Surface Forces: Too Good To Replace


March 5, 2010: The U.S. Navy has now received 2000 of the new Tomahawk (BGM-109) Block 4 missiles, since production began five years ago. The Block 4s cost about $1.7 million each. The missile weighs 1.4 tons, has a range of 1,500 kilometers and carries a half ton warhead. It moves to its target at a speed of 880 kilometers an hour. The original Tomahawk was introduced 26 years ago, and nearly 7,000 have been manufactured. The U.S. Navy has fired nearly 2,000 in combat and training.

The Block 4s are also getting upgraded so that they can hit moving targets. This is mainly intended to turn the Tomahawk into an anti-ship missile, although it can also hit moving land targets. The Tomahawk has been a primary land attack weapon for surface ships and submarines since the 1990s. The Block 3 entered service in 1994, but the Block 4 was a big upgrade, adding GPS and the ability to go after a different target while the missile was in flight.

The United States is developing a successor to the Tomahawk cruise missile, that will be heavier (2.2 tons), have a longer range (2,000 kilometers) and with a larger (one ton) warhead. The new missile will be stealthier, and use a combination of guidance and targeting systems (to improve the chances of success). Price will probably be the key factor in whether this new missile ever enters service. The new Cruise Missile XR (for Extended Range) will probably cost at least twice as much as the current Tomahawk.

The cruise missile, when it showed up in the 1980s, was one of the first UAVs, it just wasn't reusable. But UAVs that carry bombs and missiles, and can be reused, are going to provide competition for a new, $3 million, Cruise Missile XR.



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