With the whole world watching the events in Syria and how the U.S. military took an entire Syrian air base off the map with 59 tomahawk cruise missiles, there is a bet going that there are many people out there that have no idea what a tomahawk cruise missile even is. Conflict Daily is about to answer that for you.
In this video you will see some testing of the Tomahawk missile with a F/A-18 fighter aircraft chasing the missile to film the results.
So, what is a Tomahawk missile? The Tomahawk is a long range and all weather missile that can be launched from land, sea (war ships), and underwater (Submarines). It flies at subsonic (slower than sound) speeds but stays very low to the ground at an attempt to avoid radars of foreign and enemy nations.
Originally the missile was built by the U.S. defense contractor McDonnell Douglas in the 1970’s but now is being produced by the defense contractor Raytheon. Raytheon now builds these missiles with a lot of improvements built in that improve the speed range and accuracy which in turn increases the lethality of the 1970’s missile. Bringing it more in line with missiles and technology of this era.
The Tomahawk is a small missile that is powered by a jet engine like the ones found in small jet aircraft. This missile is more of a small fighter jet with no pilot on a one way mission to destroy targets hundreds of miles away. It has been used in just about every single war and conflict the United States has been in since the 1970’s.
There have been many improvements to the missile since its creation. The latest round of updates the Tomahawk received is called their “Block IV” updates. The block IV updates have added capabilities to missile that Conflict Daily will detail below.
Current Known Tomahawk Capabilities
- Able to destroy and track land or sea targets
- Passive radar system determines accuracy and credibility of target
- Can overwhelm radar with large volleys of missiles flying at the same time
- Able to adjust course and targets mid flight
- Missile can loiter around target sending recon back to base before striking
- Missiles fly at about 550 miles per hour
- Range is approximately 1,500 miles
In this video below you see the Tomahawk Cruise missile launched from a U.S. Navy destroyer with a F/A-18 fighter jet fast on its tail. The ship fires the missile with the F/A-18 at the ready to chase and film. As the missile is launched the pilot banks hard to left and gives chase. You can see the initial boosting phase of the missile with the long signature smoke trail. After that initial launching/boosting phase you will see what Conflict Daily earlier referred to in that the missile as more an airplane than a missile.
28 seconds into the video the Tomahawk is at its cruising speeds and altitude and is actively updating its position and its relation to the target. At 35 seconds the target arrives and the Tomahawk plows clean through the target. That target was not a military target but just a few normal shipping containers. This is why the missile went sailing through the ship and ricocheted into the water ending the missiles mission.
This video is an example of what a secretive strike on an enemy might look like. If the forces using the missile needed more information on what their target was doing they could have sent this missile into a circling (loitering) pattern and filmed the target before unleashing the missile to hit the target. That is huge because without eyes, any military is at a severe disadvantage.
Another way these missiles can be used is to overwhelm the radars and anti air defenses of an enemy nation by sending hundreds of these missiles at targets all at one time. That tactic is what was used to destroy the Syrian airbase just south of Homs, Syria. You can also look at the “Shock and awe” strikes that disable Saddam Hussein’s (Iraq) air defenses in hours for a source on how effective these missiles can be.