The competition for the Navy’s next anti-ship missile, set to kick off in 2017, could be a match between Raytheon’s [RTN] Tomahawk Block IV missile and the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) being developed by Lockheed Martin [LMT], the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems said Wednesday.

As Tomahawk missiles begin going through the recertification process that will extend their lives, the Navy wants to beef up the capability of the missile, potentially with new warheads, command and control and data links, said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin.

“What I would like to see happen is take those capabilities that we need and start inserting those into a [Tomahawk] Block IV and see what we have with LRASM increment 1 and have these two compete for the next generation strike weapon,” under the name Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) increment 2, he said during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

A Tomahawk taking to the skies. Photo: U.S. Navy
A Tomahawk taking to the skies. Photo: U.S. Navy

“If we could incrementally put in some of these things, it will make it easier to transition to this new weapon,” he said. “Will it be in a Tomahawk airframe or some other airframe? Don’t know, but we want to have that competition, but we know the threat is increasing and we need good capability in the mid 2020s and beyond, and that’s what we’re studying in the analysis of alternatives.”

The Tomahawk, a GPS-guided cruise missile that can be launched from a ship or submarine, is used by the Navy to hit stationary targets. However, the service is interested in upgrading the missiles so that they could engage moving ships.

During a Navy-led test last January, the USS Kidd (DDG-100) fired a Tomahawk, which proceeded on a preplanned course (Defense Daily, Feb. 11). After the destroyer relayed a command to change its target, the missile redirected its course toward a moving mock cargo ship and hit a shipping container on its deck, marking the first time a Tomahawk had successfully hit a moving target.

The company is developing a seeker that will allow the missile to find moving targets without the help of another platform, the Raytheon news release said.

LRASM, a joint program between the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Air Force and Navy, conducted its third flight test this February. Unlike the Tomahawk, LRASM is fired by aircraft, although Lockheed Martin conducted simulations in 2014 to validate that it could be launched by an MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) on a ship.

In the flight test this year at Navy’s sea range at Point Mugu in southern California, an Air Force B-1B used data received through its data link and met expectations for low-altitude flight (Defense Daily, Feb. 20)