Armor: TOW Gets Unwired


June 22, 2006: The American TOW anti-tank missile has been too successful. One of the first "user friendly" anti-tank missiles, the TOW has been around for over three decades, and nothing better has come along to replace it. Part of that is because the missile has been continually upgraded. The latest upgrades address what the missile has been used for most of the time. A new high explosive warhead has been developed and shipped. This warhead reflects the fact that most TOWs fired these days are hitting buildings, not armored vehicles. The anti-tank warhead does a useful amount of damage, but a high explosive warhead is cheaper, and more effective for those targets. 


The range of the TOW is also being extended to 4,500 meters, and once the wire spool is eliminated, even longer ranges will be possible. Coincidentally, the wire control system is being replaced for reason's beyond the military's control. The last supplier for the control wire went out of business three years ago, and the stockpile of wire the army bought, is just about gone. So a radio control system is being built, to replace the old wire system. This is cheaper than paying a large subsidy to get someone to revive manufacturing of the special wire. Radio control systems are a lot more reliable and efficient than they were three decades ago, and the troops have been asking for a wireless version of the TOW for some time.