TOW 2B Aero Weapon System

The evolution of modern warfare demands versatile and advanced weaponry that can decisively counter a wide range of threats. The TOW 2B Aero Weapon System is the most effective heavy assault, long-range, precision anti-armour, anti-fortification, and anti-amphibious landing weapon system in service today.

With its extended-range performance, the TOW 2B missile becomes the long-range precision, heavy anti-tank, and assault weapon system of choice for the U.S. Army’s Stryker, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, ITAS High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, and Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank platforms.

TOW 2B Aero Weapon System’s ( Nato designation as BGM-71 TOW ) recent U.S. Army qualification tests proved that the system’s top-down assault capabilities had been updated and improved, and they also showed how effective TOW was in actual use. The missile’s life cycle has also been extended into 2050, thanks to system enhancements. More than 700,000 TOW missile systems have been provided to American and allied warfighters by Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

Photo Credit: Raytheon / TOW 2B Aero Weapon System
Photo Credit: Raytheon / TOW 2B Aero Weapon System

The TOW, first used in 1970, is a weapon that can be fired by infantry (4 men), ground vehicles, and helicopters. It is a wire-guided weapon with a maximum range of over 3,000 meters. After firing, the gunner must maintain sight of the target to ensure impact. The TOW’s CLU (Command Launch Unit) allows for operations in all weather and day or night situations. The system is highly similar to the Indian-origin NAG ATGM system.

The TOW missile was extensively utilized during the Vietnam War in the 1970s, the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and 1988, Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and most recently by the Ukrainian army during the Russia-Ukraine War.

An Overview of the TOW 2B Aero Weapon System

The TOW 2B (Tube-Launched Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided) Weapon System, equipped with a precision strike multi-mission capable missile, stands as the leading long-range anti-armour/assault solution in current global use. Employed by more than 40 international armed forces, this system is integrated across over 15,000 ground vehicles and helicopter platforms worldwide. Furthermore, it holds the position of the favoured heavy assault anti-armour weapon system for various international bodies, including NATO, Coalition forces, the United Nations, and Peacekeeping Operations around the globe.

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The Raytheon TOW 2B represents a fifth-generation missile, boasting a distinctive dual-mode sensor and an armament section equipped with two warheads that set it apart from preceding TOW versions. Unlike earlier TOW missiles, which featured nose-mounted warheads for direct attacks, the TOW 2B is strategically designed to soar over its target, engaging from an overhead position where armour is typically thinner. This is achieved through the simultaneous detonation of the missile’s two Explosive Forward Penetrators (EFP) warheads, directed downward.

This innovative fly-over shoot-down flight profile grants the capability to engage targets situated in defilades or shielded by fortifications such as berms. Visually resembling the TOW 2A, the TOW 2B incorporates a 6-inch diameter warhead section at the forefront, while foregoing the use of a standoff probe.

Photo Credit: Raytheon
Photo Credit: Raytheon

The TOW 2B Aero Design Analysis

It was designed and successfully demonstrated to be effective to a range of 4.5 km. The extended range of the TOW 2B Aero is accomplished with two minor modifications. First, more wire is added to accommodate the command guidance to the extended range. Second, an aerodynamic nose has been added to the front of the missile to improve aerodynamic performance. The new aerodynamic feature ensures stable controllable flight to 4.5 km while using the current propulsion system. The 2B Aero with its longer range and faster time to target increases battlespace allowing commanders the ability to better shape the battlefield. Tow 2B Aero began initial production in 2005.

Developments of the Radio Frequency (RF) Link for the TOW 2B Aero

The TOW 2B Aero has commenced its evolution towards an RF command Data Link Missile. The RF link replaces the legacy wire guidance and brings about the following enhancements:

  • Greater reliability
  • Enhanced over-water performance
  • No power line restrictions
  • Enhanced combined arms applications in urban environments
  • Performance to longer ranges
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Photo Credit: Raytheon
Photo Credit: Raytheon

TOW Weapon System Superiority _  As proven on the battlefield, the superior stand-off range and minimal firing signature of the TOW Weapon System maximise gunner survivability. In today’s complex battlefield of sandstorms, smoke, dust, explosions, fog, obstructions, overhead cover, snowstorms and secondary fires – precision engagement creates significant challenges for many of the other state-of-the-art missile systems. The TOW weapon system is the exception. Its Command Line Of Sight advantage does not require seeker lock or laser return to engage the target. Without exception, what the Gunner can see, the TOW can destroy.

The Benefits of the TOW 2B Aero Weapon System

  • Precision accuracy
  • Command Line Of Sight ( CLOS ) minimises collateral damage
  • Multi-mission missile compatible with multi-launch platforms
  • Robust performance in all battlefield conditions ( smoke, dust, urban environments )
  • Defeats all known and projected armour vehicles
Photo Credit: Raytheon
Photo Credit: Raytheon

Specifications of the TOW 2B Aero Weapon System

  • Weight:  22.9 kg ( 50.5 lb )
  • Length:  4.0 ft ( 47.7 in )
  • Diameter:  5.8 in ( 14.7 cm )
  • Warhead: 4-6 kg twin warhead penetration
  • Detonation: Impact
  • Propulsion:  2-stage solid propellant
  • Effective Range:  4.5 km ( 2.80 mi )
  • Sights:  Optical sight & Thermal Imaging
  • Speed: 320 m/s
  • Guidance:  Optically tracked, Wire-guided or wireless radio-guided in RF variants
  • Launch Platform:  Man-portable launcher, Humvee or any other military vehicle
  • Shelf life:  10 years
  • Time of Flight:  23sec

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In conclusion, the TOW 2B and TOW 2B Aero variants can be successfully fired from all TOW 2 launchers, which encompass the Improved Target Acquisition Systems (ITAS), the Stryker ATGM Vehicle (Modified ITAS), and the Bradley Fighting Vehicles (Improved Bradley Acquisition System). With its extended-range performance, the TOW 2B Aero stands out as the preferred long-range, precision strike, heavy assault, anti-armour missile for the U.S. Army’s Stryker, Bradley, and Humvee platforms, and is poised to remain in service beyond 2030.

Photo Credit: U.S. Marines
Photo Credit: U.S. Marines

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