Navy Wants Its Tomahawks to Bust More Bunkers

Tomahawk 2The Navy is working to make the Tomahawk missile a better bunker buster and allow it to distinguish targets on the move better.

U.S. Central Command recently sponsored development and testing of a new, more penetrating Tomahawk warhead called the Joint Multiple Effects Warhead System, or JMEWS, according to Capt. Joe Mauser, Tomahawk program manager.

Testing analyzed the ability of the programmable warhead to integrate onto the most advanced Block IV Tomahawk missile, a weapon which can loiter over targets, send back single frame images and change course in flight via a GPS guidance system.

The JMEWS would give the Tomahawk better bunker buster type effects — meaning it could enable the weapon to better penetrate hardened structures like concrete. Tomahawk missiles, first used in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, can reach subsonic speeds greater than 550 miles per hour, Navy officials said.

The missiles are a high-speed, low-altitude weapon designed to evade enemy air defenses – in part by flying lower to the ground and using precision GPS navigation systems.

U.S. and British commanders fired 221 Tomahawk missiles in 2011 from warships at the outset of the attack on Libya and Moammar Gadhafi. The missiles struck about 20 sites and helped destroy Libya’s air defense system.

Each warhead weighs about 3,500-pounds, costs about $569,000 and is 18-feet long with an 8-foot wingspan. Existing Tomahawk warheads include a 1,000-pound unitary warhead and submunitions dispenser variant carries which releases 166 combined-effects smaller bomblets, service officials said.

Meanwhile, Tomahawk prime contractor Raytheon, is working on a new seeker for the nose of the weapon that will allow it to better destroy moving targets and more effectively discriminate targets, said Jeff Meyer, a Raytheon official.

The new seeker involves using both an active and passive seeker on the front of the missile, he said.

“A passive system picks up the radar signature of a target and goes after it. Active is something you would use in the end game that would do target discrimination and make sure you don’t hit the wrong target,” Meyer explained.

A passive seeker would receive an electromagnetic signal and follow it, whereas an active seeker would also have the ability to send out or ping an electronic signal and bounce it off potential targets. Raytheon is planning additional testing for its new seeker system on the weapon, which would allow it to separate legitimate from false targets while on-the-move.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Deuterium2H

    — “A passive system picks up the radar signature of a target and goes after it. Active is something you would use in the end game that would do target discrimination and make sure you don’t hit the wrong target,” Meyer explained. —

    What the heck? Is Meyer mistaken, or misquoted? The Tomahawk isn’t an anti-radar (e.g. HARM) missile. The “passive” seeker must be based on detecting E-M radiation emitted from the target, in the infra-red spectrum. So, that would make it a passive IR seeker. How the heck would it “passively” locate a target via radar signature, if the target isn’t emitting microwave radiation. Besides, a target’s “radar signature” is only determined by ACTIVELY illuminating a target with radiation, and receiving and analyzing the reflected energy. This quote makes no sense.

    • C-Low

      I would wager that is to make it able to hit naval targets read flash back to a modern antiship tomahawk.

      Highly needed and if a pacom war came to be it would be deadly.

    • POINT LOMA, Calif., Oct. 7, 2013 – Raytheon Company completed a successful field test of an advanced Electronic Support Measure (ESM) seeker installed in a Block IV Tomahawk missile as part of the company’s new product improvement program.

    • Hunter76

      I’m not sure your criticism is well founded. The Tomahawk previously was not an anti-radiation (ie, anti-radar) system, but the article mentions a new “seeker”, so capabilities may be enhanced. The “in the infra-red…” is purely your invention, it’s not in the article. Any radar system, inc the older Tomahawk, automatically carries passive detection hardware. Military targets often have active radar, meaning they emit microwave radiation. That radiation is part of the target’s signature, and can be used by the weapon to find it. The quote is not nonsensical.

      That said, Def Tech articles are often poorly written by hacks who don’t understand their subject. Ribby’s post below does point correctly to one of those faux pas.

      • Deuterium2H

        Hi Hunter. I appreciate the feedback. My confusion stemmed from focusing on the Tomahawk’s “traditional” role as a precision strike weapon system for GROUND targets. I completely forgot about naval applications. In which case, I can definitely understand the application of an ESM seeker against surface vessels, which are actively emitting radar/microwave radiation.

        However, I am still at a bit of a loss in coming up with a scenario in which this new, passive ESM seeker on a Tomahawk would used against moving GROUND targets, which is what Raytheon is stating. I can’t imagine the USN using a Tomahawk to go after a single truck, or even a tank, for that matter (assuming it is emitting). It just seems like incredible overkill, and poor use of a very expensive weapon system.

        Not to mention the size of the warhead. I realize that Tomahawks were used against high value, fixed ground targets in urban areas during the Iraq war as well as Libya. However, the potential for massive collateral damage, in going after a moving GROUND target (possibly in a densely populated urban environment), makes the stated purpose of this new seeker a bit “eyebrow-raising”, IMHO. Again, what kind of moving ground target would be of such high value that it is worth engaging with a 1,000 lb warhead on a half million dollar missile? The only thing I can come up with, is a mobile ballistic missile launcher…in which case, yes, I can definitely see it’s applicability.

