Still Hitting Where it Hurts

BGM-71 family missile
A BGM-71 family missile is seen here being fired from the AM General HMMWV mounted launcher. (US Army)

The Raytheon BGM-71 TOW (Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-guided or Wireless) Anti-tank Guided Missile (ATGM) is fielded by over 40 armies worldwide.

So a video of a Syrian rebel BGM-71 missile engaging a Syrian Army Uralvagonzavod T-90 Main Battle Tank (MBT) received considerable attention including some suggestions that the weapon was not effective and is obsolete.

According to a spokesperson from Raytheon, this judgement is premature as the BGM-71 family has undergone a number of improvements over its life including the advent of the BGM-71F which eliminates the weapons’ original guidance wires.

There are also seven different warheads fielded with the weapon including the BGM-71E/F variants which are optimised for defeating advanced protection including the reactive armour of the latest MBTs.

It is unlikely that the missiles provided to the rebels include these latter versions, but the earlier BGM-71D variant had been identified in the conflict as early as 2014, and was possibly supplied through a Gulf state.

by Stephen W. Miller