The US military used Tomahawk missiles early on Friday morning to target and destroy a Syrian air base, from which it is alleged Syrian war planes carried out a chemical attack in Idlib earlier this week.
As many as 59 of the missiles were used in the strike
The missiles were launched at about 4:40 am local time from the U S S Ross and U S S Porter, destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The missiles were aimed at Syrian aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, radars, air defense systems, ammunition bunkers and fuel storage sites.
In this video, we understand the capabilities of Tomahawk, and analyze why U S chose this missile for this mission.
The Tomahawk missile is named after the axe used by Algonquin native American tribesmen. The word tomahawk itself originates from the Algonquin name of the axe “tamahaac”.
First used by the US military in 1991 during the First Gulf War in Iraq, the missile has been a mainstay of the US military arsenal.
The missiles have been previously used in October 2016 against targets in Yemen, and as many as 47 of them were launched against al Qaeda targets in Syria and Iraq in 2014.
Introduced by General Dynamics in the 1970s, it is now made by Raytheon.
Tomahawk can be proclaimed to be a time tested weapon, and has seen lots of refinement over the years.
DESIGN & SPECIFICATIONS:
The Tomahawk is a long-range, all-weather, subsonic missile that is used for land-based attacks. They are generally launched from navy surface ships or submarines. This makes them apt for use in Syria .
At 5.56 m long without a booster, travelling at 880 km per hour, it is capable of delivering more than 450 kilograms of conventional explosives.
It has a long range of 1200 to 2500 km, enabling them to be launched from far off.
GUIDANCE/ TRAJECTORY/ COST:
Using sophisticated guidance systems, the missile is capable of flying to its target without the need of a pilot.
Over water, the Tomahawk uses inertial guidance or GPS to follow a preset course; once over land, the missile’s guidance system is aided by terrain contour matching (TERCOM).
Terminal guidance is provided by the Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation system (DSMAC) or GPS, producing a claimed circular error probable of about 10 meters.
It also approaches its target at relatively low altitude, making it hard for defenders to counter its approach.
The missiles have the added advantage of relying on their self-navigational abilities to circumvent defenses. The Tomahawk doesn’t for instance, fly in a straight line from launch to target.
This capability is significant, as Tomahawk has to evade the Syrian regime’s Russian made S 200 air defense system.
Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS) takes advantage of a loitering feature in the missile’s flight path and allows commanders to redirect the missile to an alternative target, if required.
Each of this missile costs around $1.5 million.
Tomahawk is a very versatile weapon and has been weapon of choice for United States in carrying out precision strikes .The use of Tomahawk instead of full-fledged assaults by strike aircrafts, is intended to keep the conflict from escalating further.
An American official said the Russians on the ground in Syria, had been given 60 to 90 minutes notice that the missiles were coming.
Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, during a special meeting of the Security Council focused on Syria said, The United States took a very measured step last night.We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary.
Russia warned on Friday that US cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base could have “extremely serious” consequences.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev charged that the US strikes were one step away from clashing with Russia’s military.
President Vladimir Putin’s office called the Tomahawk cruise missile strike on Syria a violation of international law, and a “significant blow” to the Russian-American relationship. It remains to be seen how this conflict pans out.