The Royal Navy website describes the Tomahawk as;
Although only available in relatively small numbers, it is a highly effective weapon that has been used in operations in the Balkans, Middle East and Libya, and provides the UK with a weapon of strategic value well beyond the small numbers available.
Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile (TLAM) History
Discussion about the Royal Navy purchasing a land attack cruise missile started to take place at about the same time as the RAF’s CASOM (Storm Shadow) was being progressed, the mid-nineties. The MoD had recognised that an aircraft delivered cruise missile might not always provide the optimal solution and the covert approach afforded by a submarine would provide a powerful complement to CASOM.
The Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile has a long history but briefly, it was initiated as a long range anti-ship missile in the seventies under the direction of the US Navy Admiral Zumwalt, who, despite resistance, insisted the missile be capable of being fired from a standard submarine torpedo tube. The first of the family was the Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM), becoming operational in 1982/3. TASM was followed by TLAM, the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile.
The first Block III Tomahawk missile entered service with the US Navy in 1993, it had increased range, a more powerful warhead and GPS navigation. At the same time as the Block III missiles were entering service, the Block IV missiles were in development.
With the Air Hawk, essentially, a cut-down Block III Tomahawk, on offer for the CASOM requirement, there were many incentives to merge the RAF and RN requirements but it was not to be. The RAF and RN diverged, the Royal Navy entered into negotiations for Tomahawk and the RAF continued with CASOM, a requirement that would be met by Storm Shadow.
In 1995, an initial batch of 65 Block III TLAM was ordered by the MoD in 1995 under a £180 million US FMS deal. Loral also received a $60m contract for the combat system integration modifications for seven submarines, with Vickers Shipbuilding acting as a partner.
Integration continued and in 1998 the first firing on Tomahawk from a Royal Navy submarine took place off San Diego, HMS Splendid doing the honours.
On her return from first of class Tomahawk trials in March 1999, HMS Splendid was diverted and carried out the first UK operational use of Tomahawk on the 24th March, as part of operations in Kosovo.
A follow-on order of 30 TLAM were ordered in 1999 to replace those expended during operations against the former Yugoslavia. By this time, production of the Block III had ceased and so the order was provisioned by upgrading US Navy stocks.
Full Operational Capability (FOC) was achieved in 2001, in August the third Royal Navy submarine to be equipped for Tomahawk completed its test firing, HMS Trafalgar. This was also the first firing from a Royal Navy submarine equipped with the new Submarine Command System (SMCS) and US/UK version of the Advanced Tomahawk Weapon Control System software.
HMS Trafalgar and HMS Triumph fired a number of Tomahawk cruise missiles during the opening night of operations against Al Qaida in Afghanistan on the 7th and 8th of October 2001. Further firings also took place on the 13th
In December 2001, the MoD ordered 48 Block IIIC TLAM missiles to replenish stocks.
Because the Block IV Tactical Tomahawk was not available with a Torpedo Tube Launch (TTL) option, Raytheon and the MoD jointly funded development work to adapt the Block III TTL, contract value $27m. The Block IV missile in US Navy service was designed for vertical launch only, either from a Mk 41 VLS or submarine vertical launch tube. The USN had originally wanted a TTL launch version of the Tactical Tomahawk but it was dropped to save cost.
Block IV TLAM included a two-way data link, lower cost William’s turbojet, additional fuel and new sensors.
The first test firing of a Block IV TLAM took place in July 2007, from HMS Trenchant.
Lord Drayson commented;
The system was declared operational soon after, in 2008.
HMS Triumph fired a number of TLAM during Operation ELLAMY in 2011, reportedly, 12.
A Parliamentary Question revealed the cost of Tomahawk cruise missiles;
Also in 2011, HMS Astute, first of class, fired a Tomahawk missile on a US test range.
A small number were purchased in 2014/15, exact numbers have not been confirmed.
Tomahawk has been through a veritable alphabet of variations, it is a mature weapon system. Because of this maturity, there have been many attempts at making space for a replacement by winding down production but recently, there has been somewhat of a resurgence in interest. The last few years have seen different payloads (including ECM) trialled, a return to the anti-ship capability and continual improvements in data link and sensor technologies, much of this in response to US strategic initiatives.
Nevertheless, production was still planned to be ceased this year and despite intervention from Congress, may well happen. Funding for its replacement, Next Generation Land Attack Weapon (NGLAW), has been extremely small.
Despite this, the US Navy will enter into a contract for the remanufacture and re-certification of their Block IV inventory. Each missile must undergo a 15-year certification, and the first of these are planned for 2019. It is thought that this process may be an ideal time to introduce much of the newer technology solutions now available, so in effect, it becomes not only a recertification programme but an upgrade programme as well.
There is no news on whether the Royal Navy stocks of Block IV missiles will be included in this programme but it would be logical to assume it would do, the UK’s Block IV weapons will have wound down their 15-year clock by about 2022/23, inconveniently, a few years after the USN recertification period.
UK plans for Tomahawk remain unclear and whether it was deliberate or accidental, the release of information for the Future Cruise and Anti-Ship Weapon (FCASW) omits any mention of Tomahawk.
Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile (TLAM) Capabilities
The best simple description for the Royal Navy TLAM is from Frazer Nash, the organisation that developed the safety case;
They go on;
Then it goes bang, with a 1,000-pound unitary warhead, that was my bit!.