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TOW Weapon System

The famed missile gets a powerful, wireless upgrade

When it was introduced during the Cold War, the TOW—tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided—weapon system (essentially a missile on a wire) became a game-changer, serving as a long-range, heavy-assault, anti-armor solution in overseas operations. A TOW missile could pierce almost any tank hull or fortification.

In the next-generation TOW, the “W” stands for wireless-guided. Using radio frequency (RF) to transmit guidance signals back to the control system on the missile, this TOW gives the Guard and the rest of the Army greater capability by improving performance over water; eliminating entanglements with power lines, trees or other objects; and enhancing combined arms applications in urban environments.

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TOW missiles currently in use by the Guard:

TOW 2B Aero

• Used against enemy armor

• Has a range of 2.8 miles

TOW Bunker Buster

• Used against buildings and fortifications

• Has a range of 2.3 miles


TOW missile launchers used by the Guard:

• Improved Target Acquisition System (ITAS)

• Bradley Fighting Vehicle (improved Bradley acquisition subsystem)

• Stryker Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicle (modified ITAS)



• First TOW missiles were delivered in 1969

• Used in every major U.S. military conflict since the Vietnam War

• Integrated on more than 15,000 ground, vehicle and helicopter platforms worldwide

• In use by more than 40 allied nations

• In use by the Guard’s infantry brigade combat teams, Stryker brigade combat teams and heavy brigade combat teams

• Estimated to be in service in the U.S. military beyond 2025


Research compiled from Raytheon Company; photos from FLICKR and Raytheon