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Navy Weighs Speeding up Tomahawk Modernization


The Navy and Raytheon are looking at starting planned Tomahawk missile re-certification and modernization efforts at least one year ahead of the 2019 planned time frame in order to improve missile modernization and mitigate industrial base impacts from a production pause.

“The program is evaluating opportunities and risks to re-certifications beginning in FY18 (fiscal year),” Capt. Joe Mauser, Tomahawk program manager, told in a written statement.

At the same time, a powerful Congressional subcommittee, the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, is proposing legislation to plus up the Tomahawk inventory by 96 missiles, citing that the Navy is below their inventory requirements.

The Navy’s current inventory of approximately 3,000 Block IV Tomahawk missiles first emerged in 2004; they have a 30-year expected lifespan and are slated for mid-life recertification in 2019, so the Navy and Raytheon are working vigorously on a series of technological upgrades to the missile in order to make it more effective and lethal against future threats. Improvements to the missile include a new radio, sensor, warhead and seeker, Navy and Raytheon officials explained.

The fiscal year 2015 budget calls for 100 Tomahawk missiles to be produced in 2015 before stopping production in 2016 until re-certification in 2019.

“The program is working with our industry partners to examine strategies to mitigate industrial base impacts between our production and depot phase to enable successful recertification start-up in FY19,” said Mauser.

Raytheon Tomahawk program director Roy Donelson called plans to stop Tomahawk production high risk, adding that Raytheon was in discussions with the Navy about ways to lower the risk.

“An OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) industrial capabilities report that came out in October of 2013, six or seven months ago, said reduced quantities of Tomahawk actually endangers our cruise missile industrial base,” Donelson told in an interview.

Donelson added that the Tomahawk production enterprise spans across 29-states and more than 100 suppliers.

“I’m worried about the sub-tier suppliers and specific technologies like propulsion technologies,” he said. “You take out a major program like Tomahawk and there are second and third order effects to the supply base that OSD has already been recognizing for many years.”

The shutdown costs of stopping production in 2016 would be about $96 million, Donelson said.

Tomahawks cost $569,000 in 1999 year dollars, according to Navy figures; the Navy purchased $338 million worth of Tomahawks in 2012 and $250 million worth in 2013, Raytheon officials said.

Tomahawk missiles weigh 3,500 pounds with a booster and can travel at subsonic speeds up to 550 miles per hour at ranges greater than 900 nautical miles. They are just over 18-feet long and have an 8-foot, 9-inch wingspan.

The re-certification process for Block IV Tomahawks will provide occasion to implement a series of high-tech upgrades to the missile platform which improve the weapon’s lethality, guidance and ability to find and destroy moving targets, Navy and Raytheon officials explained.

“Re-certification provides a valuable opportunity to introduce capability upgrades to support our current operational requirements for target sets and A2AD (anti-access/area denial) communications and navigation,” Mauser said.

In fact, the fiscal year 2015 budget proposal includes $147 million for communications and navigation modernization for the Tomahawk.

“Tomahawks will be there in the 2040s. How do we make those relevant to 2040?” Donelson said.

One possibility in the development of a new, more-penetrating warhead called the Joint Multiple Effects Warhead System, or JMEWS, recently sponsored by U.S. Central Command.

The JMEWS would give the Tomahawk better bunker buster type effects — meaning it could enable the weapon to better penetrate hardened structures like concrete.

Testing analyzed the ability of the programmable warhead to integrate onto the most advanced Block IV Tomahawk missile, a weapon which can loiter over targets, send back single frame images and change course in flight via a GPS guidance system.

Mauser indicated that JMEWS, which is currently poised to enter an Engineering and Manufacturing Developmen phase, could be integrated onto the Tomahawk during re-certification.

Donelson explained that Raytheon is working on new passive and active seeker technology for the Tomahawk which would even better enable the weapon to discriminate between targets and destroy moving targets.

A passive seeker would receive an electromagnetic signal and follow it, whereas an active seeker would also have the ability to send out or ping an electronic signal and bounce it off potential targets.

Raytheon is planning additional testing for its new seeker system on the weapon, which would allow it to separate legitimate from false targets while on-the-move.

In fact, Raytheon recently completed a captive carry flight test of its seeker mounted on the front of a T-39 aircraft off the coast of California, Donelson explained.

“We put a new passive array inside a Tomahawk and it flew how a Tomahawk would fly through a simulated battle space,” he said.  The idea of the test was to assess the ability of the seeker to identify land-based emitters and track RF targets, Donelson added.

Raytheon funded the flight test and the Navy provided the emitters and targets. Flight tests with an active seeker are planned for the future.

“The passive seeker is very long range and then the active in the end game would do the final determination. They will work together,” he said.

After additional lab testing, ground testing and flight testing, an integrate suite consisting of an active seeker, passive seeker and high-speed processor is slated to be ready by 2015, Donelson said.

While there is no formal Navy requirement for a new seeker at the moment, the Navy is closely following Raytheon’s work in this area, Mauser said.

“Continued development of seeker technology could support future requirements for Tomahawk and certainly reduce the risk for potential future new generation weapons,” he said.

Raytheon developers are also working on a method of improving communication links involving improved radio throughput for the missile. While the Block IV Tomahawk already has the ability to change course in flight, this technology would increase the speed of communications and improve the ability to both re-route and also hit moving targets, Raytheon officials said.

This increased throughput comes to fruition through the use of a UHF satellite data link.

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