What is a Tomahawk cruise missile?

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What is a Tomahawk cruise missile?

Washington, Apr 7 (PTI) The Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from two US navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea against a key Syrian military airfield was a “good choice” as the Pentagon planners could attack the target with precision from a safe distance, defence experts say.

“A total of 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars,” Pentagon Spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said in a statement today.

Davis said the missiles were launched by the USS Ross and USS Porter, both destroyers, located in the eastern Mediterranean, were focused on al-Shayrat military air base in Homs province, that delivered a chemical attack on civilians.

One of the largest advantages to using the Tomahawk is that it does not require a pilot to be anywhere near a potential target. They can be launched from Navy destroyers over 2,000 kms away, a tactical consideration when facing enemy air defenses, The Washington Post reported.

Fired by cruisers, destroyers and submarines, the missile carries a 1,000 pound warhead. A TLAM weighs as much as 3,500 pounds, is more than 20 feet long and travels 880 kmph a subsonic speed. A single missile costs nearly USD 1.5 million.

According to military experts, the Tomahawk missile functions essentially as a giant drone allowing for steering via Global Positioning System. Targets can be changed mid- flight, as the missiles are essentially piloted.

CNN’s military analysts said the Tomahawk was a “good choice” for the kind of attack on the Syrian air base.

“This is what the Tomahawk was made for. It gets in there low level and hits these fixed facilities with no risk to an air crew,” retired US Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona said.

The missile is particularly notable because it travels low to the ground, which avoids air and missile defense systems as well as radar.

“What’s important about the Tomahawks is that they just don’t necessarily go from point A to point B in a straight line. They will take kind of a circumnavigation route so they can’t be shot down,” retired US Army Major General James “Spider” Marks said.

The US first used cruise missiles during the first Gulf War in 1991 and has continued to use them regularly ever since, according to the United States Navy.

Tomahawks have less explosive yield than larger bombs carried by manned US aircraft, but to bomb Syrian planes on the ground, that does not matter, Chris Harmer, a defense analyst and former naval officer now with the Institute for the Study of War, said.

Planes are the “softest of soft targets” and do not require the largest US munitions to destroy or incapacitate them, the Post quoted Harmer as saying.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.