House Boosts Funding to Keep Tomahawk Production Open

The House Armed Services Committee added money to the 2016 defense bill to keep the Tomahawk Block IV missile production line open even after the Navy had chosen to close it.

Committee leaders included funding to order 198 Tomahawk Block IV missiles despite plans by the Navy to pursue a next-generation land attack weapon – a move which could wind up leading the service to develop an upgraded, next-generation Tomahawk.

Last year, the House made the same move increasing the order for Tomahawk missiles from 100 to 196 missiles.  The fiscal year 2015 budget proposal had called for 100 Tomahawk missiles to be produced in 2015 before stopping production in 2016 until re-certification in 2019.

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. The missiles built by Raytheon are just over 18-feet long and have an 8-foot, 9-inch wingspan.

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, Raytheon officials said.

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.

The re-certification process for Block IV Tomahawks will offer the opportunity 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.

Extending production could increase the likelihood that Block IV Tomahawks will continue to be built up until the planned re-certification of the inventory.

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.

The House’s proposed production extension comes as the Navy and Raytheon prepare for new tests and continue to collaborate on a series of technological upgrades to the Tomahawk in order to enable it to destroy targets on the move.

The Navy had planned to stop production of Tomahawks because is in the early phases of developing a new land-attack weapon and the existing arsenal of Block IV Tomahawks are getting older.

However, the weapon is already configured to fire from submarines, destroyers and cruisers – so it could prove more cost effective for the Navy to simply upgrade the weapon with newer technologies and guidance systems.

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.

The weapons have been used for decades in combat. Roughly 800 tomahawks were fired in Operational Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and about 200 were used in Desert Storm, Raytheon officials said.

In addition, more than 200 Tomahawks were fired in NATO action in Libya in 2011

— Kris Osborn can be reached at Kris.Osborn@military.com

About the Author

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

    Why would we stop producing a weapon we go through like copy paper?

    • Big-D

      you’re right, it doesn’t make sense, especially since the next gen weapon is still on the drawing boards

      • Dfens

        Yep, and Big-D will be calling for the new missile to be cancelled after all the easy development money has been spent, but right before the new missile goes into production. Because that’s what makes sense for the US taxpayer.

        • blight_

          Everything is nice and cheap and meeting the vaporware promise on the drawing board until real R&D money gets spent and somehow the money needs never stop growing. And then the cycle starts anew.

          It’s almost as bad as sketchy Kickstarters where the developers inevitably fail to deliver on their ambitious promises…

          • Captain Obvious

            I’d rather invest money in tomahawks than the F-35.

          • blight_

            To meet the VLS constraints LRASM will be of similar size and form factor to the TLAM. I expect them to test LRASM systems in the TLAM first. To that end, this may result in upgrades for TLAM…

          • wpnexp

            Not the same objective. TacToms will never be able to provide CAS support or able to shoot down enemy planes. The are also one off weapons, whereas F-35s will be used over and over again. Finally, TacToms ability to be reassigned to different targets require a sensor over the battlefield (read F-35) that can find pop up targets that the TacTom would attack.

    • Docsenko

      It is a good weapon, Navy wants a new toy, and will put thye cart before the horse. The ME is not done by a long shot, it could even get worse. Those Tomahawks mat be needed like copy paper.

    • lol what?!?

      The general idea is that the navy already has several thousand tomahawks ready to go. Someone correct me of I’m wrong but there are 3000-5000 in the arsenal. So realistically we have so many that they aren’t going to be used over the remaining life of the program. So unless WW3 hit in between the time the tomahawk replace arrives we should be fine. Hence, the navy is looking to the next generation of munitions. Can’t really comment why pencil pushers want more.

      • hmmm

        Oh, and don’t forget just because you stop production of something doesn’t me you don’t have the ability to rebuild the assembly line should the need arise. Once the tech is there its there. So why not look to the future?

