In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, the USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile Friday, April 7, 2017, from the Mediterranean Sea. The United States blasted a Syrian air base with a barrage of cruise missiles in fiery retaliation for this week's gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians.  (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/U.S. Navy via AP)
PHOTO: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/U.S. Navy via AP
In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, the USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile Friday, April 7, 2017, from the Mediterranean Sea. The United States blasted a Syrian air base with a barrage of cruise missiles in fiery retaliation for this week's gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/U.S. Navy via AP)
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MEDITERRANEAN SEA - APRIL 7:  In this handout provided by the U.S. Navy,The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter fires a Tomahawk land attack missile on April 7, 2017 in the Mediterranean Sea. The USS Porter was one of two destroyers that fired a total of 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed scores of civilians this week. The attack was the first direct U.S. assault on Syria and the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the six-year war there.  (Photo by Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
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MEDITERRANEAN SEA - APRIL 7: In this handout provided by the U.S. Navy,The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter fires a Tomahawk land attack missile on April 7, 2017 in the Mediterranean Sea. The USS Porter was one of two destroyers that fired a total of 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed scores of civilians this week. The attack was the first direct U.S. assault on Syria and the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the six-year war there. (Photo by Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
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Syrians look down at a poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L) and his late father and predecessor Hafez al-Assad in Damascus, as they watch the tourist train pass following the re-opening ceremony of the rail route between two neighbourhoods in the Syrian capital, Raboeh and Dumar, on May 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA        (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
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MEDITERRANEAN SEA - APRIL 7:  In this handout provided by the U.S. Navy,The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter fires a Tomahawk land attack missile on April 7, 2017 in the Mediterranean Sea. The USS Porter was one of two destroyers that fired a total of 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed scores of civilians this week. The attack was the first direct U.S. assault on Syria and the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the six-year war there.  (Photo by Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
PHOTO: U.S. Navy/Getty Images
MEDITERRANEAN SEA - APRIL 7: In this handout provided by the U.S. Navy,The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter fires a Tomahawk land attack missile on April 7, 2017 in the Mediterranean Sea. The USS Porter was one of two destroyers that fired a total of 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed scores of civilians this week. The attack was the first direct U.S. assault on Syria and the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the six-year war there. (Photo by Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
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(CNN) —  

US President Donald Trump ordered military strikes against Syria on Thursday in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians, including children.

Two US warships in the eastern Mediterranean launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian government airbase, US officials said.

CNN’s military analysts said the Tomahawk was a good choice for this kind of attack.

“This is what the Tomahawk was made for. It gets in there low level and hits these fixed facilities with no risk to an air crew,” retired US Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona said.

Tomahawks are intermediate-range cruise missiles, meaning they have a range of about 800 miles (1,250 kilometers) to 1500 miles (2,500 kilometers).

They are fired from sea and travel relatively low to the ground and guided by an advanced navigation system, which means the US could target the airbase in Syria from afar.

“What’s important about the Tomahawks is that they just don’t necessarily go from point A to point B in a straight line. They will take kind of a circumnavigation route so they can’t be shot down,” retired US Army Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks said.

The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Barry launches a Tomahawk on March 29, 2011, from the Mediterranean Sea.
PHOTO: US Navy via Getty Images
The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Barry launches a Tomahawk on March 29, 2011, from the Mediterranean Sea.

The missiles were first used by the United States in Operation Desert Storm and have been in operation ever since. The United Kingdom also has purchased Tomahawks from the United States.

The Tomahawk can be equipped with a 1,000-pound conventional warhead, the Navy says.

Though Tomahawks have the ability to carry a nuclear payload, policymakers have phased out the missiles’ nuclear role, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Missile Defense Project.

01:18 - Source: U.S. Navy
See the U.S. Navy launch Tomahawk missile into ship

Though Tomahawks have been in service for years, newer versions have been equipped with better communication systems, among other things.

Each unit cost about $569,000 in 1999 dollars, according to the US Navy, – equivalent to about $832,000 today.