Ever since the Tomahawk missile's effectiveness was dramatically revealed on television screens around the world during 1991's Operation Desert Storm, cruise missiles have come to be accepted as valuable weapons on the modern battlefield. Ship-launched Tomahawks have been used with lethal effectiveness in the Balkans, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. For U.S. presidents, they have become a risk-free, cost-effective means of punitive action, striking virtually anywhere in the world without risk to American servicemen.
Ironically, only 41 years ago, Americans lagged behind when the Soviet-manufactured Styx first demonstrated the capabilities of ship-launched cruise missiles by sinking the Israeli destroyer Eilat. Though the event is little remembered, and the weapon responsible has been rendered obsolete by subsequent advances in technology, the sinking nonetheless represented a turning point in naval warfare.