By Sgt. Blair Neelands, 1st Brigade Combat Team JournalistApril 19, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile fired from the Improved Target Acquisition System travels down range at nearly 250 feet per second, annihilating its target upon impact.
Summit Soldiers of 1st Brigade Combat Team's D Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment fired TOW missiles in the Fort Drum training area on April 10 for the first time in more than two years.
The "Dagger" gunners trained for months on TOW ITAS simulators leading up to this training exercise.
"This was the first time we have actually gone out to a range and fired," said Pfc. Ralph Cockburn, a gunner with D Company. "We did a 48-hour course in October of last year, and then the whole company went through some simulators in January."
The week before firing the live TOW rounds, gunners tested their skills by qualifying virtually during what is known as ITAS density training.
"All the simulations give you an idea of the sights and getting target acquisition, but until you actually fire it, you have no idea of the power," said Cockburn, who was a first-time firer.
The TOW ITAS is an anti-tank weapons system that is used by more than 45 armed forces around the world and has been integrated into thousands of ground, vehicle and helicopter platforms.
When a TOW missile is fired, the gunner looks through a telescopic sight at the target and tracks the round until the target is hit.
"With the TOW weapons system, you have to follow the round and lead it into the target," said 1st Lt. Jeffrey Burrell, 1st Platoon leader with D Company. "Before firing live TOW missiles, you train with simulators, but with that you don't get the real feel of the weapons system so you don't actually get the experience of shooting a live round and you don't know how the weapons system is going to react once that round is fired down range."
At the end of the day, Soldiers of D Company used what they learned during the simulation training and successfully hit their targets.
"I believe everyone did a really good job," Burrell said. "All of that simulation training went to good use for the actual live-fire."