Submarines: June 18, 2001


The British Royal Navy is looking for a way to launch the new Tactical Tomahawk missile from the torpedo tubes of its submarines. British and American submarines currently carry the Block-IIIC Tomahawk Land Attack Missile. Most US subs have 12 of these in vertical-launch silos. The British have fitted this weapon to two subs, Splendid and Triumph, and will fit it to Trafalgar, Spartan, Tireless, and Turbulent in that order. All British subs fire Tomahawk through their torpedo tubes as they do not have vertical silos. The problem is that the US is shifting to the cheaper Tactical Tomahawk, which is designed for use from the vertical silos only. (Tactical Tomahawk will cost $600,000, compared to $1.4 million for earlier versions.) The British want to develop a new capsule that can fire Tactical Tomahawk from torpedo tubes because once their stock of Tomahawk-IIICs is expended they will be out of the Tomahawk business. The US Navy has some interest in the system as it would allow them to carry more than 12 Tomahawks on each submarine. The British plan is to produce a launch capsule that fits in a torpedo tube and remains with the submarine after firing. The system ports the water that ejects the missile farther to the rear than in a normal torpedo launch because the lighter missile body of the Tactical Tomahawk cannot stand the shock of a launch impulse.--Stephen V Cole


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