TOWs return to Fort Riley: 'Big Red One' infantrymen fire live anti-tank missiles
July 25, 2014
Fifteen M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle crews were the first Fort Riley Soldiers in more than a decade to fire live, tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided anti-tank missiles -- commonly known as TOW missiles -- during a training exercise July 22.
The crews, from 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, fired 26 BGM-71F TOW 2-B missiles, which carry more than 6 kilograms of high-explosive charges and travel almost 300 meters per second. It's the first time live missiles of this variety have been fired on Fort Riley since the late 1990s, Tom Black, a Fort Riley range control officer, said.
"This is a pretty rare opportunity to get to fire live TOW rounds," said 1st Lt. Jason Spellmire, assistant operations officer with 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt. and Lebanon, Ohio, native. "It's so good for these infantrymen to get some real time behind one of their most serious weapons platforms because you can do simulators all day, but there's nothing like squeezing the trigger on the real thing."
The battalion requested the missiles through the Department of the Army, which made them available as they were reaching the end of their effective lifespans. Once the rounds were acquired, there was still a lot of planning to be done given the power of these weapons.
"Each missile has a back blast area and it has a huge surface danger zone, so if something goes wrong there's a wide area where it could land," Spellmire said. "It entails closing down a lot of training areas."
Prior to the live-fire event, crews used the Bradley Advanced Training System, which simulated the functions of an M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
"Quite a few times we've gone over scenarios in BATS just to help us get efficient at firing the TOWs," said Sgt. Robert Magill, a Bradley gunner with Co. B, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt.
The Tampa, Fla., native said preparation and the assistance of his vehicle commander helped steady his nerves before firing.
"I had to make sure my pre-fire checklist was good and taken care of (and) that we went over everything correctly," he said. "The VC is there to help me out as well."
Magill and his vehicle commander, Sgt. 1st Class Morris Terry, a Huntsville, Texas, native, successfully struck the farthest target on the range, which was more than 3,300 meters away. The BGM-71F has an effective range of 3,750 meters.
Spellmire, an armor officer, said it would be unsettling to know that infantrymen with TOW missiles can destroy tanks at nearly 4,000 meters, where targets can appear to be little more than dots on the horizon.
"As a tanker, that's pretty scary to know they can hit me at that kind of range," Spellmire said.
Terry said it was natural to attempt to hit the hardest target.
"No guts, no glory," he said. "The feeling inside the turret when we saw it was a hit was awesome. I felt like the adjustments that we made from the first round that we fired, the adjustments Sgt. Magill made, made us more effective."
Black said more ranges like this one will be conducted on Fort Riley in the coming weeks, with 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team scheduled to fire TOWs on July 30.