Tale of the Tomahawk
Remember Tomahawk? The low-flying missile launched from Navy cruisers, destroyers and submarines that was one of those new precision weapons of the first Gulf War and the main tool of counter-terrorism in the 1990's?
Nineteen years after its debut, the now little-used missile is still being manufactured, and that's good news for two Top Secret America contractors.
As part of the contract, Lockheed said it would "provide systems engineering, software development, hardware support and management required to continue the system upgrades to address significant hardware, software and interoperability obsolescence issues."
Translation: its software computes the missile's route to strike targets.
Lockheed's been working on the Tomahawk program since 1999. As for the actual missile -- that's made by Raytheon. Earlier this year, Raytheon received $202.7 million to produce nearly 200 Tomahawks. Raytheon provided this promotional video (wmv) of its Tomahawk missile.
Why continue to build long-range cruise missiles in an era of "boots on the ground," when the weapon of choice these days is an actual soldier with eyes on target directing an airplane overhead or a missile-shooting drone?
We asked the Navy why the Tomahawk was in still in demand. Here's what the service said in an emailed response. "The contract with Lockheed is for software development and fielding to support the functions that the Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System perform," wrote a spokesperson for Mike Thumm, deputy program manager for Tomahawk Weapon Control Systems. "These include missile inventory control, processing and reporting, missile route planning, missile launch and control of the missile during its flight."
John Pike, a defense industry expert at GlobalSecurity.org, says the answer lies in possible future engagements: "We want to continue to be prepared to blow up China, Iran or North Korea or any other country that may need blowing up."
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld testified before Congress in 2002 about converting four retiring Cold War submarines into Tomahawk shooting machines. Rumsfeld said the conversion represented "an emerging portfolio of transformational capabilities that should enable us to defend freedom in the dangerous century ahead."
The so-called "SSGN" conversion program, a multi-million dollar endeavor, is now complete and its showcase -- and little-used -- missile lives on.
Dana Hedgpeth and William M. Arkin
August 30, 2010; 12:11 PM ET
| Tags: Defense Contracting, Weapons
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