Netherlands returns to Tomahawk procurement

A Tomahawk missile is fired from the US Navy (USN) Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Dewey.
A Tomahawk missile is fired from the US Navy (USN) Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Dewey. The Netherlands has announced plans for a Tomahawk procurement from the USN, including to fit its own De Zeven Provinciën-class frigates. (US Navy)

The Netherlands plans to procure Raytheon’s Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) from the US Navy (USN), the Dutch defence ministry (MoD) has announced.

The plans include consideration of fitting the conventionally armed Tomahawk to the Royal Netherlands Navy’s (RNLN’s) in-service De Zeven Provinciën-class air-defence and command (LCF) frigates.

Should the plans proceed, the Netherlands would become only the third Tomahawk operator, following the USN and the UK Royal Navy (RN): the RN introduced the missile in 1998. The Netherlands would also finally complete a purchase it originally planned in 2005. At that time, the government announced the intent to procure 30 Tomahawks. However, a change of government in 2007 prompted a change in plan, and procurement was cancelled.

The renewed Tomahawk procurement plan is part of a wider acquisition programme designed to reinforce national security through adding long-range strike capability across the Netherlands armed forces. According to State Secretary for Defence Christophe van der Maat, Tomahawk would bring credible conventional deterrence and warfighting capability, the MoD’s All Hands magazine noted.

As noted also in All Hands, the RNLN and USN are aiming for a first Tomahawk test firing from a De Zeven Provinciën frigate in 2024, with the four ships-in-class then being fitted with the system during a planned round of upgrades in the 2025-29 period. The missile will be installed in the ships’ Lockheed Martin Mk 41 vertical launching system (VLS).

The 1,000 mile-range Tomahawk will significantly extend the RNLN’s reach, providing a land-attack strike capability that will complement the De Zeven Provinciën frigates’ anti-ship missile (ASM) strike capability – which is provided currently by the McDonnell Douglas/Boeing Harpoon Block 1C ASM, but from 2025 will be provided by the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile.

The in-service Tomahawk version is the Block IV Tactical Tomahawk (TacTom). Under upgrades currently in development, Tomahawk will also bring ASM capability, via the Block Va Maritime Strike Tomahawk.

Alongside the frigate fit, submarine deployment may be a Tomahawk option for the Netherlands. However, the challenge here is that the USN is not currently manufacturing torpedo tube-launched Tomahawks. The RNLN’s in-service Walrus-class diesel-electric submarines do not have a VLS capability. Moreover, a VLS system does not appear to be a capability requirement in the design for the Walrus class planned replacement boat.

by Dr. Lee Willett, London