Navy Wants Its Tomahawks to Bust More Bunkers

Tomahawk 2The Navy is working to make the Tomahawk missile a better bunker buster and allow it to distinguish targets on the move better.

U.S. Central Command recently sponsored development and testing of a new, more penetrating Tomahawk warhead called the Joint Multiple Effects Warhead System, or JMEWS, according to Capt. Joe Mauser, Tomahawk program manager.

Testing analyzed the ability of the programmable warhead to integrate onto the most advanced Block IV Tomahawk missile, a weapon which can loiter over targets, send back single frame images and change course in flight via a GPS guidance system.

The JMEWS would give the Tomahawk better bunker buster type effects — meaning it could enable the weapon to better penetrate hardened structures like concrete. Tomahawk missiles, first used in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, can reach subsonic speeds greater than 550 miles per hour, Navy officials said.

The missiles are a high-speed, low-altitude weapon designed to evade enemy air defenses – in part by flying lower to the ground and using precision GPS navigation systems.

U.S. and British commanders fired 221 Tomahawk missiles in 2011 from warships at the outset of the attack on Libya and Moammar Gadhafi. The missiles struck about 20 sites and helped destroy Libya’s air defense system.

Each warhead weighs about 3,500-pounds, costs about $569,000 and is 18-feet long with an 8-foot wingspan. Existing Tomahawk warheads include a 1,000-pound unitary warhead and submunitions dispenser variant carries which releases 166 combined-effects smaller bomblets, service officials said.

Meanwhile, Tomahawk prime contractor Raytheon, is working on a new seeker for the nose of the weapon that will allow it to better destroy moving targets and more effectively discriminate targets, said Jeff Meyer, a Raytheon official.

The new seeker involves using both an active and passive seeker on the front of the missile, he said.

“A passive system picks up the radar signature of a target and goes after it. Active is something you would use in the end game that would do target discrimination and make sure you don’t hit the wrong target,” Meyer explained.

A passive seeker would receive an electromagnetic signal and follow it, whereas an active seeker would also have the ability to send out or ping an electronic signal and bounce it off potential targets. Raytheon is planning additional testing for its new seeker system on the weapon, which would allow it to separate legitimate from false targets while on-the-move.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior and a former associate editor at Military.com.

23 Comments on "Navy Wants Its Tomahawks to Bust More Bunkers"

  1. — “A passive system picks up the radar signature of a target and goes after it. Active is something you would use in the end game that would do target discrimination and make sure you don’t hit the wrong target,” Meyer explained. —

    What the heck? Is Meyer mistaken, or misquoted? The Tomahawk isn't an anti-radar (e.g. HARM) missile. The "passive" seeker must be based on detecting E-M radiation emitted from the target, in the infra-red spectrum. So, that would make it a passive IR seeker. How the heck would it "passively" locate a target via radar signature, if the target isn't emitting microwave radiation. Besides, a target's "radar signature" is only determined by ACTIVELY illuminating a target with radiation, and receiving and analyzing the reflected energy. This quote makes no sense.

  2. Well a welcomed upgrade seems the tomahawk gets a lot of press but only now gets a major upgrade. A good investment.

  3. "Each warhead weighs about 3,500-pounds, costs about $569,000 and is 18-feet long with an 8-foot wingspan. Existing Tomahawk warheads include a 1,000-pound unitary warhead and submunitions dispenser variant carries which releases 166 combined-effects smaller bomblets, service officials said."

