Tomahawk (missile) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

TomahawkTypePlace of originService historyIn serviceUsed byProduction historyManufacturerUnit costSpecificationsWeightLengthDiameterWarhead







A BGM-109 Tomahawk

Long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile
United States
United States NavyRoyal Navy
General Dynamics (initially)Raytheon/McDonnell Douglas
US$1.59m(FY2014)[1] (Block IV)
2,900 lb (1,300 kg), 3,500 lb (1,600 kg) with booster

Without booster: 18 ft 3 in (5.56 m)

With booster: 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m)
20.4 in (0.52 m)
Nuclear: W80 warhead (retired)Conventional: 1,000 pounds (450 kg) High explosive or Submunitions dispenser with BLU-97/B Combined Effects Bomb or PBXN
FMU-148 since TLAM Block III, others for special applications
Williams InternationalF107-WR-402turbofanusing TH-dimer fueland a solid-fuel rocket booster
8 ft 9 in (2.67 m)

Block II TLAM-A – 1,350 nmi (1,550 mi; 2,500 km) Block III TLAM-C, Block IV TLAM-E – 900 nmi (1,000 mi; 1,700 km)

Block III TLAM-D – 700 nmi (810 mi; 1,300 km)
Subsonic; about 550 mph (890 km/h)
Vertical Launch System (VLS) and horizontal submarine torpedo tubes (known as TTL (torpedo tube launch))

The Tomahawk (UK// or US//) is a long-range, all-weather, subsoniccruise missile. The missile was named after the Native American axe. Introduced by McDonnell Douglas in the 1970s, it was initially designed as a medium to long-range, low-altitude missile that could be launched from a surface platform. It has been improved several times, and due to corporate divestitures and acquisitions, is now made by Raytheon. Some Tomahawks were also manufactured by General Dynamics (now Boeing Defense, Space & Security).[2][3]


The Tomahawk missile family consists of a number of subsonic, jet engine-powered missiles designed to attack a variety of surface targets. Although a number of launch platforms have been deployed or envisaged, only sea (both surface ship and submarine) launched variants are currently in service. Tomahawk has a modular design, allowing a wide variety of warhead, guidance, and range capabilities.


There have been several variants of the BGM-109 Tomahawk employing various types of warheads.

Ground Launch Cruise Missiles (GLCM) and their truck-like launch vehicles were employed at bases in Europe; it was withdrawn from service to comply with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Many of the anti-ship versions were converted into TLAMs at the end of the Cold War. The Block III TLAMs that entered service in 1993 can fly farther and use Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers to strike more precisely. Block III TLAM-Cs retain the DSMAC II navigation system, allowing GPS only missions, which allow for rapid mission planning, with some reduced accuracy, DSMAC only missions, which take longer to plan but terminal accuracy is somewhat better, and GPS aided missions which combine both DSMAC II and GPS navigation which provides the greatest accuracy. Block IV TLAMs are completely redesigned with an improved turbofan engine. The F107-402 engine provided the new BLK III with a throttle control, allowing in-flight speed changes. This engine also provided better fuel economy. The Block IV TLAMs have enhanced deep-strike capabilities and are equipped with a real-time targeting system for striking fleeting targets. Additionally, the BLOCK IV missiles have the capabilities to be re-targeted inflight, and the ability to transmit, via satcom, an image immediately prior to impact to assist in determining if the missile was attacking the target and the likely damage from the attack.


A major improvement to the Tomahawk is network-centric warfare-capabilities, using data from multiple sensors (aircraft, UAVs, satellites, foot soldiers, tanks, ships) to find its target. It will also be able to send data from its sensors to these platforms. It will be a part of the networked force being implemented by the Pentagon.

The "Tactical Tomahawk" takes advantage of a loitering feature in the missile's flight path and allows commanders to redirect the missile to an alternative target, if required. It can be reprogrammed in-flight to attack predesignated targets with GPS coordinates stored in its memory or to any other GPS coordinates. Also, the missile can send data about its status back to the commander. It entered service with the US Navy in late 2004. The Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS) added the capability for limited mission planning on board the firing unit (FRU).

