Teaching the Tomahawk New Tricks

The U.S. military is working to upgrade the Tomahawk cruise missile and enhance its capabilities. Over the years, the Navy has used the Tomahawk, made by the Raytheon Missile Systems Company, extensively. Now, the military is teaching its favorite flying rocket to, among other things, hit a moving target at sea.

This video shows a Jan. 27 test fire off the coast of California, in which the Tomahawk hits a moving vessel. Once it is launched, an F-18 tracks the subsonic missile until it blows through some shipping containers.

Note the lucky pigeons at the 2:47 mark.

The military and Raytheon have upgraded the Tomahawk many times since it was first deployed in 1984. The latest iteration of the missile is called the Tomahawk Block IV. Though the Block IV has been in use for a few years, Raytheon intends to continue improving the Tomahawk’s capabilities.

“The Tomahawk Block IV flight test,” the Navy said in a statement, “demonstrated guidance capability when the missile in flight altered its course toward the moving target after receiving position updates from surveillance aircraft.”

Two days after the successful test, the Navy launched a second Tomahawk.  This time, the missile provided a “call for fire” mission Jan. 29. “Using GPS navigational updates, the missile performed a vertical dive to impact on San Nicolas Island, scoring a direct hit on the target designated by the Marines,” Raytheon wrote in their press release. Because the Tomahawk can be launched and circle for hours before being assigned a target, this new precision-strike capability will be useful for Marines in the field.

But these are not the only improvements underway.  On their website, Raytheon says that other upgrades to the missile will include stronger communications and a more powerful warhead. The Tomahawk cruise missile is capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

To date, the Tomahawk has been used about 2,000 times in combat by U.S. and British forces.  Most recently, the Tomahawk was used to strike targets in Syria, according to ABC News.

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