How Tomahawks Work

US sea based cruise missiles have been in the news lately. And I figured I would take this opportunity to show the full flight profile of them. The media is showing the ship board launches, but once they get some speed and deploy their control surfaces, they in essence operate like an airplane.

A 400mph airplane.

And that number is important. The Tomahawk cruise missiles are not particularly fast or stealthy. Why yes, there are such things as stealth, hypersonic cruise, and nuclear tipped cruise missiles. The Tomahawk is nuclear capable, BTW.

But what the Tomahawks lack in speed and stealth they make up for in maneuverability, targeting and re-targeting. Let me explain.

Cruise missiles like these give commanders options. While in flight, they could in theory be terminated should ground conditions change. Also, the newer ones have the ability to be retargeted mid-flight should a target package change.

Example. We launch 60 cruise missiles at Assad’s airbase in Syria. But instead of all at once, they come in waves. Should the first 20 successfully kill all the targets on site, the follow on 40 cruise missiles can be re-tasked by satellites, Aegis Battle Management Systems (BMS) at sea, or advanced F-35 BMS software** to hit other Assad targets. Or…move East and whack some ISIS targets pre-selected in Raqqa.

Shayrat Air Base After US Missile Strike.

This video. A US Navy unclassified test. Unarmed Tomahawk fired at a target ship. In this test, it was proven the cruise missile could be tasked by the F-18 and targeted at the container ship. When the Tomahawk was fired, it did not have a final target in it’s computers. The F-18 “gave it” the target mid-flight.

Why am I droning on (get it?) about cruise missiles, Battle Management Software and the F-35? Because a war against an advisory with parity will be fought with submarines that launch cruise missiles, surface ships that launch cruise missiles, and the aircraft that can command them. Why the aircraft? Because in the opening stages of the next “major” war, we’ll likely lose most,
if not all, of our worldwide satellite coverage.


**The F-35 isn’t really a fighter plane. Don’t tell the generals I told ya.


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Marky Mark

Marky Mark

Writer at
Writer for Co-Host of the John1911 Podcast. Video content provider for John1911-TV.

Areas of focus: Defense and National Security, Modern Light Weapons, Analysis of the Geo-political / Military Relationship in the Context of Strategic Goals.
Marky Mark

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  • I will add something. When I heard the run ways were left intact, I immediately had a frightening thought. At least from the perspective of the Syrians and the Russians. You kill airbases by obliterating their infrastructure. You make airbases inoperable by cratering their runways.

    I guarantee you when the Russians saw we didn’t touch the runways, that is a prelude to the 18th Airborne Corps flying in and grabbing it.

    THAT…freaked everyone out. Trump has a plan B? And it means grabbing an airbase we can operate from?

    Notice how quiet everyone has been the first 24 hours? Russian and Chinese satellites are monitoring Bragg, Campbell, Stewart and stations in Europe for airlift activity.

    It’s not just the missiles. It’s not just the speed of the decision. It’s also doing it while meeting with the President of China. Sending a message to DPRK. And hurting Assad without breaking the whole country.

    We have ourselves a strong President.


    • Brennen Munro

      My first thought when I saw the Sat pictures with the runways with no damage… Hmmm, that is going to send a bigger message than if we blew half the countryside all to hell. Shayrat also has a reinforced runway capable of handling large heavy cargo aircraft, not just light fighters and helo’s. I am sure that this action of leaving the runways intact made all the players take notice.

      • Yup.

        It’s creepy when you think about it.


  • Conner

    Yep. Yesterday I heard that even some Dems were joining him and singing praise about a getting back a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the U.S.! However a lot of people including Repubs (that the ‘lying press’ gave undeserved attention to) were bitching about how President Trump said this wouldn’t happen if elected, during his campaign. It made me think of one of John Wayne’s movies where he told a dude; I won’t hit ya…I Won’t hit ya…THE HELL I WON’T….WHAM! I wonder if Wolf Blitzer is getting that tingle up his leg again. Kudos to President Trump and his military advisors! Regarding that meeting, I don’t think I would trust China. It wasn’t but a couple weeks ago that they had the kind of meeting with Putin.

