Undeclared wars: the rain of U.S. cruise missiles

This month, the cockroach President joined the missile wars. That administration has now become the most aggressive ever, launching 59 cruise missiles so far during its first calendar quarter. None of the missile attacks have been authorized by Congress. Congress has not declared war since 1942, during World War II.

Missiles per quarter Presidential administration
18 Herbert Bush
26 Clinton
27 Walker Bush
6 Obama
59 Trump

In early April, news media reported a U.S. Navy carrier strike group deploying to international waters near North Korea. It includes the USS Vinson nuclear-powered CVN aircraft supercarrier, the USS Bunker Hill and Lake Champlain CG guided missile cruisers, and six DDG guided missile destroyers: the USS Benfold, Gridley, Higgins, Russell, Sterett and Stockdale.

Together the carrier group has around 8,000 personnel, 100 aircraft and 800 guided missiles–of which about two-thirds are typically cruise missiles. Attached to the carrier strike group may be one or more SSGN submarines, each carrying about 150 cruise missiles.

U.S. origins: The United States developed cruise missiles in the 1970s, mainly to launch attacks with nuclear weapons from U.S. Navy vessels at sea. The historical model was the German V-1, also called the “buzz bomb”–used against Britain during World War II. While versions were developed to launch from aircraft and trucks, only ship and submarine cruise-missile launchers are now deployed.

Seven models of cruise missiles have been manufactured by General Dynamics, McDonnell Douglas and Raytheon. They have been operational since 1983. Several models are in current production. A total of around 6,000 cruise missiles have been delivered to date, at an average program cost of around $2 million each.

Two models equipped with nuclear explosives, deployed from 1983 through 2013, were rated at yields of up to 200,000 tons of TNT–around ten times that of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb near the end of World War II. Five models with chemical explosives are rated at yields of up to about 1/2 ton of TNT.

U.S. cruise missiles have flight ranges of about 800 to 1,500 miles at variable speeds, about 250 to 550 mph. Different models are controlled by inertial guidance–gyroscopes and acceleration sensors–by radar, by optical systems, by satellite signals and by combinations.

Air attacks: From first offensive use in 1991 through the early spring of 2017, the U.S. military has launched a reported 2,217 cruise missiles in attacks against other countries. Flying at night, as they often have, their practical accuracies have been too limited to disable strategic targets reliably with chemical explosives. That has led to launching tens to hundreds of missiles in air attacks.

Year Missiles Target countries
1991 288 Iraq
1993 46 Iraq
1993 23 Iraq
1995 13 Bosnia
1996 44 Iraq
1998 79 Afghanistan, Sudan
1998 415 Iraq
1999 218 Serbia, Montenegro
2001 50 Afghanistan
2003 802 Iraq
2008 2 Somalia
2009 2 Yemen
2011 124 Libya
2014 47 Syria
2016 5 Yemen
2017 59 Syria

Several organizations promoting military activities have estimated schemes to attack North Korea before it can deploy nuclear weapons on long-range missiles. They find the window closing, with North Korea developing anti-missile and anti-ship defenses. North Korea already has several nuclear sites, weapons factories and military communications centers–plus around 200 truck-mounted missile launchers.

With ten or more cruise missiles needed to disable a strategic target reliably, the United States might need to launch a few thousand–essentially its current inventory. It might need to supplement those with strikes by land-based, supersonic “stealth” aircraft–the F-22 and B-2–and strikes by carrier-based forces. Such a campaign could far exceed the aggression against Iraq during the Walker Bush era.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, April 9, 2017


Idrees Ali, U.S. Navy strike group to move towards Korean peninsula, Reuters (UK), April 9, 2017

Bassem Mroue, Associated Press, U.S. strike on Syrian air base has limited impact on Assad, WTOP (Washington, DC), April 8, 2017

John Davison, Syrian jets take off from air base U.S. missiles struck, Reuters (UK), April 7, 2017

Corey Charlton, Japan to bomb North Korea in missile strike before crazed despot Kim Jong-un can destroy the country in nuclear attack, London Sun, March 28, 2017

John Pike, BGM-109 Tomahawk operational use, Global Security (New York, NY), 2017

Sam LaGrone, USS Mason fired three missiles to defend against cruise missiles from Yemen, U.S. Naval Institute News (Annapolis, MD), 2016

Rodger Baker, Assessing the North Korean hazard, Stratfor (Austin, TX), 2016

James Pearson, North Korea test-fires new anti-ship cruise missile, Reuters (UK), 2015

Tomahawk cruise missile: fact file, U.S. Navy, 2014

Carlo Kopp, Defeating cruise missiles, Air Power Australia, 2012

Craig Bolon, Circuses: cheaper than bread, Brookline Beacon, February 21, 2017

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>