Warfare in News


Posted on Friday 7th April

US Navy fires Tomahawk missile 7 April 2017
By Paul Ridgway, London

USS Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the US 6th Fleet area of operations in support of US national security interests in Europe and Africa. This was announced by the US Navy at 0507 that day (7 April).

The US Navy went on to announce that at the direction of the President, US forces conducted a cruise missile strike against a Syrian Air Force airfield the same day at about 0440 local time, Syria. The strike targeted Shayrat Airfield in Homs governorate, and was in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack of 4 April in Khan Sheikhoun, which killed and injured hundreds of innocent Syrian people, including women and children.

The strike was conducted using Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. A total of 59 TLAMs targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defence systems, and radars. The US Navy’s report indicated that the US had taken extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict. Furthermore it added that every precaution had been taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield.

Russian forces had been notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. US military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.

In the words of the American communiqué: ‘We are assessing the results of the strike. Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian Government's ability to deliver chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.’

About the Tomahawk missile

This class of missile is a long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile. Introduced by McDonnell Douglas in the 1970s, it was initially designed as a medium to long-range, low-altitude missile that could be launched from a surface platform. It has not been stated by USN which version is being fired in the attached photograph.

According to Raytheon, today’s manufacturer of the missile, the Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile can circle for hours, shift course instantly on command and beam a picture of its target to controllers halfway around the world before striking with pinpoint accuracy.

Tomahawk can be launched from a ship or submarine and can fly into heavily defended airspace more than 1,000 miles away to conduct precise strikes on high-value targets with minimal collateral damage. In Raytheon’s words: ‘Launching the weapon from such a long distance helps to keep sailors out of harm’s way’.

The Tomahawk is a highly accurate, GPS enabled precision weapon that has been used over 2,000 times in combat, and flight tested more than 500 times.

During the NATO-led effort against the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Tomahawk played an instrumental role in the operation. One submarine fired more than 90 missiles at a variety of targets, and the USS Barry fired the 2,000th Tomahawk in combat.

The latest variant (Tomahawk Block IV) includes a two-way satellite data-link that enables the missile to be retargeted in flight to pre-programmed, alternate targets. The Block IV design was initiated as both a cost savings and a capability improvement effort.

Raytheon and the US Navy are now enhancing this already sophisticated weapon. Planned upgrades to the Tomahawk Block IV include: upgraded communications, a more powerful warhead, and a new seeker designed to hit moving targets at sea or on land in darkness and all kinds of weather. The multi-mode seeker test is scheduled for later this year (2017) it is understood.

A US Navy film showing one of the launches on 7 April can be seen here:

Written by Paul Ridgway

Above Photo: The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, 7 April2017. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the US 6th Fleet area of operations in support of US national security interests in Europe.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/Released. USN©.

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