One of the primary responsibilities of Machinist’s Mates Weapons, or MMWs, has been the maintenance, testing, and launching of Tomahawk missiles. Originally designed to be launched from surface ships, the guided, sub-sonic Tomahawk was modified for use on Los Angeles- and Seawolf-class submarines using both Vertical Launch and Torpedo Tube Launch systems. (Only three of the Seawolf-class submarines were produced and put into service before the line was cancelled.) Other Naval platforms for Tomahawk deployment include Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke- and Zumwalt-class destroyers.

For several years, the question of just how many Tomahawks various ships would carry was up in the air because the missile was primarily designed for use against land-based targets. Attempts were made during the 1990s to use the Tomahawk as an anti-ship weapon, but the limitations of the sensors employed by its navigation system meant the chances of it hitting an unintended target were too great.

But in 2007, the U.S. Navy began testing the Block IV iteration of the Tomahawk, and the results were very promising: it was successfully re-directed during the course of its flight and was even given a new target via satellite transmission. Building upon these improvements and the addition of real-time targeting capabilities through the use of a target’s radar signature, Tomahawk manufacturer Raytheon began the move to make the missile a top-tier anti-ship weapon. In 2016, the Navy’s budget request to Congress (for Fiscal Year 2017) included over $400 million to modify existing Tomahawks with a system, successfully tested in 2015, that allows the missile to hit moving maritime targets.

This is welcome news for Machinist’s Mates Weaponsbecause the new Tomahawks will not require any modifications to the torpedo tubes used to launch it, which means the testing and maintenance protocols should remain unchanged.


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