Armor: Hummer Tows In The Desert


September 29, 2011:  Bahrain has ordered 44 hummer vehicles, each equipped with a TOW anti-tank missile launcher. Also ordered were 311 TOW missiles, and 57 of these are of the “bunker buster” variety (designed to destroy structures and bunkers). Another 47 are the longer range (4,000 meters) anti-tank version. Most are the standard anti-tank model (with a range of 3,750 meters). The inclusion of the bunker buster missiles indicates that Bahrain may want these TOW systems for use against a large uprising among their majority Shia population. The rest would be useful against threatened Iranian aggression. The TOWs can be used to destroy small Iranian ships, as well as any armored vehicles the Iranians might be able to get ashore.

All the missiles ordered by Bahrain are the new wireless versions. These only recently entered service. This is not the first wireless TOW, however. Work on such missiles dates back to the 1990s. But the U.S. Army never adopted any of them. Israel developed its own wireless version (MAPATS, or "Laser TOW") in the 1980s. The Israeli TOW uses a laser designator and has a range of 4,000 meters. MAPATS weighs 29.6 kg (65 pounds), compared to 22.7 kg (50 pounds) for the latest wire guided version. MPATS evolved into a different missile in the 1990s. The new wireless U.S. TOW will be lighter than MAPATS.

TOW has been in service since 1970, and over 500,000 have been manufactured. All versions are shipped, and fired from, a sealed launch tube. The 1970 version weighed 19 kg (42 pounds) and had a 3.9 kg (8.6 pound) warhead. The latest version (TOW 2B, or BGM-71F) weighs 22.7 kg (50 pounds) and has a 6.2 kg (13.5 pound) warhead that can defeat ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor).

The last time TOW destroyed tanks was in 2003, during the Iraq invasion, but it was subsequently used against enemy strongholds in Iraq and Afghanistan. TOW has gotten high praise from users throughout its four decades of use, and appears to have a decade or more of life left in it.





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