US-made missiles could be decisive for Syrian rebels

US-made missiles could be decisive for Syrian rebels
2 min read
28 Apr, 2015
Blog: They have have been used heavily in recent victories claimed by Syrian opposition, but what are TOW missiles exactly - and why are they proving so effective?
Videos of Syrian rebels using TOW missiles against regime vehicles have swept social media [Getty]
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 missiles.

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?


TOW refers to Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided or wireless missiles.

Wire-guided missiles usually have a maximum range of 4,000 metres. TOWs have a 3,750-metre range.

The tube where the missile sits weighs around 100kg.

TOWs were first introduced by the US army in 1970 and first used in 1972 in Vietnam - proving effective in asymmetric warfare, engaging unarmoured "soft targets" from ground launchers, vehicles, or even helicopters.

In Iraq, the 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

TOW missiles have been the most significant bargain for rebels, after US administration stepped up its support for  "moderate" rebels.

The first group to receive TOW missiles were the American-vetted Hazm movement in the north of Syria (al-Araby al-Jadeed cannot be held responsible for the content of third-party sites).

Hazm monopolised the use of TOW for a short while, before several other rebel groups managed to buy TOWs from Hazm, sieze Hazm's 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 the conclusion of a billion dollar sales contract to Saudi Arabia signed by the US government, 14,000 tube-launched, optically tracked, wireless-guided missiles are to be delivered over a period of three years, beginning in 2015.

Since the deal was agreed, rebels have been supplied with more TOWs, which have 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

YouTube videos supplied here for illustrative purposes only. Al-Araby al-Jadeed has no way to independently verify and cannot be held responsible for content posted to third-party sites.