The United States of America has seen a lot of military action during the last fifteen years. Every time it goes to war, the word Tomahawk is heard. It is one of the crown jewels of the American missile program. It is named after the equipment that the Native Americans carry. Its versatility and destructive capabilities puts it a few notches above its contemporaries. It is the Navy's weapon of choice for critical, long-range, precision strike missions against high value, heavily defended targets. During the critical early days of a regional conflict, Tomahawk, in conjunction with other land attack systems and tactical aircraft, denies or delays forward movement of enemy forces, neutralizes the enemy's ability to conduct air operations, and suppresses enemy air defenses. In addition, it attacks high value targets such as electrical generating facilities, command and control nodes, as well as weapons assembly/storage facilities.
Raytheon Company, with 2003 sales of $18.1 billion, is an industry leader in defense and government electronics, space, information technology, technical services, and special mission aircraft. They are the builders of the Tomahawk. The Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) is a long-range cruise missile designed by General Dynamics in 1970s. It was designed as a medium to long range, low altitude weapon, that could be launched from a submerged submarine. One of its biggest advantages is that it can be launched from almost anything - a submarine to a truck. The submarine version is launched from torpedo or vertical tubes. Surface ships employ a vertical launching system (VLS). The Fire Control Systems (FCS) on both ships and submarines perform communications management, database management, engagement planning, and launch control functions. These systems provide the interface between the missile and FCS, for initialization and launch, as well as environmental protection. A solid fuel booster with steering vanes in its exhaust is used for the launch and to provide steering during the initial few seconds of flight, while the wings and control surfaces are deployed.
The Tomahawk Weapon System (TWS) consists of four major components: Tomahawk Missile, Theater Mission Planning Center (TMPC) / Afloat Planning System (APS), Tomahawk Weapon Control System (TWCS) for surface ships, and Combat Control System (CCS) for submarines. After launch, a solid propellant propels this weapon until a small turbofan engine takes over for the cruise portion of the flight. It is difficult for the enemy to destroy it mid-flight, because radar detection is difficult, owing to its small cross-section, low altitude flight. Infrared detection is difficult because the turbofan engine emits little heat. It is an all weather sub-sonic piece of art. The land attack version has inertial and terrain contour matching (TERCOM) radar guidance. The TERCOM radar uses a stored map reference to compare with the actual terrain, to determine the missile's position. This is the reason for its pinpoint accuracy.
Tomahawk was used extensively in Iraq (Desert Storm) in 1991, in Bosnia (Deliberate Force) in 1995, and again in Iraq (Desert Strike) in 1996. Four hundred Block II and Block III missiles were fired on five separate occasions. In the 1991 Persian Gulf conflict, they were launched at tactical targets. Two attack submarines launched twelve of them. U.S. Navy reports that out of a 297 attempted launches, 290 fired and 242 hit their targets. It is undoubtedly one of the most accurate war weapons ever invented. It can be used against surface ships, as the Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM), or land targets, employing several different types of warheads. Three primary variants are currently operational: nuclear land attack (TLAM-N), conventional land attack (TLAM-C, unitary warhead), and conventional land attack submunition (TLAM-D, dispense bomblets).
The average cost of a Tomahawk missile is close to $1.5 million. However, this takes into account the initial research and development costs. The pure production cost is less than $500,000.