Unveiling the Best of the Tomahawk Cruise Missile

The Tomahawk Cruise Missile, a technological marvel in modern warfare, has become a cornerstone of naval firepower, and it is presently developed by Raytheon. Unveiling the Best of the Tomahawk Cruise Missile, it serves as a highly adaptable and precise instrument for both the United States Navy and the Royal Navy in conducting numerous land-attack warfare operations from ships and submarines. Its versatile design accommodates a spectrum of mission profiles, encompassing both land attack and anti-ship warfare, and it boasts dimensions of approximately 20 feet in length with an 8.9-foot wingspan.

The Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) has gained recognition for its outstanding precision and capacity to engage targets at extended ranges, often surpassing distances of 1,500 miles. Propelled by a turbofan engine, it employs a blend of GPS, inertial navigation, and terrain contour mapping for highly precise target navigation. Furthermore, it possesses the flexibility to carry different warhead options, such as conventional explosives or submunitions, in order to fulfil diverse mission demands.

Under a contract with the U.S. Navy, General Dynamics undertook the design and manufacturing of the Tomahawk missile from scratch in the 1970s. This missile was conceived to serve as a medium- to long-range, low-altitude weapon that could be launched from naval surface warfare platforms. Notably, the missile boasts a modular design that can accommodate a wide range of warhead options, guidance systems, and various range capabilities.

Between 1992 and 1994, McDonnell Douglas initiated the production of updated Block II and Block III Tomahawk missiles, concurrently remanufacturing many of the original Tomahawks to meet Block III specifications. However, in 1994, Hughes, a prominent defence contractor, secured the position of the exclusive Tomahawk missile supplier by outbidding McDonnell Douglas Aerospace. This remained the status quo until 2019 when Raytheon acquired Hughes. As of 2023, Raytheon stands as the sole contractor responsible for Tomahawk missile production.

Its low-altitude flight profile and ability to loiter in enemy skies for an extended period make it a formidable weapon for striking well-defended targets. The Tomahawk has seen extensive use in various conflicts and continues to be a critical component of modern military arsenals due to its strategic and tactical capabilities.

Photo Credit: Hum3D / Unveiling the Best of the Tomahawk Cruise Missile
Photo Credit: Hum3D / Unveiling the Best of the Tomahawk Cruise Missile

Upgrades to the Tomahawk Cruise Missile Since Its Inception

Since its introduction in 1983, the Tomahawk cruise missile has undergone numerous upgrades to enhance its performance, capabilities, and reliability. A significant enhancement to the Tomahawk missile is its network-centric warfare capabilities, which involve utilizing data from various sensors, including aircraft, UAVs, satellites, ground troops, tanks, and ships, to locate its target. Furthermore, it has the capability to transmit data from its sensors to these platforms. Some key upgrades and advancements include:

Improved Targeting and Guidance Systems

Tomahawk Block II: These variants underwent testing from 1981 to 1983 and were deployed in 1984. The enhancements included an improved booster rocket, a cruise missile radar altimeter, and navigation via the Digital Scene Matching Area Correlator (DSMAC). DSMAC represented a highly accurate rudimentary AI system that enabled early low-power computers to navigate and precisely target objectives using onboard cameras on the missile. With its capability to visually identify and directly target an objective, it surpassed the accuracy of weapons relying on estimated GPS coordinates. Additionally, it featured an exceptionally bright strobe light for brief illumination of the ground, aiding in nighttime position finding while accounting for variations in ground appearance.

The Tomahawk Block III: Introduced in 1993, incorporated several enhancements. These improvements included the implementation of time-of-arrival control and the enhancement of accuracy for the Digital Scene Matching Area Correlator (DSMAC), along with the integration of jam-resistant GPS technology. The missile also featured a smaller and lighter WDU-36 warhead, engine refinements, and an extended missile range.