In 2012, the USN studied applying Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) technology into the Tactical Tomahawk.[6]

In February 2014, the U.S. Navy began working on a bunker-busting warhead for the Tomahawk. Called the Joint Multi-Effects Warhead System (JMEWS), it would weigh 3,500 lb (1,600 kg) and be compatible with existing Block IV missiles.[7]

In 2014, Raytheon began testing Block IV improvements to attack sea and moving land targets.[8] The new seeker will passively pick up the electromagnetic radar signature of a target and follow it, and actively send out a signal to bounce off potential targets before impact to discriminate its legitimacy before impact.[7] Mounting the multi-mode sensor on the missile's nose would remove fuel space, but company officials believe the Navy would be willing to give up space for the sensor's new technologies.[9] In April 2014, Raytheon performed a captive flight test of the company-funded passive seeker containing a multi-function processor that enables the missile to track and strike moving land and sea targets by receiving electronic radio frequency signals from tactical targets.[10]

A supersonic version of the Tomahawk is under consideration for development with a ramjet to increase its speed to Mach 3. A limiting factor to this is the dimensions of shipboard launch tubes. Instead of modifying every ship able to carry cruise missiles, the ramjet-powered Tomahawk would still have to fit within a 21-inch diameter and 20-foot long tube.[9]

Raytheon is planning to offer to perform the upgrades as the older block IVs are brought back to the factory for recertification around 2018.[11]

Launch systems[edit]

Each missile is stored and launched from a pressurized canister[12] that protects it during transportation and storage and acts as a launch tube. These canisters were racked in Armored Box Launchers (ABL), which were installed on the re-activated Iowa class battleships USS Iowa, USS New Jersey, USS Missouri, and USS Wisconsin. The ABLs were also installed on eight Spruance class destroyers, the four Virginia class cruisers, and the USS Long Beach. These canisters are also in Vertical Launch Systems (VLS) in other surface ships, Capsule Launch Systems (CLS) in the later Los Angeles class submarines, and in submarines' torpedo tubes. All ABL equipped ships have been decommissioned.

For submarine-launched missiles (called UGM-109s), after being ejected by gas pressure (vertically via the VLS) or by water impulse (horizontally via the torpedo tube), the missile exits the water and a solid-fuel booster is ignited for the first few seconds of airborne flight until transition to cruise.

After achieving flight, the missile's wings are unfolded for lift, the airscoop is exposed and the turbofan engine is employed for cruise flight. Over water, the Tomahawk uses inertial guidance or GPS to follow a preset course; once over land, the missile's guidance system is aided by Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM). Terminal guidance is provided by the Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC) system or GPS, producing a claimed accuracy of about 10 meters.

The Tomahawk Weapon System consists of the missile, Theater Mission Planning Center (TMPC)/Afloat Planning System, and either the Tomahawk Weapon Control System (on surface ships) or Combat Control System (for submarines).

Several versions of control systems have been used, including:

Navigation and other details[edit]

The TLAM-D contains 166 sub-munitions in 24 canisters; 22 canisters of seven each, and two canisters of six each to conform to the dimensions of the airframe. The sub-munitions are the same type of Combined Effects Munition bomblet used in large quantities by the U.S. Air Force with the CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition. The sub-munitions canisters are dispensed two at a time, one per side. The missile can perform up to five separate target segments which enables it to attack multiple targets. However, in order to achieve a sufficient density of coverage typically all 24 canisters are dispensed sequentially from back to front.

TERCOM – Terrain Contour Matching. A digital representation of an area of terrain is mapped based on digital terrain elevation data or stereo imagery. This map is then inserted into a TLAM mission which is then loaded on to the missile. When the missile is in flight it compares the stored map data with radar altimeter data collected as the missile overflies the map. Based on comparison results the missile's inertial navigation system is updated and the missile corrects its course. TERCOM was based on, and was a significant improvement on, "Fingerprint," a technology developed in 1964 for the SLAM.[13]

On July 26, 2014 it was announced that 196 additional Block IV missiles had been purchased.[14]

DSMAC – Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation. A digitized image of an area is mapped and then inserted into a TLAM mission. During the flight the missile will verify that the images that it has stored correlates with the image it sees below itself. Based on comparison results the missile's inertial navigation system is updated and the missile corrects its course.


