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THE TOW antiarmor missile story

 
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jackehammond



Joined: 24 Apr 2006
Posts: 330
Location: Indiana, USA

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2006 9:48 am    Post subject: THE TOW antiarmor missile story Reply with quote

Folks,

According to who you talk to, it is either the US TOW or the Russian Sagger wire guided antitank missile that is the most numerous ever made. Personally I believe that the Sagger has that title.

The history of the TOW started in the last years of World War 2 actually, when the Germans the first wire guided missile. One version was for air to air use and the other was for antitank. Neither saw combat (ie there are some that say the antitank missile saw combat in the last month of WW2 against the Russians but no one accepts it).

After WW2 the French picked up the idea and in the early 1950s introduced the world's first operational wire-guided missile the SS10. In an engagement with the SS.10 the operator after firing the missile acquired it by means of the flare on the back of the missile and brought it into the cross hairs of his sight and using a little joystick guided it till impact. This 1st generation system was called MCLOS for Manual to Command to Line of Sight. It required a lot of training of the operator on simulators and the missiles minimum range was extremely long because of the need to acquire the missile and bring it into line of sight of both the tank and the missile's flares. For example the SS.10s minimum effective range was just under 1000 yards due to the need to keep the cross hairs on the target, find the missile and then direct it to the center of the cross hairs. With 2nd generation systems like the TOW, the launch unit automatically acquires the missile and lines it up with the sight and all the operator has to do is keep the cross hairs on the target. Improved 2nd generation antitank missiles, the wire guidance is replaced with a fiber optic cable or the cables are done away with completely and the missile follows a laser-beam to the target. With third generation antitank missile systems, like the US Army JAVELIN, you just align the missiles seeker on the target, fire the missile guides itself to the target -- ie similar to IR homing air to air missiles.

TOW stands for "Tube-fired, Optical-tracked, Wire-guided". While the French had an optional guidance package for their famous Nord SS.11 antitank missile (ie the one that made wire-guided antitank missiles popular) called Harpon, which greatly helped the gunner hit the target where all he had to do was keep the cross-hairs on the target, which today is called SACLOS (Semi-Automatic Command Line Of Sight) and is a great advance over the older method where the gunner had to keep the target centered the sight's cross hairs and then with a joy stick, line both the missile and target in the cross hairs (called MCLOS for Manual to Command to Line of Sight), it was the TOW that was actually the first "wide spread" 2nd generation antitank missile to be produced in massive numbers that used SACLOS.

The TOW was developed in the late 1950s early 1960s to replace the jeep mounted 106mm recoiless rifle. While the 106mm had the ability to defeat tanks and other armored vehicles its effective range was totally inadequate -- ie the 106mm rifle crew would kill one tank then die from enemy return fire that knew where they were from the back-blast on firing. The TOW enter operational service with the US military in the early 1970s. The price of the first TOW missile because of the huge volume of production was $3,500.00 then. Today it is around $25,000 per missile. And the TOW is still one of the cheapest missiles on the market today. It was one of the few wire guided antitank missiles, that could be mounted on an infantry mount, armored vehicles and helicopters.

In 1972 the TOW saw its first combat in the plains of Dong Ha in the Northern part of South Vietnam where South Vietnamese Marines used the ground launcher TOW and in the South at An Loc, South Vietnam when the only two UH-1s in the US Army that could fire TOW missiles being used for tests were rushed to South Vietnam. The effect of those two TOW armed UH-1s was dramatic stopping the NVA tank attacks. The US Army became and an immediate believer in the TOW. A year later the TOW missile fired from ground launchers saw combat with the Israeli Army, when some ground launchers were rushed to Israel when both the Egyptian and Syrians were almost overwhelming the Israeli armored forces (ie this was only revealed about 10 years ago and with reports that the TOWs were mounted on Israeli WW2 era half tracks).

Finally, I have a huge library of the TOW. My first article was a report on the jeep mounted TOW with the Indiana National Guard which was put on display at Ft Harrison, Indiana in 1978. I am going to try and post those photos when I can. To keep from using to much space I am posting the jpegs at 25%. In addition the history and photos of the different TOW versions can be found at this link on ARMY RECONN.

Jack E. Hammond/Moderator





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Iranian 106mm recoiless rifles which the TOW was developed to replace



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Early test of French SS-11 from UH-1 helicopter by US Army



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The US Army was quick to develop the ability of the TOW to be launched from helicopters (ie they had previously tested launching the French SS11 from the UH-1 Huey - ie six missiles. In 1972 the only two Hueys fitted to fire the TOW were airlifted to South Vietnam and were pivotal in in destroying a North Vietnamese Army tank attack on An Loc. The link below is video of those two TOW/Hueys attacking North Vietnamese tanks in South Vietnam. Click full screen. At about 4 minutes it begins showing the actual combat footage.


Video of the TOW/Huey firing TOWs at North Vietnamese Tanks




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South Vietnamese Marines with tripod mounted TOW April 1972





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Above, illustration of the major componets of the first TOW. As or 1986 Hughes Missiles reported that they had delivered 311,000 of the first TOW missiles and 49,000 of the ITOW missile.


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Above, is drawing of the TOW 2. This add a popout stand-off probe and full diameter warhead that dramatically improved penetration. As of 1986 Hughes Missiles reported that they had delivered 50,000 of the TOW 2 missiles.


