The Tomahawk cruise missile has been an important part of America’s military strategy around the globe since its adoption in the early 1980s. The Pentagon has now decided to keep the workhorse cruise missile in use until at least 2040, but in order to keep it competitive in the world’s theater, it will require a few upgrades.
Its bullet-shaped design, subsonic speeds to avoid enemy radar, and navigation suite that includes GPS and terrain-matching radar that compares the scenery below it to its intended flight path, all coalesce into an excellent all-purpose weapons platform that can eliminate threats without ever placing an American soldier or sailor in harm’s way. It has, however, been in service for some time.
Over the last thirty years, the United States has launched over 2,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles at enemy targets, and the U.S. Navy maintains a ready supply of at least 3,500 of the missiles for use in conflicts anywhere around the globe. Most of the Tomahawks currently deployed with U.S. Naval vessels are fourth generation missiles, meaning the platform has undergone upgrades and improvements three times since the first missiles saw use decades ago.
In order to ensure the Tomahawk remains a reliable method of force projection for the U.S. military amid advances in missile defense systems and strategies employed by potential threats like China and Russia, the storied platform will now undergo a fourth round of improvements. Chief among these upgrades will be a shift toward anti-ship capabilities.