Saturday, 4 February 2017

TOW & Javelin

History of AT weapons

Since the end of WWI armored vehicles have been an important part of warfare. Defending against enemy tanks and (armored) vehicles doesn't have to be done by (the same type) of armored vehicles. For this purpose AT or Anti-Tank weapons have been developed like the anti-tank rifle and anti-tank gun. During WWII tanks and other armored vehicles had better protections and AT weapons became heavier and heavier to keep up with the trend. The heaviest AT-gun ever produced are variants of the German 128 mm gun and the British 17-pounder AT gun. These weapons where so heavy that they are at the limit of what can be operated by a crew. Any heavier weapons have to be mounted on a vehicle due to their weight. During WWII missile technology was wildly experimented with and used on ground attack aircraft like the Typhoon but also in handheld weapons like the panzerfaust and bazooka. Modern day descendants of these weapons are the TOW wire-guided missile system and Javelin missle both build by Raytheon and use solid rocket fueled engine.

The TOW and Javelin AT weapons

The TOW missile system has a part to be kept and an expendable missile. The durable part is basically a partial launch tube on a tripod with an optical lenses and electronics. The expendable part is the missile which is stored in the other part of the launch tube. When fired the missile is connected to the launcher with two wires. The operator has to keep the cross hairs of the targeting system on the target and the electronics send corrections for the path of flight to the missile. The missile system is not just developed for the sole use by crews, it is also mounted on helicopters, humvees, Wiesel minitank and used in the hammerhead turret among others. The missile is made in about 6 variants with different charges optimal for use against different types of (armoured) vehicles. The maximum range of the missile is 4,5 km. Smoke discharges can be used as an countermeasure. The most vunrable part of the systems is of course it's crew which, in case of the handheld version, sole protection is their camouflage.

Unlike the TOW missile the Javelin is a 'fire and forget weapon'. It locks on to a infrared source and follows that source until impact. The great advantage of such a system is the ability for the crew to take cover after firing the missile. The javelin missile is also 'popped' out of it's launch tube and the engine of the missile ignites shortly after launch so you don't have a massive back blast area at the launch site. It has two modes of attack, a 'top down' and 'straight line' mode. The first is intended to hit ground targets in the lightly armored top. The maximum height to missile fly's at is 160 m so it might be used to shoot down low flying helicopters. The second mode can be used against fortifications. The weapon is intended for use by ground crews but it is quite heavy with it's 20+ kilo's of weight. The minimum start time for the missile's targeting system to be operational is 30 seconds. Flares can be used as counter measures and not every launch is a successful hit on the target, but with a cost of ca. €80.000 per missile you are sure to blow a hole in your wallet. The Javelin is probably most famous for it's use against tripod's in the 'War of the World's' in the 2005 made movie version:


A TOW missile fired during an exercise, note the control wires.


The scene with the Javelin missile as seen in War of the Worlds

The figures

Dragon produces a set of 3 US marines with a TOW and Javelin missile 'Dragon 3012 U.S. MARINE TANK KILLERS'. The set is originally released in the early nineties and re-released a year and a half ago. The uniform colors on the box are of the desert type used in the nineties featuring large 'patches' in 4 different colors and over this with spots with a black spot placed over it at a small offset. The set is not as good as Dragon's later 'Generation 2' releases but it can be made into a very fine set of figures. The figures are made from the styrene plastic normally used in model kits and not poly ethylene as is often the case with 1/72 figures. So the parts can be sanded clean of their mold seems (which is really necessary) and glued. A few compromises have been made in this set in order not to make it to fragile. First the underside of the central 'column' of the TOW tripod. In reality this a structure made from metal slats. On the model is a solid piece because plastic is to fragile to make these parts true to the original. The lunch tube of the javelin is also solid. The support stand for the Javelin is made as a pen in hole connection and drilling out the launch tube would make this part very weak and leave two holes in the side not there in reality. Finally there is a part on top of the TOW missile targeting system which is a camera. This includes a lens cap which I glued on but is best left off. I had some trouble getting the binocular in the hand of the commander but the TOW and Javelin operators fit precisely with their equipment. But sure to place the position of their arms right before gluing.

The photo's of the completed set