The Navy’s request of $8.5 billion to cover overseas contingency operations in fiscal 2018 will include funding for 66 Tactical Tomahawk cruise missiles to replace those launched over the last 12 months in two separate deterrence operations.
The Navy actually is requesting to buy 100 of the $1 million missiles in order to obtain quantity costs savings on the purchase, said Navy Rear Adm. Brian Luther, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Budget in a briefing at the Pentagon Tuesday.
The fact that a significant portion of the purchase is scheduled to be funded under the service’s war funding account is a testament to an unusually kinetic year for the platform.
In October 2016, the guided-missile destroyer Nitze launched five Tomahawks, taking out three radar sites on the coast of Yemen. Those sites had been used a day earlier to fire anti-ship missiles at Navy ships in the region.
And more recently, on April 26, the Navy launched a 59-missile strike from the destroyers Ross and Porter into Shayrat airfield, Syria, destroying 20 aircraft and damaging infrastructure. That strike was a response to reports that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had targeted people in his own country with chemical weapons, causing the deaths of dozens of civilians, including women and children.
Reportedly, 60 missiles were launched from the two ships, though one landed in the water shortly after launch. Previous to those two strikes, the last time Tomahawk missiles were used was in 2014, in strikes against Islamic State militants.
Tomahawks have not been used to support two different military operations in the space of one year since 1998. That year the U.S. fired 79 of the missiles on al-Qaeda bases in Khost, Afghanistan, and the Khartoum, Sudan in a retaliatory mission known as Operation Infinite Reach. The same year, 325 Tomahawks were expended in support of the Iraq bombing campaign known as Operation Desert Fox.
Despite the recent operations, it’s unlikely that the Navy’s Tomahawk stores are running low. The service bought 196 of the missiles in Fiscal 2017, and 149 the year before.
A total of $381.6 million, including OCO and base budget funding, will pay for 100 missiles plus the procurement of modernization kits to be installed in Fiscal 2019, when the Navy begins mid-life recertification. The money will also fund the development of a maritime strike Tomahawk variant designed to target surface ships, according to the request.
The Marine Corps‘ OCO funding request, which totals about $1.3 billion of the Navy’s total $8.5 billion, also includes money to replace weapons expended in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Luther said.
Since the last budget request was released early last year, the Marine Corps has established artillery positions in Iraq and Syria, firing 155mm howitzers in support of urban fights in Mosul and Raqqa. The position in Syria, which has moved at least once since it was established, is still manned by Marines.