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BGM-71 TOW - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The BGM-71 TOW is an anti-tank missile. "BGM" is a weapon classification that stands for "Multiple Environment (B), Surface-Attack (G), Missile (M)". "TOW" is an acronym that stands for "Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire command data link, guided missile".[1] The TOW was first produced in 1970 and is one of the two most widely used anti-tank guided missiles in the world.[2]


1 Design and development 1.1 Launch platforms 2 Service history 2.1 Vietnam: first combat use of TOW anti-armor missile 2.2 Other service 3 Variants 4 International variants 5 Operators 6 Gallery 7 See also 8 Notes 9 References 10 External links

A TOW missile being fired from an M151 MUTT.

Type Place of origin

Anti-tank missile United States

Service history
In service Used by 1970present See users

Production history
Designer Hughes Aircraft Company 19631968 Designed

Design and development

Initially developed by Hughes Aircraft between 1963 and 1968, the XBGM-71A was designed for both ground and heli-borne applications. The BGM-71 TOW wire-guided heavy anti-tank missile is produced by Raytheon Systems Company. The weapon is used in anti-armor, anti-bunker, anti-fortification and anti-amphibious landing roles. TOW is in service with over 45 armed forces and is integrated on over 15,000 ground, vehicle and helicopter platforms worldwide.

Length Diameter Warhead weight 1.161.17 m (probe folded) 1.411.51 m (probe extended) 0.152 m 3.95.9 kg 0.46 m up to 3,750 m Optically-tracked, wire-guided

In its basic infantry form, the system comprises a missile in a sealed tube which is clipped to a Wingspan launch tube prior to use. When required, the missile tube is attached to the rear of the launch Operational tube, the target sighted and the missile fired. The launch motor (booster) fires through lateral range nozzles amidships and propels the missile from the tube, at which point four wings indexed at Guidance 45 degrees just forward of the booster nozzles spring open forwards, four tail control surfaces system flip open rearwards, and sustained propulsion is subsequently provided by the flight motor. An optical sensor on the sight continuously monitors the position of a light source on the missile relative to the line-of-sight, and then corrects the trajectory of the missile by generating electrical signals that are passed down two wires to command the control surface actuators.[3] The TOW missile was continually upgraded, with an improved TOW missile (ITOW) appearing in 1978 which had a new warhead triggered by a long probe that was extended after launch to give a stand-off distance of 15 in (380 mm) for improved armor penetration. The 1983 TOW 2 featured a larger 5.9 kg (13 lb) warhead with a 21.25 in (540 mm) extensible probe, improved guidance and a motor that provided around 30% more thrust.[4] This was followed by the TOW 2A/B which appeared in 1987.
TOW missile.

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 on 30 November 2001 because of funding limitations.[5] 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 which has a special nose cap that increases range to 4500 meters. Although this missile has been in production since 2004, no US Army designation has yet been assigned. Also, a wireless version of the

1964 - First Concept Mock-up by Redstone Arsenal of purposed future HAW system (Heavy Antitank Weapon) which resulted in TOW

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BGM-71 TOW - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

TOW-2B Aero was developed that uses stealth one way radio link, called TOW-2B Aero RF.[6]


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.

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, the M966 HMMWV and the M1045 HMMWV (which replaced the M966). 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 LAV-AT 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/highmobility 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 M1134 Stryker ATGM carrier components of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps where it is called the SABER. The ITAS, in addition to providing better anti-armor capabilities to antitank units, also has capabilities that make it an integral part of the combined arms team. Even when organized in heavylight 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 (FCS), and the lithium battery box (LBB); a modified TOW 2 traversing unit; the existing TOW launch tube and tripod; and a TOW Humvee 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.

Tripod mounted unit in Konar Province, Afghanistan.

Service history
In 1968 a contract for full scale 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.

