WASHINGTON — More than 2,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles have been fired at live targets since 1991. In every case, the missile has been aimed at a fixed, non-moving target.
That could change in a few years, Raytheon officials told reporters here at the annual Surface Navy Association symposium. The defense giant is working on a company-funded variant of the missile that would allow it to chase moving targets.
"Raytheon has invested heavily in a multi-mode seeker, passive and active," said Christian Sprinkle, the company's senior program manager for air warfare systems.
The infrared seeker would be added to existing Tomahawks during a mid-life recertification overhaul, Sprinkle said.
The missiles have a service life of 15 years, after which they undergo a recertification overhaul that adds another 15 years, for a total life span of 30 years unless it's used.
The overhaul, Sprinkle said, is "a great opportunity to insert new capabilities. Plans already call for the insertion of upgraded communications systems, a new, multi-effects warhead, and a multi-mode sensor suite.
The current crop of Block IV Tactical Tomahawks first entered service in 2004, meaning the first missiles will enter recertification in 2019. Raytheon is seeking Navy funding to continue the research and development effort for the new seeker, which has yet to be officially approved. Sprinkle declined to cite specific funding amount, on saying that "some money is needed in 20167, more in 2017 and 2018."
He estimated that adding a moving target capability would cost about $250,000 for each missile, which already cost $1.1 million each.
Raytheon has delivered about 3,250 Block IV Tomahawks to the US and British navies, said Chris Daily, deputy director of the company's Tomahawk program.
He noted that, on average, about 100 missiles are fired each year in combat situations. "It's the nation's weapon of choice when we need to attack command and control targets," he said.