HomeNews & MediaPress ReleasesPress Release 
Sept. 13, 2002
For Immediate Release

Media Contact

Kristi Marren
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Laurel, MD 20723
Phone: 240-228-6268 or 443-778-6268


JHU/APL Launches Plays Key Role in Flight Test of Navy's Next-Generation Tomahawk Cruise Missile

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) played a key role in the first-ever flight last month of the Navy's Tactical Tomahawk — the next generation of the Navy's Tomahawk cruise missile. From its Laurel, Md., campus, APL served as strike controller during the successful California-based test, exchanging messages with the missile via satellite during its 550-mile flight, using APL-developed software that monitored the missile's status and allowed it to be redirected in flight — one of the missile's unique capabilities.

Conducted from the Naval Air Systems Command's Western Test Range, Pt. Mugu, Calif., this was the first of two developmental flight tests aimed at proving the missile's guidance and control, navigation, aerodynamics and communications systems — all of which APL has played a major role in as Technical Direction Agent for the Tomahawk program. In this role, APL is developing system requirements and working with contractors to define, develop and evaluate the system's hardware components, computer systems and software.

"This successful flight test is a great example of APL, our NAVAIR sponsors and industry partners, such as Raytheon (the missile designer), teaming together to develop a more cost effective and flexible weapon for our military forces," says Mike Foust, APL's cruise missiles program manager.

A large part of demonstrating the Tactical Tomahawk's flexibility comes from the APL-developed strike coordination prototype software. This software exhibited some of the missile's unique capabilities, such as two-way communication between the fleet and missile, which is used to monitor the missile's health and status, retarget it, and/or receive images obtained in flight.

"We're helping Raytheon improve the overall Tomahawk design through our expertise with the Tomahawk Strike Network, UHF (ultra-high frequency) satellite communications and the products we develop, such as our strike control and satellite modem interface prototypes," says Mark LoPresto, APL's strike coordination project manager.

Prior to the Aug. 23 flight test, APL served as strike controller during a series of risk-reduction ground tests in the spring. The Lab will continue in this role during the second developmental flight test this fall.

An upgrade to the Navy's current Tomahawk missile, Tactical Tomahawk will provide military units with a more flexible and responsive weapon that can be used against a wider range of targets. The upgraded weapon system is due to reach the fleet in 2004. The Tomahawk is launched from surface ships and submarines and was first employed operationally during Desert Storm. Tactical Tomahawk includes many improvements, including launch platform mission planning capability; in-flight retargeting, loiter, anti-jam GPS, battle damage assessment capabilities; and in-flight health and status reporting. These capabilities will increase fleet effectiveness while significantly reducing acquisition and life cycle costs. The Tomahawk program is managed by the Naval Air Systems Command's Program Executive Office, Strike Weapons and Unmanned Aviation. Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., is the missile manufacturer.

Long-Term Critical Contributions in Strike Warfare

The Laboratory has played an active role in the Tomahawk program since its inception in the 1970s. APL applied its knowledge of map-matching guidance systems obtained during the early years of the Triton cruise missile program, which began in 1950, to help design a sophisticated, terrain-contour-matching system to guide Tomahawk to its target with no assistance after launch.

In the early 1980s, the Navy asked APL to become Technical Direction Agent for the Tomahawk program, a role the Lab continues today.

"Strike warfare will continue to be a critical part of the nation's defense," says Bob Dougherty, executive of APL's strike warfare business area, "and the Lab's expertise is adding accuracy, effectiveness and safety to the nation's warfighting capability."


The Applied Physics Laboratory, a division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For information, visit www.jhuapl.edu.