The recent military action taken in April against chemical weapons targets in Syria demonstrated the wider range of missile options available to the United States and French Navies for use against land targets, says a report by the Defence Committee.

By contrast, the Royal Navy has only the option of submarine-launched Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM)—an option that was not used.

The UK and France have entered into an agreement to produce a Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon which will expand the Royal Navy’s missile capability, but this is not due to enter service until the 2030s.

Harpoon, the Royal Navy’s principal heavy anti-ship missile, was due to be taken out of service in 2018, but this has been deferred until at least 2020.

According to the report:

“Consideration should be given to extending TLAM capability to the surface fleet, ahead of development of the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon System, which will not be in service until the 2030s.

The Harpoon anti-ship missile has also wisely been kept in service beyond 2018, but a decision about its future into the 2020s is still needed.”

Dr Julian Lewis, Defence Committee chairman, said:

“We hope that our report will assist in sparking debate  and focusing minds on priorities that should be considered by the Modernising Defence Programme. The Secretary of State was right to remove Defence from the National Security Capability Review which would otherwise have resulted in further disastrous cuts to the Armed Forces, and we endorse his efforts to obtain a better settlement for Defence.

The Government now needs to look beyond the two per cent minimum on Defence spending, and begin moving towards a figure of three per cent, to place our defence policy on a sustainable basis to meet new threats and fill existing financial ‘black holes’. Defence is constantly described as the first duty of government. The MDP is the government’s opportunity to show that it means what it says.”

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I am a total supporter of giving our vessels a rounded attack capability. But which vessels? T26 will be the only ship capable of launching them, but is this not a distraction to their primary asw role? Their focus should be on anti sub and ship missiles.
T31 is a patrol frigate and unlikely to see this capability. That leaves T45, and the logical choice to me, but will need the Mk 41 cells.


Well T26 will get it but that’s way in the future, as for T45 it was designed for mk41, so it shouldnt be difficult to add the 12 it was designed for, as for T31 I can see a couple added in a later batch if it was deemed necessary.


We should have Mk41 on every platform T26, T45 and T31. Its too handy for launching everything from SM3 ABM to ASROC, LRASM but especially TLAM.

It makes my blood boil that they never bothered fitting the 16 launchers into T45 just to save a few quid.

With just 7 SSN they are far to busy and precious to be used for launching missiles at third world dictators, This job can be done by little more than a cargo ship equipped with the launchers.

with TLAM going pout of production its probably too late to acquire any.

james harrington

Martin, hello. When you or others write something like your post you end up getting rude and obnoxious responses from those who know best or better. This is a good site but the experts here are to often not welcoming of comments by lessor posters, such as you and I. I am always reluctant to post as it results in others just slagging me down on my stupid comments. I come here just to read the opinions of others (the slaggers) who know more than i and I value their comments. I just don’t value their tone in any response.… Read more »


The Americans have just ordered their last batch of Tomahawk. The production line is still open, but if the UK wants to top up its stock of Tomahawk, the MoD will have to make an order soon, or lose the chance, perhaps forever.


Aren’t the US upgrading some Tomahawks with a new seeker for Anti Ship capability. I thought I read that Raytheon had a contract for this already. The seeker had already been tested by the US Navy.

Daniele Mandelli

I may be going against the grain here, but I believe the TLAM should remain on SSN fleet only.

We have that capability.

Lets spend the money on other capabilities for T26. ASROC, ASM, etc, rather than duplicating capability.


We have the capability to launch a handful of missiles Vs the US capability to launch hundreds in a single night. Our capability is little more than a token gesture for headlines.

Steve M

I’d like to see the BDA of the strikes, specifically looking at how many TLAM’s were required to do optimal damage vs Brimstone.


I assume you mean Storm Shadow, not Brimstone?


Which makes me think, what about the navalised variant of Storm Shadow that the French used in their strikes, how does that compare to TLAM, presumably it has a more modern sensor suite but with a smaller payload?


It’s broadly comparible from what information has been made public but costs more than double. We could prob buy second hand from the French though if we were only buying 100 to place on the T45. It would mean quad packing caam in place as the aster 15 to free up space and upgrading some of the sylver launchers to the a70

Steve M

I did indeed, I blame my 18 month old…

I can’t find much at all about the navalised Storm Shadow, only the air launched version.

Steve M

Thanks farouk 🙂

Daniele Mandelli

Which is fine.

As we are not the US which is a superpower.

And a scenario with hundreds of TLAM flying about is either a coalition scenario or World War 3.

David Steeper

ASROC ? We have Merlin why would we possibly want ASROC ? If we have enough money to waste on ASROC we could at least waste it on something else !

Evan P

ASROC is faster too launch than a Merlin, and helicopters cannot always fly because of conditions. ASROC is a must-have for western ASW vessels.


And what are you going to attach to the front end of said ASROC?
It is not certified for a UK MK75 Sting Ray so that means it will need to have a US Mk 50 or 54 on the front end.
Thats a whole new logistics support infastructure, magazine handling and safety certification process, software upgrades, for something that is not as good as the MK75.
Even with the clowns in MOD procurement that’s not going to happen.

