The horrific chemical attacks in Syria, which left at least 80 civilians dead and many others grievously injured, left the world shocked and in disbelief. The barbaric act has been condemned by every nation that witnessed the inhumane scenes in the aftermath of the attacks. The world denounced the regime in Syria while its allies stood by it. But no one anticipated the move by the US. On Friday, 7th April, 2017 America launched a surprise offensive against the suspected Syrian base used for deployment of said chemical weapons.
The base in question is the al-shayrat air base. About 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched by the US warships – USS Porter and USS Ross, stationed in the Mediterranean Sea. The Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) is developed by The Raytheon Company, a major US Defense Contractor. While the reaction drew backlash from Syria and its allies, major world powers stood in support of the retaliatory action by US and others chose to stay neutral.
All the events have once again highlighted why Tomahawk is one of the most relied-upon weapon of US. The missile attack reportedly damaged and destroyed aircrafts, shelters, storage, petrol tanks, defense systems, ammunitions supply bunkers and radars. To understand why Tomahawk remains America’s go to missile, we will have to take a look at its specifications and what sets it apart. Tomahawk’s ability to carry different forms of munitions and its combination of speed, size, distance and trajectory sets it apart from rest of the missiles in Unites States’ arsenal.
The development of what would later become Tomahawk began as early as 1940. The project however had to be put off when Polaris ballistic missile program emerged. With the advancements in technology, Tomahawk was brought back on board in 1970s and was introduced in 1983. Consisting of three types, one anti-ship and the rest land-attack, only one land-attack form boasted the capability to carry nuclear warheads.
The first ever Tomahawk that was used in live combat was on 17th January, 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. Approximately 300 missiles were launched from USS Paul F. Foster and other US warships and submarines in the days that followed. Since then the production and demand for Tomahawk ramped up significantly and has been used several times in conflicts in the past decades. With most remembered being the use in the invasion on Iraq in the year 2003.
What sets Tomahawk apart is that it doesn’t require to be manned or an aircraft. The missiles are self-guided, with their speciality being able to evade missile defenses and attack its target using GPS coordinates. The missile has an accuracy of 85% and can travel at low altitudes at 1,500 miles and speed up to 550 miles. This makes it a perfect weapon to have as it can evade enemy radars and destroy their defense or offence as required from a safe distance. Reports indicate that the US Navy has up to 4000 ready to use Tomahawks in their arsenal.