Home Europe UK invests £265M in Tomahawk missile upgrade for Royal Navy submarines

UK invests £265M in Tomahawk missile upgrade for Royal Navy submarines

Tomahawk TLAM launches from a submarine
Royal Navy file photo of a submarine-launched Tomahawk missile

The UK defense ministry is upgrading its stock of Tomahawk land attack missiles that are used on Royal Navy submarines to ensure the weapon is even more effective against future threats.

In a £265 million contract with the US government, with maintenance and technical support at the UK sites of BAE Systems, Babcock International and Lockheed Martin, the Royal Navy’s Astute-class submarines will be armed with an enhanced Block V standard missile, capable of striking threats at a range of up to 1,000 miles.

The upgraded missile will be able to travel further than the previous Block IV iteration. The upgrade will also make the weapon less vulnerable to external threats, with modernized in-flight communication and target selection.

At approximately 5.6m long and weighing 2200kg – a similar weight to a 4×4 car – the high sub-sonic Tomahawk was first introduced into UK service in 1998 and can hit in-land targets from the sea within minutes. A weapon of choice since then, it has been deployed during operations in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq.

“This upgrade will equip our Astute-class attack submarines with the one of the most lethal and precise long-range strike weapons,” UK defense procurement minister Jeremy Quin said.

“Enhancing this cutting-edge missile system will ensure the UK can strike severe threats up to 1,000 miles away.

The Tomahawk missiles will be upgraded as part of a Foreign Military Sale with the US government, which was negotiated by the MOD’s procurement arm, Defence Equipment and Support and will be active from July.

Making use of existing US research and expertise on the upgraded missile, the contract will mean the UK continues to receive full access to the US Tomahawk program, support package and upgrades.

As Block IV is upgraded to Block V from 2024, it will modernize and improve in-flight communications and navigation, making the missile more effective against future threats around the globe.

The Foreign Military Sale also includes missile maintenance, recertification of existing missiles, spares, operational flight testing, software, hardware and training provisions.

“The Tomahawk is a cutting-edge system which provides the UK with real strategic and operational choice. 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,” Director Submarines, Rear Admiral Simon Asquith said.

Due to be operational in the mid-2020s, the upgraded Tomahawk will align with the delivery of the latest Astute submarines, the UK defense ministry said.