New Delhi: The Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) used by the United States to attack a Syrian airfield are all-weather, long range, subsonic cruise missiles. They are used primarily for land attack warfare and launched from ships as well as submarines. Depending on the variant their range could be between 1500 km and 2500 km.
The Tomahawk missiles can carry both nuclear and conventional payloads. For instance, the conventional, land-attack, variant can have a 1,000-pound-class warhead while the submunitions dispenser variant could hold 166 combined-effects bomblets.
Designed to fly at very low altitudes at subsonic speeds, these missiles use mission tailored guidance systems to evade detection. Deployed first for the 1991 Operation Desert Storm, the missile has been used in several conflicts since.
In 1995, UK became the first foreign country to acquire 65 of these missiles.
Built by Raytheon Systems Company the Tomahawk missiles have been in existence since 1984, with variants in 1994 and 2004. Each unit costs nearly $569,000 and propelled by Williams International F107 cruise turbo-fan engine. They are between 5.56 and 6.25 meters long with a 51.81 cm diameter and 2.67 meters wingspan. They weigh between 1,315.44 kg and 1,587.6 kg depending on the payload. The missiles can hit speeds of up to 880 km/h and have a maximum range of 2500 km.
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The Tomahawk Block IV (TLAM-E), the latest version of the missile, comes with “increased flexibility utilising two-way satellite communications to reprogram the missile in-flight”, option to change mission en route and live missile health and status messages during the flight. They also offer faster launch timelines, mission planning capability on the launch platform as well as the ability to loiter in the target area before striking.