The Tube launched, Optically tracked, Wire-command link guided missile weapon system was a soldier-portable and vehicle-mounted, long-range anti-armour weapons system. The weapon consisted of a launcher with tracking and control capabilities, and the TOW 2 guided missile, encased in a launch container. The TOW 2 was an upgrade of the original TOW first used in the Vietnam War by the United States, and was the model Canada fielded. It could be employed effectively in low light conditions (such as fog) and at night with the use of a thermal imagery sight. The missile could be launched from a ground mount or from a vehicle mount.
The TOW 2 was designed primarily to provide a long-range anti-tank capability, particularly to mechanized infantry units. However, the weapon system was also theoretically effective against fortified bunkers and gun emplacements.
Assembly and dismantling of the weapon system could be accomplished in the field without the use of tools, and the weapon itself had built-in self-test circuits. Launcher components failing a self-test could be replaced on the spot at the operating site.
While theoretically man portable over short distances, the Canadian Army fitted the weapon to several vehicles, chiefly the M113A2 Armoured Personnel Carrier, in which configuration it was known as TOW Under Armour. The Iltis and BV 206 also were employed to carry the TOW system.
The TOW was designed to defeat armoured vehicles and other targets such as field fortifications from ranges up to 3,750 meters. A drawback to the weapon was that after firing the missile, the gunner was required to keep the cross-hairs of the sight centered on the target in order to ensure a hit. The system operated in all weather conditions in which the gunner could physically see the target throughout the missile flight by using either a day or night sight.