Raytheon Co. Missile Systems in Tucson, Ariz., has been awarded a $391.5 million contract to build TOW missiles for the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.
Raytheon’s TOW 2B is the principal anti-tank missile being supplied to the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. (Photos courtesy of Raytheon Missile Systems.)
The tube-launched, optically tracked, wireless-guided (TOW) weapon system includes the multi-mission TOW 2A, the TOW 2B Aero, and the TOW Bunker Buster missiles, which will be built in varying quantities over the course of the multiyear contract.
The TOW 2A is an anti-tank and anti-light armor weapon, a direct-hit weapon designed to be a tank killer. The TOW 2A practice version has an inert warhead but with all the flight characteristics of an active missile.
Ed Dunlap, TOW business development manager for Raytheon Missile Systems, says the TOW 2B is Raytheon’s principal anti-tank, fly-over, shoot-down weapon.
“The missile flies over the tank and based on its sensors, fires two warheads down onto the top of the tank, which is the softest part of any tank,” Dunlap says. “The TOW 2B uses two warheads that are explosively-formed penetrators, where a molten slug comes out of the warhead and shoots down through the top of the tank.”
The TOW Bunker Buster was developed by Raytheon at the beginning of the current operations in Iraq in order to defeat structures, bunkers, and light vehicles, Dunlap points out. The Bunker Buster also is a direct hit weapon.
The missiles use a new propulsion system Raytheon developed with ATK Missile Products Group in 2001 that incorporates a rocket motor designed with Insensitive Munitions (IM) features to be less likely to react explosively to bullet and fragment impacts.
The new propulsion system, called the LBS motor for Launch, Boost, Sustain, “allows the missile to go father and get to the average missile range quicker,” Dunlap notes. He says a TOW equipped with the LBS motor, as all contract TOW missiles will be, “can get to four clicks (kilometers) in less time” than the previous design took.
Dunlap says the LBS system is designed to launch the missile out of its tube, followed by the boost stage that gets the TOW up to speed, and then the sustain phase where the motor keeps the missile traveling for a longer period of time while maintaining a longer optimum speed.
Dunlap adds that Raytheon is working with its overseas supplier, Talus UK, on an improved sensor for the TOW 2B version and for a new fusing system for all models.
“Both of these developments might cut some cost out of the missile, as well,” he observed. “We will take them to the Army, which is following what we are doing, and may try to add those improvements to missiles in later contracts.”
About the author: Alan M. Petrillo is a Tucson, Ariz., journalist who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He’s also the author of the mystery, Full Moon, books on historical military small arms, and the nonfiction work, Ice Hockey in the Desert.