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Ukrainian troops are putting a Vietnam-era US anti-tank weapon into use against Russian armor

Army Stryker fires TOW missileA US Army Stryker armored vehicle fires a TOW missile at Fort Polk in June 2009.

US Army/Spc. Victor Ayala

  • Ukrianian troops are using US-made TOW missiles against Russian armored vehicles in Ukraine.
  • TOW missiles were first used by US troops in the Vietnam War and have been in service since then.
  • Ukrainian troops are using an array of foreign-made anti-tank missiles against Russian forces.

Meet the TOW missile: Earlier this month, CNN reported that Russia has begun sending Iran some of the American-made weaponry captured in Ukraine to undergo reverse engineering.

Iran has a solid track record of deconstructing foreign weapons and equipment and rebranding it as its own domestic product. Perhaps one of Tehran’s first reverse-engineered products was the Toophon anti-tank guided missile, which is largely accepted to be a makeshift version of the US BGM-71 TOW missile.

The Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided anti-tank missile system has remained in service with the US armed forces since 1970. The powerful system has even made its way to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The origin story of the BGM-71 TOW

Army soldiers Humvee TOW missileUS Army paratroopers launch a TOW missile during an exercise in Poland in August 2014.

US Army/Spc. Hector Membreno

Western armies began conceptualizing advanced variants of wire-guided missiles during World War II. The German Army conceptualized a modified version of the Ruhrstahl X-4 missile around this time, resulting in the creation of the X-7 model.

While the X-7 did not come to fruition until the post-WWII era, foreign militaries immediately became interested in cutting-edge design.

Around this time, the US Army began work on its own basic version of the X-7 concept, which the BGM-71 TOW was eventually derived from. By 1972, US armed forces first utilized the American-made TOW missile in combat during the Vietnam War.

The anti-tank system’s success in busting North Vietnamese tanks led the missile to be incorporated into several different vehicle platforms over the years, including COBRA helicopters, M2/M3 Bradley and USMC’s LAV-AT.

Heavy Antitank Weapon TOW missileA US Army mockup of the Heavy Antitank Weapon, a project that led to the TOW missile, in 1964.

US Army

Since the TOW missile’s initial introduction to service in 1970, it has undergone several significant facelifts. In addition to an extended probe for a greater standoff, an enhanced flight motor, and hardware improvements, the TOW now sports a wireless guidance system.

Raytheon Missile & Defense now produces the anti-tank missile, labeling the weapon as “the premier long-range, heavy assault-precision anti-armor, anti-fortification and anti-amphibious landing weapon system used throughout the world today,” adding that the “The TOW missile enables ground forces to achieve overmatch against adversary armored and wheeled systems, regardless of the environment or conditions.”

The anti-tank missile features line-of-sight guidance under command. Using a two-stage solid propellant rocket motor, the missile is launched after the weapons operator views a spot on the target with a telescopic sight, according to Eurasian Times.

The most advanced version of the TOW missile can strike targets from a distance of 4,500 meters and is frequently used against tanks, bunkers, urban structures, and field fortifications. These capabilities make the TOW a critical weapon for Ukrainian defenses today.

The TOW missile in Ukraine

On Monday, Ukraine Weapons Tracker tweeted footage depicting an M41A7 TOW HMMWV-mounted ITAS being fired by a Ukrainian soldier.

Three photographs show the trajectory of the missile from the second it launches, leaves the turrets, and prepares to come in contact with its target. An additional post displayed photos of the damage caused in the aftermath of the attack.

—🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 20, 2023

Since the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an influx of Western-made anti-tank missiles has aided Ukraine’s defensive efforts. Though very old, the TOW missile has proven to be an important asset for Ukraine.

Maya Carlin is a senior editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has bylines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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