June 22, 2006

When the last supplier goes out of business

The TOW missile has been one of the premier heavy anti-tank missile in the world for three decades. It has been mounted on everything from HMMVs to Helicopters and can hit targets accurately thousands of meters away.

TOW stands for Tube launched, Optically sighted, and Wire guided. The gunner sights the target, fires the missile, and holds his cross hairs on the target. The gunner's aim is used to modify the missile's flight path so it can hit moving targets. Signals are sent from the gunner down long wires that spool out behind the missile as it flies.

But according to StrategyPage.Com the US Army is having to change the TOW. But not because of enemy action or because it doesn't work:
Coincidentally, the wire control system is being replaced for reason's beyond the military's control. The last supplier for the control wire went out of business three years ago, and the stockpile of wire the army bought, is just about gone. So a radio control system is being built, to replace the old wire system. This is cheaper than paying a large subsidy to get someone to revive manufacturing of the special wire.
This kind of thing happens quite often. I remember a story a few years ago about the Navy buying up huge lots of a particular type of old Intel microprocessor. Intel was halting production and the processors were the heart of the on board computer on a Navy jet. The Navy knew they wouldn't be able to retool the on board computer anytime soon. So they built up stocks of obsolete microprocessors to keep the jets flying. Posted by georgegmacdonald at June 22, 2006 11:21 AM