A BGM-109 Tomahawk flying in November 2002
||Long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile
|Place of origin
||United States Navy
||General Dynamics (initially)
||$250,000(FY2014) (Block IV)
||2,900 lb (1,300 kg), 3,500 lb (1,600 kg) with booster
||Without booster: 18 ft 3 in (5.56 m)
With booster: 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m)
||20.4 in (0.52 m)
||Nuclear: W80 warhead (retired)
Conventional: 1,000 pounds (450 kg) High explosive or Submunitions dispenser with BLU-97/B Combined Effects Bomb or PBXN
|FMU-148 since TLAM Block III, others for special applications
||Williams International F107-WR-402turbofan
using TH-dimer fuel
and a solid-fuel rocket booster
||8 ft 9 in (2.67 m)
|Block II TLAM-A – 1,350 nmi (1,550 mi; 2,500 km) Block III TLAM-C, Block IV TLAM-E – 900 nmi (1,000 mi; 1,700 km)
Block III TLAM-D – 700 nmi (810 mi; 1,300 km)
||Subsonic; about 550 mph (890 km/h)
|GPS, INS, TERCOM, DSMAC, active radar homing (RGM/UGM-109B)
|Vertical Launch System (VLS) and horizontal submarine torpedo tubes (known as TTL (torpedo tube launch))
The Tomahawk (US or UK ) is a long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile. Introduced by General Dynamics (now Boeing Defense, Space & Security) in the 1970s, it was initially designed as a medium to long-range, low-altitude missile that could be launched from a surface platform. It has been improved several times, and after corporate divestitures and acquisitions, is now made by Raytheon. Some Tomahawks were also manufactured by McDonnell Douglas.
The Tomahawk missile family consists of a number of subsonic, jet engine-powered missiles designed to attack a variety of surface targets. Although a number of launch platforms have been deployed or envisaged, only sea (both surface ship and submarine) launched variants are currently in service. Tomahawk has a modular design, allowing a wide variety of warhead, guidance, and range capabilities. The Tomahawk project was originally awarded to Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland by the US Navy. James H. Walker led a team of scientists to design and build this new long range missile. The original design, updated with advanced technology, is still used today.
The missile is named after the Tomahawk, a one-handed axe used as a tool and a weapon by pre-contact Native Americans in the United States.
||This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2017)
There have been several variants of the BGM-109 Tomahawk employing various types of warheads.
- BGM-109A Tomahawk Land Attack Nuclear (TLAM-N) – Not deployed.
- BGM-109A Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Nuclear (TLAM-A) with a W80 thermonuclear weapon. Retired from service sometime between 2010 and 2013.
- RGM/UGM-109B Tomahawk Anti Ship Missile (TAS-M) – active radar homing anti-ship missile variant; withdrawn from service in the 1990s.
- BGM-109C Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Conventional (TLAM-C) with a unitary warhead. This was initially a modified Bullpup warhead.
- BGM-109D Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Dispenser (TLAM-D) with cluster munitions.
- RGM/UGM-109E Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM Block IV) – improved version of the TLAM-C.
- BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) – with a W84 nuclear warhead; withdrawn from service in 1991.
- AGM-109H/L Medium Range Air to Surface Missile (MRASM) – a shorter range, turbojet powered ASM with cluster munitions ; never entered service, cost US$569,000 (1999).
Ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCM) and their truck-like launch vehicles were employed at bases in Europe; they were withdrawn from service to comply with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Many of the anti-ship versions were converted into TLAMs at the end of the Cold War. The Block III TLAMs that entered service in 1993 can fly farther and use Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers to strike more precisely. Block III TLAM-Cs retain the DSMAC II navigation system, allowing GPS only missions, which allow for rapid mission planning, with some reduced accuracy, DSMAC only missions, which take longer to plan but terminal accuracy is somewhat better, and GPS aided missions which combine both DSMAC II and GPS navigation which provides the greatest accuracy. Block IV TLAMs are completely redesigned with an improved turbofan engine. The F107-402 engine provided the new BLK III with a throttle control, allowing in-flight speed changes. This engine also provided better fuel economy. The Block IV TLAMs have enhanced deep-strike capabilities and are equipped with a real-time targeting system for striking fleeing targets. Additionally, the BLOCK IV missiles have the capabilities to be re-targeted inflight, and the ability to transmit, via satcom, an image immediately prior to impact to assist in determining if the missile was attacking the target and the likely damage from the attack.
