The American-built Tomahawk missile, also known as TLAM, allows Royal Navy submarines of the Astute and Trafalgar class to strike at targets on land accurately at a range of around 1,000 miles.

The missile is a highly accurate, GPS-enabled weapon that the US and allied militaries have used more than 2,000 times in combat, and flight-tested 500 times say the manufacturer.

In April 2017, US Navy destroyers launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets on a Syrian air base. In 2014, a US Navy destroyer and a guided missile cruiser launched 47 Tomahawk missiles in a strike on the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria.

HMS Astute fires a Tomahawk missile.

It’s important to remember that Tomahawk is a cruise missile, so rather than taking on a ballistic trajectory, it stays close to the ground, steering around terrain features, using a jet engine instead of a rocket engine to fly. It is hoped that by the missile keeping low—because of its small radar signature—the Tomahawk avoids radar-guided defences that can threaten manned aircraft.

The missile has been in use with the Royal Navy since the late 1990s and has been used in the Kosovo conflict and in the campaigns against the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi.

The missile is fired from a boat’s torpedo tubes. Once it reaches the surface, a booster rocket ignites to propel the missile skywards. Tomahawk then heads for its target at 550 mph, delivering a 1,000 lb explosive warhead.

The Tomahawk IV is the latest version of the missile operated by the British submarine fleet, the U.S Navy will soon operate the upgraded Block V which unlike this version, has anti-ship capabilities. It has a longer range than its predecessors and can be directed at a new target in-flight, and can also beam back images of the battlefield.

According to a US Navy factfile:

“Tomahawk cruise missiles are designed to fly at extremely low altitudes at high subsonic speeds, and are piloted over an evasive route by several mission tailored guidance systems. The first operational use was in Operation Desert Storm, 1991, with immense success. The missile has since been used successfully in several other conflicts.

In 1995 the governments of the United States and United Kingdom signed a Foreign Military Sales Agreement for the acquisition of 65 missiles, marking the first sale of Tomahawk to a foreign country. In 2003, an agreement was approved for the United Kingdom to procure 65 Block IV Torpedo Tube Launch Tomahawks. The United Kingdom began to receive Block IV missile deliveries in January 2008 and successfully declared their In-Service-Date in March 2008.”

Tomahawk might also arm the Type 26 Frigates.

At the time of writing, the most recent UK purchase was 65 of the missiles in July 2014.

According to Raytheon, these are the general specifications:

Primary Function: Long-range subsonic cruise missile for striking high value or heavily defended land targets.
Contractor: Raytheon Missile Systems Company, Tucson, AZ.
Date Deployed: Block II TLAM-A IOC – 1984
Block III – IOC 1994
Block IV – IOC 2004.
Propulsion: Block II/III TLAM-A, C & D – Williams International F107 cruise turbo-fan engine; ARC/CSD solid-fuel booster
Length: 20.3 feet; with booster: 20 feet 6 inches (6.25 meters).
Diameter: 21 inches
Wingspan: 8 feet 9 inches (2.67 meters).
Weight: 3,330 pounds with rocket motor.
Speed: Subsonic – about 550 mph (880 km/h).
Range: Block III TLAM-C – 900 nautical miles (1000 statute miles, 1600 km)
Block III TLAM-D – 700 nautical miles (800 statute miles, 1250 km
Block IV TLAM-E – 900 nautical miles (1000 statute miles, 1600 km)
Guidance System: Block II TLAM-A – INS, TERCOM
Block III TLAM-C, D
Block IV TLAM-E – INS, TERCOM, DSMAC, and GPS.
Warhead: Block II TLAM-N – W80 nuclear warhead.
Block III TLAM-C and Block IV TLAM-E – 1,000 pound class unitary warhead.
Block III TLAM-D – conventional submunitions dispenser with combined effect bomblets.

 

George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Paul42
Paul42
2 months ago

We should buy as many sub launched TLAMs as possible whilst also realising that with a very limited number of boats we also need to put these on our surface ships.

Nicholas
Nicholas
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

Our stocks of these are likely to be lower than what is carried on the average Burke. As we have only 4, increasing to 5, platforms that can carry these out the quantity we hold is probably sensible. We do definately need the new frigates to carry these.

Always Right
Always Right
1 month ago
Reply to  Nicholas

No they aren’t. We have 7 platforms not 4. With stockpiles numbered in the hundreds.

dan
dan
1 month ago
Reply to  Always Right

Please provide facts on this claim. I’ve never read that teh Brits have “hundreds” of TLAMs.

