A Raytheon missile.

Raytheon has successfully completed a passive-seeker test intended for the Tomahawk block IV cruise missile, marking a key milestone on the missile’s modernisation path.

Validating Raytheon’s self-funded multi-mission processor at technical readiness level six, the latest captive flight test paves the way for its engineering, manufacturing and development phase.

Test fired aboard a T-39 aircraft at subsonic speed and at varying altitudes, the missile’s nose cone was modified to equip the passive antennas with the new modular, multi-mode processor, which assists the missile in detecting and tracking radio-frequency-emitting targets.

During the test, the passive seeker and multi-function processor received several electronic signals from tactical targeted objects in a complex, high-density electromagnetic environment.

Raytheon air warfare systems vice-president Mike Jarrett said completion of the test will enable the company to quickly modernise this already advanced weapon.

"Besides Tomahawk, the processor could be used in other sophisticated weapon systems," Jarrett said.

"Completion of the test will enable the company to quickly modernise this already advanced weapon."

An active-seeker test involving Raytheon’s new processor integrated into a Tomahawk nose cone is planned for early 2015, which would assess the processor’s ability to stream active radar while passively receiving target electromagnetic information. This would further enable the missile to destroy moving targets on land and at sea.

Mainly designed for long-range precision strike missions against high-value and heavily defended targets, the block IV missile has a range of approximately 1,000 statute miles, while cruising at 550mph.

With 500 flight and production validation tests being completed, the surface and submarine-launched precision strike stand-off weapon has been integrated on all major US surface combatants, as well as the US and the UK sub-surface platforms, such as the Los Angeles, Virginia, Ohio, Astute and Trafalgar-class submarines.

Last month, Raytheon tested the missile’s communications upgrades, which enabled it to fly a pre-programmed route while receiving updates from a simulated maritime operations centre and from advanced off-board sensors, which changed the target location.

Image: Raytheon’s Tomahawk block IV cruise missile in flight. Photo: courtesy of the US Navy.