We would encourage you to explore this article as well:  Know the Best of the Lockheed Sniper Targeting Pod

One significant addition was the Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS). This system took advantage of a loitering capability within the missile’s flight path, enabling commanders to redirect the missile to an alternative target when necessary. It could be reprogrammed in flight to engage pre-designated targets or newly identified ones using GPS coordinates stored in its memory or other specified GPS coordinates. Additionally, the missile had the capability to transmit data about its status back to the commanding officer. The Tomahawk Block III entered service with the U.S. Navy in late 2004. Notably, the Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS) introduced the capability for limited mission planning directly on board the firing unit (FRU).

The Tomahawk Block IV:  Introduced in 2006, brought several key enhancements. It introduced the strike controller, allowing the missile to be changed in-flight to one of 15 preprogrammed alternate targets or redirected to a new target, providing greater targeting flexibility, including the ability to loiter over the battlefield while awaiting a more critical target.

Additionally, the missile could transmit battle damage indication imagery and messages regarding missile health and status via a two-way satellite data link. Firing platforms gained the capability to plan and execute GPS-only missions, and Block IV featured an improved anti-jam GPS receiver for enhanced mission performance. It also included the Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS) and Tomahawk Command and Control System (TC2S).

On August 16, 2010, the Navy conducted the initial live test of the Joint Multi-Effects Warhead System (JMEWS). This innovative warhead was designed to provide the Tomahawk missile with blast-fragmentation capabilities while introducing enhanced penetration capabilities, all within a single warhead. During the static test, the warhead successfully detonated and created a hole of sufficient size for the follow-through element to fully penetrate the concrete target.

In February 2014, U.S. Central Command took the initiative to sponsor the development and testing of the JMEWS. This effort aimed to assess the programmable warhead’s ability to integrate with the Block IV Tomahawk, thereby equipping the missile with bunker-buster effects to enhance its ability to penetrate hardened structures.

In 2014, Raytheon initiated testing for Block IV enhancements aimed at engaging sea and mobile land targets. One notable improvement was the introduction of a passive radar seeker designed to detect the electromagnetic radar signature of a target, track it, and actively transmit a signal to assess potential targets for legitimacy before impact. Raytheon estimated that incorporating this new seeker would result in an additional cost of $250,000 per missile. Among other upgrades, the missile’s flight path was optimized for skimming close to the sea’s surface. The first Block IV Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) modified to possess maritime attack capabilities entered service in 2021.

A Tomahawk is just being launched from a submarine
Photo Credit: USN / A Tomahawk is just being launched from a submarine

Tomahawk Block V:  Was introduced in 2021, bringing notable enhancements in navigation and in-flight targeting capabilities. This upgrade introduced two variants: Block Va, known as the Maritime Strike Tomahawk (MST), which enables the missile to engage moving sea-based targets, and Block Vb, equipped with the JMEWS (Joint Multi-Effects Warhead System) warhead, designed for effective hard-target penetration. The initial batch of Block V missiles was delivered in March 2021. Plans include the conversion of all Block IV Tomahawks to the Block V standard, while the remaining Block III missiles will be retired and demilitarized.

Tomahawk Block V boasts an extended range and dynamic targeting capabilities, enabling it to effectively engage vessels at sea in a maritime strike role. Moreover, it introduced new functionalities demonstrated in a test launch, where it utilized its onboard camera to capture reconnaissance photos and transmitted them to fleet headquarters. Subsequently, it entered a loitering pattern, awaiting updated targeting coordinates for striking. Raytheon has undertaken the recertification and modernization of the missile, extending its service life by 15 years, which has led to the development of the new Tomahawk Block V series, encompassing the following variants:

  • Block V represents the modernized Tactical Tomahawk (TACTOM), featuring upgraded navigation and communication systems.
  • Block VA is equipped with the capability to engage moving sea-based targets at an impressive distance of 2,500 kilometres (approximately 1,553 miles).
  • Block VB is outfitted with a joint multi-effects warhead designed to effectively target a wider range of land-based objectives.
We would encourage you to explore this article as well:  Defence Technology

There is a consideration for the development of a supersonic version of the Tomahawk missile, similar to the Indian BrahMos missile. This supersonic variant would potentially incorporate a ramjet engine to achieve speeds of Mach 3. However, a significant challenge is posed by the dimensions of shipboard launch tubes. To ensure compatibility with existing launch infrastructure, the ramjet-powered Tomahawk would need to fit within a tube with a diameter of 21 inches (approximately 530 mm) and a length of 20 feet (about 6.1 meters).

Older Variants of the Tomahawk Cruise Missile

The Tomahawk cruise missile has undergone several variants and modifications over the years to enhance its capabilities and adapt to various mission requirements.

  • The BGM-109A: known as the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile-Nuclear (TLAM-N), was equipped with a W80 nuclear warhead and retired from service between 2010 and 2013. In early 2018, there were reports indicating that the U.S. Navy was exploring the possibility of reintroducing a nuclear-armed cruise missile into its inventory. However, as of the present time, there has been no official confirmation of such plans.
  • The RGM/UGM-109B: Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM) Served as an anti-ship variant equipped with active radar homing. It was withdrawn from service in 1994 and subsequently converted to the Block IV version. As of 2023, it remains retired.
  • The BGM-109C: Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Conventional (TLAM-C) featured a unitary warhead and initially incorporated a modified Bullpup warhead design. However, it was retired in the 1990s.
  • The BGM-109D: Known as the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Dispenser (TLAM-D), was designed to deploy cluster munitions. A distinct variant, the Kit 2 Tomahawk Land Attack Missile, featured a unique warhead specifically designed for disabling electrical grids. It was first employed during the Gulf War and proved highly effective in Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) operations. Presently, more advanced versions of the missile incorporate this capability.
  • The RGM/UGM-109E: Designated as the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM-E Block IV), represents an enhanced iteration of the TLAM-C. Most probably also retired from service.
  • The BGM-109G: Identified as the Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM), was armed with a W84 nuclear warhead. It was withdrawn from service in 1991 to adhere to the terms of the INF Treaty.

However, Block-V is the present variant, and various alterations and modifications are continuously in progress. Perhaps the next Block-VI and VIIs are also on the way and will be revealed by Raytheon in the future.

Major Operational History of the Tomahawk Cruise Missile

The Tomahawk cruise missile has a storied operational history dating back to its introduction in the 1980s.

Gulf War / Operation Desert Strike / Part of Iraq Disarmament / The Invasion of Iraq and Military Intervention against ISIL in Iraq (from 1991 to 2014): The Tomahawk cruise missile made its combat debut during the Gulf War, where it was extensively used by the United States and the United Kingdom. Tomahawks were launched from ships and submarines to strike a range of targets in Iraq, including military facilities, communication centres, and government buildings. Throughout all of these operations on Iraqi soil, if we estimate the total, approximately 1,575 Tomahawks have been deployed exclusively in Iraq.

During the Bosnian and Kosovo War: On September 10, 1995, USS Normandy launched 13 Tomahawk missiles from the central Adriatic Sea, targeting a crucial air defence radio relay tower in Bosnian Serb territory as part of Operation Deliberate Force. In early 1999, a total of 218 Tomahawk missiles were fired by U.S. ships and a British submarine during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, targeting various sites in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

In Afghanistan: Tomahawk missiles have played a role in several operations, including the initial strikes against the Taliban regime and subsequent counterterrorism missions. On August 20, 1998, a total of 79 Tomahawk missiles were simultaneously launched at two targets in Afghanistan and Sudan in response to the bombings of American embassies by Al-Qaeda. In October 2001, approximately 50 Tomahawk missiles were deployed to strike targets in Afghanistan during the opening hours of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In 2011, amid the Libyan Civil War: Tomahawk missiles played a significant role in the international coalition’s mission to establish a no-fly zone and safeguard civilians by targeting Libyan military assets. By March 22, 2011, a total of 159 UGM-109 Tomahawk missiles were launched by U.S. and British forces, striking no fewer than 20 Libyan targets in the vicinity of Tripoli and Misrata.

