The US Navy uses about 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles per year to deal with global threats or to send a message. The Hellfire missile has become a mainstay of anti-terrorism operations since the CIA and military adapted the Predator drone aircraft to launch them. But under President Obama’s military budget, both programs will be eliminated over the next year or two. By 2018, the United States will have used all of its remaining stocks of Tomahawk missiles. And the military has no replacement for either weapon system ready to go yet.
President Barack Obama is seeking to abolish two highly successful missile programs that experts say has helped the U.S. Navy maintain military superiority for the past several decades.
The Tomahawk missile program—known as “the world’s most advanced cruise missile”—is set to be cut by $128 million under Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal and completely eliminated by fiscal year 2016, according to budget documents released by the Navy.
In addition to the monetary cuts to the program, the number of actual Tomahawk missiles acquired by the United States would drop significantly—from 196 last year to just 100 in 2015. The number will then drop to zero in 2016.
The Navy will also be forced to cancel its acquisition of the well-regarded and highly effective Hellfire missiles in 2015, according to Obama’s proposal.
“It doesn’t make sense,” said Seth Cropsey, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower. “This really moves the U.S. away from a position of influence and military dominance.”
Cropsey said that if someone were trying to “reduce the U.S. ability to shape events” in the world, “they couldn’t find a better way than depriving the U.S. fleet of Tomahawks. It’s breathtaking.”
Money isn’t the issue. Obama’s budget takes the money saved from axing these programs and puts it toward an experimental missile that won’t be fielded for about a decade.
Navy experts and retired officials fear that the elimination of the Tomahawk and Hellfire systems—and the lack of a battle-ready replacement—will jeopardize the U.S. Navy’s supremacy as it faces increasingly advanced militaries from North Korea to the Middle East.
The cuts are “like running a white flag up on a very tall flag pole and saying, ‘We are ready to be walked on,’” Cropsey said.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell called the cuts to the Tomahawk program devastating for multiple reasons.
“We run a huge risk because so much of our national policy for immediate response is contingent on our national security team threatening with Tomahawk missiles,” said Russell, who is currently running for Congress.
“The very instrument we will often use and cite, we’re now cutting the program,” Russell said. “There was a finite number [of Tomahawk’s] made and they’re not being replenished.”
“If our national policy is contingent on an immediate response with these missile and we’re not replacing them, then what are we going do?” Russell asked.
Yet another move in which Barack Obama is clearly weakening the United States just as Russia gains strength. Two words: Fundamental transformation.