The Tomahawk cruise missile is a long-range US missile which can be launched from ships and submarines. It can carry warheads weighing up to 454 kg and is designed to fly at low altitudes towards heavily defended targets with extreme accuracy. Tomahawk missiles can be guided by GPS to targets more than 1,600 km away at speeds of 885 km/h.

The Tomahawk missile has been in use since it was developed in the late 1970s. While it has undergone a range of different upgrades since then – adding in more recently developed technologies that help increase its devastating accuracy, for instance – it maintains the same basic design that dropped as part of the first Gulf War in 1991.

The Tomahawk has been a critical part of U.S. warfare since the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and commonly carries a 1,000-pound warhead. It was last used by the Pentagon in October, when the military launched Tomahawks from the Red Sea at three coastal radar sites in Yemen after Houthi rebels there fired missiles at several U.S. ships over several days.

Tomahawks were also instrumental in the Nato-led effort against the Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and have gone on to be pivotal in the US fight against Islamic State in the Middle East.

In September 2014 the Pentagon launched 47 cruise missiles from two ships – one in the Gulf and one in the Red Sea – as it expanded its air war against Iraqi militants in Syria.

1. How big is a Tomahawk cruise missile?

The Tomahawk is a 3,500-pound missile powered by a jet engine that is launched from a ship or submarine. It stands 18 to 20 feet tall — depending on whether it has a booster — and is described as “long and lean.”

2. How fast can a Tomahawk fly?

It travels at 550 miles per hour. The missile flies at low levels; CNN reported the Tomahawk flies close to the ground to avoid radar. According to the U.S. Navy, the missile’s path is “an evasive route,” which means it does not fly in a straight line.

“What’s important about the Tomahawks is that they just don’t necessarily go from point A to point B in a straight line,” retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks told CNN. “They will take kind of a circumnavigation route so they can’t be shot down.”

The U.S. may have been looking to prevent intervention, as the Russian military wasreportedly informed of the strike before it took place.

3. How does the Tomahawk work?

The missile, which has explosives strapped on, is put in a launch tube and is shot to its target via a built-in rocket engine. Once in the air, the missile opens up its wings that expand to 3.5 feet in length and travels low to the ground. The missile has the capacity to wait around until more orders are given on where to strike.

4. What is the Tomahawk’s range?

The Tomahawk can travel anywhere from 800 to 1,500 miles and be launched up to1,000 miles away. Its impact varies based on how much warhead it is equipped with. The missile can hold up to 1,000 pounds of conventional warhead.

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