        • blight_

          When production stops, Raytheon will just shut down missile production, destroy tooling, lay off workers, repurpose/idle the plants. Subcontractors will stop their production as well, especially if the parts used are one-off for Tomahawk.

          Tomahawk survival is probably found in foreign buyers. If the Saudis will be buying Burkes, then they will need Tomahawks and Standards to launch with them. Reviving Armored Box Launchers for foreign customers to launch Tomahawks off other ship types would keep the line open for a little while. Land-based launchers may be possible as well, as a complement to HIMARS-ATACM systems. Unfortunately, the US is bound by INF treaty to not mess around with ground launched cruise missile systems of excessive range.

          Legacy products often hang around for a long time. The HAWK system is still in use and upgraded, even in the presence of Patriot. There’s a chance in the foreign market for LRASM and TLAM to co-exist.

      • Leon Suchorski

        Do you mean that it is like the fact that they produced so many PURPLE HEART medals for WWII, that they were still handing them out in Vietnam?

        • blight_

          The opportunity cost of overproduction is crying over spilt milk and weapons that get stored in inventory for a long time.

          The opportunity cost for assuming you can scale up in wartime requires an examination of what happened to the Germans or the Soviets in WW2. The Soviets were self-sufficient in raw materials and traded armies and space for time, while the Germans were not quite self-sufficient and were never able to make enough of anything, even with slave labor and the use of captured Polish, Czech and French equipment. It probably stands that the ten year depression of the 20’s gutted German heavy industry so thoroughly that a crash five year re-armament program was insufficient to give Germany the sustained industry it would need during wartime, especially when it comes to losses due to bombing, which are exacerbated by fuel shortages and shortages of aircraft when fighting a two-front war.

      • wpnexp

        If WW3 hits off, we will go through 3,000-5000 TLAMs in a few months if not sooner!

    • Londoner

      because your government is bankrupt.

      • Nadnerbus

        You guys use them too.

        If the Navy stops the production, and then manages to pull an LCS or JSF on the replacement program, then somewhere in the early stages of a shooting war, you could have a lot of ships and subs that are winchester on land strike weapons.

        It certainly isn’t economical to keep the line open, but it is sound strategically .

        • blight_

          Indeed, and without US supplies for Tomahawks and ballistic missiles the UK would need to find alternates for both. The EU might be able to replace land attack missiles, but nuclear deterrence would require going independent again.

          • Dfens

            Funny how we never have enough money for already operational airplanes or missiles or tanks, but we always have money for a new weapon development program.

          • blight_

            The desire of people for new shiny things…

      • Mike

        http://citywire.co.uk/wealth-manager/news/how-ser…

        So uk has a deficit of 10% of GDP, and debt of 100% GDP, and you are criticising the US?

        • Londoner

          The US has a national debt of well over 100% of its GDP and unfunded liabilities over 1200% of its GDP!!

          No country since the beginning of time in human history has ever had that much debt and liabilities.

          Your country is bankrupt as of today, not 10 years from now, not 5 years from now, not next year, not next month, not tomorrow, but TODAY. Bankrupt as of Today. And your government isn’t telling you!

          • Also_a_Londoner

            and sorry Europe is doing so well? If labor party gets in 50% taxes will push anyone with any money out of the country. Difference is the US has the economy to save itself… the Uk does not. Greece is going to leave the EU and theres going to be another dip.

            And btw… we go down so do you. Karma’s a b*tch

          • blight_

            Germany is one of the few bright spots. They have unions, some degree of national healthcare, still make lots of things /in/ Germany (instead of German companies simply outsourcing it). Volkswagen, designed in Germany, many of which are still built in Germany.

          • Danowitz

            Incoherent ranting rather than informed opinion.

            Every country has a way to save itself. The question is whether the leaders of the country have the wisdom and will to pick the right path and then follow through. Politicians in the US by and large have no brains and spines. The ones that talk the most are some of the dumbest and most insane / despicable human beings in the world - Obama, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Victoria Nuland, Susan Rice, Samantha Powers.

