Pentagon Says Cruise Missile Versatility Enhanced By Passing New Test
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States successfully tested one of its Tomahawk cruise missiles in a new attack mode early this month by exploding in mid-flight as it passed over a target plane protected by a revetment, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
The missile, fired from a submarine and carrying a 1,000-pound conventional ″Bullpup″ warhead, traveled 474 miles across the Pacific Ocean to the target on San Clemente Island off the California coast, said Bob Holsapple, spokesman for the Pentagon’s cruise missile office.
The Tomahawk was traveling at roughly 630 miles per hour, at an altitude ″well below″ 100 feet, when it exploded and destroyed the target plane, Holsapple added.
″The results were much better than expected,″ the spokesman added.
The test was described as the first regular, free flight attack drill involving a Tomahawk in an ″air burst″ mode of attack. The missile had been checked out earlier for two other kinds of attack - direct horizontal flight into a target, and a ″terminal dive″ mode in which the missile pops up in altitude before diving straight down on its target.
The Tomahawk, which the Navy began deploying in 1983, can be equipped with either conventional or nuclear warheads.
Holsapple discussed the April 1 test after Robert Sims, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, released video and still pictures of the experiment.
Sims also disclosed that in the course of an exercise now underway in the eastern Caribbean, Navy and Air Force units had successfully fired six Harpoon anti-ship missiles at an old boat hull floating off the coast of Puerto Rico.
The exercise was unusual in that six of the expensive missiles were tested at once, the Navy added.
The Tomahawk, built by the General Dynamics Corp. at a cost of roughly $2 million each, can be used to attack targets on land or the water. The Tomahawk is a 19-foot, unmanned jet with short, stubby wings and tail fins, designed to follow the terrain and hug the ground to escape radar detection. The conventional land-attack version has a range of roughly 700 miles.
According to Holsapple, the Pentagon conducted a static test of the Bullpup warhead about 2 1/2 years ago to determine its effectiveness when exploded above targets on the ground. When the Tomahawk was first developed, he added, the idea of using it to carry such a warhead was not explored.
By using such a warhead and modifying the Tomahawk’s internal computer guidance system, however, the cruise missile can now be used against targets parked behind walls of dirt or concrete, known as revetments.