The Tomahawk is an Air-breathing cruise missile which can carry either a W80 nuclear bomb in the 200-kiloton range (land attack) or a 1000-lb HE sized conventional warhead as in a Bullpup B Air-to-surface tactical missile (anti-ship).
Development of Tomahawk began in December 1972 when the US Navy ordered studies of an SLCM (Sea Launched Cruise Missile), General Dynamics won the definitive prime contract in March 1976, by which time the program had greatly broadened to include tactical and strategic versions for launch from a wide variety of platforms (submarine, surface ship, land-mobile or air launch). All would use a similar airframe although the tactical version had less fuel, a different engine, conventional warhead and other changes. Submarine launched versions are fired from torpedo tubes in a jettisoned environmental capsule, and all surface-launched models have a tandem boost motor.
Powered by either a 600-lb thrust Williams F107 turbofan (Tactical version) or 600-lb thrust Teledyne CAE J402 turbojet (Strategic version) the Tomahawk is guided by a McDonald Douglas Tercom and inertial in complementary modes (this is the same system as employed on the AGM-84A Harpoon. The Tomahawk has a flight speed of 550 mph and a range of 350 miles (Tactical), 1727 miles (Submarine or land launched) or 2240 miles (strategic air launched).
Ultimately the Air-launched Tomahawk was not accepted by the USAF who, in 1980, selected the Boeing AGM-86 as its preferred stand-off missile. Following well publicized ‘Peace’ demonstrations at Greenham Common, England (1983), over the planned basing of nuclear Tomahawk cruise missiles there; the land-Surface launch system was also abandoned.
A submarine launch of Tomahawk begins with the flooding of the torpedo tube until outside water pressure is equaled. The tube is opened and the SLCM ejected from its protective steel capsule. The booster rocket fires about 30 ft out and its four water jet tabs vector the thrust to steer the Tomahawk out of the sea. Tomahawk surfaces at around 50˚ with a speed of about 55mph and the tail fins spring out to roll the missile the right way up. After 6-7 seconds the booster burns out and is jettisoned while the wings extend. The air scoop pops out and the turbofan blades, wound up to 20,000rpm by hot gas from the starter cartridge, begin the cruise flight at just under 1,000ft
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