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Navy Wants Its Tomahawks to Bust More Bunkers

by Kris Osborn on February 14, 2014

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.

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