United States Navy[edit]

Royal Navy[edit]

In 1995 the US agreed to sell 65 Tomahawks to the UK for torpedo-launch from her nuclear submarines. The first missiles were acquired and test-fired in November 1998; all Royal Navy fleet submarines are now Tomahawk capable, including the new Astute-class.[27][28][29][30] The Kosovo War in 1999 saw the Swiftsure-class HMS Splendid become the first British submarine to fire the Tomahawk in combat. It has been reported that seventeen of the twenty Tomahawks fired by the British during that conflict hit their targets accurately;[citation needed] the UK subsequently bought 20 more Block III to replenish stocks.[31] The Royal Navy has since fired Tomahawks during the 2000s Afghanistan War, in Operation Telic as the British contribution to the 2003 Iraq War, and during Operation Ellamy in Libya in 2011.

In April 2004, the UK and US governments reached an agreement for the British to buy 64 of the new generation of Tomahawk missile—the Block IV or TacTom missile.[32] It entered service with the Royal Navy on 27 March 2008, three months ahead of schedule.[33] In July 2014 the US approved the sale to the UK of a further 65 submarine-launched Block IV's at a cost of US$140m including spares and support;[34] as of 2011[update] the Block III missiles were on Britain's books at £1.1m and the Block IV at £0.87m including VAT.[35]

The SYLVER vertical launch system on the new Type 45 destroyer is claimed by its manufacturers to have the capability to fire the Tomahawk, although the A50 launcher carried by Type 45 is too short for the weapon (the longer A70 silo would be required). Nevertheless, Type 45 has been designed with weight and space margin for a strike-length Mk41 or Sylver A70 silo to be retrofitted, allowing Type 45 to use TLAM Block IV if required, and the new Type 26 frigates will have strike-length VLS tubes. SYLVER user France is developing MdCN, a version of the Storm Shadow/Scalp cruise missile that has a shorter range but a higher speed than Tomahawk and can be launched from the SYLVER system.

United States Air Force[edit]

The USAF is a former operator of the nuclear-armed version of the Tomahawk, the BGM-109G Gryphon.

Other users[edit]

The Netherlands (2005) and Spain (2002 and 2005) were interested in acquiring the Tomahawk system, but the orders were later cancelled in 2007 and 2009 respectively.[36][37]

In 2009 the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States stated that Japan would be concerned if the TLAM-N were retired, but the government of Japan has denied that it had expressed any such view.[38]

It is believed that the SLCM version of the Popeye was developed by Israel after the US Clinton administration refused an Israeli request in 2000 to purchase Tomahawk SLCM's because of international MTCR proliferation rules.[39]


The U.S. Navy is seeking a next-generation cruise missile to replace the Tomahawk called the next-generation land attack weapon. The missile is to have increased lethality and survivability over the current Tomahawk missile. Options include improving the Tomahawk weapon or selecting a new weapon. The Navy plans to compete a surface-launched version of the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, a version of the air-launched missile in development to defeat enemy air defenses using sensors and autonomous flight. A future version of the LRASM may include several vendors, but Lockheed Martin has been the principal developer and is investing funds to develop and test an LRASM that can be launched from vertical launch systems on Navy ships.[40]

