Tomahawk’s Chops: xGM-109 Block IV Cruise Missiles
Block IV Tomahawk is the current generation of the Tomahawk family of cruise missiles. The BGM-109 Tomahawk family began life in the 1980s as sub-sonic, low-flying nuclear strike weapons, before being developed into long-range RGM/UGM-109 conventional attack missiles. They’re most frequently launched from submarines and surface ships, and have been the US Navy’s preferred option for initial air strikes in Iraq, Libya, et. al. Britain has also bought Tomahawk missiles, and launches them exclusively from submarines.
Block IV is the latest variant. It adds innovative technologies that improve combat flexibility, while dramatically reducing the costs to buy, operate, and support these missiles. That’s why the Block IV program, under US Navy PMA-280, has been one of the USA’s defense acquisition success stories over the last decade.
xGM-109: Missile & Launcher Types
Tomahawk missiles have become the US Navy’s major land strike missile. The USA has bought more than 4,000 over the years, and March 2011 saw the 2,000th GM-109 Tomahawk fired in combat, from USS Barry [DDG 52]. The missile typically flies at 50 – 100 feet above ground using terrain-following radar, and navigates to its targets using a combination of GPS/INS, computer matching of the land’s radar-mapped contours to the missile’s internal maps (TERCOM), and final matching of the target scene (DSMAC). Once on target the missile can fly a direct horizontal attack mode, trigger preprogrammed detonation above the target, or use a pop-up and dive maneuver. CEP is often described as being about 10 meters.
There are 3 fielded variants.
The xGM-109C/D Block III missiles will serve in the US Navy until FY 2020, and can be fitted with either a 1,000 pound unitary conventional warhead (xGM-109C), or a conventional submunitions warhead with hundreds of smaller bomblets (xGM-109D). The Tomahawk Block III has a 750 nautical mile range. Unfortunately, mission planning requires 80 hours of work.
The xGM-109E Tomahawk Block IV achieved Initial Operating Capability in 2004, and current Pentagon plans will end purchases in 2015. Block IV reportedly increases missile range to 900 nautical miles, but it only uses the unitary warhead. Mission planning has been cut from 80 hours to just 1 hour, which makes a big difference to combat usage. The missile also has a 2-way UHF SATCOM datalink that allows the missile to be redirected in flight, or commanded to loiter over an area and wait for instructions from a Fleet HQ’s Maritime Operations Center.
Submarine Launch 109
Submarine-launched UGM-109 missiles are more expensive than their ship launched RGM-109 VLS counterparts, because the submarines’ launch mechanism is more involved and more strenuous. UGM-109 “all-up-round” storage and interface canisters come in 2 types: CLS and TTL. CLS canisters launch UGM-109s from vertical launch tubes installed on many of America’s Los Angeles Class (SSN 719 on), all Virginia Class, and all SSGN Ohio Class submarines. TTL canisters are used to launch Tomahawk missiles from a submarine’s torpedo tubes, which is Britain’s preferred method.
In both cases, a Tomahawk launches “wet”, unlike most anti-ship missiles. The canister remains in the vertical-launch or torpedo tube, while the missile is ejected. Once the UGM-109 has reached a safe distance from the submarine, its rocket booster ignites underwater to power it airborne. That booster falls away just before the missile ignites its jet engine. If the submarine needs to “clear the tube” for torpedoes, anti-ships missiles, mines, UUVs, etc., TTL canisters can be ejected into the sea after launch, as a separate evolution. In contrast, CLS vertical-launch canisters are only removed portside, when the submarine comes into base for servicing and reloading.
Tomahawk: The 2019 Evolution
There was a plan to develop a successor to the retired xGM-109B ship-killer by 2015, as an interim capability for the US Navy’s Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) program. That was shelved in the FY 2014 budget, as the Navy opted to drop the interim capability. Instead, they’re moving ahead with OASuW’s main xGM-84 Harpoon missile replacement program for air and sea launch. The LRASM derivative of Lockheed Martin’s subsonic but stealthy AGM-158B JASSM-ER is the initial air-launched missile, but there will be competition for air and naval missiles beyond FY 2019.
Raytheon has partnered with Norway’s Kongsberg to offer the stealthy, and accurate JSM for the air-launched OASuW, and their entry has the unique ability to fit inside the F-35C’s weapon bays. They could also offer Kongsberg’s NSM counterpart in the naval realm, but that would leave Tomahawk in the cold. Or would it?
The key to the next set of Tomahawk improvements is actually a warranty. The missile has a 15-year warranty and a 30-year service life, so 2019 will begin a recertification cycle for the fleet that could last until 2030. Threats continue to evolve, so why not add some missile upgrades while they’re back in the shop anyway? The US Navy already has a specifications sheet of possible improvements, and they’ve done a number of capability studies.
Raytheon is investing almost $40 million of its own funds in parallel, and they’re still talking to the Navy about that final package, which will break down into 3 broad categories.
Anti-Access/ Area Denial Communications Suite. Saddam Hussein had a sophisticated anti-aircraft system, but he didn’t have the kind of high-end jamming and emissions triangulation capabilities expected of future opponents. The challenge is twofold: keep the enemy from cutting off your communications, and keep your communications from alerting the enemy.
One option that has been mentioned in public involves adding a Line Of Sight datalink capability. The flip side of that move would involve training and tactics changes that push missile control farther down the command chain. That may be necessary, but is the US Navy comfortable doing that? There’s more to these A2/AD-CS discussions than just picking technologies.
Autonomy. The Tomahawk is already an autonomous weapon, in the sense that it can be fired at pre-planned fixed targets and left alone. To remain relevant, it needs to add dynamic terminal autonomy: the ability to acquire targets on its own and hit them, even if the target is moving or has moved. It would also be useful to expand the missile’s navigation autonomy, by offering backups for hardened SASSM M-code GPS.