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

Type 26’s and 45’s for sure, perhaps combining with anti ship systems. Being more radical, especially with the delay and cost of the F35’s should we look at the carriers as more of a hybrid ship? Fifteen to twenty F35’s; drones for long range attack and say twenty tubes for TLAM’s. AEW and ASW as before. Another idea would be the retiring V boats. I don’t know if they’re up to it but could we get two of the to sea with a serious TLAM load?

FOSTERSMAN
FOSTERSMAN
2 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

TLAM carrier is a good concept, could travel out with the QE and saturate enemy air defences before the F35’s. Obviously not going to happen with the what the budget allows but we should seriously be buying these by the hundred and outfit every available asset air, sea and land. Would get tremendous bang for our buck.

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
2 months ago
Reply to  FOSTERSMAN

We can only hope.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

TLAM is better on T26 and T31 where the VLS would likely be.

Unless T45 get VLS the deck space should be left clear for quick fits of war necessities.

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago

My only concern around the T26 is that will it distract from the escort role if it’s off firing TLAM, where as the T31 is perfect for the job.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Hi Jonathan, the latest spec of the T31/ Arrowhead 140s for Poland look bloody useful. What do you reckon, a batch of 4 of these, UK version, to fit between the T26/31/32 and T45 upgrades…T31.5 to beef up the RN fleet? Wouldn’t cost the earth, would it? 🤔

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Called the T32 perhaps?

Personally I think the rescan that the curtains were drawn on the UK T31 spec being announced was the whole Ukrainian situation brewing up.

The T31 may well be a bit more than we had been lead to believe at one stage.

After all it is cheaper to fit for things to new ships than to carve up old ships.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

I don’t really think it would be a distraction. Once they are away then only the operator at the relevant console is monitoring.

The sonar room will be totally separated anyway but feed into the situational awareness.

dan
dan
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Crews have separate people that deal with firing the TLAMs and operating the radar, ect. The crews can deal with both at the same time without a problem.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
2 months ago

The MK41 vks spaces are already there on the T45s so coukd be an opportune time to upgrade them and use them for TLAMs even SAM 3/6. CAMM could fit down the sides of the Aster silos. T26/31 will take time and T32/83 even longer. With few ships the RN could use some force multipliers now not just in 5-10-15 years time.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

But once Ceptor is in those spaces they won’t be shifted for Mk41 VLS?

I think the penny has dropped about up arming what we have now rather than dreaming….

I think the threat assessments of Russia and China have been quietly rising in the background.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
2 months ago

I do wonder whether they actually explored the CAMM side silos option. The additional 24 CAMM is nice but could it have been 32-48? Plus MK41 VLS? We’ll never know. The upgrades can’t come soon enough. On one of the Venator concepts i thought I saw a containerised 4 x quad CAMM too. If that’s the case that’s an option for RFAs, Albion’s, Bays, Rivers, truck/trailer based, land/base, even rail.

Sean
Sean
2 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

VLS tubes and TLAM munitions on the carriers would ultimately mean less space for munitions for the F35’s, helicopters and drones. Plus after every launch you’ll probably need to inspect the flight deck for foreign objects.
Better to either have on escorting frigates on a dedicated arsenal-ship.

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
2 months ago
Reply to  Sean

Maybe , but we don’t need munitions if we don’t have aircraft, hence the hybrid idea.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
2 months ago
Reply to  Sean

The USN, French, Italian, Indian, Chinese all have some SAMs on their carriers so the RN thinks of this quite differently. Extra defensive armament for the carriers seems to have been designed for with 4x30mm mounts to complement the Phalanx’s but as yet nothing added, not even any decoy launchers that I can see… from my couch. Sure there is a lot of inboard EW and hopefully available supporting escorts around.

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

Hi Geoff missiles on aircraft carriers creat all sorts of issues and are not compatible with air ops. If you did use these, you carrier would be unable to undertake flight opps until the flight deck had been checked for FOD. Better to have all your missiles on other platforms and focus your aircraft carrier on flight ops. It’s why they removed sea dart from the invincibles. Although this is something the Russians did, They did it for two important reasons 1) was about about crap air wings and another was if they had missiles they could pretend they were… Read more »

dan
dan
2 months ago

Britain and the rest of NATO needs to start buying long range cruise missiles. Since they don’t have long range stealth bombers it’s really their only way to attack targets in heavily defended areas protected with the latest SAM systems like in Russia or China. Would be nice if the Germans had some but we know they don’t want to upset Putin. lol

RobW
RobW
2 months ago
Reply to  dan

We will be. albeit not until the end of the decade. The RN is acquiring Mk41 VLS for the T26 and possibly for T31 and T45. They will be equipped with the FC/ASW which will be a stealthy long range cruise missile and a hypersonic version. The idea is to up arm the entire fleet.

