Captured TOW 2A missiles employed in Syria

Michael Smallwood

Following news of US-made TOW 2A anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) missile tubes being captured by Jabhat al-Nusra (or the Nusra front) from Harakat Hazzm last month, new videos uploaded in recent weeks show Jabhat al-Nusra militants employing these systems against armoured vehicles near Idlib city, Syria. With recent heavy fighting in Idlib, these advanced anti-tank systems are invaluable to anti-government forces in the area.

The TOW 2A is easily identifiable in the first video by the markings on the diaphragm to the rear of the missile tube, seen as the system is being prepared. The BGM-71E-1B model has a National Stock Number (NSN) of 1410-01-300-0254, and a quick search of the US Defense Logistics Agency’s WebFLIS service shows missiles of this model were acquired by the United States Department of the Army in 2008 . Interestingly, the TOW 2A missiles documented by ARES a year ago in Syria and employed by Harakat Hazzm were 71E-3B missiles, indicating that Harakat Hazzm were supplied with at least 2 separate iterations of the TOW 2A (BGM-71E).

TOW 2A profile schematic
A diagram showing markings on the TOW 2A missile tube.

Earlier it was claimed by some that the missile tubes captured at Harakat Hazzm’s Regiment 46 base were empty. The above videos would appear to prove that contention false. Whilst no concrete evidence proving the immediate origin of these ATGWs has come to light, they are likely to have been supplied to moderate forces by a party external to the conflict. The capture of these systems, and their subsequent employment, provides another good example of the diversion and proliferation of comparatively advanced weapon systems likely supplied by foreign powers.

A TOW 2A missile tube,  uploaded to Twitter by a Jabhat al-Nusra fighter and allegedly taken at the base.

With thanks to Aris Roussinos and Michael E. Weber (ARES). Diagram taken from US Department of the Army manual.