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M901 Anti-tank missile carrier
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The Source (author): www.military-today.com
The M901 ITV (Improved TOW Vehicle) is a tank destroyer utilizing the BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile.
This vehicle played a major role in US armor and anti-armor strategy during the Cold War, proliferated to several other nations, and remains in service abroad to this day.
However, the ITV was not a product of careful long-term planning. In fact, the US Army was reluctant to procure a modern ATGM vehicle at all. While other NATO nations and the Warsaw Pact rapidly developed and fielded armored and highly-mobile ATGM vehicles in the 1950s and 1960s, the US military was slow to catch-on with the concept.
US tank destroyers in this era all employed either recoilless rifles (e.g., the M50 Ontos) or simple ATGM launchers designed for use by dismounted infantry (e.g., the M150), all of which offered little protection or cover for the crew.
That trend changed quickly after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when Arab-operated tank destroyer variants of the BRDM-2 scout car armed with "pop-up" ATGM launchers inflicted significant losses on the IDF`s tank force. This graphic demonstration of the ATGM carrier`s capabilities in modern warfare prompted the US Army to finally initiate serious research and development into such a vehicle. The Army decided to take the same approach as the Soviet Union, and base the new vehicle off an existing lightweight, high-mobility AFV chassis already in widespread service; inevitably, it would be an M113-based AFV. As the Army already had an ATGM vehicle based on the M113 (the M150), the new weapon system was designated as the "Improved TOW Vehicle", or ITV.
Only three years after the Yom Kippur War, competing manufacturers had submitted three fully-functional prototypes to the US Army. In December of 1976, following field trials, the Army declared the model submitted by Emerson (now Systems & Electronics Inc, or SEI) the winner, and awarded an low-rate initial production contract for 10 vehicles. Favorable field trials of these vehicles resulted in a contract for full production being issued in June 1978, with the resulting M901 ITV becoming fully-operational in 1979. The other US armed services turned-down the ITV, with the Marines soon after opting instead for an LAV I armed with the same turret (resulting in the LAV-AT).
When the original M901 ITV was fielded, it employed an M113A1 chassis. Few M901s were built, as production quickly switched over to the M113A2 in 1979; fitting the TOW Under Armor (TUA) launcher to this chassis resulted in the M901A1. When the M113A3 replaced the M113A2 in production, the M901A1 was in turn replaced in production by the M901A3.
The primary asset of the M901 ITV is its mobility. It has a high enough top speed, range, and power to weight ratio to keep pace with modern MBTs, and it is amphibious without preparation.
The deployability of this vehicle is even more superfluous. An ITV can be transported at combat weight to beyond 1 600 km by a C-130 Hercules or C-27J Spartan. A C-141 Starlifter could carry 2 ITVs, while a C-5 Galaxy or C-17 Globemaster III can each carry up to 10 of them. Thanks to the strengthened suspension introduced in the M113A2 series, the M901A1 and M901A2 can also be air-dropped by any of these aircraft (or roll-off at full combat weight directly into battle, if needed to protect the landing zone). It is also light enough to be sling-loaded across rivers, gorges, minefields, and other such obstacles by heavy lift helicopters, such as the CH-47F Chinook or CH-53E Super Stallion.
Nicknamed the "Hammerhead", the SEI 901 TUA (TOW Under Armor) launcher slews 360 degrees in 10 seconds, elevates to +34 degrees, and depresses to -30 degrees. It is lowered when the vehicle is traveling, and raised when firing. The launcher is not stabilized, and must be lowered prior to fast movement in order to avoid damage, but the TOW missile is incapable of being guided from a moving vehicle anyway.
From the moment the vehicle takes a firing position, it takes only 20 seconds to raise the launcher, acquire a target, and engage. However, the TUA launcher must also be lowered for reloading, a process which requires approximately 40 seconds. The launcher is electrically and hydraulically powered.
The launcher is often mistakenly referred to as the M220 or the M27; these are an unrelated single-tube launcher for the TOW, and the cupola that the TUA launcher is mounted on, respectively.
The M901 ITV also carries a 7.62 mm general purpose machine gun for defense against personnel and aircraft. The weapon used by the US military was either an M60 or an M240 (depending on the service and the era), though almost any general purpose machine gun could be fitted instead.
A total of 10 TOW missiles and 2 000 7.62 mm rounds are stowed, not including loaded ammunition.