Both kinds of upgrades are being contemplated. Early tests that aren’t autonomous involve Rapid In-flight Target Update, which allows units that have a lock on a target to transmit rapid final scene updates for the missile’s DSMAC guidance. This is still done via Fleet HQ as Standard Operational Procedure, but that’s enough to hit moving targets in some circumstances. Ships would become vulnerable to Tomahawk strikes if the targeting platform can survive their defenses, and the same is true for land-based air defense systems that can repeatedly move to new fixed locations.
Raytheon and the Navy are looking for more, with a focus on mature technologies to cut down program risk. An ESM system for noticing and geolocating emissions has already begun testing. Raytheon personnel stress its quality, to the point that Navigation via Signals of Opportunity (NAVSOP) might be possible as a backup to GPS. During the attack run, ESM can allow the Tomahawk to home in on an active enemy ship or air defense radars, or even on other intercepted signals. That begins to add autonomous moving target capability, and the firm plans to take the next step by flight testing a dual-mode ESM/ active radar seeker system before the end of 2014. Finally, passive visual spectrum (camera or imaging infrared) guidance has also become popular for long-range strike missiles, because it doesn’t give the missile’s location away by creating electro-magnetic emissions. Raytheon has confirmed that CCD/IIR upgrades are also under consideration for Tomahawk, but stressed that no final decisions have been made about a future guidance package.
Core Strengthening. All of these capabilities are great, but they demand more computer processing power, more memory, more onboard power, etc. The missile’s core will need redesigns, in order to keep up.
Raytheon had to develop a Multi-Function Modular Processor to handle those computing needs. Other efforts will look to add new technology, like the Joint Multiple Effects Warhead System (JMEWS) warhead to allow mid-flight reprogramming, and improve performance against reinforced targets like bunkers. Still other attempts will take advantage of existing upgrades. As an example of the latter, Block III introduced the ability to throttle the missile’s Williams F107-WR-402 turbofan, and Raytheon has been expanding its usefulness over time. It’s a capability that’s obviously handy for adjusting the missile’s time of arrival, or extending range, but the firm has recently been testing a “high speed dash” mode. It’s still subsonic, but it represents some impressive flying that close to the ground.
The Missing Link
Even after all of these upgrades, the Tomahawk is still a 1970s design that relies on low altitude to hide from radar. That isn’t really subject to change, even though downward-looking radars are proliferating on small AWACS planes and aerostat blimps, and radars in modern ships and air defense systems are taking big steps forward.
All of the Tomahawk’s proposed technologies are well and good, and they will expand the missile’s usefulness substantially. Adding them to thousands of existing missiles is very cost effective, and makes a great deal of sense. As budget crunches force the Navy to re-examine every aspect of their programs, however, the Navy will have to make decisions about the cost, capability profile, and limitations of every weapon in their arsenal. Raytheon is trying to position Tomahawk as best they can, but the final decisions will lie elsewhere.
Contracts & Key Events
Unless stated otherwise, US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contracts to Raytheon in Tucson, AZ. In general, these contracts aren’t competitively procured, pursuant to the “only 1 responsible supplier” exemption in 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1).
Key subcontractors include Lockheed Martin in Valley Forge, PA (Weapon Control System element), QinetiQ North America in San Jose, CA (Command and Control element), and Boeing Inc. in St. Louis, MO (Command and Control element).
FY 2016 – 2020
April 15/20: Delivery Order Raytheon Missile Systems won a $30.3 million delivery order to procure 32 Tomahawk Mid-Body Range Safety Subsystems and 32 Flight Test Kits. Tomahawk is a long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile in service with the surface ships and submarines of the US and the UK’s Royal Navy. Originally produced by General Dynamics, Tomahawk is currently manufactured by Raytheon. The Tomahawk can strike high-value or heavily defended land targets. The Block II TLAM-A missile achieved initial operating capability in 1984. The missile was first deployed in combat during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Work under the delivery order will take place in Arizona, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, California, Florida, Missouri and various locations within the continental US. Completion is expected by March 2023.
March 31/20: Block V Raytheon Missile Systems won a $493.4 million contract, which provides for recertification and modernization of Tactical Tomahawk (TACTOM) Block IV all-up round missiles to include the integration of navigation and communication kits that result in a modernized TACTOM Block V missile. The Tomahawk is a mature missile weapons system. The current version, called the Block IV Tactical Tomahawk, or TACTOM, has a data link that allows it to switch targets while in flight. It can loiter for hours and change course instantly on command. The US Navy wants to recertify and modernize the missile, extending its service life by 15 years, and resulting in the new Tomahawk Block V series. Work ist expected to be complete in September 2023. Also, Raytheon Missile Systems, is awarded a $147,8 million contract for the full rate production and delivery of 90 Lot 16 Block V Tactical Tomahawk (TACTOM) All Up Round (AUR) Vertical Launch System missiles and other hardware and related services for the Navy. Additionally, this contract procures TACTOM Block IV AUR recertification AGR-4 Spares. Estimated completion date will be in August 2022.
March 13/20: Anti-Ship Role The US Marine Corps has indicated that besides the Naval Strike Missile, the service intends to field the Maritime Strike Tomahawk missile for anti-ship role as well. It could be mounted on the same unmanned Joint Light Tactical Vehicle that the Marines is using for the Naval Strike Missile, Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration Lt. Gen. Eric Smith told lawmakers. In December the Marines shot a “slug” or inert round off the top of a JLTV to prove the missile could launch in that manner, and the test was successful. This effort is similar to work that was done with Lockheed’s Hellfire air-to-surface missile when the Navy wanted to put it on LCSs – the missile’s effectiveness was already proven, but testing needed to confirm that it could get going from a vertical launch off a ship deck instead of a horizontal launch from under an aircraft in flight.
