Towards the end of Syrian Army’s operation against ISIS militants in Syria’s Al-Safa region, Syrian troops captured an advanced version of the US-made TOW missile system from the terrorist group.
As suggested by the word ‘advanced’, the US-made TOW system captured is one of the latter models of the anti-tank missile design, the procurement for which is generally reserved for close US allies.
Specifically, the TOW missile variant found in the possession of ISIS was the BGM-71E-1B, a version that – in comparison to the standard TOW – provides a larger, extended-penetrator warhead with about 50 percent longer range and more responsive guidance handling.
The larger warhead with its extended-penetrator is grave threat to even the most well-protected Syrian Army tanks which have some of the best-protected armor (be it caged or explosive reactive) among modern tank designs and to which the standard TOW design is generally not up to the task of defeating.
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the provision of US-made TOW missiles and other US and Western-made weapons systems to rebel forces which ultimately found their way into the hands of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS has been a controversial issue – one which the US military and state department pretends does not exist.
One can only ask how an isolated rag-tag ISIS group operating in the vast expanses of the Syrian Desert managed to come into possession of such a missile(s) and if the basing of US special forces in southern Syria (around Al-Tanf) around 150 to 200 kilometers away from the ISIS presence may or may not have had something to do with it.