Tomahawk Cruise Missiles to Become Dual-Mission

The Tomahawk cruise missile is a network-enabled weapon capable of in-flight retargeting and redirection. Photo: Raytheon

New capabilities introduced to the new batch of Block IV Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles (TLAM) are transforming the weapon of the 1980s into a smarter, more versatile 21st century weapon.

Recent updates now becoming standard in the system added network-enabled capabilities to the weapon, enabling in-flight retargeting capabilities. Impressed with the new capabilities the Navy is planning to deploy the retargetable, modernized land-attack Block IV weapon on board ships as a dual-mission ‘Maritime Strike Tomahawk’ (MST).

Fielding of MST is scheduled to begin this year (2017) as a quick reaction program, and include a production series of some 4,000 missiles. Tomahawk is used by U.S. and British forces to defeat integrated air defense systems and strike high-value, fixed and moving targets.

The new Block IV Tomahawk is the longest range weapon operated by the U.S. Navy from surface ships. The recent tests conducted by the U.S. Navy were part of the weapon’s evolution.

A synthetically guided Tomahawk cruise missile successfully hits a moving maritime target Jan. 27, 2016 after being launched from the USS Kidd (DDG-100) near San Nicolas Island in California. The missile altered its course toward the target after receiving position updates from surveillance aircraft. Photo: US Navy
Click chart to enlarge infographic

The new Block IV Tomahawk is the longest range weapon operated by the U.S. Navy from surface ships. The recent tests conducted by the U.S. Navy were part of the weapon’s evolution. From a weapon using GPS/INS – guidance to designed to hit targets beyond 1,000 miles with high precision, today’s Tomahawk can also receive course and target updates in flight, circle on command and even transmit photos of the target back to the command center, seconds before striking.

Optional new capabilities include the use passive RF seeker to track moving targets; enhanced lethality, employing the remaining fuel to create a thermobaric, fuel-air explosive effect is also planned.

Realizing the networked capability could also become a vulneraility, the shipboard, Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System (TTWCS) was exposed to cyber attacks to prove its imunity to such threats.

This ability to alter a Tomahawk missile’s mission in real-time is new, one of many enhancements Raytheon is building into this go-to weapon. “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,” said Dave Adams, Raytheon’s Tomahawk senior program director. “If you look at everywhere a ship or a sub can go with the range that we have, you literally can cover 90 percent of the world.”

Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile displayed at Raytheon’s exhibit at the Paris Air Show 2015. Photo: Tamir Eshel, Defense-Update



Type  BGM-109C  BGM-109D  Block III  AGM-109H*  AGM-109L* 

Launch Platform  sub/ship  sub/ship  sub/ship  B-52, F-16  A-6E 


Dimensions [ft] 
Span  8.58  8.58  8.58  8.58  8.58 
Length  20.5  20.5  20.5  19.5  16.5 
Diameter [in]  21.0  21.0  21.0  21.0  21.0 

Launch Weight [lb]  3,000  3,000  3,000  2,650   2,250 

Penetration 1,000 lb  Bullpup B  –  –  –  WDU-18/Condor
Penetration 700 lb  –  –  Custom  –  – 
Cluster Munition  –  166xBLU-97  –  –  – 
Anti Runway Munition  –  –  –  BLU-106  – 

Fuel Capacity [lb]  800  800  1026  450  450 

Manufacturer  WR  WR  WR  WR  WR 
Model  F107-WR100 F107-WR100 F107-WR100 F107-WR100 F107-WR100 
Thrust,Dry [lbf]  600  600  600  600  600 

Midcourse Guidance
Midcourse Inertial  P-1000  P-1000  RPU  RLG  RLG 
Midcourse TERCOM  DPW-23  DPW-23  RPU  DPW-23  DPW-23 
GPS Navigation  –  –  RPU  –  – 

Terminal Guidance 
EO Seeker  –  –  –  –  FLIR/IIR 
Datalink  –  –  –  –  Walleye 

Cruise Speed [Mach]  0.5-0.75  0.5-0.75  0.5-0.75  0.5-0.75  0.5-0.75 
Range [NM]  600  600  750   330   330 

 *AGM-109H/L were never operationally deployed
Table 1:  AGM/BGM-109 Variants

General Dynamics – Convair images

BGM/RGM-109A Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Nuclear (TLAM-N)

BGM/RGM-109B Tomahawk Anti Ship Missile (TASM)

With the collapse of the Soviet Voenno-Morskii Flot as a key global player after 1991, much of the TASM warstock was rebuilt into TLAM-Cs and used to bombard land targets instead.

BGM/RGM-109C Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Conventional (TLAM-C)

The TLAM-C was by far the most widely used of the early Tomahawk variants, and played a major role in the Desert Storm campaign of 1991.

BGM/RGM-109D Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Dispenser (TLAM-D)

The submunition dispensing TLAM-D was used in Desert Storm, and subsequently, for niche roles where the submunition payloads were more useful than the unitary warhead.

BGM/RGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Block III (TLAM-C)

The Block III TLAM-C was a major improvement over the baseline TLAM-C, incorporating GPS to provide additional inputs to the Kalman filter in the navigation system. This resolved issues arising from poor TERCOM fixes in flat or poorly featured terrain, characteristic of major Middle Eastern and littoral environments.

MDC images

Late Model Block III

Late Model Block III

US Navy Images

BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM)

The GLCM was without doubt the most strategically important of the early Tomahawk variants. Deployed in Europe to balance the Soviet SS-20 force, the GLCM drove the Soviets to the negotiating table. The GLCM stock was subsequently destroyed in compliance with the resulting treaty.

AGM-109H/L Medium Range Air to Surface Missile (MRASM)

The MRASMs were direct derivatives of the Tomahawk, designed to provide a tactical cruise missile for delivery by the US Air Force B-52G and F-16C, and the Navy A-6E Intruder. The MRASM used a turbojet reducing range and cost, but retained much of the core guidance system of the early TLAM-C/D, with additional enhancements. The MRASM was cancelled in favour of the AGM-137A TSSAM, which was also cancelled, in favour of the AGM-158 JASSM, now entering production. While the MRASM died quietly during the 1980s, its successors such as the SLAM-ER, TSSAM and JASSM all adopted the same model of combining cruise missile guidance, turbojet propulsion and terminal seekers.

Tomahawk Production

Hughes Aircraft Company images.

RGM/UGM-109E Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Block IV

Block IV - US Navy PMA 280


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