We would encourage you to explore this article as well:  AMRAAM

Syria (2017 and 2018): The U.S. military initiated Tomahawk missile strikes into Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. During these incidents, a total of 125 Tomahawk missiles were reportedly fired.

Yemen: The U.S. has employed Tomahawk missiles in support of efforts against Houthi rebels in Yemen in 2013 and against an Al-Qaeda training camp in Yemen in 2017.

Tactical Tomahawk launched from the Mark 41 Vertical Launching System
Photo Credit: USN / Tactical Tomahawk launched from the Mark 41 Vertical Launching System

The Technical Specifications of the Tomahawk Cruise Missile

  • Weight: 1,300 kg ( 2,900 lb ) with booster 1,600 kg (3,500 lb )
  • Length:  18 ft 3 in ( 5.56 m ) with booster ( 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m )
  • Diameter:  20.4 in
  • Wingspan:  8 ft 9 in (2.67 m)
  • WarheadConventional: 1,000 pounds ( 450 kg ) high explosive. Nuclear: W80 warhead with yield 5 to 150 kilotonnes of TNT.
  • Detonation:  Impact or proximity fuze
  • Engine:  F-107-WR-402 turbofan
  • Propellant: A solid-fuel rocket booster is used for launch and during the long flight, while liquid rocket propellant is employed
  • Range:  Present Block V: Minimum 300 km ( 186 mi ) to maximum 2,600 km ( 1,616 mi ) exact range is classified.
  • Speed:  Subsonic, at Mach 0.74, which is approximately 913.6 km/h ( 567.7 mph )
  • Minimum Flight altitude:  98–164 ft ( 30–50 m ) of AGL ( height above ground level )
  • Guidance:  GPS, INS, TERCOM, DSMAC, and active radar homing ( depending on operational requirements )
  • Launch Platform:  Mark 41 Vertical Launching System for torpedo tubes, surface ships, submarines, and TELs (transporter erector launcher)

Furthermore, in addition to this article, seize the exclusive opportunity to acquire an exquisite large-scale 1/48 premium die-cast model of the formidable F4U-4 Corsair – White 211. These remarkable World War II military fighter aircraft are available now on AirModels, embodying unparalleled craftsmanship and attention to detail. Don’t hesitate to secure these exceptional models before the limited stock runs out.

In conclusion, the Tomahawk cruise missile has proven itself as a vital and adaptable asset in modern military arsenals. From its early deployments in the Gulf War to its ongoing use in various global conflicts, the Tomahawk has demonstrated its precision, versatility, and ability to strike a wide range of targets with minimal collateral damage. Over the years, it has evolved through multiple upgrades and variants, incorporating advanced guidance systems, communication technologies, and enhanced capabilities.

Its ability to engage targets from a safe distance, adapt to changing mission requirements, and provide commanders with precise and reliable firepower underscores its enduring relevance in contemporary military operations.

While the Tomahawk’s operational history is marked by its role in conflicts and crises, its impact extends beyond the battlefield, shaping defence strategies, deterrence efforts, and global security dynamics. As such, the Tomahawk cruise missile stands as a testament to the ongoing pursuit of technological innovation and strategic ingenuity in the pursuit of peace and security.

Important Announcement for Our Valued Readers!

After an article is published, it is possible that updates or changes may have occurred beyond the time of publication. Therefore, it is important to be aware that certain information in the article might be outdated. To ensure the most accurate analysis, it is highly recommended to verify the content with the latest sources available.

However, we are dedicated to delivering outstanding articles on military products and global updates. Maintaining quality and smooth operation requires resources. Your support sustains our efforts in providing insightful content. By purchasing high-quality products through our affiliated links, you help us keep our platform alive and acquire top-notch items. Your unwavering support is invaluable and inspires us to strive further.

We welcome your suggestions and requests for more information, as we value feedback from our readers. If there’s specific defence material or equipment not covered on our site, please share your request in the comments. We’ll strive to research and provide the required information. We sincerely thank you for your unwavering interest in our website, and we eagerly anticipate hearing from you! Enjoy your reading experience!

Leave a comment