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The US Navy (USN) and Raytheon, its industry partner for the TOMAHAWK cruise missile system, are on a funded, detailed path to keep the programme of record viable until the 2050s/60s. Capt John Red, the Navy’s TOMAHAWK Program Manager (PMA-280 at Naval Air Systems Command), briefed media at the Surface Navy Association (SNA) symposium on 15 January that all Block IVs will be converted to Block V configuration.

Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ, has completed the first recertified TOMAHAWK – one that it modified to the Block V configuration, the service programme manager said. The missile is one of the first five Block IV TACTICAL TOMAHAWKs integrated into the recertification process, which takes missiles at the 30-year midlife (15-year mark) for overhaul and modernization. All Block Vs will feature new datalink radio, antennas and navigation system.

The Block Va version also will feature a new seeker kit to hit moving targets and will be called the Maritime Strike Tomahawk (MST). Capt Red declined to discuss the MST’s seeker in detail, but described it as a “multimode seeker with the ability to discriminate targets.” The Block Vb version will feature the Joint Multi-Effects Warhead System.

Overseas, the TOMAHAWK remains in the Royal Navy’s order of battle. Capt Red pointed out that the British missiles will be eligible for modernization through the US Foreign Military Sale process once Block V is fielded to the US fleet.

The TOMAHAWK missile first entered combat in January 1991 in Operation Desert Storm. More than 2,000 have been fired at hostile targets over the ensuing three decades. Capt Red said the remaining Block III TOMAHAWKs, which first entered service in 1994, are being withdrawn from use and are being “demilitarized.”

While many observers note the TOMAHAWK is “big and slow” (3,330lbs) with a rocket motor and subsonicspeed – about 550mph – it is expected to remain relevant in the future battlespace due its range of more than 1,000 miles.

To be clear, the Navy-industry team will maintain a viable programme, not only through modernization, but in the new build of missiles. Indeed, the President’s Budget for 2020 includes funding for 90 new rounds. The initial missile from this tranche will be delivered in 2022.

Raytheon has more than 300 suppliers in the TOMAHAWK supply chain, with about 20-30 identified as first-tier vendors. Some of the many, diverse key companies supporting the OEM include Honeywell, Moog, Cobham and Parker.

Marty Kauchak in Virginia for MON

A TOMAHAWK land attack missile (TLAM) is launched from the ARLEIGH BURKE-class guided-missile destroyer USS CURTIS WILBUR (DDG 54). (Photo: USN)

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