U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. defense ability in the Asia-Pacific region. Locklear explains the greater risks today and the Navy’s key focus on North Korea. As you read his threat assessment and his answer, keep in mind that our Tactical Tomahawk and Hellfire missile programs are scheduled to be dead — completely decimated — by 2018, with no replacement on the horizon until 2024 to 2028; first budget cuts reducing orders, then no orders, then empty arsenals by 2018.
Locklear cites “transnational” threats, “growing challenges to freedom of action in sea, air, space and cyberspace,” large humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, territorial disputes, and an “unpredictable North Korea.” Locklear agreed with a panel members assessment that “China’s efforts are underway to change the balance of power in the Western Pacific,” and that “China’s maritime strategy is pretty clear.”
Admiral Locklear says
“We have done this against a backdrop of continued physical and resource uncertainty and the resultant diminishing readiness and availability of our joint force,” Locklear added. Source: Navy.com
Yet I can not find a single high-ranking military officer of any branch talking about the loss of the Tomahawk and the Hellfire missiles, the U.S. Navy’s “major land strike missile.” Maybe some dissents or approvals are hanging in the blogosphere but I haven’t found them.
Indeed, March 2011 saw the 2,000th GM-109 Tomahawk fired in combat, from USS Barry [DDG 52]. The missile typically flies at 50 – 100 feet above ground using terrain-following radar, and navigates to its targets using a combination of GPS/INS, computer matching of the land’s radar-mapped contours to the missile’s internal maps (TERCOM), and final matching of the target scene (DSMAC). Once on target the missile can fly a direct horizontal attack mode, trigger preprogrammed detonation above the target, or use a pop-up and dive maneuver. CEP is often described as being about 10 meters. Source: Defense Industry Daily
Variants of the Tomahawk are also launched from submarines. A plan for a successor to the Tomahawk was scrapped in the FY 2014 budget. This article refers to “The 2019 Evolution:”
…the Navy opted to drop the interim capability. Instead, they’re moving ahead with OASuW’s main xGM-84 Harpoon missile replacement program for air and sea launch, using the LRASM derivative of Lockheed Martin’s subsonic but stealthy AGM-158B JASSM-ER.
In what is referred to a “Plan B,” and a “recertification cycle,” the Tomahawk’s evolution was planned to be an extension of the “15-year warranty and a 30-year service life,” to include missile “upgrades.”
Under consideration for upgrades, was the ability for the Tomahawk to “acquire targets on its own and hit them, even if the target is moving or has moved.” No doubt this will be a requirement for whatever comes in the next ten to 14 years when we are sans Tomahawks and Hellfires.
It’s a bit like announcing we are leaving Afghanistan and giving the Taliban a heads-up that if they only wait long enough…
Even during times of intense budgetary pressure, America has an obligation to invest in next-generation weaponry. But newer isn’t necessarily better.
In America’s culture of optimism and innovation, there is always the desire for the better mouse trap. Sometimes, traps are needed to catch rats and not mice, so the mouse traps must be replaced. Sometimes, the existing traps can be modified to more than do the job against the actual threat they face. But we must be intellectually honest and ask, “Can what we have already get it done?”
Such is the case with the Tomahawk missile. Designed in the 1970s and improved since, Tomahawks provide vital American strategic projection. Over 2,000 missiles have been launched in combat from 1991 to present. America has defeated threats in Desert Storm, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, the Sudan, at clandestine terrorist locations, and most recently in Libya. Over that time, they have proven uniquely reliable and versatile.
With current Tomahawks, known as “Block IV,” missions can be planned in an hour. Once the missile is launched, controllers can alter its trajectory, change its target, or even direct the missile to loiter in the air for hours at a time. Tomahawks can strike across land, water and any environment over 900 miles from their launch points –that’s more than the distance from Washington, DC to Atlanta. The US can conduct strikes in heavily guarded airspace without directly endangering American military personnel. They are also used by our closest allies.
Pivoting to LRASM could be a costly and strategic mistake. It could unnecessarily increase military expenses during a time of severe budget cuts.
LRASM is years away from proving itself, and LRASM-like missile programs have a pretty poor track record. LRASM closely resembles the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), a weapon with a long history of failed test launches. Read more at Breaking Defense
The Details of Current News:
Last year the U.S. Navy planned to purchase 980 Tactical Tomahawk missiles. This week it was revealed that Obama’s 2015 budget cuts the Tomahawk from 196 in 2013, to 100 in 2015 and zero in 2016. The Tomahawk arsenal will have a zero inventory by 2018, with nothing planned to replace it. The dollars cut by heading toward a zero arsenal of both the Tomahawk and the Hellfire missiles will instead be “reinvested” in an “experimental missile” scheduled for, perhaps, 10 years in the future. A current acquisition of Hellfires for 2015 will be cancelled if the cuts go through.
Lack of funding is not the problem. Plugging the funding into new missiles is the plan, or plugging the funding into something, somewhere — might also be an alternate plan. If Democrats stay in power, we might get ten-years-out and arsenals could remain empty, just sayin.’
The U.S. Navy relied heavily on them [Tomahawks] during the 2011 military incursion into Libya, where some 220 Tomahawks were used during the fight.
Nearly 100 of these missiles are used each year on average, meaning that the sharp cuts will cause the Tomahawk stock to be completely depleted by around 2018. This is particularly concerning to defense experts because the Pentagon does not have a replacement missile ready to take the Tomahawk’s place.
“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.” Source: Adam Kredo at Free Beacon
An Obama budget has yet to be passed in the history of his presidency, so we’ll see what happens, but if nothing else, this shows the dangers of a tyrant’s wish list, a reckless disregard for our country’s safety:
This isn’t reducing America’s ability to project power around the Globe, this is leaving us without the means to defend ourselves. Along with the purposed decommissioning of the A-10 (the Warcraft that destroyed Saddam’s Armour) this is striking from the hands of our protectors every weapon that they depend upon. If Putin decides to take back all the old Soviet territory in Eastern Europe what is the US Military supposed to use to stop him? Source: On the North River, read more here.
Funding is available for the Tomahawk and Hellfire. This is not a product of sequestration; it is a product of something dark and deceptive. We can’t get away from that conclusion, because in four years or less, we are left with nothing to take up the Tomahawk mission. Those who stalk our defense capabilities have received the memo.
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