Glass Half Full

I would go one step further than just questioning TLAM for MK41 VLS surface fleet launch. It seems to be worth questioning the suitability of every current MK41 missile and its relevance to the UK in future versus more modern and capable MK41 options becoming available over the next 10-15 years, given when the UK will have MK41 cells to launch them from. With the slow build, T26 won’t be operational until 2027 and neither will its MK41 cells. T31e may have MK41 as early as 2023 …. or not if it just uses low costs VLS cells for Sea… Read more »


The issue I have with the MK54 is that it is a slightly smarter front end on a 1960 era Mk46 torpedo. Thats the same weapon that Sting Ray was designed to replace. The MK46 propulsion system used on the MK54 is slow, has limited range and is many steps backwards compared to Sting Ray. As a former Air Weapons maintainer I can say that the Sting Ray is not just streets, but Avenues and Motorways ahead of the MK46 Propulsion system. Sting Ray has far greater range, speed , homing system, shallow and deep water performance, and a Direct… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Thanks for the feedback. I included ASROC because folks love to throw it out there as an automatic choice. However, its not clear to me just how much extra capability beyond helicopter launched torpedoes VLS launched torpedoes bring? I assume VLS torpedoes could be launched under worse sea and weather conditions but can you be certain about what you’re aiming at under those conditions unless its in direct response to a torpedo already fired from the submarine? However, assuming there is a clear benefit then it seems there is plenty of time to explore Sting Ray for this.


It has what a 12 mile range… Having no experience of using it in the RN I would have to hazard a guess that its a bit last ditch if its ever used.Much like MTLS is on a T23. With a 12 mile range you are not going to use it on a tail acquired target that could be a least a convergence zone away at 50+ miles. You would need a target contact that is active sonar acquired. In a real life shooting contest if you get something on active then the sub has already got a wake homer… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Thanks again for the detailed reply Gunbuster. I suspected what you described to be the case but lacked any reference to confirm it.


There is a huge cost difference in ship launched Vs SUV launched too. So they would prob pay for themselves the next time we launch 10 to destroy a small building in the middle of nowhere.


Sub launched* damn auto correct


Tomahawk has been box-launched in the past on the re-activated Iowa class battleships ( I wonder whether any of those ABLs are still around in any sort of state that they might be refurbishable. If missiles are being fired from a decent standoff range with escorts for the firing vessel then an RFA vessel such as a Bay with plenty of deck space might be able to host TLAM as a stopgap until Mk41 solutions come into service. Even after Mk41 solutions come into service it might still be useful to have the ABLs kept in storage somewhere for possible… Read more »


There are probably some old box launchers off the old Spruance class from before their VLS upgrade. However those things are old, as in the sailors who worked with them are welcoming their grandchildren.


Meanwhile the Israelis (a much smaller nation than the UK) has just brought out a new ship borne (of sorts) surface to surface missile.


Israel is also under a lot more threat than the UK. It has a very discreet need and so can fund things the UK can not. However has Israel got 2 super carriers? Have they got Ballistic missile submarines? In fact have they got any locally produced subs?

The UK has developed many missiles. I am not sure what your point is regarding this…


Israel also gets, or at least used to get, massive amounts of money from the USA. In the early 2000s I was sitting across from a senior Israeli official in the final stages of negotiating a big sale and he told me very explicitly, “we want your product but if you can get it approved for FMF(*) purchase then it will be a hell of a lot easier for me to get the budget. For every $1 I have to spend from my local budget I have $10 of FMF funding”. I did get my product approved for FMF funding… Read more »


Exactly. Also they get money from other nations too. Germany for instance is footing 50% of the bill for 3 new subs…


Fascinating post Julian, thanks

Mr Bell

Just to clarify a point for Keithdwat. The type 45 destroyer was designed for, has an allocated space for and is wired to receive mk41 strike length vl silos. Unfortunately they were constructed fitted for but not with these crucial weapons. It would be a very easy armed forces win to fit strike length vl silos to the type 45s whilst they are in dry dock having their power and propulsion issues resolved. By a rough estimate 2x 16 cell vl silos would cost about £70 million per ship. Then missile load and order for LRASM, tomahawk, asroc would cost… Read more »


The Arrowhead proposal for Type 31 will include Mk41 VLS, Type 26 will have it and we can retrofit to Type 45. Ship launched Tomahawk is cheaper to purchase and we would be foolish not to order the new anti ship variant.
We can’t afford to use Very limited SSN fleet as bomb carriers as it were.


Is the UK actually ready for an extra 1% spend. I can hear all the military people saying YES (I do tend to agree that there is too much hand to mouth to just cover essentials). However my question is to HMG, will the money be spent in the UK or will it just result in buying overseas equipment? I don’t think we’ve got much new innovative equipment that can be brought as COTS that MOD want to buy coming through (at best it’s licensed in to manufacture in the UK, if that). The point being this may be better… Read more »


Mk 41 misfire

Always going to be an issue with VL systems.


They had a accident similar on USS Sullivans a few years ago where the booster on a older SM-2 being expended during training exploded a few feet off the deck. But it at least launched so it didn’t cause any damage beyond a small fire.
On the Saschen it seems it happened in the tube so that’s going to be expensive.


Yep…and they will still have to remove what is left of the missile and warhead from the tube and the missiles from the adjacent tubes which have been heat stressed…sprays or no sprays