Laser Gold Plated TOW Missile Guidance Beacon Reflector

The TOW (Tube-launced, Optically-tracked, Wire command data link) anti-tank missile, produced by Hughes Aircraft Company in 1970, became the United States’ primary anti-armor weapon system during The Cold War.

Hughes Aircraft approached Epner Technology to provide a durable and highly reflective gold infrared surface to reflect the IR guidance energy, in order to track designated targets accurately.


TOW missile being fired from a Ford M151 MUTT.  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Originally a replicated optic, in 1975, Epner Technology engineers suggested a radical approach to achieving a dramatic cost reduction for Hughes Aircraft.  Epner’s new approach:  polish the die insert to improve the as-cast quality, then buff the spherical surface; complete the process by plating Nickel and Laser Gold directly on the casting.  The Epner Technology approach was such a success that it generated a Value Engineering Cost Reduction worth more than 4 million dollars.

Epner Technology was named the sole and single source for the remaining life of the TOW missile. What started out as a research project to investigate cost reduction opportunities, grew to the production of 750,000 units over some 25 years.

Total Manufacturing

A helium-neon laser beam was impinged upon the rotating mirror while it was moved in an arc of 90°. A detector receives the reflected beam of the laser and any flaw on the surface scatters the beam and the “reject” light is lit. Each mirror was inspected on a customer-supplied unique inspection tool.


Working with the TOW Missile IR Beacon project was a turning point in the history of Epner Technology. It was the first time the company had taken on total manufacturing responsibility. Engineers at Epner procured the raw casting from Greenfield Die Casting, then machined and plated the product in-house at Epner’s Technology’s facility in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

References & Information

Learn more about Hughes Aircraft.

See Greenfield Die Casting.


Laser Gold Plated TOW Missile Guidance Beacon Reflector
Source: New feed