WASHINGTON: As the Navy continues to look for ways to reach out and touch — or preferably deter — potential adversaries at greater range, it is turning to the latest version of a decades-old weapon to do it.
Earlier this year, the Navy confirmed that the new Block V designation for the next variant of Raytheon’s Tomahawk cruise missile will go into production, while placing orders for 90 more Tomahawks in 2020 and another 90 in 2021, after zeroing out-buys in the 2019 defense budget.
That newfound interest in the venerable cruise missile comes as the Pentagon continues to take a crash course in Chinese and Russian military modernization activities. Arguably, none of the armed services have hit the books as hard as the Navy, which no longer finds itself acting in support of ground wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Instead, US surface ships and submarines once again find themselves at the pointy end of US presence and power projection in the Pacific, and off the coasts of Europe.
“What you see in the budget reflects the confidence and capabilities of the Tomahawk,” said Chris Daily, Raytheon Tomahawk senior director.
Daily said that every new Tomahawk that comes off the production line starting in 2020 will be a Block V missile, with upgraded navigation and communications upgraded capabilities.
Some of those missiles rolling off the line will be the Block Va Maritime Strike Tomahawk (MST), which allows the Tomahawk to engage a moving target at sea, and the Block Vb will be outfitted with the Joint Multiple Effects Warhead System (JMEWS), that will greatly expand the land target set.
In the Navy 2020 budget request, it asked for $386.7 million to buy 90 missiles, along with 156 navigation and communications kits and 20 MST kits, while recertifying 112 missiles.
The recertification element of the program will only grow more important over time, Daily said. As the older Block IV missiles come back to Raytheon for recertification and modernization upgrades — adding 15 years to their lifespans — Raytheon will upgrade them to the Block V, MST, or JMEWS variants as requested configuration by replacing and recertifying components.
The program “is on track to start in 2020 with first deliveries of the new recertified missiles,” Daily said. “Everything coming out of our factory beginning with the FY 2020 order for 90 missiles and those recertified will be a Block 5. And as the additional capability of Va and Vb are ready to insert, they will insert into the recertification process” as well.
As the new builds and upgraded missiles come off the production line, all variants will “maintain the current Tomahawk capability, so nothing goes away in terms of the land attack capability that Tomahawk has always had,” Daily said.
Since the 1980s, the US and Royal navies have bought nearly 10,000 Tomahawks, using them over 2,300 times in combat. So far no other ally has been approved for sales of the Tomahawk, Daily said, “but the inclusion of additional new Tomahawk production in the PB20 budget creates an opportunity for allies to acquire Tomahawk affordably through bundling and economy of scale.”
Learn more about Tomahawk here.