Vietnam: first combat use of TOW anti-armor missile

On 24 April 1972, the US 1st Combat Aerial TOW Team arrived in South Vietnam; the team's mission was to test the new anti-armor missile under combat conditions.[7] The team consisted of three crews, technical representatives from Bell Helicopter and Hughes Aircraft, members of the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command, and two UH-1B helicopters; each mounting the XM26 TOW weapons system, which had been taken from storage. After displacing to the Central Highlands for aerial gunnery, the unit commenced daily searches for enemy armor.[7] On 2 May 1972 US Army UH-1 Huey helicopters firing TOWs destroyed North Vietnamese tanks near An Loc marking the first time an American-designed and made guided missile was used successfully in combat by a US soldier.[8][9] Ironically, american made M-41 became the first victim[10]. On 9 May, elements of the North Vietnamese Army 203rd Armored Regiment were attacking an Army of the Republic of Vietnam Ranger camp at Ben Het; the team destroyed its first three PT-76 tanks, breaking up the attack.[11] During the battle for the city of Kontum, the TOW missile had proven to be a significant weapon in disrupting enemy tank attacks within the region. By the end of May, TOW missiles had accumulated 24 confirmed tank kills.[12][13] On 19 August South Vietnamese 5th Infantry Regiment abandoned Base Camp Ross in the Que Son Valley, 30 miles southwest of Da Nang, to the North Vietnamese 711th Division. Dozen TOW missiles were left with abandoned equipment and fell into Communist hands [14].

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BGM-71 TOW - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Other service
The TOW was used effectively during multiple engagements during Operation Desert Storm. Several TOW missiles were used by U.S. forces in Iraq in the July 22, 2003 assault that killed Uday Hussein and Qusay Hussein.[15]

Raytheon has taken over for Hughes in recent years, and now handles production of all current variants, as well as TOW development.
Armor Launch Warhead penetration weight (est.)




Diameter Wingspan



Hughes Tube launched Optically tracked Wire XBGM-71A/BGM-71A command link 1.16 m guided (TOW) Missile BGM-71B BGM-71A variant; improved range BGM-71B variant; Improved TOW (ITOW) w/ improved shapedcharge warhead 1.41 m (probe extended) 1.17 m (probe folded)

18.9 kg 3.9 kg (2.63 kg HE) HEAT

430 mm (exact value)


19.1 kg

630 mm (exact value)



BGM-71C variant; TOW-2, improved guidance, motor and enlarged main 1.51 warhead m (probe extended) BGM-71D variant; 1.17 TOW-2A 0.152 m m (probe folded) optimized to defeat reactive armor with tandem warheads BGM-71D variant; TOW-2B top-down attack variant using 1.168m explosively formed penetrators BGM-71F variant; different AP no data warhead; not produced BGM-71E variant; bunker buster variant for use no data against fortified structures

21.5 kg

900 mm

0.46 m 5.9 kg (3.6 kg HE) HEAT 22.6kg

653,750 900 mm ( 278m/s behind ERA ) m (and layer of ERA)


no data


no data

no data

no data


no data

no data

no data

Original armor penetration estimates were 600 mm for BGM-71A/B and 700800 mm for BGM-71C. However, according to a now declassified CIA study "U.S. INTELLIGENCE AND SOVIET ARMOR" written by Paul F. Gorman (Major General, USA), the true penetration values against vertical target much lowerjust 430 mm for basic TOW and 630 mm for Improved TOW (see graph US ATGMs vs. Soviet Tank on page 18 of mentioned document, available through Freedom of Information Act). Time to target at maximum range is 20 seconds therefore giving an average speed of 187.5 m/s.[17]

International variants
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BGM-71 TOW - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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

Argentina Bahrain Botswana Cameroon: Military of Cameroon Canada: Canadian Forces Chile Chad Colombia Denmark Egypt Produced under license

Ethiopia Finland [19] Hungary Germany Greece Iran

Israel Italy Japan Jordan Kenya Kuwait Lebanon-most carried by Humvee Luxembourg Morocco[20] Netherlands Norway Oman Pakistan 3,300+ TOW-2A delivered in 2006.[21] Portugal Saudi Arabia

Somalia South Korea Spain Sweden Swaziland Switzerland Republic of China (Taiwan) Thailand Tunisia Turkey United Arab Emirates United Kingdom: Lynx helicopter only United States Vietnam Yemen


Launch, trailing wire is clearly noticeable.

M220 Tripod


M901 ITV

Greek TOW on the ground

Greek soldiers manning a TOW unit.

The sight

ground mounted system

A Wiesel AWC of the German Army

Loading, Iraq 2007.

