TOW-2: One of the most famous Anti-Tank missiles

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The TOW-2 (Tube-launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-guided) anti-tank missile is a powerful anti-tank system used by many armies. Produced by Raytheon, the TOW-2 missile is designed to effectively engage modern armored vehicles, fortifications and other targets.

TOW-2: USA's versatile guided anti-tank missile
By Victor J. Ayala – https://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/3698437102/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16109472

Development and Evolution

The TOW anti-tank system has undergone several upgrades and improvements since its inception. The current TOW-2 missile family includes the TOW-2A, TOW-2B and TOW Bunker Buster (BB) variants.

TOW-2A

The TOW-2A is equipped with a tandem warhead. It features a small charge that detonates a target’s reactive armor (ERA), allowing the main explosive charge to penetrate the main armor. This design increases the missile’s effectiveness against modern armor. It has a range of approximately 3.8 kilometers.

TOW 2B

The TOW-2B missile works with the logic of a top-attack missile, such as the Javelin, but with the “flyover – shoot down” method, using two tandem HEAT warheads. This missile is capable of flying over a target, detecting it, and then firing two downward-facing warheads, delivering maximum damage to one of the weakest spots of an armoured vehicle. It has a range of approximately 3.8 kilometers.

TOW-2B Aero

Upgrade of the “simple” TOW-2B which uses a longer control cable and aerodynamically improved design to achieve a longer range (4.5km instead of 3.8km).

TOW-2B Radio Frequency (RF)

A version of the TOW-2B that uses a wireless data link to guide the missile maintains the same range of 4.5 kilometers.

TOW Bunker Buster (BB)

Version with optimized performance against buildings, fortifications and lightly armored targets. It has a range of approximately 3.8 kilometers.

Platforms that can use the TOW-2 family of missiles

The TOW-2 missile system can be used on various ground and airborne platforms, both wired and wireless. Some of the main carrier platforms are:

  • HMMWVs equipped with TOW launchers which allows effective deployment of TOW-2 missiles on infantry and armored combat teams.
  • On the M113 with single TOW launcher but also on the specialized M901 ITV (Improved TOW Vehicle).
  • On the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV).
  • On the M1134 Stryker version.
  • At the same time, TOWs have also equipped helicopters in the past, like the MD 500 Defender or the AH-1.

Exports of the system

The TOW-2 has been sold to more than 40 nations, demonstrating its versatility and effectiveness in a variety of operational environments. Raytheon Missiles and Defense is the prime contractor for the TOW-2 missile program.

TOW-2: USA's versatile guided anti-tank missile
Photo By Outisnn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26461511

In conclusion, the TOW-2 missile system is a key “tool” for many countries, providing decent performance against armored targets. It still remains a capable ATGM despite its age and it can reliably take down main battle tanks (MBTs), infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) as well as be used against structures and fortifications.

You can also visit Raytheon’s webpage regarding the TOW Weapon System here

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For more articles by Bill K.
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