Infobox Weapon

caption= A TOW missile being fired from an M151 MUTT.
origin=United States
type=Anti-tank missile
service= 1970- present
used_by= See "users"
design_date= 1963- 1968

The BGM-71 TOW is a U.S. anti-tank guided missile. "TOW" Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-to-command-Link guided Missile Set. The TOW was first produced in 1970 and is the most widely used anti-tank guided missile in the world. Current production TOWs can penetrate all currently known tank armor.Fact|date=April 2008


Initially developed by Hughes Aircraft between 1963 and 1968, the XBGM-71A was designed for both ground and heli-borne applications. In 1968 a contract for fullscale production was awarded to Hughes, and by 1970 the system was being fielded by the US Army. When adopted, the BGM-71 series replaced the M40 106mm recoilless rifle and the MGM-32 ENTAC missile system then in service. The missile also replaced the AGM-22B then in service as a heli-borne anti-tank weapon. In 1972 the missile was deployed operationally in South Vietnam in response to the North Vietnamese Army's Easter Offensive, as part of the XM26 Armament Subsystem for the UH-1B helicopter. The TOW missile was continually upgraded, with an improved TOW missile appearing in 1978, TOW 2 in 1983, and TOW 2A/B in 1987. Even as recently as 2001, TOW improvement has continued.

Several TOW missiles were used by U.S. forces in Iraq in the July 22, 2003 assault that killed Uday Hussein and Qusay Hussein. []


Raytheon has taken over for Hughes in recent years, and now handles production of all current variants, as well as TOW development.

Hughes developed a TOW missile with a wireless data link in 1989, referred to as TOW-2N, but this weapon was not adopted for use by the US military. Raytheon continued to develop improvements to the TOW line, but its FOTT (Follow-On To TOW) program was canceled in 1998, and its TOW-FF (TOW-Fire and Forget) program was cut short in November 30, 2001 [] because of funding limitations. In 2001 and 2002, Raytheon and the US Army worked together on an extended range TOW 2B variant, initially referred to as TOW-2B (ER), but now called TOW-2B Aero. Although this missile has been in production since 2004, no US Army designation has yet been assigned.The TOW missile in its current variations is not a fire-and-forget weapon, and like most second generation wire-guided missiles has Semi-Automatic Command Line of Sight guidance. This means that the guidance system is directly linked to the platform, and requires that the target be kept in the shooter's line of sight until the missile impacts. This has been the major impetus to develop either a fire-and-forget version of the system or to develop a successor with this ability.

International variants

*Iran has reverse engineered and currently manufactures duplicate TOW missiles. These carry the Iranian designation of Toophan.

Launch platforms

The TOW is designated as a BGM by the US military. By its very definition, a BGM is a Multiple Launch Environment (B) Surface Attack (G) Guided Missile (M). The B launch environment prefix is used only when the system can be used essentially unmodified when launched from a variety of launch platforms.

The M151 and M220 launchers are used by infantry, but can also be mounted on a number of vehicles, including the M151 jeep, the M113 APC, and the M966 HMMWV. These launchers are theoretically man-portable, but are quite bulky. The updated M151 launcher was upgraded to include thermal optics to allow night time usage, and had been simplified to reduce weight. The M220 was specifically developed to handle the TOW-2 series.

TOW systems have also been developed for vehicle specific applications on the M2/M3 Bradley IFV/CFV, the M1134 Stryker ATGM carrier, and the now obsolete M901 ITV (Improved TOW Vehicle); they are generally referred to as TOW Under Armor (TUA).

In helicopter applications, the M65 system used by the AH-1 series is the primary system deployed, but the XM26 system was developed for the UH-1, and a system was put into development for the later canceled AH-56 helicopter.

The M41 TOW improved target acquisition system (ITAS) is a block upgrade to the M220 ground/high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV)-mounted TOW 2 missile system. The TOW ITAS is currently being fielded to airborne, air assault, and light infantry forces throughout the active and reserve components of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. The ITAS, in addition to providing better antiarmor capabilities to antitank units, also has capabilities that make it an integral part of the combined arms team. Even when organized in heavy--light task forces, where the preponderance of antiarmor capabilities traditionally has resided in the heavy elements, TOW ITAS-equipped antitank units can not only destroy threat targets but also provide superior reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA), rear area protection, and urban operations capabilities.

The TOW ITAS consists of three new line replaceable units: the target acquisition subsystem (TAS), the fire control subsystem, and the battery power source; a modified TOW 2 traversing unit; the existing TOW launch tube and tripod; and a TOW HMMWV modification kit. The TAS integrates into a single housing the direct view optics, a second-generation forward looking infrared (FLIR) night vision sight (NVS), missile trackers, and a laser range finder. TAS electronics provide automatic boresighting for these components, eliminating both tactical collimation and 180-day verification requirements. The TOW ITAS was used extensively during Operation Enduring Freedom by the 82nd Airborne. Operation Iraqi Freedom (I) witnessed the 101st (Air Assault)327th Infantry Regiment 2nd Bn Delta company utilize the system as a sometimes sole source of reconnaissance, allowing the 2/327th Inf.(Air Assault) to operate as a stand-alone element throughout the invasion of Iraq.Delta Company "No Slack" was the first anti armor company in the Army to field the ITAS in 2001.



* [ The TOW Family]
* [ TOW Improved Target Acquisition System (ITAS)]

ee also

* Swingfire
* Euromissile HOT
* 9M133 Kornet
* M72 LAW
* AT4
* Joint Air to Ground Missile
* History of UAVs decoys

Related content

Designation sequence

BGM-71 -
MIM-72 -
UGM-73 -
BQM-74 -
BGM-75 -
AGM-76 -

External links

* []
* [ More information at Designation]
* [ Video of a Danish TOW launch]

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