Surface Forces: March 31, 2004


For the last three years, the U.S. Navy has been building and testing a low cost ($45,000 each) cruise missile called "The Affordable Weapon." But now the navy wants to make a few improvements that would increase the cost to $225,000 per missile. This has raised some hackles in the navy and in Congress. The Affordable Weapon, as it currently stands, has a range of 1,100 kilometers and carries a 200 pound warhead. The missile is transported in a sealed container, from which it is launched via a small rocket motor. After that, a small jet engine propels it. Using off-the-shelf components, the missile is seen as a cheaper alternative for missions that do not require the much more expensive ($1.4 million each) Tomahawk cruise missile. In fact, The Affordable Weapon is about the same size as the Tomahawk, with a shorter range and smaller warhead. 

The missile can circle around an area for up to four hours, until a GPS target location is transmitted to it. The missile uses GPS for navigation and finding its target. But now the navy wants to add a $150,000 guidance system, that will provide pinpoint accuracy, and a $30,000 anti-corrosion treatment to the missile to make it more resistant to salt water corrosion. While the idea of installing a guidance system that costs more than the missile seems outrageous, it is not unusual. In many missiles, the most expensive element is the electronics. JDAM, the GPS guided "smart bombs", get that way by adding a guidance kit to an ordinary "dumb bomb." The guidance kit costs over $15,000, more than ten times the cost of the dumb bomb (a metal container filled with explosives, identical to the ones used during World War II) itself. Most of the cost of the guidance kit is in the electronics. Moreover, The Affordable Weapon can be used with a variety of warheads; either the current low cost one, or the high priced one if a pinpoint target has to be taken out.


Article Archive

Surface Forces : Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close