January 8/20: Hardware Component Refresh Ace Electronics Defense Systems won a $64.4 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with firm-fixed-price delivery orders for the production and delivery of manufacturing kits, spare parts and first article testing for the hardware component refresh of the Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System (AN/SWG-5(V)6). The AN/SWG-5(V)6 upgrade offers new offensive capabilities to upgraded ships in support of the Maritime Strike Tomahawk, addresses obsolescence risks and improves the operability and maintainability of the system hardware. ATWCS is an evolutionary upgrade to the current Tomahawk Weapon Control System. ATWCS replaces 1970s’ technology with COTS/GOTS hardware and software, thereby reducing overall reaction time and operator workload, enhancing the training capabilities at all levels, and improving Tomahawk strike effectiveness. ATWCS incorporates an open-system architecture to provide for future growth, eliminates stand-alone Tomahawk desktop computers, and enhances command-and-control interoperability. The single-award, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract has a five-year ordering period, which, if all line item quantities are ordered, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $64,405,123, with an ordering period to January 2025. Work will take place in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and is expected to be complete by January 2025.
September 20/19: Critical Design Review The US Navy awarded Raytheon a $25.5 million contract for critical design review of the Tomahawk Weapons System Military Code to include studies, analysis, design, development, integration and test of hardware and software solutions. Additionally, the contract provides for the identification of the kit bill of materials, fabrication, assembly, integration, test and documentation of an AGR5 kit. The Tomahawk is a mature missile weapons system with Block II and III, C and D versions in fleet use. These two variants of Tomahawk cruise missile are distinguished by their warhead; TLAM-C has a conventional unitary warhead, and TLAM-D has a conventional submunitions (dispense bomblets) warhead. Raytheon will perform work in California and Arizona and expected completion will be in March 2021.
June 19/19: Missile Equipment Raytheon won a $29.6 million delivery order, which provides for the upgrade of the Block IV Tomahawk missile equipment. The upgrade includes test equipment like the system Integration Laboratory, the Air Vehicle System Integration Laboratory, hot-benches, automated flight test equipment and associated test equipment. Tomahawk Block IV cruise missiles can launch from a ship or a submarine and can fly into heavily defended airspace more than 1,000 miles away to conduct strikes on targets with minimal collateral damage. The cruise missile is designed to circle for hours above or away from its target and change course on command. The Tomahawk is also able to send an image of its target to controllers right before it hits the target. The latest Block IV variant includes a two-way satellite data-link that enables the missile to be retargeted in flight to pre-programmed, alternate target. Raytheon will perform work within the US and is expected to finish in June 2021. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.
April 1/19: Advanced Communications Architecture Antenna Kits Raytheon won an $18.7 million delivery order from the Naval Air Systems Command for 120 Navigation and Communication Advanced Communications Architecture Antenna Kits for the Tomahawk Block IV All-Up-Round recertification. The Tomahawk is the primary ship-based cruise missile in use by the US Navy, as well as many foreign allied fleets. It is a long-range, all-weather, sub-sonic cruise missile. The Block IV missiles have an improved turbofan engine allowing throttle control, in-flight speed changes, better fuel economy and quicker launch times. They have enhanced loiter capabilities and are equipped with a real-time targeting system for striking fleeing targets as well as onboard electro-optical sensors allowing for real-time battle damage assessment. Work for the Navigation and Communication Advanced Communications Architecture Antenna Kits will take place in Colorado and Arizona and will approximately be completed in September 2020.
February 28/19: Support for Recertification The Navy awarded a $25.2 million contract modification to Raytheon for delivery of Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile spares. Under the modification Raytheon will provide All-Up-Round spares to support the recertification effort for the Tomahawk missile system. The company initially won a $303.7 million in 2016 from the military branch to supply Tomahawk Block IV missiles and spares. The Tomahawk is a long-range, subsonic cruise missile that can be launched from a ship or submarine and is able to fly into heavily defended airspace more than 1,000 miles away to conduct precise strikes on targets. The US and its allied militaries used the GPS-enabled precision weapon more than 2,300 times in combat, and flight-tested it 550 times. The recertification program of the Tomahawk will expand the missile’s service life until 2040. Work under the contract modification will take place in various places around the continental US, Canada and the UK. It is expected to be completed by October next year.
August 27/18: Re-certification Raytheon is being tapped to progress with the re-certification of the Navy’s Tomahawk Block IV cruise missiles. The cost plus-fixed-fee delivery order is valued at $9.3 million and provides validation and verification and cost risk analysis. The key to the next set of Tomahawk improvements is actually a warranty. The missile has a 15-year warranty and a 30-year service life, the re-certification process will keep the Tomahawk cruise missile flying through 2040. To keep the missiles up-to-date, Raytheon will add a newly developed ability to strike targets at sea. Work will be performed at multiple locations inside the continental US, including Walled Lake, Michigan; Tempe, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The contract is expected to be completed in August 2019.
May 31/18: Test kit incoming! Raytheon is being tapped for further production of two sets of kits in support of the Tomahawk cruise missile. The $19.2 million contract modification provides for the procurement of nine mid-body range safety subsystem (MRSS) kits and flight test (FT) kits for the Navy and three MRSS and FT kits for the United Kingdom. The MRSS is installed into flight test configured missiles, one of its key components is the PCM Encoder, which Encoder samples the flight test missile guidance and avionics telemetry data stream, encodes and formats the data, and provides the telemetry information to the ground monitoring station. Block IV Tomahawk is the current generation of the Tomahawk family of cruise missiles. It adds innovative technologies that improve combat flexibility, while dramatically reducing the costs to buy, operate, and support these missiles. The Block IV missile is designed to engage targets 1,000 miles away from maritime platforms, a characteristic the manufacturer says can help keep deployed sailors out of harms way on the battlefield. Work will be performed at multiple locations, including Tucson, Arizona; Boulder, Colorado and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, among others. This effort combines purchases for the Navy ($15,6 million); and the government of the United Kingdom ($3,5 million).
March 26/18: Services contract Raytheon Missile Systems was awarded a contract for the provision of various services related to its Tomahawk cruise missile production. Valued at $37 million, the contract provides for lifecycle management and technical support required to maintain a Tomahawk cruise missile depot facility, including depot maintenance, demilitarization preparation, system test operations and foreign military sales maintenance. This also includes associated support requirements for the Navy and the government of the United Kingdom. Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona, and is expected to be completed in March 2021. Most recently, the US Navy’s FY18 Budget $3.4 billion weapons procurement request called for the acquisition of 100 ship-launched Tactical Tomahawk cruise missiles.