UGM-109 Tomahawk missile detonates above a test target, 1986
A major improvement to the Tomahawk is network-centric warfare-capabilities, using data from multiple sensors (aircraft, UAVs, satellites, foot soldiers, tanks, ships) to find its target. It will also be able to send data from its sensors to these platforms. It will be a part of the networked force being implemented by the Pentagon.
Tomahawk Block III introduced in 1993 added time-of-arrival control and navigation through Digital Scene Matching Area Correlator (DSMAC) and jam-resistant GPS, smaller, lighter WDU-36 warhead, engine improvements and extended missile’s range.
Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS) takes advantage of a loitering feature in the missile’s flight path and allows commanders to redirect the missile to an alternative target, if required. It can be reprogrammed in-flight to attack predesignated targets with GPS coordinates stored in its memory or to any other GPS coordinates. Also, the missile can send data about its status back to the commander. It entered service with the US Navy in late 2004. The Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS) added the capability for limited mission planning on board the firing unit (FRU).
Tomahawk Block IV introduced in 2006 adds the strike controller which can change the missile in flight to one of 15 preprogrammed alternate targets or redirect it to a new target. This targeting flexibility includes the capability to loiter over the battlefield awaiting a more critical target. The missile can also transmit battle damage indication imagery and missile health and status messages via the two-way satellite data link. Firing platforms now have the capability to plan and execute GPS-only missions. Block IV also has an improved anti-jam GPS receiver for enhanced mission performance. Block IV includes Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS), and Tomahawk Command and Control System (TC2S).
On 16 August 2010, the Navy completed the first live test of the Joint Multi-Effects Warhead System (JMEWS), a new warhead designed to give the Tomahawk the same blast-fragmentation capabilities while introducing enhanced penetration capabilities in a single warhead. In the static test, the warhead detonated and created a hole large enough for the follow-through element to completely penetrate the concrete target. In February 2014, U.S. Central Command sponsored development and testing of the JMEWS, analyzing the ability of the programmable warhead to integrate onto the Block IV Tomahawk, giving the missile bunker buster effects to better penetrate hardened structures.
In 2012, the USN studied applying Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) technology into the Tactical Tomahawk.
In 2014, Raytheon began testing Block IV improvements to attack sea and moving land targets. The new passive radar seeker will pick up the electromagnetic radar signature of a target and follow it, and actively send out a signal to bounce off potential targets before impact to discriminate its legitimacy before impact. Mounting the multi-mode sensor on the missile’s nose would remove fuel space, but company officials believe the Navy would be willing to give up space for the sensor’s new technologies. The previous Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile, retired over a decade earlier, was equipped with inertial guidance and the seeker of the Harpoon missile and there was concern with its ability to clearly discriminate between targets from a long distance, since at the time Navy sensors did not have as much range as the missile itself, which would be more reliable with the new seeker’s passive detection and active millimeter-wave radar. Raytheon estimates adding the new seeker would cost $250,000 per missile. Other upgrades include sea-skim mode – low-altitude flight over water at high subsonic speeds. The first Block IV TLAMs modified with a maritime attack capability will enter service in 2018-2019.
A supersonic version of the Tomahawk is under consideration for development with a ramjet to increase its speed to Mach 3. A limiting factor to this is the dimensions of shipboard launch tubes. Instead of modifying every ship able to carry cruise missiles, the ramjet-powered Tomahawk would still have to fit within a 21-inch diameter and 20-foot long tube.
In October 2015, Raytheon announced the Tomahawk had demonstrated new capabilities in a test launch, using its onboard camera to take a reconnaissance photo and transmit it to fleet headquarters. It then entered a loitering pattern until given new targeting coordinates to strike.
By January 2016, Los Alamos National Laboratory was working on a project to turn unburned fuel left over when a Tomahawk reaches its target into an additional explosive force. To do this, the missile’s JP-10 fuel is turned into a fuel air explosive to combine with oxygen in the air and burn rapidly. The thermobaric explosion of the burning fuel acts, in effect, as an additional warhead and can even be more powerful than the main warhead itself when there is sufficient fuel left in the case of a short range target.
TACTOM(Tactical Tomahawk) is Tomahawk’s modernization program that will incorporate an all-weather-seeker that will complement 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.
||This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2015)
Each missile is stored and launched from a pressurized canister that protects it during transportation and storage, and also serves as a launch tube. These canisters were racked in armored box launchers (ABL), which were installed on the re-activated Iowa-class battleships USS Iowa, USS New Jersey, USS Missouri, and USS Wisconsin. The ABLs were also installed on eight Spruance-class destroyers, the four Virginia-class cruisers, and the USS Long Beach. These canisters are also in vertical launching systems (VLS) in other surface ships, capsule launch systems (CLS) in the later Los Angeles-class submarines, and in submarines’ torpedo tubes. All ABL equipped ships have been decommissioned.
