Home » Air » Navy Wants Its Tomahawks to Bust More Bunkers

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.

Share |

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Deuterium2H February 14, 2014 at 8:23 pm

– “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.


C-Low February 15, 2014 at 12:39 am

I would wager that is to make it able to hit naval targets read flash back to a modern antiship tomahawk.

Highly needed and if a pacom war came to be it would be deadly.


Charles James Haas February 15, 2014 at 10:37 am

POINT LOMA, Calif., Oct. 7, 2013 – Raytheon Company completed a successful field test of an advanced Electronic Support Measure (ESM) seeker installed in a Block IV Tomahawk missile as part of the company's new product improvement program.


Hunter76 February 15, 2014 at 10:53 am

I'm not sure your criticism is well founded. The Tomahawk previously was not an anti-radiation (ie, anti-radar) system, but the article mentions a new "seeker", so capabilities may be enhanced. The "in the infra-red…" is purely your invention, it's not in the article. Any radar system, inc the older Tomahawk, automatically carries passive detection hardware. Military targets often have active radar, meaning they emit microwave radiation. That radiation is part of the target's signature, and can be used by the weapon to find it. The quote is not nonsensical.

That said, Def Tech articles are often poorly written by hacks who don't understand their subject. Ribby's post below does point correctly to one of those faux pas.


Deuterium2H February 16, 2014 at 4:55 am

Hi Hunter. I appreciate the feedback. My confusion stemmed from focusing on the Tomahawk's "traditional" role as a precision strike weapon system for GROUND targets. I completely forgot about naval applications. In which case, I can definitely understand the application of an ESM seeker against surface vessels, which are actively emitting radar/microwave radiation.

However, I am still at a bit of a loss in coming up with a scenario in which this new, passive ESM seeker on a Tomahawk would used against moving GROUND targets, which is what Raytheon is stating. I can't imagine the USN using a Tomahawk to go after a single truck, or even a tank, for that matter (assuming it is emitting). It just seems like incredible overkill, and poor use of a very expensive weapon system.

Not to mention the size of the warhead. I realize that Tomahawks were used against high value, fixed ground targets in urban areas during the Iraq war as well as Libya. However, the potential for massive collateral damage, in going after a moving GROUND target (possibly in a densely populated urban environment), makes the stated purpose of this new seeker a bit "eyebrow-raising", IMHO. Again, what kind of moving ground target would be of such high value that it is worth engaging with a 1,000 lb warhead on a half million dollar missile? The only thing I can come up with, is a mobile ballistic missile launcher…in which case, yes, I can definitely see it's applicability.

However, It just seems, to me, that the real purpose behind this new passive ESM seeker, is for engaging naval surface targets (i.e. ships).


orly? February 16, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Possible mobile ground target:

Tunguska like variants


Brett February 18, 2014 at 11:19 pm

mobile missile systems like scuds could be a potential target. Why couldn't a target be illuminated with RF?


Deuterium2H February 19, 2014 at 1:52 am

Hi Brett. Yes, I agree. I mentioned a mobile ballistic missile system as being one possible target that would be of high enough value and importance to justify a Tomahawk. See the end of my previous reply post to Hunter. After more careful thought, I realize there are other important, mobile high value ground targets, such as mobile radar defense systems, SAMs, and other A2/AD systems.

As to your last question…of course a target can be illuminated with RF. It is called radar. :) I tease, of course. However illuminating a target with radar makes it an active sensor, by definition. My comment(s) were focused on the passive seeker portion of the new EMS sensor. Again, which means that the mobile target must be actively emitting E/M radiation, in order for the passive mode aspect of the EMS sensor to locate and make initial lock-on. Then, the active mode starts painting the target for the final "end game" engagement.

The new dual EMS sensor also has major implications for the Tomahawk being tasked in engaging enemy naval surface ships.

14684848 February 19, 2014 at 11:52 am

Perhaps there is a way to gain access to the computer OS in the vehicle? Not sure but just a wild guess!


