Tomahawk Cruise Missiles Can Now Change Course

Tomahawk Cruise Missiles Can Now Change Course

Tomahawk Block IV missile flight testsBack-to-back flight tests were performed recently on two Tomahawk Block IV missiles with inert warheads to demonstrate the missile’s real-time mission control. (Courtesy of Raytheon Co.)


Tomahawk cruise missiles are undoubtedly one of this planet’s most advanced weapons, boasting a range of more than 1,000 miles and GPS guidance for precision. They missiles can even transmit images of an intended target before striking.

To add to the weapon’s capabilities, the U.S. Navy and the cruise missile’s manufacturer, Raytheon Co., recently demonstrated the latest enhancement to this formidable weapon: real-time mission control of the Tomahawk, even after it has been launched. For a scenario where a naval commander has one missile and has learned of a second, more serious threat, a missile in flight can be re-directed.

The Tomahawk missile is a network-enabled weapon that is controlled by means of wireless networking. The two missiles, with inert warheads, were launched separately from the Vertical Launch System of the USS Pinckney at the Naval Air Systems Command Sea Test Range off the coast of Southern California (see photo).

The first test employed the Launch Platform Mission Planning (LPMP) capability of the Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System, using flight data from the U.S. Fleet Forces Command (Norfolk, Va.). The missile followed its programmed flight path until near the end of the test, where changes were made in the flight plan. The second missile was also launched using the LPMP system, but with a longer-duration flight plan that concluded with a terminal dive maneuver against a target, demonstrating longer-range real-time control of the missile.

The U.S. Navy has performed more than 75 tests of Tomahawk missiles since 2006. The demonstration of this new capability provides tremendous flexibility to naval forces, with consideration now being given to using Tomahawk missiles against moving targets for the first time.

“We’re very excited about where the Navy wants to go with Tomahawk,” says Dave Adams, Raytheon’s Tomahawk senior program director.  “It’s unique in the country’s portfolio, in terms of its very long range and the fact that it’s deployed from ships and submarines. If you look at everywhere a ship or a sub can go with the range that we have, you literally can cover 90% of the world.”

TAGS: Defense
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