The Tomahawk is an all-weather submarine or ship-launched land-attack cruise missile. After launch, a solid propellant propels the missile until a small turbofan engine takes over for the cruise portion of flight. Tomahawk is a highly survivable weapon. Radar detection is difficult because of the missile's small cross-section, low altitude flight. Similarly, infrared detection is difficult because the turbofan engine emits little heat. Systems include Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver; an upgrade of the optical Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC) system; Time of Arrival (TOA) control, and improved 402 turbo engines.
The Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile has been used to attack a variety of fixed targets, including air defense and communications sites, often in high-threat environments. The land attack version of Tomahawk has inertial and terrain contour matching (TERCOM) radar guidance. The TERCOM radar uses a stored map reference to compare with the actual terrain to determine the missile's position. If necessary, a course correction is then made to place the missile on course to the target. Terminal guidance in the target area is provided by the optical Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC) system, which compares a stored image of target with the actual target image.
The Tomahawk missile provides a long-range, highly survivable, unmanned land attack weapon system capable of pinpoint accuracy. The Surface Navy's deep strike capability resides in the Tomahawk missile system - the proven weapon of choice for contingency missions.
Tomahawk's operational environment is changing significantly. The first operational design involved global warfare using conventional Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) against known, fixed, non-hardened targets. The strategic assumptions underlying this environment continue to change. Tomahawk Weapon System (TWS) capability is evolving into major systems with expanding capabilities. Today, Tomahawk is able to respond to rapidly developing scenarios and attack emerging land-based targets. A more diverse threat coupled with a smaller U.S. force structure place an absolute premium on system flexibility and responsiveness.
The projected operational environment for Tomahawk is now characterized by scenarios in which the U.S. Navy will most likely be called upon to defend U.S. interests in regional conflicts, in crisis response, or to execute national policy. Tomahawk will operate from littoral seas as an integral part of joint forces.
During the critical early days of a regional conflict, Tomahawk, in conjunction with other land attack systems and tactical aircraft, denies or delays forward movement of enemy forces, neutralize the enemy's ability to conduct air operations, and suppress enemy air defenses. In addition, Tomahawk attacks high value targets such as electrical generating facilities, command and control nodes, and weapons assembly/storage facilities. Thus, making Tomahawk the weapon of choice to strike reinforced, hardened targets.
The Tomahawk Weapon System (TWS) is comprised of four major components: Tomahawk Missile, Theater Mission Planning Center (TMPC)/Afloat Planning System (APS), Tomahawk Weapon Control System (TWCS) for surface ships, and Combat Control System (CCS) for submarines.
Ships and submarines have different weapon control systems (WCSs). A vertical launching system (VLS) accommodates missile stowage and launch on ships. On all attack submarines, missiles are launched from torpedo tubes (with stowage in the torpedo room); in addition, some attack submarines have VLS located forward, external to the pressure hull, which will handle both stowage and launch.
The Fire Control Systems (FCS) on both ships and submarines perform communications management, database management, engagement planning, and launch control functions. These systems provide the interface between the missile and FCS for missile initialization and launch as well as environmental protection. The FCS supporting the ship is TWCS of ATWCS (AN/SWG-3). The FCS on submarines is the CCS MK1, CCS Mk2, or AN/BSY-1.
Unified Commanders develop contingency plans in response to developing strategic situations to achieve National Command Authority directed goals. The Unified Commander passes tasking for TLAM mission development to a Cruise Missile Support Activity (CMSA) for overland mission planning. The National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) provides the necessary databases for planning. Targets and maps are generated for TERCOM and DSMAC. Threat databases are provided for missile attrition analysis. Unified, Joint, and Battle Group (BG) Commanders direct the deployment and employment of the mission. Strike Planners select, task and coordinate TLAM strikes. The Launch platform FCS prepares and executes the TLAM mission. The launch platform launches the missile. The missile boosts and transitions to cruise flight, then navigates on the planned route. During flight, the missile will navigate using TERCOM and DSMAC and GPS (Block III). Enroute, some missiles may also execute a Precision Strike Tomahawk Mission (PST) transmitting its status back to a ground station via satellite communication. The missile executes its planned terminal maneuver and for TLAM-C hits a single aimpoint and for TLAM-D, single or multiple targets.