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    TOMAHAWK CRUISE MISSILE
    The Navy's Tomahawk cruise missile is nicknamed the "smart" weapon because it is a laser-guided, precision weapon. It was promoted as a highly accurate, difficult-to-detect weapon that could be launched from air, land or sea, miles away from the target. The 1991 Gulf War marked the first time the missiles were used in combat.

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    Characteristics
    Service: U.S. Navy
    Contractor: Hughes Aircraft Co.
    Cost per unit: $750,000
    Length: 18 feet, 3 inches
    Weight: 2,630 pounds
    Range: For land attack, 690 miles
    Speed: 550 mph
    Warhead: 1,000 pounds

    How it works
    The missile is launched from submarines or ships. After launch, a solid propellant accelerates the missile until a small turbofan engine takes over for the cruise portion of flight.

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    It has a guidance system with components that make course corrections for pinpoint accuracy. To determine the missile's location, one component compares terrain with satellite photographs of Earth stored in on-board computers. Another component receives data from satellites that provide guidance.

    The Tomahawk is difficult to detect because of its small profile on radar, low-altitude flight and turbofan engine, which gives off little heat that can be picked up by infrared detectors.


    Source: Department of Defense and The Washington Post

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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