Based on the BGM-71, Iran reverse engineered to create a copy called Toophan.
With a large HEAT warhead that penetrates thousands of millimeters of steel and a modern control unit, the anti-tank guided has become a worthy opponent of modern tanks. And their rivalry continues. In the second half of the 1960s, the BGM-71 TOW Anti-Tank Missile Weapon System was developed to become the primary anti-armor weapon system of the United States and its allies during the Cold War. Despite being an aging generation of anti-tank systems, the TOW missile remains popular in modern warfare, and has proven to be one of the most effective anti-tank systems in the world.
Based on the BGM-71, Iran reverse engineered to create a copy called Toophan. Toophan is even exported to Iraq and Syria and a large number of non-state actors in the Middle East, and has been used in the Iran–Iraq War, the 2006 Lebanon War and the Iraqi, Syrian, and Yemeni Civil Wars. The Toophan forms the backbone of the Iranian Armed Forces’s ATGM inventory and is procured in large quantities in a variety of variants.
The BGM-71 TOW was first introduced in 1970 by Hughes Aircraft, the weapon is now manufactured by Raytheon. It is fitted with Command to Line Of Sight guidance (CLOS) and all the gunner has to do is to keep the cross-hairs of his sight on the target until the missile impacts. It can be found in a wide variety of manually carried and vehicle-mounted forms, as well as widespread use on helicopters.
On the basic infantry version, the TOW launcher is mounted on a portable tripod. The missile is carried in a sealed container. The crew consisted of three soldiers, including the commander, gunner and assistance gunner. The launcher can be disassembled and transported by the crew. The TOW launchers are typically used by separate anti-tank companies for heavy anti-armor work.
Basically, the TOW missile system consists of the launch tube, fire control unit, support assembly and missile system. The missile itself has a conventional aerodynamic shape characterized by a well-contoured body with a short nose cone. Four spring-loaded fins are mounted at amidships and aft to help stabilize the missile during flight, extended out immediately after launch. The warhead is contained in the forward portion of the missile as is the guidance center while the motor and fuel store is to the rear.
The original missiles are wire-guided. It is not a fire-and-forget type weapon. It requires the shooter to keep the target in the line of sight until the missile impacts. First production missiles had a maximum range of 3,000 m. Although it was estimated, that the basic TOW missile could penetrate 500-600 mm or Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA), according to now unclassified study it penetrates only 430 mm.
TOW can be deployed on a variety of vehicles, even helicopters. The launcher can be mounted on the HMMWV. It is used as the main anti-tank weapon of the M2 infantry fighting vehicle and the M3 Bradley cavalry fighting vehicle. There are also dedicated anti-tank missile carriers, based on the Stryker (M1134) and LAV-25 (LAV-AT).
Since its inception, the TOW missile has rapidly replaced the obsolete anti-tank missile weapons and recoilless rifles in the US Army’s service. To date TOW has undergone many upgrade programs with versions far superior to the original models. The engine function was improved, as was the guide, and the warhead was enlarged for greater armor penetration effect.
During the war in Ukraine, the US provided a series of military equipment to Ukraine, including thousands of TOW “tank killers” to help Ukraine deal with Russian forces. And this weapon still proves its worth, destroying thousands of enemy armored vehicles.