Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

The US Navy is to seek Congressional approval to shift funds from production of the Tomahawk cruise missile to development of a new low-cost version. The Navy wants to take fiscal-year 1998 money earmarked for the last batch of Tomahawk Block 3 missiles and put it towards development of a cheaper, more-flexible, "Tactical Tomahawk".

The move is controversial because the Navy wants to make the change under a "winner-takes-all" contract awarded to Hughes (now Raytheon) in 1994, covering multi-year procurement of Block 3 Tomahawks and development of an improved Block 4 missile, which the service no longer wants. The Navy wants to make the change without recompeting the contract, which Hughes beat McDonnell Douglas to win.

Some of the $300 million-worth of development work already completed on the Block 4 weapon, under the Tomahawk Baseline Improvement Programme, would still be applicable to the Tactical Tomahawk, the Navy argues.

Raytheon has offered to build new Tactical Tomahawks at a cost of less than $575,000 apiece, compared with $800,000 each for Block 4 missiles remanufactured from Block 3 Tomahawks. The reduced cost would result from use of commercial components and manufacturing improvements which would reduce parts count and assembly time. At the same time, Raytheon has offered to increase its warranty from five years to 15 years.

The Navy plans to buy 1,350 new Tactical Tomahawks over six years beginning in 2002. The weapon would feature in-flight retargeting and a 2h loiter capability over the target area; a seeker satellite-datalink to provide target confirmation and battle-damage assessment; and a lower-cost engine. Raytheon has proposed replacing the current Williams International F107 turbofan with a Teledyne CAE J402 turbojet.

The Tactical Tomahawk would carry a unitary warhead, but would be sized to house either 12 Northrop Grumman Brilliant Anti-Tank submunitions, 12 Textron Sensor-Fuzed Weapon submunitions or a hard-target penetrator.

Source: Flight International