November 07/17: The US Navy has placed fresh orders with Raytheon for 196 Tomahawk Block IV all-up-round vertical launch system missiles and spares. Worth up to $260.3 million, the contract modification also includes the procurement of spare parts and support for the government of the United Kingdom. Deliveries are scheduled for completion by August 2019 after work taking place in Tucson, Arizona, and nearly two dozen other locations across the continental US.
September 04/17: Raytheon has been awarded a $119 million US Navy contract to develop an anti-ship variant of the Tomahawk missile. Work to be undertaken by the company for the Maritime Strike Tomahawk program includes analysis, trade studies, architecture, modeling, simulation development, evaluation, and prototyping activities for the integration of seeker suite technology and processing capabilities into the Tactical Tomahawk Block IV All-Up-Round missile system. The majority of the work will be undertaken at Tucson, Arizona, in addition to Dallas, Texas, Boulder, Colorado, and various other locations inside and outside the US. Completion is scheduled for August 2019. The Navy currently uses the Tomahawk on its surface combatants and submarines, but now wants Raytheon to modify the Tomahawk’s targeting system so it can strike moving naval targets, thus giving the service a long-range anti-ship capability.
August 18/17: It is expected that Raytheon will be awarded a contract to turn a number of US Navy Tomahawks into anti-ship cruise missiles. The upgrade will take place when the service sends its Block IV Tomahawks back to Raytheon for mid-life recertification. A company executive said the multi-mode seeker for the anti-ship role will likely be a mix of passive and active sensors. The Block IV recertification effort will start in 2019 with the first Marine Strike Tomahawk variants to enter the fleet in the early 2020s.
January 13/17: Flight testing of the Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile has been completed. A Raytheon announcement stated that the launches were conducted to demonstrate the missile’s ability to engage time-sensitive targets. The first test saw personnel onboard the USS Pinckney utilize the Launch Platform Mission Planning capability while during the second test, crew members fired the weapon for a longer duration, and also conducted a terminal dive maneuver to strike the intended target. The company said the performance confirms the Tomahawk’s ability to attack heavily defended targets.
October 14/16: In response to missile attacks on US and allied vessels off the coast of Yemen, the Pentagon has ordered the US Navy to launch missile attacks at targets operated by Houthi rebels. On October 13, the USS Nitze fired three BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles at radar sites in Yemen which were believed to have been active during previous attacks and attempted attacks on vessels. A defense official said the radar sites were in remote areas where there was little risk of civilian casualties. The Houthis meanwhile, reiterated their denial that they were responsible for the attack on US warship the USS Mason.
May 26/16: An op-ed piece published last week, suggesting the US should supply AGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles to Japan has received a rebuttal from Chinese researchers. Experts from the China Institute of International Studies stated that while the idea of supplying the missile to Tokyo was not new, it would pose a threat to other countries in East Asia. The warning most likely comes following efforts started last year by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pursue changing the country’s post-WW2 constitution to allow it to re-arm and expand its forces.
May 18/16: Robert Crumplar suggests in USNI News that Washington considers exporting the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile to Japan to act as a “responsive deterrent option.” The suggestion comes as Japan looks to deter potential aggression from North Korea, as well as dealing against a larger Chinese military. If the sale were to go ahead, it would follow a precedent for providing Tomahawk to allies that was established nearly 20 years ago when the United Kingdom acquired 65 missiles.
April 21/16: Testing of a submarine-launched UGM-109 Tomahawk was terminated by the US Navy after the inert cruise missile crashed 50 minutes after its launch in southern Florida. The Navy was conducting a routine flight test, which was coordinated by the Navy’s Tomahawk Weapon System program at the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Maryland. Causes of the missile crash are currently being investigated by Navy officials.
February 5/16: The Pentagon is to invest in the development of Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles which will be capable of hitting moving vessels. $2 billion has been requested for the purchase of 4,000 Tomahawk missiles with manufacturer Raytheon. Raytheon has invested in a multi-modal seeker that would allow the missiles to hit moving targets so that missiles may be adapted from land missiles into anti-ship missiles. A further $2.9 billion will also be made available for the purchase of 650 SM-6 interceptors as well, to advance them to become anti-ship missiles for the first time. This will allow the SM-6 to operate in an offensive capability instead of operating solely as an anti-ballistic weapon.
January 19/16: Tomahawk cruise missiles could get a lot more destructive if a new development program is successful. Researchers from Energetic Materials Research and Engineering have been successfully utilizing residual fuel left inside a missile during impact and turning it into a fuel-air explosive that can contribute to the blast created by the missile’s warhead. At present the team are looking to find the best way to implode the fuel tank to generate a cloud of fuel that will mix with surrounding air to ignite into an intense, high-temperature explosion. If successful, the add on to the missile could increase the Tomahawks payload without any need to change the dynamics of the warhead.
January 15/16: Testing of a new sensor on the Tomahawk missile has been successful. Raytheon owned T-39 test aircraft carried out a number trials over a three week period engaging moving targets on land and at sea. The development of the sensor was part of company funded, independent R&D looking to enhance the current Tomahawk long-range precision strike/land attack role. Since 2005, Raytheon has been investing in increasing the missile’s seeker capabilities and effectiveness in varying environments.
October 7/15: Raytheon has demonstrated how a Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile can be used to assess battlefield damage, loiter and then attack a target following analysis of the data it provided to operators. The test demonstrated how the missile could be launched from one location, travel to a second area of operations and communicate via a UHF SATCOM link with a third location half-way around the world, before striking a target. The Block IV Tomahawk demonstrated flexible mission planning capabilities in flight during previous testing in August, with this latest round of testing also demonstrating that multiple missiles could be coordinated from a single control point.
August 6/15: Raytheon’s Block IV Tomahawk cruise missile demonstrated mission planning capability during flight tests announced on Wednesday. The upgraded software allowed planners to adapt the missile’s mission profile on the fly, with this new capability now set to be rolled-out across the fleet of Tomahawks in service. The Block IV missile demonstrated similar capabilities in March 2014, when the missile received information in-flight and re-targeted itself to strike a moving vehicle.
Oct 11/14: American A2/AD. Rep. Randy Forces [R-VA-4] sends a letter to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Odierno on the eve of the AUSA conference, pushing for the Army to set up a modern version of its Coastal Artillery: long-range, land-based anti-ship missiles that would be forward-based in friendly countries to endanger Chinese vessels and shipping. Missiles like LRASM and the longer-ranged but less stealthy AGM-109 Tomahawk are obvious candidates for this sort of thing, significantly outranging competitors like Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile or Boeing’s SLAM-ER. The RAND study that Forbes refers to actually posited using shorter-range missiles like NSM, but its maps also showed the number of deployment sites required for effective coverage.
The idea would be a nice turnabout on China’s Anti-Access, Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy, and a Philippine deployment would produce a very tangible benefit all by itself, at low cost. On the other hand, Rep. Forbes probably underestimates the difficulty of getting many countries beyond the Philippines to accept an inherently provocative deployment whose use is technically beyond their control. Recent American waffling around the world suggests an even less palatable conclusion: the penalty for saying yes would be immediate, without any assurance that the weapons would actually be used to help the accepting country if push came to shove.
Contrast with the Russian approach. They just sell SS-N-26 shore batteries to interested countries, helping customers to create the same barrier under their own control, without the offsetting political challenges. India’s derivative PJ-10 BrahMos missile may also wind up being used this way, if India can get its act together on the export front. Sources: RAND, “Employing Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles in the Western Pacific” | Breaking Defense, “Army Should Build Ship-Killer Missiles: Rep. Randy Forbes”.
Sept 24/14: Orders. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $251.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 231 Tomahawk Block IV All-Up-Round missiles for the U.S. Navy (211: 147 vertical launch systems and 64 capsule launch systems / $224.5 million/ 89.4%) and the United Kingdom (20 torpedo tube launch systems / $26.7 million/ 10.6% – q.v. July 1/14 DSCA request). All funds are committed immediately, using foreign funds and FY 2013 & 2014 US Navy weapon budgets.
Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (32%); Camden, AR (11%); Ogden, UT (8%); Anniston, AL (4%); Minneapolis, MN (4%); Glenrothes, Scotland (4%); Ft. Wayne, IN (4%); Spanish Fork, UT (3%); Ontario, CA (3%); Vergennes, VT (3%); El Segundo, CA (2%); Berryville, AR (2%); Westminster, CO (2%); Middletown, CT (2%); Walled Lake, MI (2%); Huntsville, AL (1%); Dallas, TX (1%); Farmington, NM (0.2%); and various locations inside and outside the continental United States (11.8%); work is expected to be complete in August 2016.
This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 by US Navy NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-14-C-0075).
July 31/14: Raytheon in Tucson, AZ, receives an $8.7 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification for Tomahawk Depot Missile maintenance, including inventory management for the US Navy and the United Kingdom, and direct fleet support for resolving technical issues with forward deployed, in-theater weapons.
Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (60%); Camden, AR (36%); and various other continental United States locations (4%); and is expected to be complete in March 2015. Funds will be obligated on individual delivery orders as they are issued by US Navy NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-13-D-0002).
Sept 9/14: Testing. Raytheon touts a recent pair of live warhead test firings from the USS Hampton [SSN 767: UGM-109] and USS Lake Champlain [CG 57: AGM-109], demonstrating “enhanced flex retargeting” and improved flight performance. Sources: Raytheon, “Tomahawk enhancements showcased in back-to-back flight tests”.
July 17/14: Political. The Senate Appropriations Committee approves a $489.6 billion base FY 2015 budget, plus $59.7 billion in supplemental funding. If they get their way, xGM-109 Tomahawk Block IV production would continue at full rate, with $82 million in extra funding. It has been set to end with a 100 missiles, but the added funds would drive it toward the standard annual buy of 180-200.
The budget still has to be voted on in the whole Senate, then reconciled in committee with the House of Representatives’ defense budget, then signed into law by the President. Sources: DID, “FY15 US Defense Budget Finally Complete with War Funding”.
July 1/14: UK request. The US DSCA announces Britain’s formal request for up to 65 UGM-109 Tomahawk Block IV All-Up-Round missiles plus containers, engineering support, test equipment, operational flight test support, communications equipment, technical assistance, personnel training/equipment, spare and repair parts, and other support. The estimated cost is up to $140 million. DSCA adds that:
“The UK needs these missiles to replenish those expended in support of coalition operations.”
Which is to say, over Libya. The principal contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems Company in Tucson, AZ, and Britain doesn’t need any more contractors on site from Raytheon or from the US government. Sources: US DSCA #14-30, “United Kingdom – Tomahawk Block IV Torpedo Launched Land-Attack Missiles”.
DSCA request: UK (140)
April 28/14: Testing. Raytheon announces a successful captive-carry test flight, using a small T-39 Saberliner business jet fitted with their passive ESM seeker. The jet flew at subsonic speed and at varying altitudes, while the “passive seeker and multi-function processor successfully received numerous electronic signals from tactical targets in a complex, high density electromagnetic environment.”
This test brings the Raytheon-funded multi-mission processor to Technology Readiness Level 6. The next step for the company-funded effort is an active seeker test, which will combine the processor with ESM and active radar. That combination would likely form the core of future Tomahawk upgrades. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon tests new guidance system for Tomahawk cruise missile”.
April 17/14: SAR. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/13 Selected Acquisitions Report [PDF]. It makes early termination official, and explains the savings:
“Program costs decreased $1,832.1 million (25.8%) from $7,109.0 million to $5,276.9 million, due primarily to a decrease of 1,161 TACTOM missiles from 4,951 to 3,790 (-$1,249.2 million) and associated schedule, engineering, and estimating allocations
- (-$586.2 million).”
Note that SecNav Mabus’ comments regarding 4,000 GM-109s in stock (q.v. April 13/14) appear to have been in error. Many have been used over the years.
April 13/14: Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus sees an inventory of 4,000 Tomahawks that “will carry us through any eventuality that we can foresee,” but Raytheon wants to avoid shutting down their line and cutting the chain to more than 100 suppliers in 24 states. Their lobbying is helped by the fact that the USA’s byzantine procurement and budgeting processes add some strategic risk. News that the Navy was even thinking of a next-generation replacement reportedly came as a surprise to Raytheon in January 2014. Which means that it’s entirely imaginable to have a 20 year wait between the last Tomahawk delivery, and a comparable new operational missile.
On the other hand, every defense production line shuts down eventually, and a dollar spent on Tomahawks can’t buy new ships, fighters, air defense missiles, etc. Rather than waging a frontal assault that tries to keep missile orders coming, Raytheon is reportedly looking to accelerate the combined xGM-109 recertification/ upgrade process by a few years, so it picks up where Tomahawk production leaves off. Raytheon senior program manager Chris Sprinkle says that Raytheon has invested $30 million of their own funds in R&D for upgrades, and plans to invest another $8 million or so. Sources: Arizona Daily Star, “Proposed halt of Tomahawk missile buys raises concerns at Raytheon”.
March 4/14: FY15 Budget. The Navy unveils a preliminary budget request briefing. It doesn’t break down individual programs into dollars, but it does offer planned purchase numbers for the Navy’s biggest programs from FY 2014 – 2019.
The plan confirms 196 Tactical Tomahawk missiles in FY 2014, and proposes to end production with 100 missiles ordered in FY 2015. Source: US Dept. of the Navy, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF].
Feb 19/14: Datalink test. A Tomahawk Block IV missile is launched from the USS Sterett [DDG 104] on a loitering fire test:
“… [the missile] flew a preprogrammed route while receiving updates from a simulated maritime operations center and from advanced off-board sensors updating the missile’s target location. Throughout the flight, the missile maintained communications with all the command and control assets and provided updates on its location before hitting the target.”
Raytheon told DID that this is the first of many tests involving “off-board sensors”, though 2014 will also see a number of flight tests using new on-board ESM and radar sensors. Many will be captive-carry tests, using one of the US Navy’s T-39 Sabreliner modified business jets. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon, U.S. Navy test Tomahawk Block IV’s latest communications upgrades”.
Feb 14/14: Upgrades. Tomahawk program manager Capt. Joe Mauser tells Defense Tech that they’re working on a new Joint Multiple Effects Warhead System (JMEWS) warhead for the Block IV, in order to improve performance against reinforced targets like bunkers.
At the same time, Raytheon is working on a new active & passive dual seeker (q.v. Oct 7/13). Raytheon has been elbowed aside from the OASuW program, which is currently owned by Lockheed Martin’s stealthy LRASM-B. A low-cost upgrade that accomplishes some of OASuW’s goals offers Raytheon the opportunity to get some funds, keep their missile relevant for years to come, and position themselves as a weaker Plan B if further budget cuts remove their competitor. Sources: DefenseTech, “Navy Wants Its Tomahawks to Bust More Bunkers”.
Jan 14/14: #3,000. Raytheon announces that they’ve delivered the 3,000th Tomahawk Block IV missile, as part of FY 2012’s FRP-9 production contract. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon delivers 3000th Tomahawk Block IV to US Navy”.
Oct 7/13: ESM multi-mode. Raytheon announces a successful field test of a new multi-mode seeker technology that would add an advanced Electronic Support Measure (ESM) antenna and processor to the Block IV Tomahawk missile. Raytheon told DID that the system is based on the firm’s own technology, rather than being a direct offshoot of the attempt to add AARGM technology to the Tomahawk (q.v. April 27/12).
Raytheon is correct that the current Tomahawk is an open architecture ‘truck’ capable of integrating new payloads and sensors, and an ESM seeker is a helpful addition to recent improvements like the 2-way datalink. ESM would turn the missile into a radar and communications killer that could deal directly with enemy air defenses, and could begin to engage some kinds of moving targets. The challenge is that the missile still needs to survive long enough to hit its target, and the Tomahawk’s low-level flight isn’t enough to protect it from the kind of advanced air defenses that would make you want to use unmanned ESM missiles. Its best use case might be against enemy ships. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon demonstrates new seeker technology for Tomahawk Block IV missile”.
FY 2012 – 2013
April 17/13: UK. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Britain’s request to import follow-on support and keep their UGM-109 Tomahawk Weapon Systems (TWS) ready for use. Work can include missile modifications, maintenance, spare and repair parts, system and test equipment, engineering support, communications equipment, technical assistance, personnel training/equipment, and other related elements of logistics support.
The estimated cost is up to $170 million, but actual costs will be negotiated in a series of contracts. The principal contractors will be Raytheon Missile Systems Company in Tucson, AZ; Lockheed Martin in Manassas, VA, Valley Forge, PA, and Marlton, NJ; Boeing in St. Louis, MO; BAE North America in San Diego, CA; COMGLOBAL in San Jose, CA; and SAIC in Springfield, VA and Patuxent River, MD. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 1 U.S. Government and 2 contractor representatives to the United Kingdom for the duration of this case.
DSCA: UK support request
April 10/13: FY 2014 Budget. The President releases a proposed budget at last, the latest in modern memory. The Senate and House were already working on budgets in his absence, but the Pentagon’s submission is actually important to proceedings going forward. See ongoing DID coverage.
News for the Tomahawk program is mixed. The OASuW Harpoon replacement program canceled plans for an interim solution based on the xGM-109 family, even as it plans to award Technology Development contracts in FY 2013. Raytheon will need to consider its competitive options carefully, as OASuW could grow to be a huge opportunity.
Within the existing Tomahawk program, yearly budgets are rising even though the number of missiles per year remains constant at 196. This is pushing flyaway cost for new missiles from $956,000 in FY 2013 to about $1.2 million. The extra funds are going to 2 areas: obsolescence replacement/ diminishing manufacturing sources, and restoration of planned missile improvements. The former category includes such key components as the Williams turbojet engine and the satellite datalink, and is important enough that FY 2011 – 2011 contract savings are being applied to address it. Improvements will begin with missile communications that will work even in jamming-rich or otherwise hostile environments.
