Navy Test-Fires Upgraded Tomahawk

The Navy and Raytheon recently flight tested software upgrades to the Tomahawk missile with two sea-launched test-firings near China Lake, Calif., designed to shoot the weapon up to high altitudes and assess the weapon’s improved maneuverability.

The first test took place from a nuclear submarine — the USS Hampton. The submarine fired a Tomahawk Block IV from its vertical capsule launch system.

“The missile flew a pre-planned mission until a strike controller located at a maritime command center directed the Tomahawk to a new target. The missile successfully demonstrated enhanced flex retargeting before striking the updated target at the China Lake weapons range,” a Raytheon statement said.

In the second test, the guided missile cruiser  USS Lake Champlain launched a Tomahawk Block IV to the missile’s highest ever altitude, Raytheon officials said.

“The Tomahawk flew a series of pre-planned high altitude maneuvers demonstrating improved performance in its flight regime.  The missile completed a pre-planned vertical dive impacting a target on San Nicolas Island off the Southern California coast,” a Raytheon statement said.

Navy Tomahawk program manager Capt. Joe Mauser said the “tests validated recent software updates that improve the weapon system flight performance.”

Raytheon officials said the tests were merely the latest move in a series of ongoing steps aimed at further upgrading and modernizing the Tomahawk Block IV missile.

“We’re constantly trying to provide more value out of the Tomahawk and upgrade its software and hardware. These tests pushed the envelope in terms of maneuvers,” Roy Donelson, Raytheon Tomahawk program manager added.

Donelson explained that the test showed what he called enhanced flux in-flight re-targeting wherein the missile can skim along the sea or fly at high altitudes before reaching its target.

Overall, Raytheon has delivered more than 3,000 Tomahawk Block IV missiles to the Navy.  The missiles are expected to complete a 30-year service life after being re-certified at the 15-year mark. The inventory of Block IV missiles are slated to go through a re-certification process in 2018 and 2019.

Tomahawks have been upgraded numerous times over their years of service. The Block IV Tomahawk, in service since 2004, includes a two-way data link for in-flight re-targeting, terrain navigation, digital scene-matching cameras and a high-grade inertial navigation system, said Donelson.

The weapon is also capable of performing battle damage assessment missions by relaying images through a data link, he said.

The re-certification process for Block IV Tomahawks will provide occasion to implement a series of high-tech upgrades to the missile platform which improve the weapon’s lethality, guidance and ability to find and destroy moving targets, Donelson explained.

With this in mind, Raytheon has been conducting ongoing re-certification studies with the Navy to take up key questions regarding upgrades and new technologies for the platform, Donelson said.

Along these lines, the fiscal year 2015 budget also adds $150 million for a new Tomahawk missile navigation and communications suite in order to better enable the weapon to operate in anti-access/area-denial environments, he added.

Donelson explained that a number of the current technological upgrade efforts are timed to coincide with the planned re-certification of the inventory of Block IV Tomahawk missiles.

Along with the advanced communications and navigation suite, which is planned to be ready by 2018 or 2019, Raytheon is also developing a new seeker, processor and warhead for the weapon.

“With a 30 year service life and a 15 year warranty a lot of these systems will come back in 2018 and 2019 with all the upgrades. Tomahawk will be able to do autonomous and semi-autonomous operations in the future.  We’re looking at supersonic concepts and new payloads,” he said.

Among the new payloads is a more-penetrating warhead is called the Joint Multiple Effects Warhead System, or JMEWS. It was recently sponsored by U.S. Central Command. The JMEWS would give the Tomahawk better bunker buster type effects — meaning it could enable the weapon to better penetrate hardened structures like concrete.

Donelson said that Raytheon is conducting JMEWS risk-reduction testing with the Navy and hopes to enter into a new development phase by next year.

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.

Donelson explained that Raytheon is also working on new passive and active seeker technology for the Tomahawk which would even better enable the weapon to discriminate between targets and destroy moving targets.

A passive seeker can receive an electromagnetic signal and follow it, whereas an active seeker has the ability to send out or ping an electronic signal and bounce it off potential targets, he added.

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.

After additional lab testing, ground testing and flight testing, an integrate suite consisting of an active seeker, passive seeker and high-speed processor is slated to be ready by 2015, Donelson said.

Raytheon has invested $40 million thus far developing the new seeker and processor, and plans another captive carry test of the seeker in coming months, he added.

In service for 30 years and having been utilized in 20-years of operational combat, Tomahawks have been the focus of a number of incremental technological improvements ranging from navigation to targeting and data-link upgrades.

Also, Raytheon is looking at multi-year contracts with the Navy for future Tomahawk production in order to lower prices. In addition, looking to find additional foreign military sales customers for the Tomahawk is another method of seeking to increase production and therefore lower costs.

Tomahawk missiles weigh 3,500 pounds with a booster and can travel at subsonic speeds up to 550 miles per hour at ranges greater than 900 nautical miles. They are just over 18-feet long and have an 8-foot, 9-inch wingspan.

The Navy is in the early stages of conducting an analysis of alternatives exploring options for a next-generation land attack weapon. It remains unclear whether they will use next-generation, upgraded Tomahawks to meet this requirement or chose to develop a new system.

About the Author

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

    Nice to see 1 program actually doing well.

  • Big-Dean

    now the LCS mafia is going to say “we can put Tomahawks on the LCS” and make it a “S-LCS” (Strike LCS)

    • blight_qwerty

      If they wanted to obstruct the flight deck, they could put armored box launchers on them.

      • Big-Dean

        the poor little 4,000 ton LCS might tip over then ;-P

  • Matthew Metin Algan

    I am sure proud of being the precision inspector of the fuselages and wings part of the Tomahawk while getting manufacured at Edwards Aerospace at Irving Texas, near the Dallas Airport. Years 1994 -1996Tomahawks help us to win all the wars. for us. Matt. .Go

    • oblatt22

      We have lost every war that tomahawks were used in.