The Navy believes its inventory of 4,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles are sufficient for future scenarios, so production is planned to end after 2016 with Tomahawk stocks to hold until the next-generation land-attack weapon is developed. Raytheon is against this action, claiming that Tomahawk production takes over 100 suppliers in 24 states, and that restarting production if needed when the line has been shut down could take two years and increase missile costs. With assessment of its replacement just beginning, it could take up to a decade to be fielded, during which time the Tomahawk stocks may potentially be depleted. Raytheon has offered an alternative plan of combining missile upgrades, including the multi-effects warhead and new target seeker, with the missile recertification program, required to keep them updated and serviced every 15 years. The company argues that combining the upgrades and recertification work on an accelerated schedule would help keep a "warm production capability" to continue production and save money for modernization.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^"United States Department Of Defense Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request Program Acquisition Cost By Weapon System" (pdf). Office Of The Under Secretary Of Defense (Comptroller)/ Chief Financial Officer. March 2014. p. 65. 
  2. ^"McDonnell Douglas: History — New Markets," Boeing history website.
  3. ^"Raytheon Tomahawk Cruise Missile," Raytheon Tomahawk Evolution Handout.
  4. ^The US Navy - Fact File
  5. ^"US Navy Instruction Confirms Retirement of Nuclear Tomahawk Cruise Missile."
  6. ^"Viability Study associated with Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile."
  7. ^ abNavy Wants Its Tomahawks to Bust More Bunkers -, 14 February 2014
  8. ^"Swim, Rocket, Fly and Hunt: Navy’s Morphing Missile Gets New Abilities."
  9. ^ abFacing End of Tomahawk Production, Raytheon Plays Industrial Base Card -, 2 April 2014
  10. ^Tactical Tomahawk Cruise Missile Tested with New Guidance System -, 28 April 2014
  11. ^MEHTA, AARON (16 July 2014). "Raytheon Targeting Tomahawk of the Future". (Gannett Government Media). Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  12. ^GAO (October 1997). Test and evaluation impact of DOD. DIANE Publishing. ISBN 978-1428979291. Retrieved 2013-08-30. 
  13. ^"SLAM Supersonic Low-Altitude Missile". Retrieved January 25, 2014. 
  14. ^
  15. ^FAS - BGM-109 Tomahawk
  16. ^BGM-109 Tomahawk - Smart Weapons
  17. ^Cruise Missiles Strike Yemen - ABC News. (2009-12-18). Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  18. ^"Landmine monitor, US 2011 report"
  19. ^"Live blog: allied airstrikes continue against Gadhafi forces". CNN. 2011-03-20. 
  20. ^
  21. ^"U.S. launches first missiles against Gadhafi forces". CNN. 2011-03-19. 
  22. ^"U.S. aviators rescued; Gadhafi remains defiant". CNN. 11 May 2011. 
  23. ^"Sept. 23: U.S. Military, Partner Nations Conduct Airstrikes Against ISIL in Syria". 23 Sept 2014. Retrieved 23 Sept 2014. 
  24. ^"Al-Qaeda Khorasan cell in Syria attack 'was imminent'". 23 Sept 2014. Retrieved 23 Sept 2014. 
  25. ^"Obama to kill Navy’s Tomahawk, Hellfire missile programs in budget decimation newsurl=". 
  26. ^McGrath, Bryan (March 25, 2014). "This is What Assumption of Additional Risk Looks Like". Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  27. ^"Astute Class Submarines". BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines. BAE Systems. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  28. ^"New Royal Navy Submarine Fires First Tomahawk Missiles Across North American Skies". Royal Navy/MOD. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  29. ^"Awesome Astute "surpassed every expectation" on her toughest test yet". Royal Navy/MOD. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  30. ^"Astute on show in the world’s biggest naval base". Royal Navy/MOD. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^Royal Navy - World-Class Missile Achieves In-Service Date
  34. ^"United Kingdom - Tomahawk Block IV Torpedo Launched Land-Attack Missiles". Defense Security Cooperation Agency. 1 July 2014. 
  35. ^"Daily Hansard - Written Answers to Questions". UK Parliament. 17 May 2011. 
  36. ^No Tomahawks for defence, jets up for sale - New Europe
  37. ^[1][dead link]
  38. ^Japanese Government Rejects TLAM/N Claim
  39. ^[2][dead link]
  40. ^Navy Seeks Next Generation Tomahawk -, 27 March 2014
  41. ^Proposed halt of Tomahawk missile buys raises concerns at Raytheon -, 13 April 2014

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