For submarine-launched missiles (called UGM-109s), after being ejected by gas pressure (vertically via the VLS) or by water impulse (horizontally via the torpedo tube), the missile exits the water and a solid-fuel booster is ignited for the first few seconds of airborne flight until transition to cruise.
After achieving flight, the missile’s wings are unfolded for lift, the airscoop is exposed and the turbofan engine is employed for cruise flight. Over water, the Tomahawk uses inertial guidance or GPS to follow a preset course; once over land, the missile’s guidance system is aided by terrain contour matching (TERCOM). Terminal guidance is provided by the Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC) system or GPS, producing a claimed circular error probable of about 10 meters.
The Tomahawk Weapon System consists of the missile, Theater Mission Planning Center (TMPC)/Afloat Planning System, and either the Tomahawk Weapon Control System (on surface ships) or Combat Control System (for submarines).
Several versions of control systems have been used, including:
- v2 TWCS – Tomahawk Weapon Control System (1983), also known as “green screens,” was based on an old tank computing system.
- v3 ATWCS – Advanced Tomahawk Weapon Control System (1994), first Commercial Off the Shelf, uses HP-UX.
- v4 TTWCS – Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System, (2003).
- v5 TTWCS – Next Generation Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System. (2006)
The TLAM-D contains 166 sub-munitions in 24 canisters: 22 canisters of seven each, and two canisters of six each to conform to the dimensions of the airframe. The sub-munitions are the same type of Combined Effects Munition bomblet used in large quantities by the U.S. Air Force with the CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition. The sub-munitions canisters are dispensed two at a time, one per side. The missile can perform up to five separate target segments which enables it to attack multiple targets. However, in order to achieve a sufficient density of coverage typically all 24 canisters are dispensed sequentially from back to front.
TERCOM – Terrain Contour Matching. A digital representation of an area of terrain is mapped based on digital terrain elevation data or stereo imagery. This map is then inserted into a TLAM mission which is then loaded onto the missile. When the missile is in flight it compares the stored map data with radar altimeter data collected as the missile overflies the map. Based on comparison results the missile’s inertial navigation system is updated and the missile corrects its course. TERCOM was based on, and was a significant improvement on, “Fingerprint,” a technology developed in 1964 for the SLAM.
On July 26, 2014 it was announced that 196 additional Block IV missiles had been purchased.
DSMAC – Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation. A digitized image of an area is mapped and then inserted into a TLAM mission. During the flight the missile will verify that the images that it has stored correlates with the image it sees below itself. Based on comparison results the missile’s inertial navigation system is updated and the missile corrects its course.
- Total program cost: $US 11,210,000,000
Remnants of a shot down Tomahawk from Operation Allied Force, showing the turbofan engine at the Museum of Aviation in Belgrade, Serbia
In the 1991 Gulf War, 288 Tomahawks were launched, 12 from submarines and 276 from surface ships. The first salvo was fired by the Destroyer USS Paul F. Foster on January 17, 1991. The attack submarines USS Pittsburgh and USS Louisville followed.
On 17 January 1993, 46 Tomahawks were fired at the Zafraniyah Nuclear Fabrication Facility outside Baghdad, in response to Iraq’s refusal to cooperate with UN disarmament inspectors. One missile crashed into the side of the Al Rasheed Hotel, killing two civilians.
On 26 June 1993, 23 Tomahawks were fired at the Iraqi Intelligence Service’s command and control center.
On 10 September 1995, the USS Normandy launched 13 Tomahawk missiles from the central Adriatic Sea against a key air defense radio relay tower in Bosnian Serb territory during Operation Deliberate Force.
On 3 September 1996, 44 cruise missiles between UGM-109 and B-52 launched AGM-86s, were fired at air defence targets in Southern Iraq.
On 20 August 1998, 79 Tomahawk missiles were fired simultaneously at two separate targets in Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation for the bombings of American embassies by Al-Qaeda.
On 16 December 1998, 415 Tomahawk missiles were fired at key Iraqi targets during Operation Desert Fox.
In early 1999, 218 Tomahawk missiles were fired by US ships and a British submarine during Operation Allied Force against key targets in Serbia and Montenegro.
In October 2001, approximately 50 Tomahawk missiles struck targets in Afghanistan in the opening hours of Operation Enduring Freedom.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, more than 802 Tomahawk missiles were fired at key Iraqi targets.