I’d imagine our Astute SSNs will continue to operate TLAM throughout their lives.

The RAF has somewhere between 500 and 1000 Storm Shadow. Sources vary in their estimates.

Last edited 2 months ago by RobW
Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  RobW

Over 1000 Storm Shadow were ordered.

Some have been expended in training and some used in war.

The veil of secrecy was then, rightly, drawn across the replenishment of stores.

Given the out of service date it might be reasonable to assume that stocks would be starting to be run down.

No idea myself just educated guesswork.

Always Right
Always Right
1 month ago
Reply to  dan

Since they don’t have long range stealth bombers”

Not that they are effective either.

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
2 months ago

Gentlemen (and Lady(ies), At your convenience, please direct your attention to the Janes.com article of 6 April 22, which describes in detail the planned recert and upgrade of entire UK Tomahawk Block IV inventory to Block V (w/ASM option) over a contractual period of up to 5 years. Ergo, interim ASM requirement resolved. As you in Blighty might say, ” the blokes at the Admiralty finally got their thumbs out.” Believe the Astutes will singlehandedly be able handle Vladimir’s surface fleet w/ relative ease. So everyone can hopefully stop hyperventilating re the upcoming ASM capability gap, courtesy of your former… Read more »

Chris
Chris
1 month ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

Thank you for the info

Always Right
Always Right
1 month ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

As you in Blighty might say, ” the blokes at the Admiralty finally got their thumbs out.”

The hell are you on about? Cute how Americans feign ignorance of the slang of the mother tongue they speak daily. Quite a chipped-shoulder.

“courtesy of your former colonists…”

No, courtesy of the Royal Navy.

Jon
Jon
2 months ago

I don’t know how long Tomahwks will remain in production. I doubt more than a few more years.

The US can run down its large stockpile while looking for a replacement. Biden may have cancelled the nuclear version, but the next conventional sea-launched cruise missle is still on the drawing board.

We have neither extensive stocks nor an announced successor programme. It looks like FC/ASW could be the replacement, except no sub-launched version has been announced. So we should buy 10-15 years worth of missiles and upgrade our current stocks to Block V, while we still can.

DaveyB
DaveyB
2 months ago
Reply to  Jon

I honestly believe the Tomahawk will be kept in production for at least another 10 years. It is a proven weapon system, it is relatively cheap to produce and purchase. Plus it can be upgraded with a more efficient engine, smaller avionics etc. Flying between 50 and 500ft make it very difficult for air defenses to counter, especially if launched in a large wave. At a 1000 mile range, it has significant reach, which allows the launcher a good degree of stand off range. Looking at the proposed US hypersonic replacement, you significantly ramp up not only the manufacturing costs,… Read more »

DanielMorgan
DanielMorgan
2 months ago
Reply to  Jon

Biden does not have the power to cancel the nuclear armed tomahawk missile. He zeroed out funding for it in the FY2023 budget request, in spite of Pentagon protests, but Congress has not even started debating that budget request. The Pentagon wants the missile and Republicans in Congress also want it. My bet is that the missile gets funded.

dan
dan
1 month ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

Sleepy Joe just canceled the proposed new nuke cruise missile. Since Congress is now controlled by the alt left he can really do anything he wants to.

Always Right
Always Right
1 month ago
Reply to  Jon

Neither country has extensive stocks that can last without replenishment. Whether it’s Biden ( american “left” wing ) or Trump ( right wing ) they often expend 100+ at a time in ego-strikes.

dan
dan
1 month ago
Reply to  Always Right

Yea like the one Clinton did when u tried to get Osama in the 1990s because he was too scared to send in Delta or Seal Team 6 to make sure he was dead. Is what happens when politicians make military decisions. Ugh

dan
dan
1 month ago

Russia’s only successful weapon used so far in Ukraine has been their own cruise missiles. They are very hard to shoot down and very accurate. Similar to the TLAM. If I was a NATO member i would be buying TLAMs like crazy. They will be more effective that tanks and APC in any future war.