In the Days before TOW and Dragon….

So what did the Army use before the TOW and Dragon Anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM)?


In the late 1940s, the French rebuilt and refined the German X-7 anti-tank missile, a project well along at the close of World War II.  By 1955, the French Army had an inexpensive “Sol-Sol 10” or SS.10 anti-tank guided missile in service.  True to its origin, the SS.10 featured a high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead and was command guided via a trailing wire.  The gunner used a joystick and sort of “worked” the missile onto the target.  You may notice in the video, in flight the missile actually spun as if fired from a rifle to keep down the “bottle rocket” effect.  A gyro sensor determined which of the missile’s fins to trim in response to the gunner’s commands.  The gunner needed a lot of practice to track and guide a missile onto a target, not to mention good hand-eye coordination.


Sort of crude compared to later ATGMs, but the outfit was inexpensive and weighed only 33 pounds in its carrying case/launcher.  The 11 pound HEAT warhead penetrated 16 inches of armor at zero incidence.  The SS.10 ranged to 1600 meters.

The SS.10 first saw combat in 1956 in the hands of Israelis in the Sinai.  The US Army tested prototypes of the SS.10 in the early 1950s, but opted to develop the SSM-A-23 Dart instead.  As with too many weapon systems of its era, the Dart just failed to live up to expectations.  When the program fell behind schedule, the Army ditched the 100 pound truck mounted missile.

The Dart

The Army purchased quantities of both the SS.10, later designated the MGM-21A, from the French Nord Aviation starting in 1959.  Aside from jeep mount kits, the Army often used the missile with dismounted teams.


The Army saw the SS.10 / MGM-21A as an interim solution, pending the BGM-71 TOW system development.  However in 1963, well before the TOW was ready, Nord ceased production and switched to other missile designs.  The Army replaced the SS.10 with another French missile, the Aerospatiale MGM-32 ENTAC (Nord was consolidated in the state-run Aerospatiale).


Like the SS.10, the ENTAC was built for light infantry use.  It weighed only 27 pounds, even with an 8.8 pound warhead.  The ENTAC increased range to 2000 meters.   Also like the SS.10, the gunner controlled the ENTAC via a joystick.

ENTAC on a Stake!

I don’t know exactly how the stake mount above performed, but in US service, the ENTAC was typically mounted on a jeep or other light truck.  The ENTAC served to the end of the 1960s and saw limited service in Vietnam.  By that time early versions of the TOW were in service.

Concurrently with these French missiles, the Army also purchased the SS.11 missile from Nord / Aerospatiale for use from helicopters.

AGM-22 on a UH-1

Designated the AGM-22, this French product weighed 66 pounds with a 15 pound HEAT warhead.  It ranged to 3000 meters.  As with the infantry missiles, the SS.11/AGM-22 used joystick controls and wire guidance.  For the system to work properly, the gunner (presumably the co-pilot) needed a clear line of sight to the target and for the helicopter to remain stationary during the missile’s flight.  Notice the erratic flight in this retro ‘splodey video:


The AGM-22 remained in the US inventory until 1976, and saw service in Vietnam.

Despite the crude guidance, these French missiles introduced ATGMs to the US Army field units.  Many of the basic tactics used for the TOW and Dragon missiles were first tried out using these small French types.

6 thoughts on “In the Days before TOW and Dragon….”

  1. Craig and I are aware of the problem with the pics. We’re working on it. In the interim, most of the French designed wire guided missiles had the same general configuration.

    And eventually, I’ll get around to discussing the difference in wire-guidance between the SS series, and the TOW series.

    Update- FIXT!

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