The USS North Dakota. Image credit: U.S. NavyThe USS North Dakota. Image credit: U.S. Navy

In first-of-its-kind testing, two Tomahawk cruise missiles were recently fired from new submarine payload tubes on the Virginia-class USS North Dakota. The tests, conducted by the U.S. Navy, were designed to prove the submarine's ability to load, carry and vertically launch Tomahawks from the upgraded tubes, which feature fewer parts and improved reliability.

The Navy is also developing a new payload module that will triple the number of Tomahawk missiles that Virginia-class submarines can carry, dramatically increasing their firepower. Virginia class is a designation for a type of nuclear-powered, fast attack submarines. Upgrades to communications and navigation capabilities, along with the addition of a multi-mode seeker designed to hit moving targets at sea, are also underway.

As profiled recently on this site, Tomahawk missiles are manufactured by Raytheon.

"As the Navy continues to modernize its subs, Raytheon continues to modernize Tomahawk, keeping this one-of-a-kind weapon well ahead of the threat," said Mike Jarrett, Raytheon air warfare systems vice president. "Today's Tomahawk is a far cry from its predecessors and tomorrow's missile will feature even more capability, giving our sailors the edge they need for decades to come."

Related story: Tomahawk Missiles: Everything You Need to Know