TOW firing procedure
Since the missile uses a thermal battery that has to warm up and requires time for its internal gyroscope to spin up, there is a 1.5 second delay between pulling the trigger and the missile actually launching, a behavior that is very seldom replicated in media: during this time a loud pop can be heard from the encased missile (an explosive bolt detonating to open the compressed nitrogen bottle that spins up the gyroscope), along with a series of clicking or pinging sounds (the thermal batteries warming up). TOW uses a soft-launch system where a smaller launch motor fires for 0.05 seconds to get the missile clear of the launcher, followed by the main engine igniting when the wings fully extend about 7 meters (23 feet) from the launcher. The missile travels for 0.53 seconds, covering around 65 meters (213 feet), before the warhead is armed by G forces from acceleration by the flight motor, a safety feature intended to protect the operator in the event of a flight motor failure (with the exception of the top-attacking BGM-71F TOW-2B, which has a minimum range of 150 to 300 meters (492-656 feet)). The flight motor burns out 1.6 seconds after launch, with the missile gliding for the remainder of its flight time. The twin wire spools connecting the missile to its casing are 3,000 meters (1.86 miles) long on the BGM-71A Basic TOW and 3,750 meters (2.33 miles) long on most other wire-guided variants, making this the maximum range of the weapon: at this range the wires are automatically cut. There is no tension on the wires and they simply unspool and trail along the ground behind the missile as it flies: this does make wired TOW variants dangerous to operate near power lines and can reduce their effective range if they are flown over water.