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    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.

    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.


    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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