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Navy Partnering Tomahawks and Small Drones as Hunter-Killers

by John Reed on April 20, 2012

We’ve known for a while that the newest versions of the Navy’s Tomahawk cruise missile can be rediriected in flight to hit moving targets but now the sea service is working to joining Tomahawks and small UAVs operated by special operations teams in a sort of hunter-killer combo. Basically, the SOF teams will use their small UAVs to spot and track enemies and send the targeting data from the UAV to a control center that can redirect the missiles whenever the target moves.

We have been doing a lot of work with Tomahawk and small [unmanned aerial systems], so we’ve been using small UASs” to target for the missiles, said Rear Adm. William Shannon III, program executive oficer for the Navy’s unmanned aircraft and strike weapons during the Navy League’s annual Sea, Air, Space conference in National Harbor, Md., this week. “We do about 10 to 15 test flight a year just to ensure the software upgrades are doing well and we also test [concepts of operations] with it. We’ve been doing work with  special forces, with Marine, with Navy, with Army and with British special forces. We’ve been using the small UASs to do targeting, we’ve shortened the time of flight with Tomahawk to make it more tactically relevant and it’s a networked weapon so we’re able to control it in flight. Last Novemeber, the British with their Astute Class submarine, launched a Tomahawk on the west coast as part of training and directed it into the training range at China Lake and redirected it from their [special operations] control center in London” while it was in flight.

He went on to plug the missile, saying that the more than 230 Tomahawks launched against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces in Libya ensured the NATO air campaign there was a success “because Tomahawk was there first and took out most of the air defense systems and most of the aircraft that were sitting on the airfields.”

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