On 3 March 2008, two Tomahawk missiles were fired at a target in Somalia by a US vessel during the Dobley airstrike, reportedly in an attempt to kill Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, an al Qaeda militant.
On 17 December 2009, two Tomahawk missiles were fired at targets in Yemen. One of the targets was hit by a TLAM-D missile. The target was described as an ‘alleged Al-Qaeda training camp’ in al-Ma’jalah in al-Mahfad a region of the Abyan governorate of Yemen. Amnesty International reported that 55 people were killed in the attack, including 41 civilians (21 children, 14 women, and six men). The US and Yemen governments refused to confirm or deny involvement, but diplomatic cables released as part of United States diplomatic cables leak later confirmed the missile was fired by a US Navy ship.
On 19 March 2011, 124 Tomahawk missiles were fired by U.S. and British forces (112 US, 12 British) against at least 20 Libyan targets around Tripoli and Misrata. As of 22 March 2011, 159 UGM-109 were fired by US and UK ships against Libyan targets.
On 23 September 2014, 47 Tomahawk missiles were fired by the United States from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea, which were operating from international waters in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, against ISIL targets in Syria in the vicinity of Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, Al-Hasakah and Abu Kamal, and against Khorasan group targets in Syria west of Aleppo.
On 13 October 2016 five Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched by USS Nitze at three radar sites in Yemen held by Houthi rebels in response to anti-ship missiles fired at US Navy ships the day before.
On 6 April 2017, 59 Tomahawk missiles were launched from the USS Ross (DDG-71) and USS Porter (DDG-78), targeting Shayrat, a military airfield near Homs, in Syria. The strike was in retaliation for the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad. Initial reports indicate that the Syrian airbase was ‘almost completely destroyed’ after the US strike.
As of 2015, the United States Navy has a stockpile of around 3,500 Tomahawk cruise missiles of all variants, with a combined worth of approximately US $2.6 billion.
In 1995 the US agreed to sell 65 Tomahawks to the UK for torpedo-launch from her nuclear attack submarines. The first missiles were acquired and test-fired in November 1998; all Royal Navy fleet submarines are now Tomahawk capable, including the new Astute-class. The Kosovo War in 1999 saw the Swiftsure-class HMS Splendid become the first British submarine to fire the Tomahawk in combat. It has been reported that seventeen of the twenty Tomahawks fired by the British during that conflict hit their targets accurately; the UK subsequently bought 20 more Block III to replenish stocks. The Royal Navy has since fired Tomahawks during the 2000s Afghanistan War, in Operation Telic as the British contribution to the 2003 Iraq War, and during Operation Ellamy in Libya in 2011.
In April 2004, the UK and US governments reached an agreement for the British to buy 64 of the new generation of Tomahawk missile—the Block IV or TacTom missile. It entered service with the Royal Navy on 27 March 2008, three months ahead of schedule. In July 2014 the US approved the sale to the UK of a further 65 submarine-launched Block IV’s at a cost of US$140m including spares and support; as of 2011 the Block III missiles were on Britain’s books at £1.1m and the Block IV at £0.87m including VAT.
The Sylver Vertical Launching System on the new Type 45 destroyer is claimed by its manufacturers to have the capability to fire the Tomahawk, although the A50 launcher carried by the Type 45 is too short for the weapon (the longer A70 silo would be required). Nevertheless, the Type 45 has been designed with weight and space margin for a strike-length Mk41 or Sylver A70 silo to be retrofitted, allowing Type 45 to use the TLAM Block IV if required. The new Type 26 frigates will have strike-length VLS tubes. SYLVER user France is developing MdCN, a version of the Storm Shadow/Scalp cruise missile that has a shorter range but a higher speed than Tomahawk and can be launched from the SYLVER system.
United States Air Force
The Air Force is a former operator of the nuclear-armed version of the Tomahawk, the BGM-109G Gryphon.
The Netherlands (2005) and Spain (2002 and 2005) were interested in acquiring the Tomahawk system, but the orders were later cancelled in 2007 and 2009 respectively.
In 2009 the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States stated that Japan would be concerned if the TLAM-N were retired, but the government of Japan has denied that it had expressed any such view.
It is believed that the SLCM version of the Popeye was developed by Israel after the US Clinton administration refused an Israeli request in 2000 to purchase Tomahawk SLCM’s because of international Missile Technology Control Regime proliferation rules.
As of March 12, 2015 Poland has expressed interest in purchasing long-range Tomahawk missiles for its future submarines.
Map with Tomahawk operators in blue