    • Smack Assad around. But let the Russians have Syria.

      If we break it, we don’t own it anymore. The Powell doctrine was stupid.


      • Mikial

        Exactly. After many years of working in the MENA region, we don’t really want it. Break the bad guys if they mess with us, and then leave them on their own. There is no conceivable reason for or benefit to trying to engage in nation building in the region. They will never be able to govern themselves in any way other than a repressive dictatorship or monarchy. Period. They are not capable of anything else.

        • Not until there is a local version of the, “protestant reformation” things won’t change.

          And to keep the subject on religion and culture, is there a Catholic living today they can say with a straight face, that the Protestant Reformation was a bad thing?

          My point?

          Water seeks its own level. These countries are brutal places. It should come as no surprise that they have brutal government regimes to make them function?

          The stupid church commission in the 1970s somehow convinced the American media that the US should not do business with “bad people”.

          So we all do the stupid little kabuki theater where we all pretend that we don’t know that a lot of these countries are third world shit holes. Run by shit hole people. Out of necessity.

          Anybody that’s reading this comment and thinks I’m not making sense? Answer me this:

          Who are the “good guys” in Syria? Or Iraq? Or Libya? Or Egypt? Or Yemen? Or Iran? Or China? Or Singapore? Or France?

          Can’t figure it out? You have to start grading on a curve.


          • Brennen Munro

            I wish I could rate this with 10 “UP” clicks! You are bang on with this Marky.

          • I have my moments, Brennen.


  • Conner

    My wife and I were just getting home from an errand yesterday when we heard on the radio that President Trump had just taken time to give special thanks and congrats to our military for a mission well done. We looked at each other in shock as I said, omg when was the last time we heard that?! How odd that we didn’t hear ‘I, me, my or mine! Very awesome. Yesterday was the late Chris Kyle’s birthday. I believe he would have been grateful for this change and would be looking very forward to PT changing our military’s suicidal ROE…….

  • BigMike57

    What do you think about the statement that only 23 missiles hit the airfield? Was that just PR, or did the rest go somewhere else?

    • First I’ve heard of this. Initially reported 60 launched, 59 hit. One dropped into ocean.

      Maybe the first reports were wrong? Which is a known phenomenon.


      • BigMike57

        The Russians are saying it was only 23.

        I mean…the amount of damage seems a bit light for that many missiles, but I’m no expert.

        • Truthfully? The Russians said The Indonesian airliner shot down over Ukraine was done by a UKranian jet.

          Then they said the BUK /S300 isn’t in theater. Then they said the BUK s300 is in theater but belongs to Ukraine.

          And they published a photoshopped “satellite image” of a Ukrainian fighter shooting the missile at the airliner.

          And it was REALLY badly done. The aircraft image was actually a stock photo library image from the software they used to make the fake intel.

          My point? Don’t ever underestimate how stupid the Russians can be about stuff. They routinely do stupid things that are routinely disproved with just basic fact checking.

          Or maybe the rest went on to Raqua?


          • Just looked at some open source BDA images. I count 44 individual targets struck.

            The rest socked up multiple hits. Hardened aircraft bunkers for instance.


          • BigMike57

            Nice. Thanks for that!

          • No problem. It was kinda fun.



          • BigMike57

            For sure. The amount of damage in the satellite pictures, combined with the number of jets destroyed, and the video afterwards seemed to mesh with that estimate though. It seemed much more reasonable than their argument that a bunch of kids were killed in the same strike.

          • Oh. So the Russias are saying gh didn’t bomb the hospital where many of the gas attack survivors were at?

            But instead Trump bombed them with Tomahawks.

            Check. Just another day of Russians making shit up.