RWB123 February 15, 2014 at 7:40 pm

The passive system would allow a tomahawk to be launched without a designated target and then follow a ship's radar back to the vessel. The active component is required to make the missile hit and damage the actual hull of the ship instead of just crashing into the radar emitter to cause minimal damage.


d. kellogg February 18, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Minimal damage???

Considering that a typical Tomahawk conventional warhead is in the 1000pound class, no matter how high up the mast the radar is, a 1000pound airburst over a modern warship is not going to be insignificant.
Everything from sensors and antennas to electronics, waveguides, even the bridge windows (that over pressure on the crew?) is going to be severely compromised.
Show me a single modern ship that does NOT have a cluttered topside that would be utterly wrecked by a half-ton conventional airburst even 25m above the actual superstructure.


Lance February 14, 2014 at 9:39 pm

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


ribby22 February 14, 2014 at 9:39 pm

"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 )


shipfixr February 17, 2014 at 11:01 am

I think you're right.


hibeam February 15, 2014 at 9:50 am

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


Big-Dean February 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm

or how about "Native American organically derived multi-purpose self-deternination equality and diversity support tool for justice" or NAOSMSWSSTL for short ;-P


JH February 15, 2014 at 8:37 pm

What do you want to call the Kiowa or Apache?


Big-Dean February 17, 2014 at 12:40 pm

I hear that "Water" is now demanding that he no longer be called by the racist and demeaning name "Water." "Water" is racist term because it brings up bad connotations such as drownings, floods, and rain storms and gasp, water boarding..

He now wants to be called "Organic cellular enhancing mother earth derived life giving substance"


d. kellogg February 18, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Well, we technically can't be calling it "di-hydrogen oxide",
as that sounds too chemical and would clearly upset the environmentalists.

Has anyone yet informed Al Gore that our melting polar icecaps are releasing so much di-hydrogen oxide into the environment?


Stan February 15, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Is this sarcasm in reference to the Redskins? That name is still racist, sorry.


hibeam February 16, 2014 at 10:24 am

Who can keep up? Did you know the word Oriental is considered offensive now-days? Who knew? I totally did not get the memo. Then I get yelled at.


dgmitch February 17, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Actually, the football team has weighed public opinion and decided to remove the word "Washington" from its name..


werner February 18, 2014 at 9:07 pm

you have to be a politically correct dumbocrat


blight_ February 17, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Everything is dakkadakka


Big-Dean February 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm

"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?


Jeff Nmi Ruiz February 15, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Could have been multiple structures/vehicles/systems at each of those sites. Also, with more missiles targeting each site, you now have greater guarantee that said targets will be destroyed BEYOND repair.


orly? February 16, 2014 at 7:57 pm


Air defense sites consist of more than just one launcher.

Radars, power sources, multiple launchers.


majr0d February 16, 2014 at 10:18 pm

It's a good question (the number of sorties/missions a platform can launch) and often overlooked in the discussion over the value of carriers over submarines…


jack February 15, 2014 at 4:49 pm

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


Stan February 15, 2014 at 9:34 pm

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.


Stan February 15, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Zoning a little bit. The 1000 lbs is the amount of explosives it carries.


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

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.


SMSgt Mac February 15, 2014 at 11:41 pm

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.


majr0d February 16, 2014 at 10:31 pm

You have a point ref JDAM cost but one should really consider the cost of the plane and all the other supporting planes in the cost of getting a JDAM on target (just like we should include the cost of a sub) most importantly the pros and cons of needing a runway sometimes close whether floating or on land. Ait Force and Crusie missile proponents always seem to skip that level of analysis. It would be an interesting take if done objectively.

The JDAM has cut the number of sorties required to service a target but it still puts a pilot in jeopardy as well as all the other missions/pilots (e.g. SEAD, fighter escort) required to put a JDAM on target.