March 11/13: UK. A $6.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 4 torpedo tube launched (TTL) Tomahawk Block IV all-up-round missiles for the government of the United Kingdom under the Foreign Military Sales Program. All funds are committed immediately.
Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (32.6%); Camden, AR (13%); Ogden, UT (10.5%); Dallas, TX (3.5%); Minneapolis, Minn. (3.3%); Glenrothes, Scotland (3.3%); Spanish Fork, UT (3.1%); El Segundo, CA (3%); Walled Lake, MI (2.6%); Anniston, AL (2.5%); Ft. Wayne, IN (2.3%); Ontario, Canada (2.2%); Vergennes, VT (2.1%); Berryville, AR (1.8%); Westminster, CO (1.6%); Largo, FL (1.5%); Middletown, CT (1.3%); Huntsville, AL (1.2%); Clearwater, FL (0.8%); Moorpark, CA (0.8%); El Monte, CA (0.6%); Salt Lake City, UT (0.6%); Farmington, NM (0.2%); and various continental U.S. (CONUS) and outside CONUS locations (5.6%); and is expected to be completed in February 2015 (N00019-12-C-2000).
4 for Britain
March 7/13: Support. A $12.8 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for services in support of Tomahawk missile depot maintenance, including direct fleet support for resolving technical issues with forward deployed, in-theater weapons and inventory management for the US Navy and the United Kingdom.
Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (70%); Camden, AR (24%); Commerce Township, MI (4%); Indianapolis, IN (1%); and various other continental U.S. (CONUS) and outside CONUS locations (1%) until February 2014. $2.4 million is committed immediately, of which $2.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-13-D-0002).
Jan 17/13: DOT&E testing. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The Tomahawk gets high marks. It continues to meet its standards, and remains operationally effective and suitable (maintainable).
The one thing Pentagon OT&E would like to see is restored flight testing of the Block III model, until it goes out of service in FY 2020.
Dec 18/12: CCLS. A $45 million firm-fixed-price contract modification from the USN for 120 Tomahawk Block IV Composite Capsule Launching Systems (CCLS), which are used to launch UGM-109s from vertical submarine tubes. All contract funds are committed immediately.
Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (24.61%); Lincoln, NB (23.17%); Camden, AR (12.48%); Rocket Center, WVA (10.3%); Carpentersville, IL (8.74%); Joplin, MO (6.63%); Hopkinton, MA (4.76%); Huntsville, AR (4.37%); Alamitos, CA (2.05%); Torrance, CA (1.47%); Downers Grove, IL (0.75%); and Brooksville, FL (0.67%), and is expected to be complete in July 2015 (N00019-12-C-2000).
Dec 17/12: 252 missiles. A $254.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising a US Navy option for 252 Tomahawk Block IV All-Up-Round (AUR) missiles: 132 RGM-109s designed to launch from strike-length Mk.41 cells on surface ships, and 120 UGM-109 CLS missiles that are fired from different vertical launch tubes installed on American submarines.
Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (32%); Camden, AR (11%); Ogden, UT (8%); Anniston, AL (4%); Minneapolis, MN (4%); Ft. Wayne, IN (4%); Glenrothes, Scotland (4%); Dallas, TX (4%); Spanish Fork, UT (3%); Vergennes, VT (3%); Walled Lake, MI (2%); Berryville, AR (2%); El Segundo, CA (2%); Westminster, CO (2%); Middletown, CT (2%); Huntsville, AL (1%); Farmington, NM (0.2%); and various locations in the continental United States and outside the continental United States (11.8%); and is expected to be completed in August 2015. See also Raytheon.
FY 2013: 252
Sept 3/12: OASuW. Aviation Week offers a look into the Tomahawk’s potential future. In June 2012, the US Navy announced a sole-source contract to Raytheon to develop the interim Offensive Anti-Surface Weapon (OASuW) by modifying a Tomahawk Block IV missiles with new sensors and data links. The missile is expected to enter service by 2015… but it’s likely to face competition from Lockheed Martin’s LRASM-A, among others.
Full OASuW Technology Development awards are expected to begin in FY 2013, after a Q2 Milestone A decision. The technical Development phase runs from FY 2013 – FY 2017, to an expected total of $557.2 million. Initial Operational Capability is currently set for 2024.
July 12/12: CCLS. A $45.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, buying 123 Tomahawk Block IV Composite Capsule Launching Systems (CCLS) for the US Navy.
Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (24.61%); Lincoln, NB (23.17%); Camden, AR (12.48%); Rocket Center, WVA (10.3%); Carpentersville, IL (8.74%); Joplin, MO (6.63%); Hopkinton, MA (4.76%); Huntsville, AR (4.37%); Alamitos, CA (2.05%); Torrance, CA (1.47%); Downers Grove, IL (0.75%); and Brooksville, FL (0.67%), and is expected to be complete in July 2014 (N00019-12-C-2000).
June 7/12: 361 missiles. A $337.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for 361 Tomahawk Block IV All-Up-Round missiles for the Navy. This includes 238 RGM-109E missiles that are launched from strike-length Mk.41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells on surface ships, and 123 UGM-109E missiles that are launched from submarines equipped with the Capsule Launch System (CLS).
Raytheon’s release says that the buy includes replenishment of weapons used during Operation ODYSSEY DAWN in Libya, as well as the FY 2012 buy.
Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (32%); Camden, AR (11%); Ogden, UT (8%); Anniston, AL (4%); Minneapolis, MN (4%); Fort Wayne, IN (4%); Glenrothes, Scotland, UK (4%); Dallas, TX (4%); Spanish Fork, UT (3%); Vergennes, VT (3%); Walled Lake, MI (2%); Berryville, AR (2%); El Segundo, CA (2%); Westminster, CO (2%); Middletown, CT (2%); Huntsville, AL (1%); Farmington, NM (0.2%); and various locations inside and outside the continental United States (11.8%), and is expected to be complete in August 2014 (N00019-12-C-2000).
