It’s called a TOW, which stands for tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided. Oh, and by the way: It’s a missile.
Scouts with Bushmaster Troop, 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, launched two TOW missiles Friday during a live-fire exercise at Fort Stewart’s Observation Point 4.
The soldiers recently completed two weeks of classroom training on the Improved Target Acquisition System, which increases the weapons system’s capabilities for target detection, acquisition, recognition and engagement ranges.
According to Raytheon Company, which designed the new targeting system, TOW ITAS improves the TOW’s capability to operate in bad weather and gives the TOW gunner the ability engage targets day or night against “advanced threat armor” and at greater “stand-off” ranges on today’s battlefields.
The live-fire got off to a false start when the first of three missiles to be launched failed to fire. All safety precautions were followed to clear the weapon system and allow a second Humvee with a TOW system to move into firing position.
The second attempt was all systems go, allowing TOW crew members in rear to play spectator as the missile boomed from the launch tube. The missile left an ominous trail of sparks as the gunner guided it down range onto its target.
The third and final missile also was a hit. The training only allowed a few soldiers to participate in the actual firing of the missiles, but all those who participated in the classroom training were given a visual image of what the TOW could do.
“Today, we were trying to give some of our younger soldiers a chance to fire a TOW 2 missile,” said Sgt. Chad Manis, scout leader of the crew that did the live-fire. “TOW missiles can be anti-armor or bunker-busters. There’s even an air-burst missile. We had one problem missile earlier this morning, but that happens. I’m glad my gunners hit both targets.”
Manis described his job as “cool.”
“It’s a missile, and I get to fire it,” he laughed. “What else can I say? This is a really cool job.”
TOW gunner Pfc. Eric Smith could not agree more with his supervisor. He still was beaming with his successful target engagement. It was his first time firing a live missile.
“This was pretty great,” Smith said, almost at a loss for words to describe the thrill of firing a TOW missile. “It was fun. When I fired the missile, it was like, ‘Wooh!’ I mean, it was definitely a rush, but I had to concentrate on guiding the missile to the target.”
Smith, who has been in the Army a year and has not yet deployed to combat, said he believes it is important for him and his fellow soldiers to get hands-on training like the recent TOW ITAS and especially to have a chance to fire live missiles.
Without the proper training, Smith said, missile rounds would be wasted, and the enemy might be able to shoot a soldier. The training that he and his fellow scouts completed will help ensure that won’t happen.