The cruise missile and the JDAM have both been game changers and have different pros and cons which is good. It makes the enemy have to defend against a variety of options which invariably gives us opportunities.


blight_ February 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm

"Tank main gun rounds are cheap, therefore we do not need ATGMs"


majr0d February 17, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Agree, but you should say <sarcasm off> If someone doesn't know you they might not surmise you are being sarcastic.


josh.p February 16, 2014 at 12:04 pm

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


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

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.


blight_ February 16, 2014 at 7:26 pm

TLAMs were probably ridiculously expensive in their time, and only justified as a nuclear weapon delivery system to Moscow, flying under Soviet radars.

I wonder if TLAM would've survived modern procurement


@RosaleeAdams February 17, 2014 at 12:13 pm

'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'


bob February 17, 2014 at 2:18 pm

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


blight_ February 17, 2014 at 3:17 pm

It's not like they carry nukes anymore.


Roger Lamb February 17, 2014 at 8:04 pm

They wee not ten individual SAM missiles, but SAM sites, dispersed with multiple launchers each run by a central launch control facility. @0 missiles per site, average, would be about right.


Ron February 17, 2014 at 2:39 pm

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


DBM February 17, 2014 at 5:00 pm

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.


blight_ February 17, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Fired 75 at Sudan and Afghanistan in the 90s. The largest expenditures were Desert Fox and Allied Force…neither of which had to do with ben [sic] Laden

If we fired 1,000 TLAMs at OBL we probably would have killed something.


CaptainDoc February 17, 2014 at 8:48 pm

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.


ronaldo February 17, 2014 at 9:46 pm

You must be kidding ! There is no comparison in the cost. Glad you are not a cost analyst working with my tax money.


bri_kim February 18, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Well, let us consider that a) you need to put people in the plane, b) the plane can't fly 1k miles inland drop payload and return, c) can't fly that low at 550kts to remain stealthy. I'm sure there are more advantages, but that is a start. Oh yea, we can launch these suckers from ships and subs that are floating just about anywhere.


CaptainDoc February 19, 2014 at 1:03 am

oh yes they can and have sent aircraft on much longer missions than that and lets face it 221 launched with 20 hits is lots more than the price of aircraft bombing. if a bombing crew displayed that bad then there would be a discussion on that. when figuring the price of a mission we tend to forget that the aircraft would be training if it was not on the mission so the price(those missiles cost more than 1 million each when purchased) of the flight drops considerable when the cost of the crew, fuel etc. is removed. I have no idea what a long range bomber can deliver(or costs), and that changes all the time, but it sure would be more than 1000 lbs. one of the advantages of missile launch is that it is cheaper to send one out to a target than to remove it from service due to age and longevity of the weapon. penetration needs lots of design, weight, velocity, load and accuracy that the missile appears to not have. when you want to get the job done send the aircraft if you want to intimidate the enemy then send the missile


bart February 17, 2014 at 10:50 pm

I wonder if Israel will purchase JMEWS ;)


RattedHalo February 18, 2014 at 7:15 am

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


bri_kim February 18, 2014 at 8:41 pm

That is why we have a large stock pile of sharp sticks and properly sized stones.


Fast Eddie February 19, 2014 at 3:29 pm

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.


psailor324 February 20, 2014 at 8:07 am

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."


d. kellogg February 21, 2014 at 11:50 am

For the useful internal volume the Tomahawk missile frame offers, just like with the navy-standard 21inch diameter torpedoes that have been used for a century, there is still sufficient room for improvement in the design. Ample space if we develop newer micro turbine jet engines offering more thrust and/or greater fuel efficieny in the same size space, new warhead designs, and electronics improving with each new generation every 6 months it seems. Granted, it takes a few years to ruggedize commercial technologies and make them suitable for military use (even if they are "one-way ticket" items).
But the physical size of the Tomahawk allows for a lot of potential yet to be achieved.


psailor324 February 21, 2014 at 12:27 pm

good reply, from a sailor in the know, it would appear :)


Mike February 22, 2014 at 2:41 am

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.


the dude March 27, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Good thing Obama cancelled the program


thedude March 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm

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


cybermed February 19, 2014 at 5:14 pm

What about a passive seeker that reads emission reflections from other emitters? Lots of things emit RF.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: