GEAR & TECH

This is how the old-school TOW can still kill Russia's most advanced tank

Russia's new T-14 Armata has been hyped as a super-tank capable of grinding any opposition underneath its treads. Any opposition it hasn't already blown to bits, that is.


That said, there is always a question when it comes to Russian weapons: Is it just hype?

Back before Operation Desert Storm, the Russian T-72 tank received similar hype.  But by the time Kuwait was liberated, there were enough burned out T-72 hulks to belie its invincibility.

Russian T-14 Armata. Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin.

Much of today's Armata hype centers around its active protection system and explosive reactive armor. This could conceivably render many anti-tank missiles useless, since the system would either kill the missiles with mini-rockets of its own, spoof the missiles, or use the reactive armor to neutralize the warhead.

But a report from The National Interest claims that a version of the BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile, or "TOW," could be a lethal counter to the Armata. The classic system has been used by American forces since 1970.

While most versions using normal high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warheads) could potentially be countered by the Armata's active protection system, the BGM-71F TOW 2B could be able to beat the Armata.

A paratrooper assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, launches a missile from a Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile system at a live-fire training exercise in Drawkso Pomorskie, Poland, as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve Aug. 19. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Hector Membreno)

According to Designation-Systems.net, the BGM-71F TOW 2B doesn't hit the tank directly. Instead, it flies over top of the tank, and fires two explosively-formed projectiles through the top armor of a tank — usually the weakest point. The EFPs would then disable or destroy the tank in question.

A wireless version, the TOW 2B Aero, is among variants currently in production.

Working in the favor of American (and NATO) troops is the fact that the TOW can be deployed from just about any ground vehicle — from the HMMWV to the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. In addition, Russia reportedly is only able to produce a limited number of T-14 Armatas.

In short, Russia could find out that the Armata, like the T-72, won't live up to the hype.

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