October 11, 2007:
The U.S. Army has upgraded the
fire control system on its 30 year old TOW anti-tank missile (ATGM). The new
system is ITAS (improved target acquisition system), and includes a powerful thermal (heat sensing)
imager. This sensor, like the similar one on the smaller, and much more recent,
Javelin ATGM, can be used alone as a night vision, or low visibility (fog, sand
storm), device. The ITAS thermal imager enables the operator to spot vehicles
up to ten kilometers away at night. The closer the vehicles, the more detail
can be seen. At about five kilometers, you can make out what vehicle model it
is. In Iraq, the TOW thermal site is often used in urban areas, as you can pick
out people on foot at up to five kilometers. Thus TOW operators now spend a lot
of time on their equipment, seeking to discover what's out there in the fog and
darkness. Only 709 ITAS systems (basically TOW launchers with the thermal
imager added) were produced between 1999 and 2003. But after seeing how
successful ITAS was for reconnaissance and observation, several thousand more
have been ordered.
The TOW missiles are often used in urban warfare,
as they are very accurate, and all mechanized (M-2 Bradley) units have them.
Light infantry units also have TOW, mounted on hummers.