US Navy green lights production of Block V Tomahawk cruise missile
The US Navy has given Raytheon Missiles & Defense the go ahead on production of the latest Block of the venerable Tomahawk cruise missile. The Block V variant will start work later this year, giving the missile a life extension of 15 years plus increased capabilities.
A remnant of the Cold War, the Tomahawk was first conceived in the 1970s as a modular, highly precise, land-attack missile that could be easily modified to carry both conventional and nuclear weapons. The subsonic missile could only fly at Mach 0.74 (550 mph, 480 kn, 890 km/h), but it could be launched from the ground, ships, submarines, or as a stand-off weapon from bombers. In addition, its ability to hug the ground for 1,000 miles (1,600 km) as it flew mades it extremely stealthy, with hostile forces not even aware that one was approaching until something blew up.
Having entered service in 1983, it's gone through a number of improvements, such as increasingly advanced navigation systems, the ability to home in on targets on its own, and to reach a target at a predesignated time. There have also been improvements to the munitions and the jet engine design to the point where it may one day be possible to create a supersonic variant.
Currently, the Block IV Tomahawk is only used by the US Navy and the Royal Navy, with the nuclear-armed versions long ago retired. A modernized variant of this Block is already being delivered to the US Navy with improved navigation and communications. For the Block V, new improvements will include a multimode seeker that will allow the Tomahawk to lock onto moving targets at sea.
Flight tests of the Block V Tomahawk were completed in December 2020. All existing Block IVs will be upgraded to Block V and any Block IIIs will be removed from service.
"Modernization ensures Tomahawk’s relevance now and in the future," says Kim Ernzen, vice president of Naval Power at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business. "This latest delivery marks the next big step for the Tomahawk program."
The video below shows test firings of the Tomahawk.