Everything about Missiles

What is a missile?

  • A missile is essentially a sophisticated bomb which after being released is governed by the laws of ballistics.
  • The laws of ballistics means only the force of gravity acts upon it.
  • It can be made more accurate and faster by attaching a propulsion system to the bomb and then it is called a rocket.
  • If guided and controlled, a rocket can be made deadlier and that is what a missile is.
  • The missiles can carry tons of nuclear warheads at speeds way higher than fighter planes.

Classification

Missiles are classified variously based on the launching system. Thus, missiles can be:

  • Surface-to-Surface Missile
  • Surface-to-Air Missile
  • Surface (Coast)-to-Sea Missile
  • Air-to-Air Missile
  • Air-to-Surface Missile
  • Sea-to-Sea Missile
  • Sea-to-Surface (Coast) Missile

Based on the working principle, missiles can be:

  • Ballistics
  • Cruise

Classified by range and proposed use, missiles can be:

  • Short RMedium RaIntermediate RangeMissile
  • Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

How is a ballistic missile different from a cruise one?

  • A ballistic missile is used to hit a predetermined target —launched such that it burns most of its fuel to attain the desired velocity in the first phase (also called the boost phase).
  • Such a missile can only be guided during the powered phase of flight.
  • 31 countries have operational ballistic missile systems.
  • India’s Agni and Prithvi are ballistic missile.
  • A cruise missile is a small pilotless craft that carries an explosive warhead.
  • It has wings and an engine, but is built more economically.
  • It is steered by inertial navigation system (INS), that’s also used by airplanes.
  • A cruise missile can be made so accurate that it can be aimed at any specific place like a door or a window.
  • Its flight can be guided for a longer period.
  • BrahMos is a cruise missile system.

Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

  • Ballistic missiles are categorised according to their range, which is the maximum distance along the surface of the earth from the point of launch to the point of impact of its payload.
  • Until recently, Russia, US, China, the UK, France and Israel were the only countries with operational ICBM technology.
  • With Hwasong-15, North Korea’s joined this club.
  • With over 5,000-km range, India’s Agni-V also qualifies for this club.

Which countries have the longest range of operational ballistic missiles?

Russia, US and China have many missile systems that qualify for the ICBM range.

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