The February 1998 preparations for U.S. strikes against Iraq highlighted some unfortunate naval developments. At least some of the supposed sites of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons are well inland, beyond the normal range of F/A-18 strikes that might be flown from carriers in the Persian Gulf; A-6E Intruders, now retired, would have had the requisite range. During the Cold War they demonstrated that, with tanking, they could attack targets 1,000 miles from their ships. Now the U.S. Navy's only deep-strike weapon is the Tomahawk missile, whose warhead is much lighter than an aircraft bomb load. Moreover, the number of Tomahawks deployed anywhere is quite limited compared to a carrier's magazine load.
World Naval Developments: Getting Ready to Strike Iraq
By Norman Friedman