Confidential Vietnam Combat TOW Missile Firings 1972 US Army

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Early combat field testing of the BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile in Vietnam.

Originally a public domain film from the US Army, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.

The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).

Wikipedia license:

The BGM-71 TOW ("Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided") is an American anti-tank missile. TOW replaced much smaller missiles like the SS.10 and ENTAC, offering roughly twice the effective range, a more powerful warhead, and a greatly improved semi-automatic guidance system that could also be equipped with infrared cameras for night time use.

First produced in 1970, TOW is one of the most widely used anti-tank guided missiles. It can be found in a wide variety of manually carried and vehicle-mounted forms, as well as widespread use on helicopters. Originally designed by Hughes Aircraft in the 1960s, the weapon is currently produced by Raytheon...

Initially developed by Hughes Aircraft between 1963 and 1968, the XBGM-71A was designed for both ground and heliborne applications. In 1997, Raytheon Co. purchased Hughes Electronics from General Motors Corporation, so development and production of TOW systems now comes under the Raytheon brand.[8] The weapon is used in anti-armor, anti-bunker, anti-fortification and anti-amphibious landing roles. TOW is in service with over 45 militaries and is integrated on over 15,000 ground, vehicle and helicopter platforms worldwide.

In its basic infantry form, the system breaks down into a number of modules...

When the target is sighted and the trigger is pulled, there is a 1.5-second firing delay while the missile spins up its internal gyroscope and the thermal battery reaches operating temperature. Once this concludes, the launch motor fires through the rear nozzle propelling the missile from the tube: this soft-launch motor fires for only 0.05 seconds and burns out before the missile has exited the tube. As the missile exits the launch tube, first four wings just forward of the flight motor spring open forwards, followed by four tail control surfaces, which flip open rearwards as the missile completely exits the launch tube. As the wings fully extend at about 7 meters from the launcher, the flight motor ignites, boosting the missile's speed to approximately 600 miles per hour (~1,000 kilometers per hour) during its burn time. At 0.18 seconds after launch, around 65 meters from the launcher, the warhead is armed by G-forces... The flight motor burns out 1.6 seconds after launch, with the missile gliding for the remainder of its flight time... The operator keeps the sight's crosshair centered over the target until impact:..

1972: Vietnam: first combat use

On 24 April 1972, the U.S. 1st Combat Aerial TOW Team arrived in South Vietnam; the team's mission was to test the new anti-armor missile under combat conditions. The team consisted of three crews, technical representatives from Bell Helicopter and Hughes Aircraft, members of the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command, and two UH-1B helicopters; each mounting the XM26 TOW weapons system, which had been taken from storage. After displacing to the Central Highlands for aerial gunnery, the unit commenced daily searches for enemy armor. On 2 May 1972, U.S. Army UH-1 Huey helicopters firing TOWs destroyed North Vietnamese People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) tanks near An Loc. This was heralded as the first time a U.S. unit neutralized enemy armour using American-designed and built guided missiles (in this case, against a captured American-made M41 operated by the PAVN). On 9 May, elements of the PAVN's 203rd Armored Regiment assaulted Ben Het Camp held by Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Rangers. The Rangers destroyed the first three PT-76 amphibious light tanks of the 203rd, thereby breaking up the attack. During the battle for the city of Kontum, the TOW missile had proven to be a significant weapon in disrupting PAVN tank attacks within the region. By the end of May, BGM-71 TOW missiles had accumulated 24 confirmed kills of both PT-76 light and T-54 main battle tanks.

On 19 August, the ARVN 5th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division abandoned Firebase Ross in the Que Son Valley, 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Da Nang, to the PAVN 711th Division. A dozen TOW missiles were left with abandoned equipment and fell into PAVN hands...

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