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Video Above: Army 2-Star Describes Range Doubling, Course Correcting Artillery

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

The Navy is buying 154 full rate production Block V Tactical Tomahawk cruise missiles to quickly integrate technological advances which enable the ability to track and destroy moving enemy ships while flying beneath the radar aperture of enemy missiles defense.

By traveling at lower altitudes parallel to the surface of the ocean, Tomahawk cruise missiles are engineered to elude enemy ship radar systems. The Block V Tactical Tomahawk is the most modern, cutting edge variant which introduces course correcting guidance technology enabling the weapon to adjust its trajectory quickly to strike moving targets.

The $200 million Navy deal with Raytheon allocates 70 missiles for the Navy, 54 for the Marine Corps and 30 for the Army.

Tactical Tomahawk Cruise Missile

The Tactical Tomahawk, as it is called, has been in development for many years as a key strategic Navy effort to expand the attack envelope for ship commanders. Block IV Tomahawks, which are now operational, have performed well in combat for many years. Block IVs can travel as far as 900 miles at speeds up to 500mph, using a loitering “targeting” ability and a two-day data link which enables an ISR-type capability. 

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A synthetically guided Tomahawk cruise missile successfully hits a moving maritime target in 2015

A synthetically guided Tomahawk cruise missile successfully hits a moving maritime target in 2015

Tomahawks have often been the first weapons to fire in a number of combat engagements given their precision, stand-off range and targeting technology. However, since their inception years ago, Tomahawks have only been capable of hitting fixed targets such as buildings, command and control centers or weapons depots. They were used extensively in Operation Iraqi Freedom as part of the “shock and awe” campaign to disable Iraq’s infrastructure prior to a ground invasion.

Therefore, a maneuvering Tomahawk weapon such as Block V could clearly be described as a massive breakthrough as it introduces new ways for the Navy to attack moving enemy ships at long-ranges with precision targeting. Certainly fighter jets, laser spotting, platforms capable of firing air-launched precision weapons such as air-to-surface missiles and emerging systems such as Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) introduce possibilities for ship commanders hoping to attack moving enemy targets at sea. 

Launch of a Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile from USS Stethem

Launch of a Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile from USS Stethem

A Tactical Tomahawk, however, brings several unprecedented advantages. As a weapon built to fly at lower altitudes parallel to the surface of the ocean or ground to elude Soviet air defenses, Tomahawks can at times be difficult to defend against. A ship-fired Tomahawk able to hit moving ships from the surface would of course eliminate the risks associated with attacking from the air as well as enable previously unprecedented stand-off ranges. 

Given these variables, it appears the Tactical Tomahawk aligns with the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) strategy as it enables networked, precision attacks from disaggregated formations less vulnerable to enemy fire. This is the concept of DMO, as the intent is to securely network ships, drones, aircraft and other platforms across great distances to increase an operational envelope, improve survivability by decreasing exposure to incoming fire and optimize technological advances afforded by new precision-guidance, manned-unmanned teaming and networking technologies. 

Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization