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Ballistic missile

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Minuteman-III MIRV launch sequence :1. The missile launches out of its silo by firing its 1st-stage boost motor (A). 2. About 60 seconds after launch, the 1st stage drops off and the 2nd-stage motor (B) ignites. The missile shroud (E) is ejected. 3. About 120 seconds after launch, the 3rd-stage motor (C) ignites and separates from the 2nd stage. 4. About 180 seconds after launch, 3rd-stage thrust terminates and the Post-Boost Vehicle (D) separates from the rocket. 5. The Post-Boost Vehicle maneuvers itself and prepares for re-entry vehicle (RV) deployment. 6. The RVs, as well as decoys and chaff, are deployed. 7. The RVs (now armed) and chaff re-enter the atmosphere at high speeds. 8. The nuclear warheads detonate.
Minuteman-III MIRV launch sequence :
1. The missile launches out of its silo by firing its 1st-stage boost motor (A).
2. About 60 seconds after launch, the 1st stage drops off and the 2nd-stage motor (B) ignites. The missile shroud (E) is ejected.
3. About 120 seconds after launch, the 3rd-stage motor (C) ignites and separates from the 2nd stage.
4. About 180 seconds after launch, 3rd-stage thrust terminates and the Post-Boost Vehicle (D) separates from the rocket.
5. The Post-Boost Vehicle maneuvers itself and prepares for re-entry vehicle (RV) deployment.
6. The RVs, as well as decoys and chaff, are deployed.
7. The RVs (now armed) and chaff re-enter the atmosphere at high speeds.
8. The nuclear warheads detonate.

A ballistic missile follows a ballistic trajectory to deliver one or more warheads on a predetermined target. These weapons are only guided during relatively brief periods of flight—most of their trajectory is unpowered, being governed by gravity and air resistance if in the atmosphere. Shorter range ballistic missiles stay within the Earth's atmosphere, while longer-ranged intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), are launched on a sub-orbital flight trajectory and spend most of their flight out of the atmosphere.

These weapons are in a distinct category from cruise missiles, which are aerodynamically guided in powered flight.

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When I was growing up in England in the 1970s and throughout the 80s in particular, there was an almost palpable fear that a nuclear exchange could break out between the superpowers at almost any time. It caused me and many others around at the time to wonder if there was a way to stop a missile attack but to be honest it was very literally you could do. If you lived in a big city or near a military base there was nothing to stop an ICBM on intercontinental ballistic missile once it was on its way and with the four-minute warning we had here in the UK you might as well just have one last game of Missile Command and hope for a quick end. Roll around 35 plus years and although we now live in a time where the threat from nuclear attack is much less it's still present even if it may have moved to a different area of the globe. So with the advancement of technology can we stop a missile attack them now once it's started. Ever since the first missiles were developed by the Germans in the latter part of the Second World War they have struck fear into the heart and many, certainly those in the vicinity of a receiving end. The primary reason for this is the way they deliver their payload, unlike planes or cruise missiles which by comparison are quite slow and travel normally at subsonic speed leaving them susceptible to anti-aircraft fire or surface-to-air missiles an ICBM is usually launched - but the atmosphere into space where the warhead bit separates from a main body and it falls back to earth. Because of the ballistic trajectory the speed of these warheads even when they come through the denser atmosphere is still in a region of 15-20,000 mph, 31,000 km/h up to five miles or 8.6 kilometers per second around mach 25!. It's this speed which makes them so difficult to stop because everything happens so fast. The detection of an attack, the coordination of countermeasures and the launch of any defensive options has to happen within minutes and is one of the most difficult technical and engineering challenges around and that's without the attackers countermeasures which we'll come to later. In order to look at stopping a missile we have to find its vulnerabilities and for that we have to understand its trajectory phrase which is made up of three parts the first part is the boost phase this is when it's launching and accelerating up to space that lasts around four minutes taking the missile to a height of around 90 to 125 miles around 150 to 200 kilometers. Then there is the second mid-course phase this is where the Boost engines burn out and it travels through space through the highest point of its trajectory this is also the longest phase taking around 20 minutes the third and final phase is the terminal phase this is where the warhead re-enters the atmosphere force towards its target this is also the shortest and lasts around 30 seconds to one a minute. Before anything can be done you have to detect when a long has happened today we have satellites with infrared sensors these are constantly on the lookout for the tell-tale heat plume from the rocket engines. Before the advent of the detection satellites the only way to know along to the curd or some early warning radar posts detecting that an object had risen quickly above a certain altitude it's this first boost frames when the missiles are at their most vulnerable and ironically their most difficult to get at the Rodeway are quite slow moving to start with they accelerate extremely rapidly to shoot down the missile you need another even faster missile the problem here is that they could be deep within enemy territory on one of our launchers or even at sea long some ships or submarines or too far away from abms other types of weapons such as high-power airborne lasers can down missiles but they have to be relatively close because the atmosphere accuses the laser beam over longer distances making ineffective you also have to have these airborne lasers in the air all the time or cruising close to land known launch positions or national borders something which was raised functions even more if you can't get the missile when it's in space then the second mid-course phase when it's in space is the next best place to attack this is the longest phase lasts up to 20 minutes but it's here that the ICBM can fight back with countermeasures many ICBMs can hold more than one warhead international treaties limited to 10 yes 10 separately targeted warheads but that's not all to confuse the defenders detection and tracking systems a missile will also carry decoys mylar balloons which will inflate when warheads attach these float along with the missile debris and the warheads and often are shaped and painted to look like warheads to the defenders radar systems these all look like potential targets but which ones do you go for with a limited number of ABMS available pick the wrong ones and you will be letting the real warheads through there have been several attempts to make systems that try to destroy the missiles repairing space the most famous was Reagan's Star Wars or the Strategic Defense Initiative this was to build a space-based defense system using high-powered lasers to disable multiple targets before they fell back to earth the technology on the other hand was not capable of delivering this during the 80s and be honest it only really started young practical now the method which has been proven to work although on a limited scale and against a limited number of targets just normally one at a time so far is the kinetic impact or kill vehicle these are small non explosive devices away around four kilos or ten pounds that are launched into space on an ABM to intercept the incoming targets these are released once in space and have onboard navigation thrusters so they can be guided to crash into people coming warheads or decoys in the mid 2000 this idea was expanded with the MK V of Moscow kill with the defenders carrier missiles with old a number of these maybe a dozen or so and once released they would effectively form a cloud that in theory would target all the potential targets both real and decoy but this is still an extremely difficult operation to pull off as the missile detection systems have to use high-resolution x-band radar and advanced image recognition to be able to identify all the potential targets and weed out the warheads from the missile debris and the decoys it then sends what it thinks are the real target coordinates to the MK V's own tracking system for the final Rock all whilst the MK V and the target have a closing speed of more than 30,000 kilometers or 18,000 miles an hour the other problem here is the number of potato targets it's extremely unlikely that just one ICBM will be launched in a real attack dozens of ICBMs will be launched and arrived in ways from different launch locations each with multiple warheads and decoys this will just simply overwhelm any defense system even if it was a limited attack the attacker has probably could get only 20% of rewards through but the defender shoot out 100% something that in real life with current technology would be virtually impossible if this fails then there is just the final terminal phase but this is very short typically under a minute and the velocity of the warheads is going on five miles or eight kilometers per second range early defense systems use nuclear-tipped missiles which would explode near the approaching war in an attempt to knock out their guidance and arming itright with an electromagnetic pulse but with newer radiation hardened control electronics and the side effects of dozens of Hiroshima site high-altitude air burst about your own territory the idea was dropped this means that the area being targeted the city command center missile silo or even a flotilla of ships must have a BMS and very close for undefended areas there would be simply too little time for an ABM to intercept of a warhead before it detonated again these systems are even kinetic weapons which have to hit the target or have proximity fuses and detonate close to the target current systems can launch over multiple targets and in tests have worked but none have been proven in a real-world attack in the end we just still cannot defend against an all-out attack so we have to fall back on the 60-year old policies of the appropriately named mad M ad mutually assured destruction in order to keep the peace by making nuclear war just not worth the consequences for Peter sighs as Churchill said meeting to George oo is better than war so as always thanks for watching but before I go I would just like to remind you of the curious droid merchandise store and also the curious droid Facebook groups now open we've suggest ideas for new videos and finally you can now translate any of the curious droid videos if you are a non English speaker with the community contributions which we also have a video on if you're unsure just checking the uploading videos so again thanks for watching and please subscribe rate



Replica of V-2
Replica of V-2

The earliest use of rockets as a weapon dates to the 13th Century (see History of rockets). A pioneer ballistic missile was the A-4,[1] commonly known as the V-2 rocket developed by Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s under the direction of Wernher von Braun. The first successful launch of a V-2 was on October 3, 1942, and it began operation on September 6, 1944 against Paris, followed by an attack on London two days later. By the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945, over 3,000 V-2s had been launched.[2]

The R-7 Semyorka was the first intercontinental ballistic missile.

