The Royal Navy is to get is to get "smart" cruise missiles that loiter above the battlefield to kill terror targets when they emerge.

The Royal Navy will be able to launch missiles in the English Channel to hit targets in North Africa. They will be fired from 11 Royal Navy nuclear powered submarines.

The missiles are built by the Americans but, because of the close relationship between the two allies, Britain is the only country outside the US to be allowed to have them.

Royal Navy: Cruise the daddy

Cruising in ... test missile about to strike

Defence Editor
July 03, 2007

THE Royal Navy are getting ‘smart’ cruise missiles that loiter above the battlefield to kill top terror targets when they emerge.

Admirals say their unique ability to be reprogrammed in mid flight make them devastatingly powerful weapons in the War on Terror.

The Sun can also reveal that the senior service’s first live test firing of the Tomahawk Land Attack Block 4 was last night declared a dramatic success.

In top secrecy, hunter-killer sub HMS Trenchant launched the weapon through a front torpedo tube while submerged somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.

More than an hour later, it smacked into a target with pin-point accuracy inside vast Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, hundreds of miles away.

To measure the high tech missile’s performance, a US F16 war jet flew alongside it at speeds faster than 500 mph.

The extraordinary sight was captured by a second top gun in a dramatic video.

Designed to fly at extremely low altitudes to avoid detection on radar, it can be seen on the film tearing through the sky just above sea level side by side with the jet.

Being able to strike at enemies immediately when they appear is vital in the counter-insurgency conflicts such Iraq and Afghanistan.

Key terror targets such as al Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden are often only detected fleetingly before they disappear without trace again.

Devastating ... accurate hit blasts target

The TLAM Block 4 also massively reduces the risk of collateral damage as it can de diverted away if civilians appear near the target after it is launched.

It is guided onto targets via a satellite link and has a range of more than 1000 miles – a third further than current cruise missiles.

That means a navy submarine lurking in the English Channel could attack a target on the North African coast.

It has a massive explosive payload the equivalent of 1000lbs of TNT – enough to demolish a block of flats.

And the missile can also send back images from a camera in its nose cone to help intelligence gathering.

The MoD has bought 64 of the all-weather missiles from US arms maker Raytheon at a price tag of 650,000 each.

Thanks to Britain’s special relationship with Washington, the UK the only nation outside the US allowed to have the missiles.

From next year, they will be fired from Britain’s seven Trafalgar Class subs and the four new Astute Class super-subs when they enter service in 2009.

Defence equipment minister Lord Drayson said: “This test is a very significant milestone which gives a tangible demonstration of our ability to deliver precision attack at long range against selected targets.

“They will give the Royal Navy a world class capability and the ability to pre-position the missile covertly in our attack submarines gives enormous flexibility to our forces.”

The navy first fired cruise missiles during the Kosovo campaign in 1990, and dozens more have been used during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.