            The UK is in a better position to weather economic downturns because of its more sophisticated, better educated, and smarter politicians.

            The US is going down alone.

            The UK and other European majors will join the Asians in developing a giant Euroasian market. That’s why the UK, France, Germany, Russia etc are joining the Chinese-led AIIB.

            By the way, don’t try to imposter a Londoner. You don’t have the brains for that.

          • blight_

            Our politicos are more shameless in being puppets for free market than yours. Whatever works for the i-banks without pissing off too many voters is what will get done. Then it’s really a question of the wisdom of the i-bankers and industry cohorts…

      • wpnexp

        What, and the UK is floating in money????

    • Roland

      Why not hire a third party country to produce it for our defense. Countries like Philippines and other nation that are friendly to US? It could probably cost in pesos.It could probably cheaper and 40 times more.

      • blight_

        R&D is where a lot of the costs are, and doing it in the Philippines is not a guarantor of reduced costs. All it does is reduce the wages of the engineers while keeping the wages of the American-paid execs and managers at the top.

    • wpnexp

      It is very important to keep the production line hot. This weapon might be shot down by enemy air defenses, but it will require a large number of missiles to be fired against it. The more S-300 and S-400s fired against Tomahawks will be that many fewer they have to target our planes. It will also be useful against many targets that will never be heavily defended.

      • blight_

        TLAMs are of the low-and-slow variety, and as conventional weapons stand the best shot of not getting fried until it is too late.

        They would also make great candidates for CHAMPS if the Navy wanted to get into the systems denial business. You could even shoot them at aircraft, and rely on the superior range of the device versus a blast-frag or continuous rod warhead.

  • jack

    Because if we have to use the TLAM against a 1st rate military like Russia or China their modern SAMs would knock many of them out of the sky.

  • Taylor

    Trying to save money for the F35?

  • Highguard

    lol what?!? and blight,
    You’ve both got it right conceptually. As for numbers, can only say it is less than the range you cited. The fact that the weapons are used and large numbers still remain means that you fund the next gen development now as you burn thru the old inventory. That way you waste less of the taxpayer’s dollar when you have to cut-up (demil) a bunch later. LRASM is essentially a suped up hybrid of both JASSM and JASSM-ER (both ALCM LACMs) with maritime/multi-mode capability. Navy can already fire both LRASM and JASSMs out of Mk-41 VLS (as long as they have milspec boosters). So, the argument about TLAM compatability only applies to the targeting systems. Bottomline: Navy has finally realized it is time to move on to a new weapon that will deter RFN and PLAN. Unfortunately, looks like its croney pork Congressman that want to keep USN 13th in the world for ASCM capability. TLAM is not survivable against our peer adversaires. Time to move on. Write your congressman. All you can do until they start listening.

    • blight_

      I’m surprised that we are even 13th. Only a handful of DDG’s have Harpoons. We’d be reduced to using Standards against enemy ships, or guiding TACTOMs to them using SPY radars.

      • Captain Obvious

        What are attack subs for?

        • Mike

          This
          We have the biggest asymmetric threat advantage in the world against surface combatants thanks to our sub fleet.

        • blight_

          For firing missiles at land targets! Seems like the entire navy is being built around pelting pitiful countries with TLAMs.

  • Jay

    It seems someone in congress is getting their pockets filled to keep the production going. We have so many in inventory we don’t need anymore especially when they are getting upgraded during re-cert.

    • Dfens

      Hell yeah, what we really need is a new cruise missile development program that will go on for 20 or 30 years and get cancelled before it produces a single operational missile.

      • blight_

        Won’t be long before we follow the Soviet model of simply having three of every program…triple the welfare!

      • Jay

        Lol. Either way it goes into Congresses pocket.

        • Dfens

          75% of Generals go from the military to a nice cushy job at a defense contractor, and it’s congress that’s getting all the money? I think you have your branches of government switched around.