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Below are three thumbnails of The TOW 2 brochure from Hughes. It gives a good general description of both the missile and TOW tripod mounted infantry system. Please click to see full size page. Information is from 1986








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Firing of early TOW missile by a USMC unit on Okinawa. Date unknown. Note the guidance wires spooling out. The early TOW had a range of 3200 meters. Also, when the first TOW became operational it had a serious problem with the ceramic insulation on the guidance wire effecting guidances when fired on rainy days or over creeks, lakes, etc. I once asked Hughes Missile why they just didn't fit the TOW with a motor that would make the range an even 4,000 meters. He stated the motor could could boost the TOW enough for 4,000 meters. The problem was putting enough wires in the TOW. He stated that was magic of the TOW that Hughes Missile worked very hard on.


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Great photo of a TOW and its gunner in Germany. Shows the guidance unit and the sight the gunner uses and the one that collects and tracks the TOW after launch


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TOW in a ground position. 25 Division, 5th Regiment, 1 Bn in Hawaii 15 June 1976. One of the earliest photos of the TOW showed a much longer "barrel" on the launcher. I asked about it and was told that the launcher and guidance sighting unit are locked. And they discovered that one windy days when using the TOW against targets at its maximum days the wind could move the barrel slightly throwing off the missile in flight and missing the target. So the "barrel" was cut back.


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Tow Ground Launcher


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Another view of TOW ground launcher


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TOW ground launcher being loaded


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The first TOWs were fitted to Jeeps and the M113 for mobility. But the US Army recongnized that anti-TOW tactics would air burst artillery, etc against the expoded gunner. Emerson Electric won a contract for a two round turret that elevated to give a better field of fire and downloaded the TOW sight information to the gunner inside the armored hull. The US Army mounted this TOW UNDER ARMOR SYSTEM on the M113. Other nations bought the Emerson TOW turret and mounted it on their armored vehicles. Photo shows the Emerson turret on a Netherland's Army Armored Fighting Vehicle (ie improved M113)


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A photo you don't see today. This is the General Dynamics and Chrysler candidate for a replacement for the Jeep which was won by the AM Hummer. Shows it fitted with a TOW turret.


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Above, TOW ground launcher fitted to an Israeli RAMATA light armored vehicle





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Above, the TOW fitted to the UH-1 Huey was only a limited test. The US Army soon had the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter fitted to fire the TOW. The US Army was convinced they had found the answer to mass Warsaw Pact armor attacks


Last edited by jackehammond on Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:33 am; edited 26 times in total
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jackehammond



Joined: 24 Apr 2006
Posts: 330
Location: Indiana, USA

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2006 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote





First photo is of the early TOW being fired by Marines in California. The TOW missile is ejected from the launcher using a short burn "blip" rocket motor in the tail. Then after the TOW missile has coasted a safe distance from the launcher and the firing team the substainer motor kicks in and boosts it to its maximum speed. Note the sustainer rocket motor exhaust on the side of the missile. The side location keeps the powerful substainer motors exhaust from interfering with the guidance wires spooling out from behind or from masking the xeon lamp in the back (ie early models later models had an IR flare) of the missile body. Second photo showed it fitted for evaluation in the early 1960s to the M274 Mule which could be carried inside medium and heavy helicopters.



Canadian 8X8 LAV III armored vehicle firing bunker buster version of TOW. Similar vehicle with US Army in Iraq already has used the bunker buster TOW to foil an ambush. The TOW armored turret is made in Norway by Thule and has two armored launch containers on each side. The two launchers can be tilted back so they can be reloaded by one of the armored vehicle crew member under the protection of the vehicles armor.


Last edited by jackehammond on Sun Mar 07, 2010 3:00 am; edited 1 time in total
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jackehammond



Joined: 24 Apr 2006
Posts: 330
Location: Indiana, USA

PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 3:34 am    Post subject: 1977 Declassified US Army Report on Development of early TOW Reply with quote

Folks,

The PDF below I guarantee many of you will find very interesting. It is the declassified US Army Redstone Arsenal report on the research and development that lead to the TOW system.


Jack E. Hammond


http://www.redstone.army.mil/history/pdf/tow/tow.pdf


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jackehammond



Joined: 24 Apr 2006
Posts: 330
Location: Indiana, USA

PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2008 6:24 am    Post subject: Good Video on the TOW Reply with quote

Folks,

This is one of the best videos I have ever seen on the TOW. It takes about two minutes before the TOW becomes the subject.

Again, a good video on the subject.

Jack E. Hammond


Video on TOW missile systems


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jackehammond



Joined: 24 Apr 2006
Posts: 330
Location: Indiana, USA

PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:27 pm    Post subject: ARMY RECONN ARTICLES ON THE TOW MISSILE Reply with quote

Folks,

Below is the links to other ArmyRecon articles on the TOW antiarmor missile.

Jack E. Hammond/Moderator

IRAN TOW Copies

Chinese and Israeli TOW copies

TOW on armored vehicles

THE TOW WORLD WIDE

TOW Missile Through the Decades

TOW HELICOPTER SYSTEMS


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jackehammond



Joined: 24 Apr 2006
Posts: 330
Location: Indiana, USA

PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:31 am    Post subject: Test Reply with quote

Test
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