M901 Improved TOW Vehicle


To meet a US Army requirement for a turret-mounted and elevated TOW ATGW system, three companies built prototype systems and, after trials in December 1976, Emerson (now Systems & Electronics Inc (SEI)) was awarded a low-rate initial production contract for 10 vehicles. In June 1978, the M901 Improved TOW Vehicle (ITV) was approved for full-scale production and by 1997 well over 5,500 systems had been completed for the home and export markets. This figure includes 3,315 M901 Improved TOW Vehicles and 1,306 M981 Fire Support Team Vehicles for the US Army. Production for the US Army was completed some time ago but the system remains in production as required for the export market. The latest production model, the M901A1, is capable of firing any of the TOW missile variants (Basic TOW, Improved TOW (I-TOW) or TOW-2 series) produced by Hughes. The US Army mounts the system on a modified M113 series chassis but it can be installed on a wide range of other chassis. For example, the US Marine Corps uses the Light Armored Vehicle (8 x 8), the Netherlands uses the Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle while Saudi Arabia uses the Italian OTOBreda VCC-1 full-tracked chassis. Recent export orders include 18 for Thailand (the first customer for the latest M901A3 with deliveries due in 1997) and the Saudi Arabian National Guard (111 systems on a Diesel Division, General Motors of Canada 8 x 8 Light Armored Vehicle chassis). When fitted with the latest RISE power pack, the M901A1 is designated the M901A3 ITV. The Fire Support Team Vehicle (FISTV) is related to the M901 ITV.


The M901/M901A1 Improved TOW Vehicle consists of a standard M113A1 APC with an M27 cupola mounted on the roof. On the forward part of this is an arm containing the image transfer assembly and on top of the arm is the armoured launcher assembly which contains two TOW launcher tubes, the TOW sight assembly and the acquisition sight. The turret has full powered 360 traverse at 35/s with the launcher head having an elevation of +34 and a depression of -30. This enables the ITV to operate on gradients and side slopes with only the launcher head showing above the crest. When travelling, the launcher head is retracted level onto the hull top so making the ITV difficult to distinguish from the standard M113A1 series APC.

Once the ITV has come to a halt, it takes only 20 seconds for the launcher to be elevated and the target to be engaged. Time from first round impact to second round triggering with a 12.5 target separation is 4.25 seconds. The gunner identifies and tracks the target through the image transfer assembly, which contains the coupling optics and allows the gunner to select the standard day sight or night tracking by remote control. In addition, the coupling optics have a wide field of view so allowing the gunner to scan for targets. The guidance and sights of the ITV are identical to the normal TOW ground-based systems and, if required, the components can be removed from the vehicle and fitted to a standard TOW series ground mount which can be carried inside the hull. Once the two missiles have been launched, the launcher assembly is depressed at the rear and two new missiles are loaded, which takes only 40 seconds. The loader is provided with both side and overhead armour protection during the manual loading operation. A further 10 TOW missiles are carried internally and a 7.62 mm machine gun with a total of 2,000 rounds is mounted on the cupola for local defence. Mounted on either side of the hull front is a bank of four electrically operated smoke grenade dischargers.

M901 ITV/M981 FISTV SLEP Programme

Systems & Electronics Inc (SEI) is now developing system enhancements for the M901 Improved TOW Vehicle and the M981 Fire Support Team Vehicle as part of a Service Life Enhancement Programme (SLEP) to extend the ITV/FISTV operational life and effectiveness. Incorporating user inputs, the SLEPs are divided into three 'Block Improvements' based upon installation complexity. All of these SLEPs are designed for direct support/general support maintenance levels and allow for graceful integration of each additional improvement. The table below left defines each of these SLEPs and their mission.

Block I
Target station control display/
GPS system interface
FISTV Lethality provides electronic interface between GPS
and FISTV for accurate position updates
Enhanced night sightnight
FISTV/ITV Survivability allows station operator to
collimate sight under armour
Night sight lens cover* FISTV Survivability provides protective lens cover for
night sight
gyro power supply*
FISTV Survivability eliminates NSG
re-initialisation due to
low-voltage conditions
Commander's viewing device
laser filter
ITV Survivability provides threat laser protection
Day/night sight lens cover* ITV Survivability provides protective lens
cover for both TOW day sight
and night sight
NBC upgrade* ITV Survivability adds onboard NBC protection
Low-voltage sensor* ITV/FISTV Sustainment identifies vehicle low-voltage conditions
with audible/visual warning
Block II
Auto turret positioning ITV/FISTV Survivability automatically drives turret to
load, stow and erect positions
Block III
Commander's video viewing device ITV/FISTV Lethality provides commander with a remote
viewof gunner's sight via video link

* Current design efforts are funded by TACOM


(Similar to M113A1 APC except for following)
(deployed with mechanised infantry) 4
(deployed with cavalry) 5
Combat weight: 11,794 kg
Ground pressure: 0.58 kg/cm
(launcher stowed) 2.91 m
(launcher erected) 3.35 m
NBC system: yes

Night vision equipment: yes

Status : Production as required. In service with Pakistan, 24 M113A1