What's a Tomahawk missile?
March 19th, 2011
07:38 PM ET

What's a Tomahawk missile?

The Tomahawk cruise missiles that were launched Saturday against Libya are unmanned, single-use, programmable jet-engine missiles used only by the U.S. and British navies.

They fly very close to the ground, steering around natural and man-made obstacles to hit a target that is programmed into them before launch. Newer versions can be reprogrammed in flight but in this case that was not done, at least not yet.

They are different from other unmanned aerial vehicles in that they can only be used once - they are fired, they fly to the target and blow up. End of missile. A Predator and some other unmanned aerial vehicles can carry missiles, hit a target, then continue flying.

Tomahawk missiles normally carry a 1,000-pound conventional warhead. They can also carry 166 combined-effects bomblets, or mini bombs that spread out over a larger area. They can also carry nuclear warheads.

Tomahawks, developed in the 1970s, were first launched operationally by the United States during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. They are about 18 feet long with a wing span of nearly 9 feet, and they can fly at about 550 mph. Regarding Saturday's strikes against Libya, Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, director of the Joint Staff, said the missiles were in flight for about an hour, so they were likely fired several hundred miles from their targets.

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Filed under: Libya • Military • U.S. Navy • United Kingdom
soundoff (439 Responses)



    March 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rob

    CNN – They are used not only by the us and british navy. Maybe you should look somthing up before you write a story on it.

    March 20, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Patrick

    "About $600,000 per missile (so the US spent 66,000,000 just today on them). Raytheon and McDonnell Douglas build them for us (so Im sure they are very very happy this military action is underway). And most likely we the taxpayers will be paying for them."

    What was stupid is that they also sent four $ 2 billion dollar waste of money B-2 Stealth bombers to bomb other sites. Trying to give the air force a lame excuse to continue to fly these hideously expensive and unnecessary planes. The Tomahawk missile can accomplish the same result without risking any lives and a 2 billion piece of equipment.

    March 20, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bob

    While the US is balancing power. Lets establish a no fly zone in the Israeli Occupied territories.
    Could prevent more slaughter of civilians.

    March 20, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SofGangsta

    There's only one thing I need to know about the Tomahawk: HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? ( How many more teachers are going to get cut? How much sooner will Social Security run out?) That's all....Thank you.

    March 20, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Darien

    The USA has become nothing but a bully, picking on the little guys who cannot fight back.
    Call it a "For Profit War", just like Crapistan and everything else since the Korean debacle. Yeah, who were the real losers in the Korean war...the USA! We lost a bunch of American lives for nothing and to rub salt in the wounds, our tax dollar built them brand new factories putting millions of Americans out of work by bombarding us with the Kias, Hyundais, Samsung and the like.
    There is plenty of mony in 'dem 'der bombs and bullets. Thats what it is all about, the army of the fortune 500, the American Army.
    Don't give us any of that bullcrap about "we are fighting terrorismmmmmm" nonsense while as I write this, probaly 1,000 terrorists have just landed at one of our airports on a immigration visa.
    Money, its always about money. Not mine or yours, but the super wealthy.

    March 20, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ed Bailey

    Of course its just about money, our lousy government, the military industrial complex, the fascist Mormon church, etc, all about money and the ability to acquire more than you could reasonably spend.Then it becomes an issue of POWER and your insane thrust of it to prove to EVERYONE you are TOTAllY RIGHT IN EVERYTHING YOU DO AND SAY! SICK PEOPLE EXIST AT ALL LEVELS OF SOCIETY. LOOK AROUND YOU SHEEP, YOUR HERDERS COULD BE CRAZY!!!!

    March 21, 2011 at 5:14 am | Report abuse |
  8. Inquiring my mind?

    Tomahawk Missles and all other forms of weapons of self mass destruction are nothing more than a product of the original ancient diabolical mindset of hatred against fellow man.

    March 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Inquiring my mind?

    I am you and you are me. proceed with caution.

    March 21, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Manny Gorospe

    How much one these missiles cost?

    March 22, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. SLT-A65

    Spero di ricevere qualche aiuto da voi, se avrò qualche domanda.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DSLR-A850

    Ho pensato si lascia cadere una linea di dirvi il vostro sito davvero rocce! Sono stato alla ricerca di questo tipo di informazioni per un lungo periodo .. Io di solito non rispondere ai post, ma io in questo caso. WoW grande formidabile.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. acquistare nandrolone

    Questo articolo sul news.blogs.cnn.com dà la luce in cui possiamo osservare la realtà.

    December 5, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  14. testosterone

    Si poteva certamente vedere il vostro entusiasmo nel lavoro che scrivere su news.blogs.cnn.com. Il mondo spera ancora di più gli scrittori appassionati come voi che non hanno paura di dire come si crede. Seguire sempre il tuo cuore.

    December 11, 2011 at 5:45 am | Report abuse |
  15. supporttomahawk

    i like american make the best missile TOMAHAWK and can destroy ussr russia, china, iran, iraq, any bad countrys

    March 27, 2012 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
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