          • blight_

            75% of generals (which themselves are a small fraction of the total military) get a defense company gig, but closer to 100% of Congresscritters are guaranteed some kind of gig with almost any company, any industry that has business to do with the government and money to make from the taxpayer. And if a company has to choose between generals and congresscritters, one of which may have ASC or budget committee experience and knows how to get an increase in spending for a weapons program…well…

    • Captain Obvious

      They are currently building towards their most common use. We’ve used thr Navy to unload a shit ton of tomahawks over the last decade. Combat sorties too but I think Congress likes their stand off munitions.

  • Voice of Concern

    Technology is outpacing man’s capacity to understand it’s implications/consequences. Only as a point of awareness, “loose lips sink ships”. Social media and 24/7 “news” media MUST practice discretion in what & how matters are discussed / disclosed. this blog thread fails on both parts. Albeit unintentional, your commentary from an apparent or appointed place of “authority” Highguard…”As for numbers, can only say “… is not appropriate - stacking / compiling data can offer an unintended framework that can be fairly accurate - please stop -

    • blight_

      Hey, let’s just stop all discussion of how our glorious government spends on procurement. It worked for the Soviets.

      Specifics of the TLAM inventory can be found in the gov budgets:
      http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/5499/whe…

      Some things are broken out, and others are not. For instance, the extensive details on the NSA’s intel gathering systems did not reach our ears until Snowden revealed the juicy bits. It is easy to imagine that simply parsing government budgets is not a full story. However, I don’t buy into the secret weapons theory, so I agree that quantitative breakouts of our inventory can be useful to an enemy, but only after they put in an extensive amount of analysis on their own part. They have to guess where the TLAMs are stored, how they are moved, and devise strategies to neutralize our inventories. If these strategies involve nukes, then Country A is going to get reciprocally nuked, and it won’t be pretty. If it involves less accurate conventional weapons, then conventional weapon use will be reciprocated. At this point, the planning exercise can be great, but is it worth the risk of executing your plans?

      • Captain Obvious

        America will always have the weakness of the world knowing where the majority of their assets are. That’s just the position we put ourselves in and it leaves us potentially vulnerable for a surprise attack. However, we have no reason to secretly maneuver assets at this time, and if we did do more of that, I’m sure other countries would pick up that something is about to go down.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    Given the number of places where we are engaged, Congress might reasonably feel that we’ll go through the inventory at a brisk pace.

  • Guest

    They pulled most, if not all the nukes off of cruise missiles. It would be quite easy to blow through 200-400 of these in one minor operation and leave us empty if it comes to a major war.

    The kicker to this is as another poster put it. Once production is halted, the workers get laid off, the tooling destroyed, and for any weapons system to come on line it would take between six months to a year, just to get all in place before the first production unit goes into final acceptance testing.

  • Bobby

    IMHO, given the sad state of defense acquisition and development right now, Id like to see the current block 4/5 Tomahawks kept in the minimum low rate production until its replacement is ready for prime time. Then they still don’t need to destroy the old missiles, they can just be used in situations that they are suitable for.

    • blight_

      LRASM is unlikely to completely replace TLAM anyways. TLAM will always be there to lob at land targets, Standard for air, LRASM for sea targets (and land if trying to show off)

  • Super Tex

    The only thing the Tomahawks could use is, a little stealth help. The Tomahawk should be shaped somewhat like the fuselage of the SR-71. With some RAM coatings on the outside. As low as it flies it only needs a little help, to avoid most radars. So it would make life even more miserable for our enemies.

    • blight_

      Tomahawk could use RCS reductions, but the choice of guidance system is also very limiting. LRASM will probably ship with a trimode seeker…something Tomahawk has never had. At most, the anti-ship version of Tomahawk used a Harpoon’s radar seeker. Use of an active seeker provides a great deal of warning, which may be partly mitigated by a reduced radar cross section, but alerts an enemy that would have best not alerted.