December 13, 2015

Tomahawk Cruise Missiles and Friends Hitting ISIS

All the recent interest in the Russian Kalibr forgets the West's much longer history of hitting insurgents and conventional armies with Tomahawk cruise missiles. Not only missiles but ground attack aircraft like the A-10 Warthog (below).


US Navy warships USS Philippine Sea and USS Arleigh Burke launch Tomahawk missiles on ISIS targets in Syria in 2014. USS Philippine Sea is a Flight II Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser and USS Arleigh Burke is the lead ship of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers.
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The Tomahawk is not alone. There is also the UK-European Storm Shadow, US AGM-86 and more advanced hypersonic missiles in the works.
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Interesting background on the Tomahawk cruise missile. It has been in service since 1983 and in wars since 1991 - decades before the Russian Kalibr. A cruise missile is guided using several systems, the major portion of whose flight path to its target (a land-based or sea-based target) is conducted at approximately constant velocity; that relies on the dynamic reaction of air for lift, and upon propulsion forces to balance drag. 

Cruise missiles are designed to deliver a large warhead over long distances with high accuracy. Modern cruise missiles can travel at supersonic or high subsonic speeds, are self-navigating, and can fly on a non-ballistic, extremely low altitude trajectory. 
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The A-10 "Warthog" is ugly but effective. In September 2014, the USAF A-10 strike wing revealed it would be deploying to the Middle East in the next month, which includes 12 of the unit's 21 A-10 aircraft. The timing coincided with the ongoing US airstrike campaign against ISIS. Since mid-November 2014, US commanders began sending A-10s to hit IS targets in central and northwestern Iraq on an almost daily basis.


The A-10 Warthog, 30 mm rotary cannon, over Iraq and Syria against ISIS.
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Pete


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Tomahawk is being upgraded with the same AI logic as in the LRASM to hit even moving ships, so it is more than just a land attack weapon but also a very long range anti ship weapon.
The US still maintain a sizable lead over the ROW with these kinds of weapons. When you look at these weapons, the hardest thing to come up with and a key differentiation is the micro turbofan used. US micro turbofans have a 2-3X lower specific fuel consumption. French Microturbo (as used in Storm Shadow), Saturn (as in Kalibr) and Motor Sich (Ukraine) are not in the same league. Specific fuel consumption dictates how much fuel is needed for a given range. And since to fit a torpedo tube, the overall length and diameter are more or less fixed, subtract the spaces for guidance, warhead, wings, flight controls, turbofan and its inlet, and so your range depends on the SFC you can extract from this one time use engine.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

Too many observers have certainly been assuming the Kalibr is as capable as the Tomahawk mainly on the basis of Russian performance claims for the Kalibr. The actual "value" of the Kalibr seems to be more due to Russia being more willing to use Kalibr knowing there is a high risk of civilian casualties.

The Western public or critics of the West hold Western missile forces to a higher (no civilian casualties) standard - with a bit of Obama hypersensitivity perhaps.

If the Tomahawk (or US upgrades) are getting closer to being able to hit moving ships this is a genuine technical superiority. Opportunities to use a Tomahawk ASCM, may be as scarce as small conventional naval wars, like the Falklands 1982, though.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

http://news.usni.org/2015/02/10/west-bob-work-calls-navys-anti-surface-tomahawk-test-game-changing

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [Dec 15, 10:02PM]

Thanks for http://news.usni.org/2015/02/10/west-bob-work-calls-navys-anti-surface-tomahawk-test-game-changing

A Tomahawk with land attack AND Anti-Ship (TASM) capability sounds a much more versatile, cost effective weapon for Australia. We can't afford the alternaive of too many specialised (one use) weapons in the future sub, frigate or AWD.

Regards

Pete