Navy Seeks Next Generation Tomahawk

Navy Seeks Next Generation Tomahawk

The Navy is testing several new next-generation cruise missiles as potential replacements for the battle-tested Tomahawk, service leaders told lawmakers Wednesday.

Although the Navy plans to modernize its arsenal of roughly 4,000 Tomahawk missiles, the service is testing and developing a new weapon called the next-generation land attack weapon, Navy acquisition executive Sean Stackley told members of the House Armed Services Committee Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

“The key element of that weapon will be its increased lethality and survivability beyond what the Tomahawk brings today,” Stackley told the subcommittee, speaking of the new cruise missile in development.

Meanwhile, production of the Tomahawk is slated to stop by fiscal year 2016, according to the Navy’s five year budget plan outlined in the 2015 proposal.

“We had been sustaining a 200 Tomahawk per year rate. In 2015 we’ll drop down to 100. In 2016 we will revisit the question of whether the time is right to stop production of Tomahawks,” Stackley added.

Stackley told the subcommittee that the Navy is currently exploring several cruise missile technologies.

“What we have procured to date meets our inventory requirements for Tomahawks. What we have to get to is that next-generation weapon. That next-generation weapon could be an upgraded Tomahawk or could be another weapon,” he said.

The Navy also plans to compete a surface-ship launched variant of its air launched Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, or LRASM which is now in development, Stackley said.

Service officials said the next LRASM test-firing is slated for early fall of this year. The weapon, which is designed to defeat advanced enemy air-defense systems using sensors and autonomous flight, will be fired from an Air Force B-1 bomber. The Navy also plans to configure its F/A-18 fighter jets to be able to fire the LRASM.

“LRASM is transitioning from the demonstration phase to a development program during fiscal year 2014. Early operation capability is planned for 2018,” a Navy official said.

While potential future LRASM competitions for a surface-launched variant will likely involve more than one vendor, Lockheed Martin has been the principal developer thus far. Lockheed is working closely with the Navy and the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency on LRASM.

At an initial air-launched test flight in August of last year, the LRASM successfully launched from a B-1 bomber and navigated itself to the target, said Frank St. John, vice president of tactical missiles, Lockheed Martin missiles and fire control.

“The weapon autonomously navigated to the target area and used its sensors to decisively engage it,” he added.

St. John said LRASM has an extended range greater than 200 miles.

Lockheed is also investing $30 million in research and development funds to develop and test a LRASM that can fire from a surface-ships vertical launch system, St. John said.

At the same time, Raytheon is currently involved in several Block IV Tomahawk modernization efforts which could impact the calculus of the Navy’s pursuit of next-generation cruise missiles.

For example, Raytheon developers are working on a method of improving communication links involving improved radio throughput for the missile. While the Block IV Tomahawk already has the ability to change course in flight, this technology would increase the speed of communications and improve the ability to both re-route and also hit moving targets, Raytheon officials said.

Tomahawks are expected to have a service life of 30 years.  Since the original initial operating capability of the Block IV weapon was 2004, many of them will be brought back at the 15 year service mark for re-certification during the 2017 to 2020 timeframe. Block IV Tomahawks, which can travel at speeds greater than 500 miles per hour, have a range greater than 900 nautical miles.

The Block IV missiles not only have the ability to re-route while in transit to a target but they can also send back real-time images of strategically vital areas and help conduct battle damage assessment.  The Block IV missile is also able loiter over targets as needed and receive targeting information from a nearby unmanned aircraft system.

In addition to GPS, Tomahawk Block IV missiles also have a camera-based navigational system called digital scene matching and correlation. They have anti-jam GPS receivers and inertial measurement units as well so as to ensure the weapon could function in a GPS-denied environment.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., expressed interest in continued Tomahawk modernization, telling the witnesses at the hearing that she would like to see modernization streamlined or combined with re-certification of the weapons in 2019 and 2020.

“You do have plans for modernization in fiscal year 2020?” she asked.

