CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division test fired an updated tube-launched, wired command-link guided, missile system, known as the TOW, from Observation Post-5 at the G-3 range here June 8.
The new system will hopefully replace the existing TOW system, which has been in use since the 1970’s, according to Seaford, Del., native Capt. William C. Wennberg, 29, of Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va.
The TOW system is a crew-served weapon used for heavy anti-armor work; three Marines, a commander, gunner and assistant gunner, man it.
“The current system is 30-years-old and has parts that aren’t even produced anymore,” said Robert Barnabi, senior systems engineer, Marine Corps Systems Command.
One of the predominant features of the new TOW system is its optics. The current Target Acquisition System, or TAS, only covers half the range of the Improved Target Acquisition System in both its ability to detect and positively recognize armored targets.
“We can see farther and clearer. We have a laser range finder to get distances to targets so we can call in air and artillery,” said Knoxville, Tenn., native Cpl. Chad R. Slagle, a TOW gunner with Weapons Co., 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines.
With the current system, the day and night sights were separate entities. With the ITAS, they’re linked as one. Bore sighting also takes minutes with the existing platform, which can seem a lifetime under fire. With the new system, it takes only seconds and requires far less equipment, according to Wennberg.
“This is a lot more reliable and user friendly,” said Slagle, a TOW gunner with Weapons Co., 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines. “Overall, it’s easier to set up. There’s less parts, less malfunctions, bore sighting is easier and automatic.”
The system will offer two missiles for use, the TOW 2B Aero missile and the TOW 2A Bunker Buster. The TOW 2B is designed to defeat armored targets out to 4,200 meters, more than two and a half miles. The Bunker Buster, as the name states, is capable of destroying bunkers out to 3,750 meters, just over two miles. The new system is also capable of firing the Javelin missile with the use of an adapter.
The improved weapon still supports the ability to be mounted on both highly mobile, multi-purpose wheeled vehicles and in a fixed position on the ground. It supports the existing stockpile of TOW munitions as well as any future improvements on the missile, according to Wennberg.
Before the Marines could test the new TOW, they went through a series of courses to familiarize themselves with its advancements.
“A lot of the same principals applied,” said Slagle. “If you’ve already got a feel for the old one, learning the new one will be easy.”
The U.S. Army has used the improved TOW in the field since 1998 and it has seen action in Iraq. One notable benchmark is its use during a standoff in Mozul, Iraq in July of 2003, which resulted in the killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein, two of Saddam Hussein’s sons, according to Wennberg.
The current budget to outfit the Marine Corps with this system is approximately $2.1 million, said Barnabi.
Currently, the Marine Corps is in bidding to get funding for this system but has yet to receive the finances to outfit the entire Marine Corps, according to Wennberg.