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C2T of the Antiship Tomahawk Missile

The two articles on command and control in this issue of the Submarine Review — one by Phoenix, Soviet Submarine Command and Control, and one by Jon Boyes, C3 and the Submarine as a System of Force — suggest that a discussion might be usefully pursued, within these pages, relative to command and control concepts for the newly deployed Tomahawk missile. And, since the targeting of Tomahawk for a mission is an essential element in the “control” of the weapon~ the problem being addressed is a C T one, where C is command and control and T is targeting.

Phoenix indicates bow the Soviets argue, through open discussion, the command and control theory applicable to specific modes of warfare. Jon Boyes on the other hand indicates that U.S. command and control techniques·appear to lag the introduction of new 2 weapons  Hence, although the total subject of C T for Tomahawk in its various versions antisbip, land attack conventional, land attack nuclear — might be covered, for purposes of simplification a focusing on how to employ just the antiship version of Tomahawk appears to be a good place to start.

The submarine-launched, antiship, long-range cruise missile — TOMAHAWK — is a weapon that should be usable at great ranges. Its firing platform, the SSN, is a highly covert, mobile means for concentrating a high level of force, in coordination with other submarines, against enemy surface targets — with a good element of surprise. The Tomahawk’s sea-hugging trajectory and its inherent quality of stealth due to low radar cross section and a range gate for actuati ng the terminal homing radar, insure the element of surprise. In fact, the combination of nuclear submarine and long range missile provide a new form of “artillery” at sea. How to profitably use this new submarine capability is not only a product of the “control” of this weapon but also how well it can be targeted out to very long ranges. For this discussion, an arbitrary distance or 2 200 miles is chosen in order to examine the C T problems associated with delivery of Tomahawk out to such a range against a surface target.


Airborne sensors (satellite or aircraft) now provide good broad ocean surveillance (both visual and electronic) of sur£ace ships on a world-wide basis. Satellites also provide the means to relay target information globally. Satellites, either Navstar or Transit, can also offer an accurate geographic positioning of ships on the oceans of the world. Environmental satellites and environmental ocean buoys supply the necessary information for assessing the effects of weather on target motion and on a missile’s homing means.

Over-the-horizon radars now give good ocean coverage out to well over a thousand miles. While a horde of observers in fishing boats, merchant ships, commercial aircraft, watchers on the shore, etc. add to the wealth of information on ship targets.

Moreover, the sensors of an SSN are too short-ranged for detecting or tracking targets at great ranges — as, for example, 200 miles. In fact, if the function of targeting is not carried out by external sources, Tomahawk as an antiship weapon is apparently only usable at ranges of under 50 miles. Furthermore, the organic collecting or surface target information forces an SSN into operating modes which are inimical to its effectiveness in its primary mission of ASW as well as reducing the submarine’s covertness.

Philosophically, in war a weapon is always fired at a tracked target. More than one observation is invariably made before firing to determine whether the target has to be led or whether it is definitely stationary. Designing Tomahawk to be used against a “point” target has created a blind spot in thinking about long range targeting and the weapon control necessary to insure a hit. By firing Tomahawk at a “point” target 200 miles away, the trajectory errors plus the size or the area generated by a target which is assumed to be freely evading in any direction, will be so great as to force Tomahawk into a terminal search mode to acquire the target. Doing that — flying around in a search pattern with its homing radar activated — both destroys the ele~ent of surprise and also makes Tomahawk far easier to be countermeasured or shot down. In fact, a detection of a surface target also needs a confirmation of identity. In the process, the additional target information to make this determination will usually permit a judgement as to the target’s course and speed. In a worst situation where an ELINT satellite picks up an identifiable radar emanation from a specific warship which carries that radar, not only is the identity or the target determined but the satellite can identify its geographic position in real-time. Such a “point” target seems worth firing at, yet there will still be collateral intelligence to indicate where it might be beading and what its speed would likely be — consistent with some mission on the ocean. How scanty tracking information can be, and still have a good basis for a Tomahawk hitting solution, can be illustrated. A coast watcher reports an enemy cruiser leaving port and passing a headland at one mile orr, at a specific moment of time. The cruiser is also reported to be making high speed and to be headed in a northwest direction. A day later SOSUS reports a bearing on a high speed warship — which could be the enemy cruiser. Two days later, an SSN operating in an area northwest of the headland mentioned in the coast watcher’s report, picks up the noise of a big, high-speed warship. The SSN’s CO then, without knowing the range to the warship, can launch a Tomahawk on a lead bearing to account for the target’s speed and course as averaged by the two bearings — two days apart. With the missile’s terminal homing seeker activated all the way, the missile has a good chance or hitting the cruiser — because of its wide terminal sweep — whether the range is 60, 120, or even 180 miles.