        However, It just seems, to me, that the real purpose behind this new passive ESM seeker, is for engaging naval surface targets (i.e. ships).

        • orly?

          Possible mobile ground target:

          Tunguska like variants

        • Brett

          mobile missile systems like scuds could be a potential target. Why couldn’t a target be illuminated with RF?

          • Deuterium2H

            Hi Brett. Yes, I agree. I mentioned a mobile ballistic missile system as being one possible target that would be of high enough value and importance to justify a Tomahawk. See the end of my previous reply post to Hunter. After more careful thought, I realize there are other important, mobile high value ground targets, such as mobile radar defense systems, SAMs, and other A2/AD systems.

            As to your last question…of course a target can be illuminated with RF. It is called radar. :) I tease, of course. However illuminating a target with radar makes it an active sensor, by definition. My comment(s) were focused on the passive seeker portion of the new EMS sensor. Again, which means that the mobile target must be actively emitting E/M radiation, in order for the passive mode aspect of the EMS sensor to locate and make initial lock-on. Then, the active mode starts painting the target for the final “end game” engagement.

            The new dual EMS sensor also has major implications for the Tomahawk being tasked in engaging enemy naval surface ships.

          • cybermed

            What about a passive seeker that reads emission reflections from other emitters? Lots of things emit RF.

        • 14684848

          Perhaps there is a way to gain access to the computer OS in the vehicle? Not sure but just a wild guess!

    • RWB123

      The passive system would allow a tomahawk to be launched without a designated target and then follow a ship’s radar back to the vessel. The active component is required to make the missile hit and damage the actual hull of the ship instead of just crashing into the radar emitter to cause minimal damage.

      • d. kellogg

        Minimal damage???

        Considering that a typical Tomahawk conventional warhead is in the 1000pound class, no matter how high up the mast the radar is, a 1000pound airburst over a modern warship is not going to be insignificant.
        Everything from sensors and antennas to electronics, waveguides, even the bridge windows (that over pressure on the crew?) is going to be severely compromised.
        Show me a single modern ship that does NOT have a cluttered topside that would be utterly wrecked by a half-ton conventional airburst even 25m above the actual superstructure.

  • Lance

    Well a welcomed upgrade seems the tomahawk gets a lot of press but only now gets a major upgrade. A good investment.

  • ribby22

    “Each warhead weighs about 3,500-pounds, costs about $569,000 and is 18-feet long with an 8-foot wingspan. Existing Tomahawk warheads include a 1,000-pound unitary warhead and submunitions dispenser variant carries which releases 166 combined-effects smaller bomblets, service officials said.”

    I think it’s supposed to say each Tomahawk weighs about 3,500-pounds (with booster rocket , 2,900-pounds without booster) and either a 1,000 -pound unitary warhead or a submunitions dispenser variant which carries 166 combined-effects smaller bomblets. ( submunitions )

    • shipfixr

      I think you’re right.

  • hibeam

    Tomahawk? Seriously? Can we please refer to this thing as a Native American Flying Weapon System.

    • Big-Dean

      or how about “Native American organically derived multi-purpose self-deternination equality and diversity support tool for justice” or NAOSMSWSSTL for short ;-P

    • JH

      What do you want to call the Kiowa or Apache?

    • Stan

      Is this sarcasm in reference to the Redskins? That name is still racist, sorry.

      • hibeam

        Who can keep up? Did you know the word Oriental is considered offensive now-days? Who knew? I totally did not get the memo. Then I get yelled at.

      • dgmitch

        Actually, the football team has weighed public opinion and decided to remove the word “Washington” from its name..

      • werner

        you have to be a politically correct dumbocrat

    • blight_

      Everything is dakkadakka

  • Big-Dean

    “U.S. and British commanders fired 221 Tomahawk missiles in 2011 from warships at the outset of the attack on Libya and Moammar Gadhafi. The missiles struck about 20 sites and helped destroy Libya’s air defense system.”

    ok, that’s a little over 10 Tomahawks per “site”

    Now, there no way any of us could know what the total inventory might be, perhaps 2,000 or more block III versions. The key question I want to explore with you all is if it takes 200+ missiles to take out a 3rd world’s country’s air defense system, how many more would we need in case we ever get into it with China, who’s air defense and C&C is probably 10 times larger than Libya’s? I guessing that we would run out of inventory real quick., and secondly, we would not have enough ‘in theater” or “forward deployed” (per CBG). What do you all think?

    • Could have been multiple structures/vehicles/systems at each of those sites. Also, with more missiles targeting each site, you now have greater guarantee that said targets will be destroyed BEYOND repair.

    • It’s a good question (the number of sorties/missions a platform can launch) and often overlooked in the discussion over the value of carriers over submarines…

  • jack

    The TLAM is one of the few Pentagon programs that has lived up to the expectations and continues to perform well. Congrats!

