Entire Navy Tomahawk Missile Arsenal Will Upgrade To Block V

January 22, 2020 3:46 PM
USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile April 7, 2017. US Navy Photo

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy’s arsenal of Tomahawk cruise missiles will all become a Block V configuration, with older models to be retired and demilitarized, according to the program manager.

“All Block IVs will be converted” and become Block V Tomahawks, said Capt. John Red, speaking to reporters during the 2020 Surface Navy Association Symposium last week.

The upgraded Tomahawks will have a more extended range and modernized data-link radio and navigation systems. The upgrades are being done at Raytheon’s Tucson, Ariz., facility.

The existing Tomahawk Block III missiles will be retired and demilitarized.

The first five Tomahawk Block IVs being modernized will come out as test missiles with four heading back to the fleet “to demonstrate their capabilities” when used in an expected contested environment in the future, Red said.

When the Block IV cruise missiles were first manufactured, the expectation was they would have a 30-year life. Red added, “they were designed in 1999, the late 90s with early 2000s technology. That meant “the future is now” for their modernization.

“We’re still producing Block IVs,” which reached initial operating capability in 2004, said Chris Daly, director of program management at Raytheon.

Red said 90 missiles will go through the recertification process per cycle. There will be three variants in Block V, but “the determination of the split” between the versions has yet to be determined, Red said.

“The Block Va variants will be called Maritime Strike” with a new seeker capable of hitting a moving target. Red would not detail the seeker’s capability beyond saying it operated in various modes and has “the ability to discriminate targets” and can be updated in flight.

Block Vb will feature the Joint Multi-Effects Warhead System. The new warhead was first announced in 2010 and tested in 2014.

The administration requested $320 million for research and development in the Fiscal Year 2020 year budget to move ahead on these upgrades to Tomahawk. The Tomahawk Va and Vb variants were highlighted in the administration’s new Offensive Missile Strategy.

After the Tomahawks used by the U.S. military are upgraded, it is possible the United Kingdom, the only other nation with Tomahawk cruise missiles would begin modernizing its arsenals, Red said. U.S. law covering foreign military sales says systems and weapons must be fielded first in the United States.

“We’re still working through that” in Washington and London, Red said.

John Grady

John Grady

John Grady, a former managing editor of Navy Times, retired as director of communications for the Association of the United States Army. His reporting on national defense and national security has appeared on Breaking Defense, GovExec.com, NextGov.com, DefenseOne.com, Government Executive and USNI News.

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