UK's Royal Navy test fires Block IV Tomahawk cruise missile

The United Kingdom's Royal Navy has released images of its latest cruise missile acquisition, a 'smart' Block IV Tomahawk long-range land attack missile (TLAM) in a test firing off the coast of the United States.

The 5,200 tonne attack submarine, HMS Trenchant, fired the Block IV Tomahawk through one of her torpedo tubes and the advanced missile then flew over the Gulf of Mexico and struck a target hundreds of miles away with pinpoint accuracy.

According to the UK's ministry of defence, the missile reached heights of 10,000 feet (3km) and speeds of 500 miles an hour (805 kmh) in the course of the 60-minute test fight.

Linked to satellite communication systems, the Block IV enhanced weapon has a range one third greater than the current missiles and can hit targets over 1,000 miles (1,609 km) away. The Block IV Tomahawks can be re-targeted in flight and even send back images of the battlefield to boost intelligence gathering. (See: US Navy tests sub-launched Block IV Tomahawk missile)

Lord Drayson, minister of state for defence equipment and support, said, "I'm delighted to announce that this vital trial of the new TLAM Block IV missile has been a great success. These conventionally armed land attack missiles are the most advanced of their type in the world - able to fly further and strike targets with even greater precision.

"They also incorporate the latest computer technology, giving them the ability to retarget or abort missions in flight and to take their own images of the battlefield."

He added, "This test is a very significant milestone which gives a tangible demonstration of our ability to deliver precision attack at long range against selected targets.

"They will give the Royal Navy a world class capability and the ability to pre-position the missile covertly in our attack submarines gives enormous flexibility to our forces."

The ministry of defence bought 64 of the all-weather missiles from the United States Government four years ago.

The unique capabilities of the missile are the result of close co-operation between the US and the UK, which is also the only nation outside the US to have the Tomahawk Block IV. Although a US missile, UK firms have played a key role in providing electronic and submarine upgrades.

The missiles are made by Raytheon in the USA and supplied to the UK under the terms of a Foreign Military Sales case.

The system is due to enter service with the Royal Navy in 2008 and will be capable of being fired from UK's current Trafalgar Class submarines as well as from the new Astute Class submarines when they enter service.