On May 31, the British government announced its intention to invest 265 million pounds [or 308 million euros] to upgrade the Tomahawk missiles carried by its Astute-type SNAs to the “enhanced Block V” standard.
This upgrade should make it possible to deal with their obsolescence [and extend their lifespan by 15 years] and increase their performance, particularly in terms of range, which should be extended to 1600 km. And it will make it “less vulnerable to external threats”, according to a statement from the UK Ministry of Defense [MoD].
This conversion, which should last five years, will be the subject of a contract signed within the framework of the American system known as “Foreign Military Sales” [FMS].
“Using existing US research and expertise on this upgraded missile, this contract means the UK will continue to have full access to the US Tomahawk programme, both in terms of support and upgrades.” the MoD.
In this regard, Raytheon delivered the first batch of Tomahawk Block V to the US Navy in March 2021.
The number of Tomahawks affected by this upgrade has not been specified. As a reminder, the United Kingdom had ordered 64 copies of the Block IV version in 2004. Then it had completed this order ten years later, with 65 additional missiles.
“Capable of being fired from a stealth British nuclear attack submarine, the exceptional range, accuracy and survivability of the system [the Tomahawk Block V] provides the UK, alongside our American allies, a precision strike capability unrivalled in the world”, welcomed Admiral Simon Asquith, the “director” of submarines within the Royal Navy.
The price looks too steep as the official price of the generic Tomahawk Block V is in the $2 million range in 2022.
However, the $2m could be an internal US price and especially given the number of missiles bought. With 4 American SSGNs, the US requires just 616 tomahawks. But in 1996, the US Navy had 142 ships totalling 6,266 missile silos capable of carrying a Tomahawk and 72 submarines (696 launchers) and 70 surface ships (5,570 launchers). There were then more than 4,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles in inventory. At the end of March 2011, the stock was around 3,200.”
At the same time, the US does not give gifts to their captive markets.