There is one missile in the U.S. arsenal that is expected to rain on Syrian targets this week in response to a suspected chemical attack carried out by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
The Tomahawk cruise missile is half the length of a standard telephone pole, travels at the cruising speed of a commercial airliner, and can carry a 1,000-pound warhead the distance from New York City to Kansas City.
Tomahawks have been in the U.S. Navy’s arsenal since the 1980s, but were first used in combat in 1991 during the Gulf War. Overall, the weapons have been deployed more than 2,300 times.
“Year in and year out, administration in and administration out, it’s the long-range land attack cruise missile that presidents reach for first in a crisis,” Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told CNBC.
“What distinguishes the Tomahawk from some other weapons is that it is sea-launched and has a significantly longer range,” Karako said.
With an estimated cost of $1.4 million each, Raytheon’s Tomahawk missile has an intermediate range of 800 to 1,553 miles and can be deployed from more than 140 U.S. Navy ships and submarines. In 1995, the United Kingdom became the second military to add the Tomahawk to its arsenal.
What makes the Tomahawk exceptionally lethal is its capability to carry a 1,000-pound conventional warhead and be reprogrammed midflight.
Trump threatens strikes
For the last five days, President Donald Trump has sharpened his rhetoric against Syria and its most powerful ally Russia and issued a threat via Twitter of a potential U.S. strike againstthe war-torn country.
“Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart! You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it,” Trump said.
The tweet came on the heels of an alleged chemical weapons attack believed to be carried out by forces aligned with the Assad regime in Douma, a town that was held by Syrian rebels.
Trump told reporters Thursday that a decision on whether the U.S. military will respond to the alleged chemical attack will be made “fairly soon.”