2018 AUSA Global Force Symposium & Exposition End of Day Report (Day 3 28 March)
Rare are the times in the defence sector when a decades-old main battlefield weapon stays relevant, much less remains in demand by domestic and international customers. Such is the case for Raytheon’s TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided) missile system, which has been around for 54 years and has continues to evolve to provide overmatch capability.
Ed Dunlap, Senior Manager for Business Development for the TOW Weapon System in the Land Warfare Systems unit at Raytheon Missile Systems, emphasised the lethality and affordability of TOW has made it popular with US forces and more than 43 international military services. The retired US Marine Corps (USMC) tank officer, pointed out technology enhancements including the migration to wireless (RF link)-guided configuration and a 4,500m (2.8mi) maximum range have maintained the TOW missile, “as the most lethal ATGM [anti-tank guide missile] solution in the world today.” Indeed, Mr. Dunlap reminded MONCh that prior to the start of 2018 AUSA Global, the US government announced it had approved a massive weapons sale to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that would include up to 6,600 TOW 2B missiles.
The TOW missile comes on several variants including 2A (direct attack), 2B Aero (top attack), TOW Bunker Buster and practice round configurations. The industry expert noted at a TOW International User’s summit in late 2017 revealed plans for the evolution of the missile to a TOW3 configuration to continue to exceed future near-peer competition on the battlefield. A TOW3 missile would include a more insensitive munitions (IM) compliant propellant, improved stability and safety, and other enhancements. The evolved missile would be backward compatible with any current launch systems in the field today.
And while TOW is fielded to US Army and USMC ground forces, other nations’ services use the missile for air-to-ground engagements. Indeed, Mr. Dunlap recalled that as recent as 2014, Raytheon completed successfully, two TOW engagements from an AH-1W helicopter, and noted the missile’s continued technology evolution, makes it a viable, lethal weapon on ground and air platforms.
A September 2017 US DoD contract funds Raytheon to deliver TOW for the Pentagon and Foreign Military Sales customers into 2020.