NAVAIR Tomahawk Test Team Facilitates Successful Missile Launches

40th FLTS F-15E #87-018 acts as 'chase' for a test Tomahawk missile launched from SSGN-728 USS Florida, while operating in the Gulf of Mexico.
Photo: USN

5/24/2007 - Four US Navy Tomahawk Cruise Missiles were launched from the USS FLORIDA, SSGN-728 (Guided Missile Submarine Nuclear), while underway in the Gulf of Mexico recently. The tests were the first Tomahawk launches from the new SSGN Class submarine which included one Block III, and three Block IV variants of the Tomahawk missile as part of the SSGN’s strike operational evaluation (OPEVAL).

The FLORIDA is one of four OHIO Class ballistic missile submarines being converted into conventionally-armed strike submarines. The SSGN Conversion Program commenced in 2001 to convert the OHIO (SSGN-726), FLORIDA, MICHIGAN (SSGN-727) and GEORGIA (SSGN-729) submarines.

Each SSGN has its two forward missile tubes converted into Dry-Deck Shelter / Advanced SEAL Delivery System (DDS/ASDS) capable Lock-Out Chambers. The remaining twenty-two missile tubes are able to hold up to 154 Tomahawk missiles. The SSGN also contains facilities for up to 66 Special Operation Forces (SOF) personnel.

“The OHIO Class SSGNs represent a new capability for the Navy,” said Rear Admiral William Hilarides, Program Executive Officer, Submarine. “Our submarines have been associated with Special Forces since World War II and they have been firing missiles since the 1950s. However, we have never had the ability to host so many missiles and SOF aboard a single clandestine, long-range, fast, stealthy platform.”

All of the test missiles were vertically launched from the USS FLORIDA’s capsule launch system while underway off the coast of western Florida, and flew a fully-guided land attack mission to the Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) land test range area.

During the first flight test conducted on 15 May, two Tomahawk Block IV Cruise Missiles were launched within seconds of each other in the first Tomahawk Land Attack Missile multiple-launch test event.

The test-configured missiles transitioned to cruise flight, and made landfall on the Gulf Coast en route to the Eglin test range. Both test missiles impacted the planned target on the test range complex, after completing flights of 670 and 252 nautical miles.

In the second test on 16 May, a Block III test missile flew a 312 nautical mile mission to the Eglin test range. During the terminal portion of the flight, the missile performed a simulated programmed warhead detonation delivery on a target, followed by an automatic parachute recovery.
In the third test on 17 May, a Block IV test missile flew a 531 nautical mile route to the Eglin range and impacted the planned target. This Block IV mission was planned entirely onboard the SSGN launch platform. These events brought the total number of flight tests of the Tomahawk Cruise Missile that have been conducted to 453.

As in all Tomahawk flight tests, air safety was carefully planned by the NAVAIR Test Team in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration. For safety purposes, the Tomahawk could have been guided by commands from safety chase aircraft. Additionally, alternate safe landing zones were planned along the test missile’s flight path.

The successful tests were supported by safety chase aircraft provided by the 46th Test Wing’s 40th Flight Test Squadron, based at Eglin AFB. Chase aircraft were flown by combined Air Force and Navy crews from the 40th and the Navy’s VX-30 and VX-31 Test Squadrons, based at Point Mugu and China Lake, Calif.

Telemetry and communications support aircraft were provided by the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron from Tyndall AFB. Airborne refueling support was provided by the 6th Air Mobility Wing from MacDill AFB. Response teams were staffed by Navy EOD from the Naval Support Activity in Panama City, Fla.

Helicopter support for rapid response was provided by the Eglin 40th Flight Test Squadron and by Air Center Helicopters, based in Fort Worth, Texas.

Range support at Eglin was provided by personnel from the 96th Communications Group, and the InDyne Incorporated Operations Group.

Additional mission support was provided by the 46th Test Wing at Eglin, including aircraft maintenance, munitions, weather, transportation, range safety, air armament center, 96th Air Base Wing and test management.

The Tomahawk Weapons System is deployed throughout the world's oceans on numerous surface ships and submarines, including AEGIS-Class Cruisers, Guided Missile Destroyers, SEAWOLF and LOS ANGELES-Class submarines, and will soon be deployed aboard the SSGN-Class submarines.

The Program Executive Office, Strike Weapons and Unmanned Aviation PEO (W), located at NAVAIR headquarters’, Patuxent River, Md, manage the program. The missile is manufactured by Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Ariz. Tomahawk is a registered trademark of the United States Navy.

Source: NAVAIR Point Mugu Public Affairs

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