Tomahawk missiles: All you need to know about the US weapon used in Syria

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Tomahawk missiles: All you should know about the US weapon
Tomahawk missiles: All you should know about the US weapon

New Delhi : Tomahawk is an all-weather long-range subsonic cruise missile first introduced in the year 1970 by General Dynamics (now Boeing Defense, Space & Security). At its earlier stage, it was a medium to long, low-altitude missile that could be fired from a surface platform. After several transitions and transformations, the missile can now be launched from sea and cruise over water too.

The missile was first launched in the year 1991 under Operation Desert Storm. It can be equipped with a 1,000-pound conventional warhead.

The latest use of Tomahawk missiles

Two US warships in the eastern Mediterranean fired 59 Tomahawk missiles on a Syrian airbase in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack which killed civilians. 

CNN's military analysts said the Tomahawk was a good choice for this kind of attack.

"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.

Measurements of a Tomahawk missile

Length: 18 feet 3 inches (5.56 meters) without booster; 20 feet 6 inches (6.25 meters) with booster.

Range: 800-1500 miles (1250-2500 kilometers)

Speed: 550 miles per hour, 880 kilometres per hour 

Mission: Launch from sea, flies closer to the ground to avoid radar

Different variants of the Tomahawk missile

There have been several variants of the BGM-109 Tomahawk employing various types of warheads.

# BGM-109A Tomahawk Land Attack Nuclear (TLAM-N) - Not deployed.

# BGM-109A Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Nuclear (TLAM-A) with a W80 thermonuclear weapon. Retired from service sometime between 2010 and 2013.

# RGM/UGM-109B Tomahawk Anti Ship Missile (TAS-M) – active radar homing anti-ship missile variant; withdrawn from service in the 1990s.

# BGM-109C Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Conventional (TLAM-C) with a unitary warhead. This was initially a modified Bullpup warhead.

# BGM-109D Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Dispenser (TLAM-D) with cluster munitions.

# RGM/UGM-109E Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM Block IV) – improved version of the TLAM-C.

# BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) – with a W84 nuclear warhead; withdrawn from service in 1991.

# AGM-109H/L Medium Range Air to Surface Missile (MRASM) – a shorter range, turbojet powered ASM with cluster munitions ; never entered service, cost US$569,000 (1999).