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Here We Go Again

March 27th, 2014 - 5:13 am

TOMAHAWK

Bryan McGrath on the end of Tomahawk procurement:

One year ago–in the FY14 Budget submission–these planners believed we needed 980 more TLAMS over the course of the FYDP. One year later, they had to choose differently. In order to create the funding necessary to design, compete and build a follow-on land attack weapon, the Navy must cease production years early of one of its most important, useful, flexible, and responsive offensive weapons. In doing so, funds are “created” that can then be applied to the research and development of the follow on. A hard decision made by smart people when presented with no good options. The decision is made somewhat less ugly by the fact that there is an inventory of these weapons built up after years of production (and expenditure). That number is of course, classified, as it should be. But starting in 2016 through 2024, that inventory will diminish each time a missile is fired. This is risk.

Needless risk, I might add, given how broken our procurement system is — and how unlikely we are to field a new (and affordable) cruise missile in time to replace our dwindling (on purpose!) Tomahawk stocks.

And other than defense contractors, has anyone established a certifiable need for a cruise missile significantly more advanced than the Tomahawk? If so, is that need great enough to justify what is sure to be a significant added expense? And if even that is so, is the need great enough to justify the risks of what will certainly be a smaller inventory of Tomahawks in the medium term, and what will almost certainly be a smaller inventory of new missiles?

The next time we get caught with our pants down, it’s going to make Pearl Harbor look like Midway.

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All Comments   (15)
All Comments   (15)
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"And other than defense contractors, has anyone established a certifiable need for a cruise missile significantly more advanced than the Tomahawk?"

Well, my occasional status as defense contractor may disqualify me, but yeah we are getting to the end of the Tomahawk's useful life.

In Navy doctrine, the entire point of the TLAM is to perform the initial suppression of air defenses and command and control systems. By definition, the TLAM is going up against an adversary with intact defenses and who is full of fight. Being subsonic, it is vulnerable to most any weapon that detects its flight while in range. Terrain-hugging is cool and all, but that could very well make it vulnerable to advanced MANPADS teams up in the hills, as it flies through the valleys, for example.

It's probably time to re-tool for a more-survivable cruise missile. The problem is how to get from here to there without having a gap in the ability to procure an operational system.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
The big problem with the argument that they are making is that they are NOT putting the money "saved" from the TLAMS project into its replacement. They are putting it in the LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile) project, when is NOT a replacement for the TLAMS, which is a Land Attack missile. Anti-ship is not the same as Land Attack. The biggest difference is range. Depending on the block type, TLAMS can range up to 1500 miles. LRASM tops out at about 220 miles. There aren't many places on earth that are further than 1500 miles from international waters, but there are LOTS of places that are further than 200. We would lose the ability for our navy to conduct a stand-off strike on most of the planet's land mass.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe time for a cool stealth cruise missile... I'm a bit concerned over cancelling the hellfire also.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Risk? What risk? Obama's SmartDiplomacy has made the world a much safer place!
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
As Mr. McGrath pointed out, a hard decision made by smart people. Is there a certifiable need for a missile more advanced than the Tomahawk? No, not at the moment, but considering the elapsed time from design to production is about a decade by the time there is a need it's far too late.

My question is, how quickly could we ramp production back up if there was a need?
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good thing we have lots and lots and lots of next gen fighters to take care of... oh, yeah. Whee.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Tomahawk is subsonic and said to be increasingly susceptible to anti-missile missiles. Supersonic is the new game.

Some reports have our stockpile as being greater than all expended to date.

My immediate reaction is like yours but we might want to take a breath on this.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was curious about the anti-missile susceptibility myself. I'd heard this was a growing concern.

Is going supersonic that much of an expenditure in the R&D department, though? Don't we have a pretty good understanding of what to do and how to do it? That seems (to my very uneducated eye, to be sure) like a relatively minor upgrade, as far as time and money goes. Is there more going on that justifies the massive investment being called for?
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd like to see reports of them actually being shot down or intercepted, before tossing them out, especially without a replacement.

Newer and sexier doesn't always beat having lots of something that works, especially a proven technology with technical maturity in both production, maintenance and deployment.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Supersonic long range missiles are a somewhat tough nut to crack. They need a whole lot of fuel to have any kind of range at speed, which makes them big and heavy, which means they need a bigger engine, which makes them bigger and heavier, etc, etc.

Ultimately you're building a supersonic UAV at that point, and blowing stuff up with it. A 1,000-1,500 mile range at, say, Mach 1.5 is going to be an interesting nut to crack in any kind of reasonably sized package. That's a problem as quite a lot of infrastructure is built around that package, and if your missile is too big to fit in any current launch system, you've got a bit of a problem. To say nothing of the very specific fuel they use being suitable for an afterburning turbojet or really, really efficient supercruise turbofan.

I suspect what'll happen is we'll eventually get a 500-600 knot cruise missile with various anti-radar and anti-missile countermeasures on it. Probably a few years after we actually need the thing.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Probably a few years after we actually need the thing."

You mean, it'll finally roll out once the Messiah has been governing from rebuilt Jerusalem for some time...
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
I concur. Whatever replaces the TLAM is going to have to fit in a Mk41 cell--we're not going to build a whole new fleet around a newer, bigger supersonic cruise missile.

As I understand it, the Chinese and Russian supersonic designs are all either huge (land-based only) or comparatively short-ranged. Their mission is to force the U.S. Navy to remain 300 miles offshore. The TLAM role is to wreck onshore defenses to the point where a CVBG can get within 300 miles and take advantage of the increase in sortie tempo you get from not having to fly so far.

So I'd expect a stealthy subsonic cruise missile to come out of any new procurement program.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
The difference isn't that the technology isn't available or can't be developed. The fact of the matter is ALL military weapons systems are built on contracts by private industry. And while that sounds good, the good folks who build these parts aren't exactly cheap by anyone's definition-which means the military will only be afforded a certain amount of money for start up contracts of these items which require R&D time, initial testing, operational testing, and finally fielding--THEN sustainment and upgrade contracts. Basically, the already cut military funding has to be frontloaded for a program that won't see light of day for another 8-10 years, in the mean time, the number of those "increasingly susceptible" weapons systems continues to dwindle or becomes exhausted altogether at which point in time, we'll have no interim missiles at all to lob at anything whether it's susceptible based on the AOR or not.

Having a new supersonic missile capability is a great road to work towards, but the content of this discussion is no different in relative scope than cropping investment in sustainment of fossil fuels, to include refinement, to frontload alternative/renewable fuels technologies that only a very scant few people will benefit from for at least a decade. In other words, you can't pull a sandwich from the mouth today for the promise of a feast tomorrow without expecting some pangs.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
My eye is equally unschooled.

I figure that we will need a newer cruise missile before very long. All the cool kids have supersonic cruise missiles. It's being claimed that we're a decade from fielding such a missile but I have to believe we've been working on some for some time now.

24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm sure we do already have some inwork...but if those contracts aren't poised to have fielding capability before the supplies are exhausted, it leaves open a very vulnerable gap
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
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