Tomahawk hits moving target at sea

Plane guides missile to impact in dramatic test

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A Raytheon-built Tomahawk Block IV missile strikes its target -- a vessel carrying shipping containers -- in a test that showed the weapon can strike moving objects at sea. (U.S. Navy photo)

Raytheon's Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile has struck a moving target at sea for the first time, reaching the milestone in a U.S. Navy-led test off the coast of California.

The missile launched from the destroyer USS Kidd near San Nicolas Island and was flying on a pre-planned course when a surveillance plane also participating in the test designated a new target – a mock cargo ship. The plane sent data to a control center, which relayed the command to the missile. The Tomahawk rocketed toward the vessel and punched straight through a shipping container on its deck.

“This is a significant accomplishment,” the Navy’s Tomahawk program manager, Capt. Joe Mauser, said in a statement. "It demonstrates the viability of long-range communications for position updates of moving targets. This success further demonstrates the existing capability of Tomahawk as a netted weapon, and in doing so, extends its reach beyond fixed and re-locatable points to moving targets.”

The test was the next step in the evolution of Tomahawk, a GPS-guided precision weapon that can fly more than 1,000 miles, can circle on command and can even transmit photos of its target to commanders before striking. Raytheon is also developing a seeker that will allow the missile to find moving targets on its own.

“The combat-proven Tomahawk is unmatched in its capability,” said Mike Jarrett, Raytheon Air Warfare Systems vice president. “Raytheon and the U.S. Navy are working together to enhance Tomahawk and provide the warfighter with even more options in the battlespace.”

The moving-target test took place in late January. A separate test demonstrated that a Tomahawk at sea can respond quickly when summoned by forces on the ground, also known as a "call for fire" scenario. In that test, USS Kidd launched another Tomahawk Block IV in support of U.S. Marines on San Nicolas Island. The missile performed a vertical dive and scored a direct hit on a target the Marines had designated.

“We have worked with teams across the country to be successful today,” Scott O’Neil, executive director of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, said in a statement. “This is a project that increases warfighting capability, reduces cost and can be added to other existing technologies out in the field.”

Published On: 02/10/2015
Last Updated: 07/16/2018