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How Tomahawks Work

US Tomahawk Cruise Missile Test

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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