Since we’re shooting these at Libya and the talking heads in the media keep mentioning them and there’s the whole “shock and awe” thing, you might want to read up on them.
They’ve been around since the 1970’s. The usual suspects manufacture them: General Dynamics, Raytheon, etc. Half a ton of high explosive (HE) in the warhead, often in a “cluster bomb” configuration which is “very effective” in “anti personnel” scenarios. When they were first introduced one of the coolest things about them was the “Terrain Contour Matching” (“TERCOM”) guidance system that operated once the missile was over land: basically, the missile would follow a pre-programmed map of the terrain until it reached its target. This was thought to greatly aid in accuracy, which it probably did. Now the primary guidance is the Global Positioning System (GPS). But of course like all satellite based communications the GPS is vulnerable to disruption, so it’s nice to have the TERCOM stuff as a backup.
Just for fun, in addition to the HE and cluster-bomb variants, there’s a nuclear version of the missile, though I guess this is not authorized anymore.
Tomahawks are very “versatile” weapons and can be “deployed” from a variety of “platforms”.
The US has used them a lot since the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Interesting that they were around for a long time before that but never used. The US has used thousands in the time since.
Basically, it’s like a small, unmanned airplane with a big explosive charge at the tip with lots of bells and whistles and do-dads to get it to its target.
Update: Here’s what a night time launch looks like:
The little postscript at the end identifies the ship, the sailor who took the video, and describes the “mission” as “maritime security operations”. Perhaps maritime security would be stronger if the US weren’t launching Tomahawk missiles to attack land targets in Libya. But never mind.