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US Navy receives first Block V Tomahawk missile

Block V Tomahawk
A Block V Tomahawk off the recertification production line at Raytheon's Camden, Ark. facility in March 2021. Photo: Raytheon

The US Navy officially received its first Block V configured Tomahawk missile from Raytheon on March 25.

The Block V missiles that are being delivered now are from the existing Tomahawk Block IV inventory, and have been recertified and modernized for fleet use.

The newest variant of the missile that has been in service since the 1970s marks the navy’s transition to a more advanced capability for the fleet. It enters service after undergoing operational testing in December 2020, when USS Chafee became the first destroyer to launch the missile during an exercise in the Pacific Ocean.

USS Chafee (DDG 90) launches a Block V Tomahawk
Guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) launches a Block V Tomahawk. Photo: US Navy

“This is the next big advancement in Tomahawk capability, and a major achievement for the program,” said Capt. Red, program manager for the Tomahawk Weapons System program (PMA-280). “We’re focused now on delivering advanced capability to the fleet by recertifying and modernizing our Block IV inventory, and by contracting production Block V missiles.”

Red spoke at a virtual ceremony March 25 to commemorate the event along with industry leaders. He noted over the last four decades the program has continued to upgrade Tomahawk’s capability and this marked the collaboration between Raytheon, supply chains, field activities and the program office.

Raytheon is conducting the mid-life recertification process at its Camden, Arkansas facility. The process replaces life-limited components in Block IV missiles to enable their remaining 15 years of service life, and provides the opportunity for the missiles to receive Block V modernizations. All Block IV missiles will undergo recertification and modernization.

In 2020, the company received $493.4 million for the modernization of Block IV missiles and another $147.9 million for the delivery of 90 all new Block V Tomahawk missiles by 2022.

Block V Tomahawk missiles feature a navigation/communications upgrade that maintains the capability for in-flight target updates and improved navigation.

Future Block V capabilities will add to the NAV/COMMs upgrade and include the Maritime Strike Tomahawk (MST) variant, designated as Block Va; and the Joint Multiple Effects Warhead System (JMEWS), designated as Block Vb.

The Block Va variant will introduce a Tomahawk missile capable of hitting moving targets at sea, while the Block Vb will be capable of hitting more diverse land targets. Designed to incorporate both blast-fragmentation and enhanced penetration capabilities, the Block Vb JMEWS was first tested by the navy in 2010.