FY 2012 + Libya replacement: 361
April 27/12: New sensors? FBO.gov:
“The Naval Air Systems Command intends to negotiate and award a sole source order under Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) N00019-11-G-0014, pricing arrangement cost-plus-fixed-fee, for engineering services necessary to support a study to assess the possibility of integrating, onto the Block IV Tomahawk weapon, Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) technologies.”
The AGM-88E AARGM uses GPS to navigate to the target’s vicinity, then finds targets that are moving or have moved using a combination of emission-locating ESM and an active millimeter wave radar seeker. AARGM is meant to destroy enemy air defense systems, but a system for a missile of this size would also be able to target enemies like ships. ATK received a $452,000 contract on Aug 22/12.
xGM-109E Block IV TLAMs: A Program Success Story
Block IV missiles offer a number of improvements over previous versions: the missile’s purchase cost drops by almost half, to about $750,000, while lowering its future maintenance costs, and upgrading its capabilities.
Capt. Bob Novak, who was the Tomahawk All-Up-Round (PMA-280) program manager until August 2005, began leading the Tomahawk AUR program team in 2002 during a critical time in the development of the Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile. Under his leadership the program awarded the Navy’s first-ever weapons multi-year contract, and was estimated to have reduced the cost per missile from Block III to Block IV by almost 50%, saving $1 billion over planned lifetime costs while upgrading the missile’s capabilities. While reducing the Block IV Tactical Tomahawk’s purchase costs, improved design and manufacturing also reduced maintenance/ recertification requirements from once every 8 years for Block III missiles to once every 15 years.
PMA-280 was honored with several prominent awards, including the Secretary of Defense Value Engineering Award, the Daedalian Award, and the Ed Heinemann Award.
One important new capability that Block IV Tomahawk brings to the US Navy’s Sea Strike doctrine is derived from the missile’s 2-way satellite data link, which enables the missile to respond to changing battlefield conditions. The strike controller can “flex” the missile in flight to preprogrammed alternate targets, redirect it to a new target, or even have it loiter over the battlefield awaiting a more critical target. Block IV Tomahawks can also transmit battle damage indication imagery and missile health and status messages via the satellite data link, allowing firing platforms to execute missions in real time.
Global Positioning System-only missions are also possible in addition to the missile’s previous terrain-mapping guidance mode, thanks to an improved anti-jam GPS receiver for enhanced mission performance.
The majority of Tomahawk cruise missiles are currently launched by Navy surface vessels, such as the Ticonderoga Class (CG-47) cruisers and Arleigh Burke Class (DDG-51) destroyers. The later series of Improved Los Angeles Class (SSN-688I) and the newest Virginia Class (SSN-744) attack submarines are also armed with 12 dedicated Tomahawk launch tubes, while earlier Los Angeles boats and the newest Seawolf Class (SSN-21) have to sacrifice some of their stored torpedoes to carry and launch Tomahawks through their torpedo tubes. But the USA’s premier Tomahawk carrier vehicle in future will be the Ohio Class SSGN stealth strike subs, with launch capacity for an astounding 154 Tactical Tomahawks each.
Additional Readings & Sources
DID would like to thank Raytheon Tomahawk Program Director Roy Donelson, and Growth Program Manager Chris Sprinkle, for their assistance with this article. Any mistakes are our own damn fault. Readers with corrections or information to contribute are encouraged to contact editor Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.
Weapon & Program Background
- US NAVAIR – Tactical Tomahawk
- Raytheon – Tomahawk Cruise Missile. See also their 2012 paper on the missile’s evolution from Block III: “Tomahawk: Serving the U.S. and Allied Warfighter“.
- Globalsecurity.org – BGM-109 Tomahawk
- DoN Acquisition One Source – Reducing Cost/Schedule for TOMAHAWK All-Up-Round Program
- Air Power Australia – Tomahawk Cruise Missile Variants: BGM/RGM/AGM-109 Tomahawk/TASM/TLAM/GCLM/MRASM. Last updated 2012.
- DID – Naval Swiss Army Knife: MK 41 Vertical Missile Launch Systems (VLS). Strike-length cells are required to fire Tomahawks.
News & Views
- DID – LRASM Missiles: Reaching for a Long-Range Punch. Covers the USN’s OASuW program, whose sea-launched component has already affected the Tomahawk program. The current plan is based around air and sea-launched adaptations of Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158B JASSM-ER.
- FAS Strategic Security Blog (March 18/13) – US Navy Instruction Confirms Retirement of Nuclear Tomahawk Cruise Missile. The xGM-109B Tomahawk Block II.
- Defense Daily (Nov 29/07) – Navy Seeks New Uses For Tomahawks. Covers a number of program developments, including the potential for thermobaric warheads.
- Naval Air Station Patuxent River Tester Magazine (April 12/07) – Submarine-launched Tomahawk IV flight test a success
- Naval Air Station Patuxent River Tester Magazine (Dec 14/06) – Tomahawk IV in West Coast Test. “The test successfully demonstrated the Tomahawk Strike Network. The Tomahawk Strike Network (TSN) is a unique aspect of the Block IV system. Utilized in this test, TSN is a communications network that provides secure connectivity among all of the participants in a strike plan. Those participants include the Block IV missile(s), the strike controller, and the missile controller. Messages are generated, sent, and received inside the network, and are monitored by a channel controller. TSN allows the strike controller to retarget the missile in flight, monitor the health and status of the missile in flight, and collect images along the route.”
- Naval Air Station Patuxent River Tester Magazine (Aug 10/05) – Tomahawk program marks historic milestone. Capt. Rick McQueen became the 1st program manager for the newly formed Tomahawk Weapons System Program Office (PMA-280), as the Navy’s All-Up-Round (PMA-280) and Cruise Missile Weapons Systems (PMA-282) groups merged.
- Naval Air Station Patuxent River Tester Magazine (Oct 7/04) – New Tomahawk ready for warfighter. Block IV was accepted by the USN on Sept 29/04.