By Kris Osborn
Streamline weapons functions and integrate new, updated software able to increase cybersecurity through a simplified user interface, service officials said.
Multiple systems can now be accessed from a single workstation and other systems were condensed, freeing up space in control rooms, a Navy statement said.
In a Navy statement, Weapons Control System Co-lead Lt. Cmdr. Paul Rotsch explained that "updates to the interface were designed to streamline workflow and minimize potential for human error. The improved hardware and software, combined, increase the speed of engagement planning."
These upgrades are part of a broader Navy effort to accelerate Tomahawk modernization with new seeker technology so as to better enable the weapon to destroy moving targets at sea, service officials said.
“The seeker suite will enable the weapon to be able to engage moving targets in a heavily defended area,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior. “The Maritime Strike Tomahawk enables the surface fleet to seek out and destroy moving enemy platforms at sea or on land beyond their ability to strike us, while retaining the capability to conduct long range strikes.".
The Navy does appear to be moving forward with development of an active seeker for the Tomahawk, however service officials emphasize that the service has not yet formally decided what particular technology will go on the front end of the upgraded missile.
The active seeker technology is designed to complement the Tomahawk’s synthetic guidance mode, which uses a high-throughput radio signal to update the missile in flight, giving it new target information as a maritime or land target moves, Raytheon’s Tomahawk Program Manager Chris Sprinkle said in an interview with Scout Warrior last year.
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The idea is to engineer several modes wherein the Tomahawk can be retargeted in flight to destroy moving targets in the event of unforeseen contingencies. This might include a scenario where satellite signals or GPS technology is compromised by an enemy attack. In such a case, the missile will still need to have the targeting and navigational technology to reach a moving target, Sprinkle added.
An active seeker will function alongside existing Tomahawk targeting and navigation technologies such as infrared guidance, radio frequency targeting and GPS systems.
“There is tremendous value to operational commanders to add layered offensive capability to the surface force. Whether acting independently, as part of a surface action group, or integrated into a carrier strike group or expeditionary strike group, our surface combatants will markedly upgrade our Navy's offensive punching power,” said.a Navy official told Scout Warrior last year.
Rapid deployment of the maritime Tomahawk is part of an ongoing Navy initiative to increase capability and capacity in surface combatants by loading every vertical launch system cell with multimission-capable weapons, service developers said.
Tomahawks have been upgraded several times over their years of service. The Block IV Tomahawk, in service since 2004, includes a two-way data link for in-flight retargeting, terrain navigation, digital scene-matching cameras and a high-grade inertial navigation system, Raytheon officials said.
The current Tomahawk is built with a “loiter” ability allowing it to hover near a target until there is an optimal time to strike. As part of this technology, the missile uses a two-way data link and camera to send back images of a target to a command center before it strikes.
The weapon is also capable of performing battle damage assessment missions by relaying images through a data link as well, Raytheon said.
The Navy is currently wrapping up the procurement cycle for the Block IV Tactical Tomahawk missile. In 2019, the service will conduct a recertification and modernization program for the missiles reaching the end of their initial 15-year service period, which will upgrade or replace those internal components required to return them to the fleet for the second 15 years of their 30-year planned service life.
“Every time we go against anyone that has a significant threat, the first weapon is always Tomahawk,” Sprinkle said. “ It is designed specifically to beat modern and emerging integrated air defenses.”