All other data is the same as that of the M113 FOV, with the M901 being based on the M113A1, the M901A1 based on the M113A2, and the M901A3 based on the M113A3 (the M901A2 designation was skipped). See the other pages on Military-Today for additional information.
The M901 ITV first saw combat in Operation Desert Storm, where it achieved at least 14 kills with no losses, in a repeat performance of what the anti-tank BRDM-2s had accomplished 18 years prior. This also occurred despite the low confidence in the M901 held by US troops at the time (which did not change after the war, despite this success). It is unknown if the ITV has since fired a shot in anger.
Production ran from 1977 to 1998, by which time 3 315 examples were constructed for all users. The M901 ITV was used by Bahrain, Egypt, Greece, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Portugal, Thailand, Tunisia, and the US. The largest of these operators at present are Egypt and Greece, each with some 300 ITVs. The last buyer to date is Thailand.
Curiously, the US Army retired all remaining examples by the mid-1990s, after the ITV had been in service for some 15 years; and as of late 2015, the US Army is the only operator that has retired this system. This was done under the rationale that the M2 Bradley and M3 Bradley had taken-over the ITV`s mission, but the ITV was a defensive vehicle by nature (the underlying purpose of the Bradley is to support the M1 Abrams main battle tank while on the attack) that was much more mobile, agile, and deployable than the Bradley. The error of this decision is highlighted by the fact that the US Marine Corps chose not retire its contemporary LAV-AT tank destroyer, and that the Army soon after ended up procuring another tank destroyer (the M1134 Stryker ATGM).
Moreover, despite owning equivalent AFVs to the Bradley (Egypt having an IFV with the M2 Bradley`s turret, and Saudi Arabia having entire M2 Bradleys), none of these other nations have retired their ITVs.
It is thus very likely that the M901 ITV will remain in service well into the foreseeable future, and possible that it will continue to proliferate.
As both M113 and TUA production have ended, new-build M901 ITVs are no longer available. A new vehicle was valued at approximately $500 000.
M901: Original production model, an M113A2-based vehicle, with the SEI 901 TUA launcher.
M901A1: M113A2-based vehicle, with the SEI 901A1 TUA launcher.
M901A2: Unused designation.
M901A3: M113A3-based vehicle, with the SEI 901A1 TUA launcher.
YPR-765 PRAT: YPR-765-based vehicle, with the SEI 901A1 TUA launcher. Formerly used by the Netherlands, but may be operated by export customers.
LAV-AT: LAV I chassis armed with the SEI 901A1 TUA launcher.
LAV III TUA: LAV III chassis armed with the SEI 901A1 TUA launcher.
VCC-1/TOW: VCC-1 chassis armed with the SEI 901A1 TUA launcher. Some 300 are operated by Saudi Arabia.
M150: M113A1 with an M220 single-tube TOW launcher. Despite its substantial obsolescence, M150s still remain in service with some nations, notably Israel.
NM142: NM135-based ATGM vehicle, similar to the M901 ITV and armed with the TOW missile, but equipped with a different launcher made by the Thule company.
ACV-ATV: ACV-300 with the Thule TOW launcher. In service with Turkey, and possibly other ACV operators.
Bradley Fighting Vehicle: The TBAT-II turret on the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle and M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle is armed with a variant of the TUA launcher, which has a different layout and configuration.
MTVL-AT (hypothetical designation): MTVL/M113A4 chassis with a new TOW launcher designed in 2002 by BAE engineer Larry N. Darnall. Was not built, and remains a "paper project".
EIFV: Has an MTVL hull and a TBAT-II turret, complete with the modified TUA launcher.
Entered service Late 1980s
Crew 4 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight 12 t
Length 5.29 m
Width 2.68 m
Height (in traveling order) 2.95 m
Height (in combat order) 3.41 m
Missile (BGM-71E TOW 2A)
Missile length 1.51 m
Missile diameter 0.15 m
Fin span 0.46 m
Missile launch weight 22.6 kg
Warhead weight 5.9 kg
Warhead type Tandem HEAT
Range of fire 3 750 m
Guidance system Wire-guided
Armor penetration 900 mm
Number of missiles carrier 10
Machine guns 1 x 7.62-mm (2 000 rounds)
Engine General Motors 6V53T diesel
Engine power 275 hp
Maximum road speed 72 km/h
Amphibious speed on water ~ 5 km/h
Range 480 km
Side slope 30%
Vertical step 0.61 m
Trench 1.7 m
The Source (author): www.military-today.com