    I think it's supposed to say each Tomahawk weighs about 3,500-pounds (with booster rocket , 2,900-pounds without booster) and either a 1,000 -pound unitary warhead or a submunitions dispenser variant which carries 166 combined-effects smaller bomblets. ( submunitions )

  4. Tomahawk? Seriously? Can we please refer to this thing as a Native American Flying Weapon System.

  5. "U.S. and British commanders fired 221 Tomahawk missiles in 2011 from warships at the outset of the attack on Libya and Moammar Gadhafi. The missiles struck about 20 sites and helped destroy Libya’s air defense system."

    ok, that's a little over 10 Tomahawks per "site"

    Now, there no way any of us could know what the total inventory might be, perhaps 2,000 or more block III versions. The key question I want to explore with you all is if it takes 200+ missiles to take out a 3rd world's country's air defense system, how many more would we need in case we ever get into it with China, who's air defense and C&C is probably 10 times larger than Libya's? I guessing that we would run out of inventory real quick., and secondly, we would not have enough 'in theater" or "forward deployed" (per CBG). What do you all think?

  6. The TLAM is one of the few Pentagon programs that has lived up to the expectations and continues to perform well. Congrats!

  7. The missile can't fly too high or it would be more vulnerable to air defenses. In absence of gravity they need to come up with a rocket boosted warhead. Of course, even with that there is only so much you can do when you have 1000 lbs worth for inertia to work with.

  8. Brian B. Mulholland | February 15, 2014 at 10:13 pm | Reply

    This is an older missile, it's hardly surprising that that different sensor and warhead packages are appearing to extend its' versatility. However, penetrating a bunker does imply a diving descent, as in the photo, and that descent requires it to pop up for some altitude. Tomahawk is not considered "stealthy" by current standards (else we'd not need JASSM at all). I infer that what's being developed is less for modern warships or even hardened targets with state-of-the-art defenses, but for third world fortifications and those run by non-state actors that lack good point defense.

  9. That's nice. Get it to cost the same as a JDAM, with at least .8-.9 the Pk of a JDAM and you'll have a game changer.

  10. Ok the tomahawk has been around for ages now. Is the u.s developing any new missiles.

  11. Brian B. Mulholland | February 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Reply

    Sure, like JASSM, but none of them will ever be as cheap as a half-mil Tomahawk. The R&D costs have been amortized over thousands of missiles.

  12. 'on the move' being the keywords……….
    Too bad when the 65 terrorists in Afgthanistan,
    who had been released by Karzai, left on that bus, that it was not hit 'on the move'

  13. 221 missiles hit ~20 targets? 10 missiles per target huh?

  14. The TLAM warhead is "1000 lb CLASS" and is really more like 700 lb

  15. Last time I checked Tomahawks cost $1,000,000 per and that was 20 yrs ago. Clinton fired off about 1,000 of them to try to send a Message to ben Laden.

  16. That is a lot of $$$ for a 1000 lb. warhead. A nice flight of aircraft can do the job for less money and cause more damage possibly without detection and possibly capable of deterring an attach on the aircraft. With all the money we spend on these and the vessel that launches them we can get into some serious $$$. Plus the aircraft can have a little more accuracy and ratio of hits per flight.

  17. I wonder if Israel will purchase JMEWS ;)

  18. I remain concerned there is too much reliance on GPS and Satellite guided ordinance and general navigation. If the big one really comes, we know what will go pretty much straight away

  19. I remind you that Raytheon makes the seeker for the AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile. It would be simple to put the HARM anti-radar seeker on the TLAM, it fits easily. Raytheon also makes the active radar seeker for the AMRAAM missile, it also fits. So, the ability to give the Tomahawk a passive/active RF seeker is there. Also, the $1M price tag was indeed 20 years ago before a winner-take all competition that reduced the TLAM price by about half.

  20. you know, it's more educational reading the comments, which seem to come from those who have qualifications (past and present) to properly evaluate the article and it's content. As an old subsailor, the Tomahawk strikes me as merely a smart-flying torpedo, which from the comments, might be close the end of its life-cycle, but still a very deadly "torpedo."

  21. The choice of the THAWK warhead was a budgetary decision based on a stockpiled surplus of Bullpup warheads. The small "punch" has been discussed since early development and I am somewhat surprised, no shocked a larger warhead has not been developed and fielded given the platform's age.

  22. Good thing Obama cancelled the program

  23. http://bit.ly/1oVLuEz here is the article

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