  • Stan

    The missile can’t fly too high or it would be more vulnerable to air defenses. In absence of gravity they need to come up with a rocket boosted warhead. Of course, even with that there is only so much you can do when you have 1000 lbs worth for inertia to work with.

    • Stan

      Zoning a little bit. The 1000 lbs is the amount of explosives it carries.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    This is an older missile, it’s hardly surprising that that different sensor and warhead packages are appearing to extend its’ versatility. However, penetrating a bunker does imply a diving descent, as in the photo, and that descent requires it to pop up for some altitude. Tomahawk is not considered “stealthy” by current standards (else we’d not need JASSM at all). I infer that what’s being developed is less for modern warships or even hardened targets with state-of-the-art defenses, but for third world fortifications and those run by non-state actors that lack good point defense.

  • SMSgt Mac

    That’s nice. Get it to cost the same as a JDAM, with at least .8-.9 the Pk of a JDAM and you’ll have a game changer.

    • You have a point ref JDAM cost but one should really consider the cost of the plane and all the other supporting planes in the cost of getting a JDAM on target (just like we should include the cost of a sub) most importantly the pros and cons of needing a runway sometimes close whether floating or on land. Ait Force and Crusie missile proponents always seem to skip that level of analysis. It would be an interesting take if done objectively.

      The JDAM has cut the number of sorties required to service a target but it still puts a pilot in jeopardy as well as all the other missions/pilots (e.g. SEAD, fighter escort) required to put a JDAM on target.

      The cruise missile and the JDAM have both been game changers and have different pros and cons which is good. It makes the enemy have to defend against a variety of options which invariably gives us opportunities.

      • blight_

        “Tank main gun rounds are cheap, therefore we do not need ATGMs”

        • Agree, but you should say If someone doesn’t know you they might not surmise you are being sarcastic.

  • josh.p

    Ok the tomahawk has been around for ages now. Is the u.s developing any new missiles.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    Sure, like JASSM, but none of them will ever be as cheap as a half-mil Tomahawk. The R&D costs have been amortized over thousands of missiles.

    • blight_

      TLAMs were probably ridiculously expensive in their time, and only justified as a nuclear weapon delivery system to Moscow, flying under Soviet radars.

      I wonder if TLAM would’ve survived modern procurement

  • ‘on the move’ being the keywords……….
    Too bad when the 65 terrorists in Afgthanistan,
    who had been released by Karzai, left on that bus, that it was not hit ‘on the move’

  • bob

    221 missiles hit ~20 targets? 10 missiles per target huh?

    • blight_

      It’s not like they carry nukes anymore.

    • They wee not ten individual SAM missiles, but SAM sites, dispersed with multiple launchers each run by a central launch control facility. @0 missiles per site, average, would be about right.

  • Ron

    The TLAM warhead is “1000 lb CLASS” and is really more like 700 lb

  • DBM

    Last time I checked Tomahawks cost $1,000,000 per and that was 20 yrs ago. Clinton fired off about 1,000 of them to try to send a Message to ben Laden.

    • blight_

      Fired 75 at Sudan and Afghanistan in the 90s. The largest expenditures were Desert Fox and Allied Force…neither of which had to do with ben [sic] Laden

      If we fired 1,000 TLAMs at OBL we probably would have killed something.

  • CaptainDoc

    That is a lot of $$$ for a 1000 lb. warhead. A nice flight of aircraft can do the job for less money and cause more damage possibly without detection and possibly capable of deterring an attach on the aircraft. With all the money we spend on these and the vessel that launches them we can get into some serious $$$. Plus the aircraft can have a little more accuracy and ratio of hits per flight.

  • bart

    I wonder if Israel will purchase JMEWS ;)

  • RattedHalo

    I remain concerned there is too much reliance on GPS and Satellite guided ordinance and general navigation. If the big one really comes, we know what will go pretty much straight away

    • bri_kim

      That is why we have a large stock pile of sharp sticks and properly sized stones.

  • Fast Eddie

    I remind you that Raytheon makes the seeker for the AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile. It would be simple to put the HARM anti-radar seeker on the TLAM, it fits easily. Raytheon also makes the active radar seeker for the AMRAAM missile, it also fits. So, the ability to give the Tomahawk a passive/active RF seeker is there. Also, the $1M price tag was indeed 20 years ago before a winner-take all competition that reduced the TLAM price by about half.

  • psailor324

    you know, it’s more educational reading the comments, which seem to come from those who have qualifications (past and present) to properly evaluate the article and it’s content. As an old subsailor, the Tomahawk strikes me as merely a smart-flying torpedo, which from the comments, might be close the end of its life-cycle, but still a very deadly “torpedo.”

  • Mike

    The choice of the THAWK warhead was a budgetary decision based on a stockpiled surplus of Bullpup warheads. The small “punch” has been discussed since early development and I am somewhat surprised, no shocked a larger warhead has not been developed and fielded given the platform’s age.

  • the dude

    Good thing Obama cancelled the program

  • thedude here is the article