See also
Swingfire Euromissile HOT AT-4 Spigot AT-14 Kornet M47 Dragon M72 LAW AT4 Joint Air to Ground Missile History of UAVs decoys

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List of U.S. Army Rocket Launchers By Model Number

1. ^ Official US Army history of TOW 9th paragraph http://www.redstone.army.mil/history/tow/summary.html 2. ^ there is a dispute today as to whether it is the TOW or the many versions of the Russian AT-3 Sagger either produced under license or reversed engineered world wide 3. ^ Gunston, p. 156. 4. ^ Gunston, p. 157. 5. ^ globalsecurity.org (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library /budget/fy2001/dot-e/army/01tow.html) 2001 fiscal year military budget. Retrieved on 3 August 2009. 6. ^ some reports state the TOW-2B Aero RF is in production for Pakistan, because of a brief section to Congress on foreign military sales 7. ^ a b Starry 8. ^ US Army official TOW history Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama (http://www.redstone.army.mil/history/systems/TOW.html) 9. ^ The French SS.11 in service as the AGM.22A had been in combat use with the US since 1965 10. ^ Kontum: The Battle to Save South Vietnam / Thomas P. McKenna 11. ^ Starry/Dunstan 12. ^ Dunstan 13. ^ some books and videos have stated that the TOW was fired in Vietnam from AH-1 Cobra helicopters. The first Cobra/TOW helicopters were not operational till 1976 14. ^ U.S. confirms enemy captured secret missiles. Washington Post News Service Aug. 22, 1972 15. ^ bbc.co.uk (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east /3090639.stm) News on the Middle East. Retrieved on 3 August 2009. 16. ^ Pakistan Military Consortium :: www.PakDef.info (http://www.pakdef.info/pakmilitary/army/atgm/bgm71.html) 17. ^ http://archive.gao.gov/d31t10/145879.pdf 18. ^ http://www.forecastinternational.com/samples/656_2005.pdf 19. ^ www.mil.fi (http://www.mil.fi/maavoimat/kalustoesittely /00048_en.dsp) The Finnish Defence Forces: Presentation of equipment. Retrieved on 3 August 2009. 20. ^ Military army ground forces equipment Morocco Army Moroccan Equipements militaires arme forces terrestres Maroc marocaine (http://www.armyrecognition.com/moyen_orient/Maroc /Index_Morocco_army_ground_foces_military_equipment.htm) 21. ^ http://www.spacewar.com/reports /Foreign_Military_Sale_Pakistan___TOW_2A_Anti_Armor_Guided_M

The TOW Family (http://www.raytheon.com/products/tow_family/) TOW Improved Target Acquisition System (ITAS) (http://www.raytheon.com/products/itas/) The TOW Anti-Tank Missile in Vietnam (http://www.realmilitaryflix.com/public/395.cfm/) Dunstan, Simon (1982). Vietnam Tracks-Armor In Battle. Osprey Publications. ISBN 0-89141-171-2. Gunston, Bill (1983). An Illustrated Guide to Modern Airborne Missiles. London: Salamander Books Ltd.. ISBN 0-86101-160-0. Starry, Donn A. General. Mounted Combat In Vietnam. Vietnam Studies; Department of the Army. First printed 1978-CMH Pub 90-17.

External links
TOW project history at Redstone Arsenal (http://www.redstone.army.mil/history/tow/welcome.html) www.fas.org (http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/tow.htm) More information at Designation Systems.net (http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/m-71.html) The Early TOW Missile Story & Photos (http://www.armyrecognition.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=440) Tank vs Missile - 1974 article (http://www.armyrecognition.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1462) Iranian Copies of the TOW and DRAGON (http://www.armyrecognition.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=451) Information relating to Raytheon produced BGM-71 TOW Missile (http://www.army-technology.com/projects/tow/) Discovery Channel program on "Modern Missiles" with best video information on TOW today. TOW part starts at two minutes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-akbhcsjmg&feature=related) Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=BGM-71_TOW&oldid=479626735" Categories: Air-to-surface missiles of the United States Anti-tank missiles of Germany Anti-tank missiles of Norway Anti-tank missiles of the United States Cold War anti-tank missiles Cold War missiles of the United States Vietnam War guided missiles Gulf War guided missiles Iraq War guided missiles Modern weapons of Germany Guided missiles of Pakistan United States Marine Corps equipment This page was last modified on 1 March 2012 at 10:09. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. See Terms of use for details. Wikipedia is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.

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