Raytheon plans to deliver next week the first of the U.S. Navy’s new Block V Tomahawk, an upgraded version of the service’s venerable land-attack missile that will ultimately include the ability to target ships at sea at extended ranges.
The new Block V, when fully realized in its Block Va and Block Vb varieties, will be expected to hit surface ships at Tomahawk ranges — in excess of 1,000 miles — with the integration of a new seeker. It also will integrate a new warhead with a broader range of capabilities, including greater penetrating power.
Tomahawk’s range is especially important in the Asia-Pacific region, where China’s rocket force has extraordinary reach with its DF-26 and DF-21 missiles, with ranges of 2,490 and 1,335 miles respectively, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The U.S. Navy’s news missiles are destined not just for the vertical launching systems on surface ships but also on attack submarines that can more easily operate inside the range of China’s rocket force.
The Navy is expected to make a decision on the future of the Tomahawk weapon in 2021, but the signs seem to point to its continuation. The service has had a long-running search for a next-generation land-attack missile, but a recent analysis of alternatives led to the Navy restarting the Tomahawk line and upgrading its current inventory.