TOW missile being fired from an American Bradley armoured vehicle

The BGM-71 TOW is a US anti-tank missile. TOW stands for Tube launched, Optically tracked, Wire command link guided.


The basic TOW Weapon System was fielded in 1970. Manufactured by Hughes Aircraft Company, the TOW is the most widely distributed anti-tank guided missile in the world with over 500,000 built and in service in the US and 36 other countries.


The TOW has extensive combat experience in Vietnam and the Middle East. Iran may have obtained 1,750 or more TOWs and used TOWs against Iraqi tanks in the 1980s. The TOW 2 launcher is the most recent launcher upgrade. It is compatible with all TOW missiles.


The TOW 2 Weapon System is composed of a reusable launcher, a missile guidance set, and sight system. The system can be tripod mounted.


However because it is heavy, it is generally employed from the HMMWV. The missile has a 20 year maintenance free storage life. All versions of the TOW missile can be fired from the current launcher.

The TOW is a crew portable, vehicle-mounted, heavy anti-armour weapon system consisting of a launcher and one of five versions of the TOW missile. It is designed to defeat armoured vehicles and other targets such as field fortifications from ranges up to 3,750 meters.


After firing the missile, the gunner must keep the cross hairs of the sight cantered on the target to ensure a hit. The system will operate in all weather conditions in which the gunner can see a target throughout the missile flight by using either a day or night sight.

The TOW system is used on the HMMWV, the M151 jeep, the armoured personnel carrier, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) COBRA helicopters, the ITV, and the US Marine Corps light armoured vehicle.

Considerable improvements have been made to the missile since 1970. There are six missiles available for the TOW. Three of the five TOW missile versions: Basic TOW, Improved TOW and TOW 2 are no longer being produced for US forces. However, these versions are still used by 40 allied countries.

TOW & I-TOW Specifications
Type Tube-launched, optically tracked, Wire-guided missile (TOW)
Manufacturer Raytheon
Weight TOW 20kg I-TOW 19kg TOW 2 22kg
Warhead TOW 5.9kg shaped charge, I-TOW 3.9kg shaped charge TOW 2 6.1kg dual EFP
Length 1.2m
Diameter 15.2cm
Wingspan 45cm
Performance Range 3km, guidance wire guided SACLOS