Arizona Daily Star July 12, 2009
Tomahawk may get ship-killer role
By Enric Volante
A U.S. Navy missile that cruises hundreds of miles over land to blow up buildings is being redesigned in Tucson to chase down moving targets.
Raytheon Missile Systems wants to turn its land-attack Tomahawk missile into a ship killer that can do something never done before: Hit a cruising warship from a thousand miles away.
On Friday, the Defense Department announced a $12.8 million contract for Raytheon to engineer and test a new warhead system for the Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile.
Ninety percent of the work would be done at Raytheon's Tucson plant.
The new warhead is one stop on a technology road map Raytheon has developed to upgrade the missile.
A financial analyst said this illustrates a strength of the city's biggest employer — the ability to upgrade combat-proven missiles with new technology to meet the military's future needs.
"It's a common process for Raytheon with its missiles," said analyst Paul Nesbit. "They've been making improvements to many others."
The company has also had its problems. In May, the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency complained of cost overruns and delays he blamed on poor management at Raytheon and other defense contractors. Raytheon officials say they have corrected the problems.
The Block IV is the latest generation of Tomahawk missiles. The Navy fired hundreds of them in the first Persian Gulf War and in the Iraq war. In May, the Navy awarded Raytheon a $207 million contract to build 207 more.
Although some components are built at Raytheon Co. plants in other states, nearly all of the 250 jobs tied to Tomahawks are in Tucson. They are among about 11,000 full-time-equivalent jobs here at Raytheon Missile Systems, Southern Arizona's largest employer.
Tomahawks shipped from Tucson end up on U.S. Navy destroyers, cruisers and four classes of submarines. The British also use them on subs.
Everett Tackett, business-development manager of the Tomahawk at Missile Systems, said the technology plan has four goals:
• Integrate a target seeker into the nose of the missile.
• Add an advanced sensor to process radar and radio emissions from ships like destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers. These electronic signatures are like a thumbprint to identify the right target.
Since the upgraded missile could fly 1,000 miles to a crowded coastline, "We want to make sure it goes after the right ship," Tackett said.
• Increase the missile's bandwidth, or data capacity, for its Internet data link.
• Improve the warhead to penetrate a big warship.
"This is technology that really doesn't exist today," said Raytheon spokesman Mike Nachshen.
This would not be a missile designed to combat pirate ships off Somalia.
So, what potential future threat would prompt the Navy to have Raytheon produce it?
The U.S. Navy might want a longer-range Tomahawk because China's navy "keeps getting better and better," said GlobalSecurity.org military analyst John Pike.
"This would give you the ability to shoot your anti-shipping missile at a Chinese ship protected by land-based aviation without putting your ship in harm's way," Pike said.
The Chinese also began producing a lot of mobile ballistic missile launchers about a decade ago and continue to build up an arsenal of medium-range missiles that could hit Taiwan, he said.
Pike said that unlike China's strategic ballistic missiles, which are far inland, these tactical missiles are deployed in bunkers close enough to the coast to be destroyed by a longer-range, more powerful Tomahawk.
Key milestones in Raytheon's Tomahawk program
1997: Raytheon takes over development and production of the Tomahawk after its acquisition of Hughes Aircraft Co. Hughes had acquired the Tomahawk when it acquired the missile business of General Dynamics, which had developed the Tomahawk and introduced it to fleet use in 1983. The Tomahawk Block IV, also called the Tactical Tomahawk, is proposed with new guidance and other features at lower cost.
1998: Raytheon Missile Systems wins a $256 million contract to develop the Tomahawk Block IV. It calls for delivering 1,353 missiles to the fleet beginning in 2003. The new Tomahawk can be retargeted in mid-flight, loiter over a battlefield for more than two hours and transmit images.
2002: Raytheon and the Navy complete the first demonstration test flight of the Tomahawk Block IV off the California coast north of Los Angeles. In October, the company wins an initial $36 million low-rate production contract.
2003: Navy ships reportedly fire 740 Tomahawks in the first 12 days of the Iraq war to take out targets such as air-defense installations. The Navy awards Raytheon a $225 million contract to produce upgraded Tomahawks.
2004: Raytheon delivers the first production model of the Tomahawk Block IV to the Navy. Raytheon is later awarded an initial $287 million contract for large-scale production, part of a program worth up to $1.6 billion over five years.
2006: Raytheon is awarded a $346 million production contract to supply the U.S. and British navies with the Tomahawk Block IV. The contract includes production of 473 missiles, including 65 for a torpedo-tube-launched version for the United Kingdom.
2008: Raytheon delivers the 1,000th Tomahawk Block IV to the Navy and completes the integration of the missile onto the U.S. Navy's newest fast-attack submarine. The Block IV missile sees its first combat action in an undisclosed counterterrorism operation.
2009: Raytheon says it plans to adapt its Tomahawk cruise missile to a naval combat role by adding the ability to hit moving surface targets and a new warhead.
SOURCES: Raytheon, U.S. Navy, Star archives
© Copyright 2009, The Arizona Daily Star