Submarine Service’s Tomahawk missiles receive £265m revamp

Topic: Fighting armsSubmarine Service Storyline: Astute Class

The striking power of the UK’s hunter-killer submarines is being enhanced with the latest cruise missile system.

All Astute-class boats are to receive boosted Tomahawks as part of a £265m upgrade to the submarines’ premier long-range weapon.

The missile has been in service with the Royal Navy Submarine Service for a quarter of a century, and has been used successfully to strike targets during operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and, most recently, the 2011 Civil War in Libya.

The Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – commonly abbreviated to TLAM – remains at the forefront of the UK’s conventional arsenal and provides a precision strike capability unmatched in terms of range, accuracy and survivability.

Its manufacturers have upgraded the system from the existing model, Block IV, to V, to ensure the missile remains effective against future threats – and defences – ensuring Tomahawk remains as effective and relevant as it was since it was first deployed.

As a result, the UK’s stockpile of Block IVs will be turned into Block Vs from July in a five-year programme.

“The Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile is a cutting-edge system which provides the UK with real strategic and operational choice,” said the Royal Navy’s Director of Submarines Rear Admiral Simon Asquith.

“Able to be fired from a stealthy UK nuclear attack submarine, the system’s exceptional range, accuracy and survivability provides the UK – alongside our US Allies – with a world-beating precision strike capability.”

At 5.6m long and weighing a little over two tonnes, Tomahawk travels at just shy of the speed of sound, striking targets with pinpoint precision at ranges of up to 1,000 miles from its launch platform: historically Swiftsure and Trafalgar-class submarines and, for the past decade, Astute-class boats, based at Faslane.

Among the enhancements on the Block V missiles will be the improved ability to block attempts to jam/divert the Tomahawk from its target. Alongside upgrading the missile itself, the command systems on the boats and support ashore will also be modernised to meet the demands and requirements of the enhanced Tomahawk.

The first upgraded Tomahawks will be delivered to the Fleet by 2024 with a test firing planned by an Astute-class boat the following year. 

The Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile is a cutting-edge system which provides the UK with real strategic and operational choice.

Rear Admiral Simon Asquith