The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
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PACIFIC OCEAN (June 23, 2010) The guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) successfully launches its second Tomahawk missile during weapons testing. Sterett is underway off the coast of Southern California conducting Tomahawk missile testing in preparation for an upcoming deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Fire Controlman 1st Class Stephen J. Zeller/Released.) 100623-N-0251Z-004 PACIFIC OCEAN (June 23, 2010) The guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) successfully launches its second Tomahawk missile during weapons testing. Sterett is underway off the coast of Southern California conducting Tomahawk missile testing in preparation for an upcoming deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Fire Controlman 1st Class Stephen J. Zeller/Released.)  

Preventing the Tomahawk chop

Photo of Steve Russell
Steve Russell
Retired Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army

President Obama has announced plans to shrink the military to pre-World War II levels. This is staggering given the U.S. role in the world. Our nation will be weakened such that we’ll no longer have the capacity for a two-front war, for the first time since 1942.

It is as though we are living not in 1942, but in 1936 with Neville Chamberlain as our chief executive. Then again, at least Mr. Chamberlain had a domestic policy.

With spending cuts inevitably on the horizon to make way for Obama phones and the Unaffordable Care Act, it’s more important than ever to fund programs essential to our military capacity, security, and allied reassurance. For over three decades, one system has constantly played that crucial role — the Tomahawk cruise missile.

When President Obama launched operations against Libya in 2011, he spoke of bringing “America’s unique capabilities” to the table and justified the launch of Tomahawk missiles to destroy Libyan air defenses as the preferred method to “not deploy US troops on the ground.”

That may soon change, with America weakened by a shortsighted Commander-in-Chief. In President Obama’s 2015 budget request, he plans a 50 percent chop in cruise missiles and their complete termination beginning in 2016. No replacement is scheduled for a decade. Even that may not work out.

Such a dangerous lag between the Tomahawk and its notional replacement exposes the United States to increasing global threats due to another hallmark of our president — weak foreign policy. Think Syria. Think Iran. Think North Korea. And if we want to think only small despots are a threat, think China. Think Russia. Think weak America. They are.

Every president since George H. W. Bush has relied on the versatility, accuracy, and safety of these missiles and their upgrades to flex U.S. muscle when tyrants, terrorists, or contenders have overstepped the bounds of U.S. interests and international civility. More than 2,000 have been used. They continue to be our instant, tough response should other options preclude us.

It’s not difficult to see why. The current generation of Tomahawks takes less than an hour to target and launch. The missile has a range of more than one thousand miles and carries a 1,000 pound-class warhead. It flies at high subsonic speed, and once launched it can be re-targeted in midair or asked to stay in a holding pattern for hours at a time.

Tomahawks also feature anti-jamming technology ensuring their ability to operate within GPS-denied environments. The Tomahawk remains the only missile that can swim, transition to a rocket, and then to a jet before accurately and consistently striking within a few feet of its exact target. It is a marvel of American ingenuity.

Even the president’s budget admits the “[Tomahawk] provides a premier attack capability against long range, medium range, and tactical targets on land… The Block IV Tactical Tomahawk preserves Tomahawk’s long-range precision-strike capability while significantly increasing responsiveness and flexibility.”

Unfortunately, an unfair perception has grown among non-experts that the system is out-of-date. This is false. Like our tanks, planes, rifles and ships, the Tomahawk has consistently been upgraded and improved over time to achieve things it was not imagined to do.