current propulsion system.

TOW 2B RF anti-tank missile

Another development of the TOW 2B Aero, the wireless TOW 2B RF is in production. TOW 2B RF is modified with a one-way, stealthy radio-frequency command link which dispenses with the wire link and gives a range of 4.5km. The system is compatible with current launchers.

ITAS improved target acquisition system

In 1999, Raytheon Company was awarded a US Army full rate production contract for the TOW improved target acquisition system (ITAS) for the HMMWV launcher and the ground mounted TOW. ITAS uses a thermal imager based on a standard advanced dewar assembly (SADA II) focal plane array, eyesafe laser rangefinder, and a gunner-aided target tracker. ITAS improves target recognition range performance and hit probability.

"The TOW missile has command to line-of-sight guidance."

Between 1999 and 2003, the US Army procured 709 ITAS systems.

In April 2005, a contract for the resumption of system production was awarded. The system has been fielded in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. ITAS has also been bought by Canada for new LAV III vehicles armed with TOW missiles.

TOW FF fire-and-forget missile

In September 2000, the US Army awarded an EMD (engineering and manufacturing development) contract for a wireless TOW fire and forget missile to Raytheon Systems Company. However the US Army cancelled the project in 2002.

TOW FF was to have an advanced imaging infrared staring focal plane array seeker.

Elevated TOW anti-tank missile

An elevated TOW system (ETS) has been developed by an international consortium consisting of Raytheon, GM Delco, Indra of Spain, and E.Falck Schmidt of Denmark.

The system, based on a Danish M113 armoured personnel carrier, uses an elevating mast fitted with a pod containing a lightweight launcher and four TOW launch tubes. In August 1999, the ETS successfully completed demonstration firing tests at the Danish Army Training Centre in Denmark.


The Global Missiles and Missile Defence Systems Market 2011-2021

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A BGM-71 TOW missile being fired by a solider The BGM-71 TOW missile.
TOW 2 missile being fired from a vehicle The weapon is used in anti-armour, bunker, fortification and amphibious landing roles.
TOW missile system fitted to a helicopter Helicopters fitted with the TOW missile include the Lynx, the A129, the 206L, the UH-1, the 500MD, the MBB Bo 105 and AH-1 Cobra.
TOW missile being fired from a M998 HMMWV by a soldier The TOW missile mounted on the M998 HMMWV.
The TOW missile family of variants The TOW family of anti-armour missiles.
Schematics of the TOW 2 system missile launcher The TOW 2 system launcher features schematic.
Diagram of the TOW 2A missile features and components The TOW 2A missile features and components diagram.
Diagram of the TOW 2B missile features and components The TOW 2B missile features and components diagram.