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Wire-guided missile

A wire-guided missile is a missile guided by signals sent to it via thin wires reeled out during flight. This guidance system is most common for anti-tank missiles, where its ability to be used in areas of limited line-of-sight make it useful, while its limited maximum range, that of the wires, is not a serious concern.

Wire guidance is obviously limited by the length of the wire; the longest-ranged wire-guided missile in current use is the Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-Guided Missile System (TOW), with a range of 3750 m [1].

Wire guidance was first employed by the Germans during World War II. Most of their developments used radio control, but as the British proved to be able to jam anything they used, rushed projects were started in 1944 in order to develop alternatives. The first system to be modified in this fashion was the Henschel Hs 249B anti-shipping missile, but by the time it was ready it was too late to be useful as the Allies had already landed strong forces in France. Other examples included the X-4 anti-aircraft missile, and the X-7 anti-tank version of the X-4.

In the post-war era it was the X-7 that had the most effect on other military thinkers. By the early 1950s a number of experimental systems had been developed, leading to their widespread deployment in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Wire guidance has remained the main system for most smaller weapons, although laser beam riding systems have come into use for the anti-aircraft role, and some longer range anti-tank use (notably the US's helicopter-launched Hellfire missile.