UK’s Royal Navy to boost hunter-killer submarines with Tomahawk missile system

UK’s Royal Navy has revealed plans to enhance its hunter-killer submarines with the latest cruise missile system.

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

The Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) has been upgraded from the existing model, Block IV, to V, to ensure it remains effective against future threats and defences.

As a result, the UK’s stockpile of Block IVs is scheduled to be turned into Block Vs in a five-year programme, starting in July.

Royal Navy
HMS Astute fires a Tomahawk at a land target on the range in November 2011. Courtesy of the Royal Navy

The missile is 5.6 metres long and weighs a little over two tonnes. It strikes targets 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 Royal Navy’s fleet by 2024 with a test firing planned by an Astute-class boat the following year. 

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