On April 03, 2023, Dutch State Secretary for Defence Christophe van der Maat explained the plan to acquire Tomahawk as part of a “maritime strike” capability for the RNLN.
In the “A letter”, which details the analysis or requirements, the minister states that the procurement of Tomahawk cruise missiles with conventional payloads for the air defense and command frigates (LCF) and two of the four in-service Walrus-class submarines (along with JASSM-ER missiles for the F-35 fighters of the Royal Netherlands Air Force) are planned to provide deep strike capability.
“This substantial investment means that we can take major steps towards building the armed forces and the security of the future.”
Christophe Van der Maat, Dutch Minister of Defense
The Dutch Ministry of Defense (MoD) also published an article stating that the strike capability of the Dutch Navy is limited by the range of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, which is about 75 nautical miles, according to Harpoon technical documents. The article states that due to the operational need for a weapon with a range of at least 1,000 kilometers, the project to procure long-range weapons was initiated.
The “A letter” document which Naval News could review, mentions that the Dutch MoD studied alternatives to the Tomahawk, namely the French ‘Missile de Croisière Naval’ (MdCN) and the Anglo-French ‘Future Cruise/Anti Ship Weapon’ (FC-ASW). According to the document, the Dutch MoD found that “the range of both weapon systems, however, is not sufficient. It is uncertain whether the MdCN can be adapted for the launch installation of the LC frigates. The FC-ASW is still under development and little information is available about it.” The MoD mentions that it will “continue to monitor the developments of the FC-ASW”.
Neither Van der Maat’s letter nor the article published on the Dutch Mod’s website mentions the Tomahawk missile variant. However, the article states that the Ministry of Defense wants a single variant for 4 LCFs and a single variant for the submarines.
Unlike the American submarines, the Dutch submarines will fire the missiles from the torpedo tubes. The article points out that if the upgrade of the current submarines would be delayed or this Torpedo Tube Launch (TTL) version of the Tomahawk is not available in time, it will be necessary to consider whether it is still worthwhile to retrofit the current submarines before they are retired. The future RNLN submarines to be procured will have to be capable of deploying long-range missiles anyway.
The article also mentions the possible delivery dates of the Tomahawk missiles, and the upgrades of the relevant warships.
“The Tomahawk upgrade of De Zeven Provinciën, Tromp, De Ruyter, and Evertsen frigates will take place during their maintenance planned for the 2025-2029 period. The Netherlands and the U.S. are targeting an initial test launch with an LCF in 2024. As for the submarines, the launch depends on the delivery date of the TTL version of Tomahawk. For the time being, the year 2029 is assumed.”
Dutch MoD article
Tomahawk Block IV has a longer range than its predecessors (well in excess of 1,000 miles), can be directed at a new target in mid-flight, and can also beam back images of the battlefield to its launch platform. The Royal Navy is the only foreign user of the missile to date.
According to Raytheon, U.S. and allied militaries have flight-tested the GPS-enabled Tomahawk 550 times and used it in combat more than 2,300 times. Its most recent use came in 2018, when U.S. Navy warships and submarines launched 66 Tomahawk missiles at Syrian chemical weapon facilities.
All Tomahawk Block IVs are being upgraded to Block V with longer range and dynamic targeting with the capability to hit vessels at sea (maritime strike role). Raytheon is recertifying and modernizing the missile, extending its service life by 15 years, and resulting in the new Tomahawk Block V series:
- Block V: A modernized TACTOM with upgraded navigation and communication
- Block Va: Block V that can strike moving targets at sea
- Block Vb: Block V, with a joint multi-effects warhead that can hit more diverse land targets
On the international front, the UK Royal Navy is so far the only user of the cruise missile outside of the US. This is about to change however, with both Australia and Japan set to procure Tomahawk missiles.
Tayfun Ozberk story, additional reporting by Xavier Vavasseur