All the most recent conflicts have started with a storm of cruise missiles against fixed enemy targets. The war in Libya is just the last of a long series of campaigns or raids in which Tomahawk missiles have been used to wipe out the opponent’s air defenses, before the first combat planes entered the enemy air space.
Therefore, such cruise missiles stocks are being replenished.
Raytheon have just won a $337.8 million for 361 additions to the Tomahawk fleet of the U.S Navy, split into 238 RGM-109 missiles that are launched from the Vertical Launch System (VLS) on surface ships, and 123 UGM-109 that are launched from submarines equipped with the Capsule Launch System (CLS).
Block IV missile have been upgraded in many ways.
Other than cost savings (unit price has nearly halved from Block III examples), the most important new capability the Block IVs brought to the Naval fleet is the new two-way satellite data link, which gives the cruise missile the ability to change target whilst in flight.
Indeed, the new missile has an operator that can redirect the Tomahawk toward pre-planned alternate targets, and even loiter over a certain area waiting for a new target of opportunity. Moreover, through the data link, the Block IV missile can upload imagery and health status messages to the control station so as to give the operator the ability to change the mission in accordance with the battlefield and cruise conditions.
The new Tomahawk also features an anti-jam GPS receiver for enhanced accuracy.
Most of the U.S. Navy’s missiles are launched from surface ships such as the Ticonderoga Class cruisers and Arleigh Burke Class destroyers as well as Los Angeles, Virginia and Seawolf Classes subs. However, in the future, the Tomahawks will be fired by the Ohio Class stealth strike submarines with the capability to launch more than 150 cruise missiles each!
Such platforms will surely be involved in the opening shots of any future conflicts.
Image credit: U.S. Navy