Blog: They have have been used heavily in the recent victories claimed by Syrian opposition, but what are TOW missiles exactly? And why are they proving effective?
By April 2014, Syrian rebels started uploading numerous videos on Youtube showing regime tanks and vehicles destroyed by guided anti-tank missiles, known as TOW.
TOW missiles have been key to rebels' recent victories in the northeast. They have been used heavily in Aleppo and Idlib.
What are TOW missiles? and how did the rebels capitalise on this acquisition?
Optically-tracked anti-tank missile TOW refers to tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided or wireless missiles.
Wire-guided missiles usually have a maximum range of 4,000 meters. TOWs have a 3,750 meters range.
The tube where the missile sits weighs around 100 Kilograms.
TOWs were first introduced by US army in 1970. It was first used in 1972 in Vietnam and proved effective in asymmetric warfare, engaging unarmoured ‘soft targets’ from ground launchers, vehicles, or even helicopters.
In Iraq, US army used TOW missiles all through the campaign.
Qusay and Uday Hussein, sons of Saddam, were both killed using TOW missiles in Mosul in July 2003.
TOWs in Syria TOWmissiles have been the most significant bargain for rebels after US administration stepped up its support for "moderates" rebels.
The first group to receive TOW missiles were the American-vetted Hazm movement in the north of Syria.
Hazm monopolised the use of TOW for a short while. Several other rebel groups managed to buy TOWs from Hazm, sieze Hazm TOWs after clashes, or receive TOW missiles from "foreign sources".
Although TOWs have been mostly used on the northern front, the Free Syrian Army in the south as well as other rebel groups have used the American missiles in Quneitra and Daraa.
Following a conclusion of a one billion dollars sales contract to Saudi Arabia signed by the US Government, 14,000 tube-launched, optically tracked, wireless-guided missiles were delivered missiles will be delivered over a period of three years, beginning in 2015.
Since then, rebels have been supplied with more TOWs and it has proved vital in the victories across the northeast of Syria.
FSA 13th Division scores a direct hit on a moving Assad Volcano rocket launcher with a TOW missile
Liwa Fursan al-Haqq, part of FSA, destroying a regime T-72