Stackey and Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy told Noem and the rest of the subcommittee that the Navy plans to both re-certify and modernize its inventory of Tomahawk missiles.

“We are continuing to modernize. There have been four steps the first of which is a brand new radio which allows combatant commanders to re-target.  Tomahawks are amazing things but they were also built when I was a junior officer and we’ve modernized them,” said Mulloy, deputy chief of Naval Operations, Integration of Capabilities and Resources.

Tomahawk missiles are a high-speed, low-altitude weapon designed to evade enemy air defenses – in part by flying lower to the ground and using precision GPS navigation systems. They were originally developed as a Cold War weapon to defeat sophisticated Soviet air defenses by flying close to the terrain. 

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What we need to do is pair the avionics and payload of the Tomahawk with a stealthy airframe like on JASSM or the nuclear ACM that was retired a few years back.

LRASM-A provides a good replacement for the Harpoon but it’s unfortunate that the supersonic LRASM-B was cancelled. Perhaps the Navy has decided to skip supersonic cruise missiles altogether and wait for the next generation of hypersonic cruise missiles.

The Mk.57 VLS missile canisters on the Zumwalt class are larger than those of the Mk.41 VLS, meaning the option of larger missiles. Yet unless our next destroyers (Flight III Burke or a new design) use a VLS of the same dimensions, those three Zumwalt hulls won’t justify the cost to development missiles to take advantage of that extra space.

Well, they did justify the cost of the 155mm AGS system installed.
When all is said and done, the 3–4 Zumwalt class the Navy will get will carry all of 6–8 total guns.
With so few gun tubes in service (including test rigs and spares built, if any), those LRLAPs even at peak production are still not ever going to be built as cheaply as was originally envisioned.
If they can justify these gun systems and their ammo specifically for these now-so-few ships, I don’t see why it would be difficult justifying the expense for a weapon outsized of the Mk41 VLS cells and suitable only for the Mk 57.

Still, there’s no reason it cannot be an air-launched variant as well. That trims costs, especially if we can get allies like the British, South Koreans, and a handful of others to want the capability it would offer. Remember: an air-launched variant does not need the expendable booster section that surface-launched missiles generally require.

In the current fiscal climate I doubt we will see the retirement of the Tomahawk for along time. I think its still the best pin point attack cruse missile out there so While we should always look at new missile tech I think we can be comfortable using Tomahawks for a long time to come.

Unmanned Tomahawks were successfully tested and developed, and IOC for both ships and submarines, in 1983. Since then, they’ve been at the point of the spear for both the U.S. Navy and England’s Royal Navy. FYI: “Father” of Tomahawk — Rear Admiral Walter E. Locke; program manager, Capt. Harry M. Yockey (my late brother.) Lead contractor — which you won’t see in Raytheon’s Tomahawk timetable –General Dynamics. Williams International was, and still is, the propulsion contractor. Just giving credit where credit is due. .

That part of General Dynamics got sold off when GD divested most of its businesses in the 90’s and is now part of Raytheon. Some other major product lines that moved the same way include Standard Missile and PHALANX CIWS.

Sorry but a few days ago the administration announced the Tomahawk was being phased out after 2015, along with the Hellfire missile. Production on both will stop next year.

while they are at it, bring back the ASuW version of the Tomahawk-we’re going to need it soon

Cruise missiles are old tech. why not Hypersonic missile.….

did you read the article? The article includes the plan to end tomahawk production in 2016 (you got it wrong… the presidents budget drops production in half in 2015, and kills it in 2016).

” …production of the Tomahawk is slated to stop by fiscal year 2016, according to the Navy’s five year budget plan outlined in the 2015 proposal.”


Since we don’t plan to be at war in 2015, I guess we will not need to build as many weapons

You know, that whole peace dividend thing.


Considering POTUS’s unexpected success in commercializing space exploration (which would never have happened if NASA still had money) one might think ceasing production of these missiles might be the only way to get DOD procurement off their back-sides. Maybe…

Given the world situation, we are going to need a couple thousand more of these dependable weapons to reach out and touch our enemies.

