The CIA program to supply Arab rebels in Syria has made TOW anti-tank guided missiles a nearly ubiquitous sight in media coming from the conflict. But the United States might not be the only country waging a covert war with TOW (or TOW-like) missiles in the Middle East.
Iranian reverse-engineered TOW anti-tank guided missiles, dubbed “Toophan,” have been been sighted headed toward Yemen with additional suspected appearances in Iraq and Syria — all in the hands of Tehran’s allies and proxy groups.
Iran’s production of reverse-engineered TOW missiles is no great secret. In official news outlets, documentaries and on Iran’s official arms export website, the Islamic Republic has touted its production of a series of different Toophan missiles derived from TOW variants.
It has produced at least a handful of different Toophan models, including the Toophan 1 through 3. According to Armament Research Services, the three systems appear to copy the TOW BGM-71A, BGM-71C and BGM-71F missiles. Iran makes two other variants, dubbed the Toophan-5 and Qaem.
In addition to the basic infantry launch platform, Iran has equipped some of its vehicles to fire the missiles. The basic Safir 4×4 tactical vehicle often appears in military parades equipped with a Toophan launcher.
Iran’s unhelpfully-named Toufan-2 helicopter, based on the Bell Sea Cobra, also appears able to fire Toophan anti-tank missiles.
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