M901 Improved TOW Vehicle (ITV)

Entering service with the US Army in 1978, the M901 had a high first-round hit probability with a rapid engagement rate while providing the crew (squad leader, driver, gunner, loader) and weapon system protection from hostile small-arms fire and artillery fragments. The squad leader had a 270° range of view through a periscope, which enhanced the ITV's capability to operate from concealed and full-hull positions. The turret launcher had the capability for day and night acquisition and tracking of targets, and provided firing coverage's of 360° in azimuth and +35° to -30° in elevation. There also were stowage provisions for tripod-mounted TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire command-link guided missile system) components configured so its ground system could be dismounted and set up in three to five minutes.

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Vehicle Type TOW Armored Personnel Carrier
Length 16' 1"
Height 9' 6"
Width 8' 10"
Weight 13 tons
Maximum road speed 40 mph
Swim speed 3.6 mph
Cruise range 300 miles
Main Gun M27 'Hammerhead' TOW launcher
Ammunitgion storage 12 missiles
Commander's weapon

7.62 M60 machine Gun

Smoke Grenades

Two 4-tube M243 launcher

Engine 212 HP GMC 6V53 6 cylinder diesel
Contract Manufacturer United Defense, LP

History

The hydraulically and electrically powered turret could be operated manually. An elevating mechanism positioned the launcher platform into reload and elevated positions. The loader had side and overhead protection during loading, which required only 40 seconds.

Improved Target Acquisition System included a laser rangefinder, increased acquisition range, improved night capabilities (second- generation thermal channel), an automatic bore sight and greater hit probability. Smoke grenade launchers mounted on the front lobbed grenades about 100 feet forward to provide concealment, and its machine gun, with 2000 rounds, discouraged enemy troops from getting too close.

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.

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