In these financially challenged times the USN should cancel further purchases of the F 35C at a savings of 1.5 bill/yr and purchase 300 Brahmos missiles yearly instead from India and continue to invest in the UCLASS program
It does not need the unworkable F 35C
It also needs nuclear tipped missiles on its ships again which President Obama unilaterally abolished
How are we going to prevail against a rising Russia and China if we continue to waste money on the LCS and sensitivity programs

Naval Aviation needs more than UCLASS, maybe even more than the F-35C in the long term. They need a new fighter altogether.

I remember RADM Walt Locke and Capt. Yockey quite well having been Williams International’s Engine/Air Vehicle integration specialist when the Tomahawk program started as a 4-way competition , [RADM Locke was a Captain then if I remember correctly.] I was involved with all of the pre-award testing including the barge shock testing at Hunter’s Point and the 16T wind tunnel testing at AEDC in Tullahoma. I continued on the Tomahawk program after it was awarded to General Dynamics and worked with General Dynamics as they went on with variants on the original project, [i.e. land launched, TLAM-N, ship launched, extended range and etc.]. The joint program commanded by RADM Locke was a well run team and a pleasure to work with.]

I don’t see the Hellfire phase out/retiring happening anytime soon.
It’s been proven time and again to be a most favorable weapon of choice from US and allied Apaches and Cobras, drones, even AC-130s.
Sure, Griffin and Viper Strike and such are lighter, but they lack the stand of range of a Hellfire.
US has no mentioned plans to procure sufficiently large buys of Brimstones or any of Israel’s Spike family.

Like claims of the A-10 being headed to the boneyard but then Desert Storm happened, Hellfire is just too successful at what it does to be phased out in the next few years with no direct replacement.
For years JAGM and its various acronyms has consistently failed to produce a better weapon at a more affordable price, so.…
Even the coming generation of guidance enhancements for 70mm rockets is not substitute for Hellfire’s effects.

I’m curious if there were plans and/or attempts to mate the B-1s’ and B-52s’ C-ALCMs with an anti-ship-capable guidance/seeker section for surrogate ASuW use should the need arise.
The size of the GM-86 series missiles suggests there is ample volume (in the forward section/nose) at minimal expense of warhead or fuel.
The latest variants of the Harpoon-derived SLAM series AGMs suggest it’s certainly feasible.

RATTLRS would be te US approach, not buying Brahmos.
There have been a number of hypersonic missile designs over the years in US development, but subsonic cruise missiles always seemed to be more preferred by the US (Harpoon, Tomahawk, AGM-86).

We had suitable “proto” supersonic anti-ship weapons: the nuclear SRAM (AGM-69) and SRAM-II (AGM-131) had favorable supersonic speed and range: coupled to an adequate seeker and conventional warhead, they would’ve proven ideal quick-strike missiles.
And when the USN had TALOS decades ago, its ramjet propulsion coulda/woulda/shoulda been the preliminary footsteps of a future generation of supersonic anti-surface missiles.
Even the British Sea Dart SAM might have spawned a favorable SSM weapon.

I worked on a weapon just like you mention over 20 years ago when I was in the air force. The project was evntually cancelled.

Development of new 6 gen fighter jet has started. Navy and Air force are developing it seperatly but they are gonna share propulsion system (variable cycle engine technology is the name of the game).

Like the admiral said “Toamahawks were first produced when he was a junior officer”.. It’s about time for the US military in general to invest into missiles technology that has been deployed by the Russians for decades and recently by Chinese. The new missile should at least be supersonic if not hypersonic. All this tweaking with loitering here, retargeting there is bullshit. Make a new clean sheet design with stealthiness of LRASM range of a Tomahawk and give it some speed for God’s sake.

I can’t find an article on Tomahawk being phased out, can you send me a link? As far as Hellfire being retired, you’re right. It will be replaced, along with Maverick, by JAGM missile.


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