      Care to explain why ?

      • Mark

        Easy, I can name it in two words - liberal politicians.

        • blight_qwerty

          So liberal politican+Tomahawk=loss?

          Therefore if liberal politician does not use Tomahawks, victory is assured?

      • Praetorian

        Saying the US lost the 1991 Gulf 1 war, is like saying Islam is the religion of peace. I don’t think you have ever been right with any comment, But go ahead it makes for a good laugh on this thread.

      • blight_qwerty

        We should never have fired Tomahawks into Hanoi. Then we would have won.

        • Alan

          Since when did the United States fire Tomahawk missiles in to Hanoi?

          • blight_qwerty

            I was noting that firing Tomahawks is not causative of loss in all wars, since we have been losing wars before Tomahawks were ever used. I communicated it with sarcasm.

            That said, Tomahawks were the standoff drone of their days…when afraid to land troops ashore, send out a few TLAMs!

          • Guest

            It’s a joke dude

      • Stefan

        “We have lost every war that tomahawks were used in.
        Care to explain why?”

        Sure. You’re the baddies.

      • tiger

        Define Lost?

  • LPF

    OK off topic I know, but is it just me or does anyone else see the French flag in that picture?

    • S L Haynes

      I see what appears to be one. I don’t know protocol or procedure but maybe there is a French Naval Officer on board as well for observation purposes.

  • DrBobcf

    It is not the French National flag, it’s a signal flag for the letter T.

  • sla

    French Flag has an additional blue stripe next to red one. This is Signal Flag indicating to others in Navy that on one is supposed to pass in front of this ship.

    • FormerDirtDart

      “French Flag has an additional blue stripe next to red one.”

      Not on planet earth.
      But, unlike the flag in question above, the Flag of France’s blue vertical band is on the hoist side, as opposed to the red band on the flag above

  • steve

    If you read the article, there’s quite a lot of capability being added.

  • Greg

    Supersonic Tomahawk FTW

  • Alan

    To all the men and women that work for Raytheon. Thank you for the work you do. Patriots one and all working to keep America safe.

    • anonymous

      They have 24 billion reasons to be “Patriots”.

      • LPF

        Surely 300+ million, their fellow Americans.

    • Stefan

      No they don’t. All Tomahawk strikes do is give the media and brain-dead plebs something to whoop about (“We strong! We make mud-slimes go boom!”) and create hatred amongst all of the innocent people caught up in the strikes.

      Americans are seen as cowards, using terrifying technology to kill indiscriminately and from afar, without any concern for the 9:1 civilian:hadji death ratio that these strikes produce.

      Our own government admits that 9 innocents die for every legitimate target. Which makes me think the real ratio is much worse. We’re war criminals.

      Me? I’m not such a coward that I want to cower in fear, trying to assuage it by bombing every pee-wee militia that says rude things about us. Call me when ISIS gets a navy and an air force. Until then, they don’t scare me a smidgen.

  • blight_qwerty

    A low RCS re-design of the Tomahawk case. Stealth Tomahawk. Let’s do this. Low RCS will make up for the lack of speed.

    Our comparatively slower missiles should be re-designed for low RCS…so we can strike from longer ranges with a higher P(kill) than opponents equipped with shorter-ranged, faster-flying missiles.

    • Stefan

      Not going to happen. The Tomahawk missile is too small and narrow for significant all-aspect stealth via body shaping. It’s a radar-wavelength issue that makes long-wavelength stealth impossible. Basic physics. Can’t be overcome using known technology.

      You can reduce the higher frequency I/J-band RCS via: a faceted nose cone; composites for the missile body; stealth matting or paints. That gives you decent protection against the seekers of missiles like Meteor, Amraam, etc.

      However, other longer radar wavelengths (as typically used in air defines roles) are going to see the Tomahawk with comparative ease (if it’s in the line-of-sight and detection range, not obscured by ground clutter, not protected by jamming aircraft; etc.)

      In the air, the PAK-FA and AWACS-type aircraft can detect ‘stealthy’ cruise missiles at operationally effective ranges. IR sensors (Eurofighter, Su-33, Rafale, etc.) can detect cruissile missiles at useful ranges.

      Modern US, Chinese and European frigates and destroyers can detect Tomahawks too: at ranges well in excess of 100km, if the missiles are flying high enough to be seen over the Earth’s curvature. That comes from sheer radar power, computing power, and the wavelengths chosen for their volume-search radars.

      • Kostas

        Tomahawk is flying low, so the long wavelength radar systems would have a big problem trying to detect it. The same applies to IRST systems since the atmosphere is more condensed compared with higher altitudes. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to me why they have not applied any LO characteristics for the bands that are really dangrperous for it and these are the shorter wavelength weapon guidance bands.

        It also doesn’t make sense to me why they haven’t increased the fuel to increase the range outside the range of DF-21.

  • miller

    You can tell by the number of US flags in the picture that this is government propaganda as usual. It’s put there to solicit a round of mindless applause from the brainless sheeples.

    It works every time though. LOL.

    • regit

      you don’t really need to count the number of flags.

      there is a better, simpler rule: if it’s from the US government or military, and subject involves weapons or foreign conflicts, it’s propaganda or false claims. .It works like 99.99% of the time.

      not kidding.

  • subhound

    Isn’t commenting on flags just petty? This weapon was (arguably) the single most important platform that destroyed the Soviet Union and won the cold war (TLAM-N). Since 1986, it has consistently served with distinction and protected vital american interests around the world, remained affordable, diverse, and effective, unlike our current congress…