WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy plans to begin arming submarines next year with ship-targeting versions of the widely used Tomahawk missile, part of Washington's push to ramp up military capabilities to challenge Chinese maritime forces, particularly around Taiwan.
The “Maritime Strike” version of the Tomahawk, the RTX Corporation missile traditionally used as a ground-attack weapon, will be fielded after Oct. 1, 2024, program manager Captain Jon Hersey said in a statement. The latest models will be modified with a new guidance system enabling them to “to engage a mobile target at sea,” he said, adding the Navy took delivery of the initial version last year for tests before declaring it combat ready.
Fielding the new version of the Tomahawk — which made its battlefield debut in the early hours of the 1991 Persian Gulf War in Iraq — would add to a growing U.S. arsenal of ship-attack missiles to complement submarine-launched torpedoes intended to counter China's numerically superior fleet. While the Navy also plans to start fielding the weapons on surface vessels, those are more vulnerable to China's land- and sea-based anti-ship arsenal.
Taiwan, which China claims as its sovereign territory, is of particular interest for Washington, which sees defending the island — and its crucial semiconductor industry — as a strategic, economic and political priority.
The schedule for the new maritime strike missile…