The main factor in targeting, then, is that the missile should be aime~ at the spot where the target is estimated to be on the arrival of the missile. The uncorrected trajectory errors should then — at 200 miles — not be so additive as to place the missile outside the area swept by the missile’s terminal homing radar or IR seeker.


“Control” of the antiship Tomahawk against surface targets at great range apparently involves two separate functions: (1) the fire control of the weapon at launch and in flight; and (2) the control of how the weapon is to be used. In the first case, the CO of an SSN ensures the fire control of Tomahawk. In the second, the CO might also control the use of Tomahawk. as for example, when an SSN is on independent operations and receives real-time targeting information directly from external sources such as an aircraft or satellite. Still, the political implications of attacking a target 200 miles away which may not be clearly identified, along with the possibility of inadvertently bitting wrong targets, militates against a CO being allowed to carry out the “control” function. Additionally, for long range attacks, the amount of information necessary to identify the target, be aware of intervening ships and obstructions, have the strategic picture for estimating the target’s motions, and know the command restrictions, is not easily attained by an SSN on its primary mission or antisubmarine warfare. In this operating mode, insuring reception of the necessary information both tends to compromise the SSN1 s covertness as well as affect its ASW efficiency. Hence, the means for effective control seem better located at a remote position, external to the SSN. The introduction of the the Outlaw Shark information-collating and displaying system to submarines, suggests that the SSN in war can adequately do its “artillery” job organically. But it cannot, for more reasons than the difficulties an SSN would have in getting the necessary data. In order to “control” the coordinated Tomahawk firing by several submarines against a bard, major enemy target or a grouping of enemy ships, the control source should necessarily be external to any of the SSNs involved. This should minimize communications emanating from a submarine — which otherwise would compromise surprise and allow enemy EW efforts to neutralize the attack and put the communicating submarine at hazard. The need for concentrating the force of several submarines against certain kinds of enemy targets is self evident, both to overwhelm enemy defenses through the near-simultaneous attack of more than one or two weapons, a~ well as to insure a significant level of damage created — allowing for an efficient follow-up against the crippled targets with torpedo attacks.

“Control” by a command afloat is argued. Yet afloat commands carrying out the function of coordinating submarine “artillery” are more susceptible to enemy EW efforts. (The emphasis placed by the Soviets on damaging an enemy’s control syste~ to insure the successful use of their own C system is noted in PhoeniX’s article.) Also, when an SSN is operating in support of battle groups, its use of Tomahawk antiship missiles is improbable. (The land attack version, however, is likely to be used.) In the support mission, ASW only would be required since surface targets are more feasibly taken under missile attack by escorting warships and aircraft. If damage assessment seems needed in order to initiate further actions, then a shore based command can best call-up the resources necessary to do the job. This can mean diverting a surveillance satellite over the scene ot action or laying on an aircraft mission, etc.

“Control”, it needs to be emphasized, should be carried out by experienced submarine personnel. There is much that is unique about submarine operations which require a special understanding of the control problems involved with use of Tomahawk from SSNs and the coordinating of Tomahawk-armed SSNs in concentrated weapon attack.


For the singular situation of an independently operating submarine detecting and attacking a surface-target-of-opportunity, command responsibility for such an operation should still be vested in a senior submarine commander — who has established, through his published doctrine, the freedom for a CO of a submarine to act on such opportunities. Normally, the function of “command” for most independent submarine operations should be in the hands ot a senior shore-based submarine commander — COMSUBLANT, COMSUBPAC, COMSUBSMED, etc. For carrying out major fleet operations, including attack against an enemy’s fleet of surface warships, command should normally be exercised by a u.s. fleet commander — who is best shore-based for a major operation.


Though this discussion is simplistic in many or its faoets, it does raise many debatable points.These can seemingly be ironed out through ~discussion of the theory behind the concepts for c T. With little knowledge of what the submarine force bas in place to handle this problem, it still seems reasonable to recommend that, tor example, COHSUBLANT carry out the “oontrol” tunotion for coordinating the use of the antiship Tomahawk against surface targets and do it with: a greatly expanded OUtlaw Shark type of system; an established network of redundant communications for data and intelligence collection and dissemination of directions to SSNs; a staff which utilizes computer aids and which is trained for rapid development of plans in order to respond to opportunities presented by the enemy under conditions most favorable for the SSNs. Also, it devolves upon COHSUBLANT to do the targeting function through a collation and synthesis of all available data generated on a surface target — by sensors external to the missile-carrying SSN. Any target information gained organically by the SSN, should, by doctrine, be used to improve the fire control solution — which is the CO’s control function.


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