A total of 30 nations have deployed operational ballistic missiles. Development continues with around 100 ballistic missile flight tests in 2007 (not including those of the US), mostly by China, Iran, and the Russian Federation.[citation needed] In 2010, the U.S. and Russian governments signed a treaty to reduce their inventory of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) over a seven-year period (to 2017) to 1550 units each.[3]

Side view of Minuteman-III ICBM
Side view of Minuteman-III ICBM


An intercontinental ballistic missile trajectory consists of three parts: the powered flight portion; the free-flight portion, which constitutes most of the flight time; and the re-entry phase, where the missile re-enters the Earth's atmosphere. (The flight phases for shorter-range ballistic missiles are essentially the first two phases of the ICBM, as some ballistic categories do not leave the atmosphere.)[citation needed]

Ballistic missiles can be launched from fixed sites or mobile launchers, including vehicles (e.g., transporter erector launchers (TELs)), aircraft, ships, and submarines. The powered flight portion can last from a few tenths of seconds to several minutes and can consist of multiple rocket stages.[citation needed]

When in space no more thrust is provided, the missile enters free-flight. In order to cover large distances, ballistic missiles are usually launched into a high sub-orbital spaceflight; for intercontinental missiles, the highest altitude (apogee) reached during free-flight is about 2,000 kilometers (1,200 mi).[4]

The re-entry stage begins at an altitude where atmospheric drag plays a significant part in missile trajectory, and lasts until missile impact.[citation needed]

Reentry vehicles reenter the Earth’s atmosphere at very high velocities, on the order of 6-8 kilometers (4–5 miles) per second at ICBM ranges.[5]


The course taken by ballistic missiles has two significant desirable properties. First, ballistic missiles that fly above the atmosphere have a much longer range than would be possible for cruise missiles of the same size. Powered rocket flight through thousands of kilometers of air would require vastly greater amounts of fuel, making the launch vehicles larger and easier to detect and intercept. Powered missiles that can cover similar ranges, such as cruise missiles, do not use rocket motors for the majority of their flight, but instead use more economical jet engines. However, cruise missiles have not made ballistic missiles obsolete, due to the second major advantage: ballistic missiles can travel extremely quickly along their flight path. An ICBM can strike a target within a 10,000 km range in about 30 to 35 minutes.[citation needed] With terminal speeds of over 5,000 m/s, ballistic missiles are much harder to intercept than cruise missiles, due to the much shorter time available. Therefore, ballistic missiles are some of the most feared weapons available, despite the fact that cruise missiles are cheaper, more mobile, and more versatile.[citation needed]

Missile types

Ballistic missiles can vary widely in range and use, and are often divided into categories based on range. Various schemes are used by different countries to categorize the ranges of ballistic missiles:

Tactical, short- and medium-range missiles are often collectively referred to as tactical and theatre ballistic missiles, respectively. Long- and medium-range ballistic missiles are generally designed to deliver nuclear weapons because their payload is too limited for conventional explosives to be cost-effective in comparison to conventional bomber aircraft (though the U.S. is evaluating the idea of a conventionally armed ICBM for near-instant global air strike capability, despite the high costs).


Throw-weight is a measure of the effective weight of ballistic missile payloads. It is measured in kilograms or tonnes. Throw-weight equals the total weight of a missile's warheads, reentry vehicles, self-contained dispensing mechanisms, penetration aids, and missile guidance systems—generally all components except for the launch rocket booster and launch fuel. While throw-weight may refer to any type of warhead, in normal modern usage it almost exclusively refers to nuclear or thermonuclear payloads. It was once also a consideration in the design of naval ships and the number/size of guns they carried.

Throw-weight was used as a criterion in classifying different types of missiles during Strategic Arms Limitation Talks between the Soviet Union and the United States.[7] The term became politically controversial during debates over the arms-control accord, as critics of the treaty alleged that Soviet missiles were able to carry larger payloads and therefore enabled the Soviets to maintain higher throw-weight than an American force with a roughly comparable number of lower-payload missiles.[8]

The missiles with the world’s heaviest payloads are the Russian SS-18 and Chinese CSS-4 and Russia is developing a new heavy-lift, liquid-propellant ICBM called the Sarmat.[5]

Depressed trajectory

Throw-weight is normally calculated using an optimal ballistic trajectory from one point on the surface of the Earth to another. An optimal trajectory maximizes the total payload (throw-weight) using the available impulse of the missile. By reducing the payload weight, different trajectories can be selected which either extends the nominal range, or decreases the total time in flight. A depressed trajectory is a non-optimal, lower and flatter trajectory which takes less time between launch and impact, but with a lower throw-weight. The primary reasons to choose a depressed trajectory are either to evade anti-ballistic missile systems by reducing the time available to shoot down the attacking vehicle (especially during the vulnerable burn-phase against space-based ABM systems), or in a nuclear first-strike scenario.[9] An alternate, non-military, purpose for a depressed trajectory is in conjunction with the space plane concept with use of air-breathing engines, which requires the ballistic missile to remain sufficiently low inside the atmosphere for air-breathing engines to function.

See also


  1. ^ Zaloga, Steven (2003). V-2 Ballistic Missile 1942–52. Reading: Osprey Publishing. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-84176-541-9. 
  2. ^ Clayton K. S. Chun (2006). Thunder Over the Horizon: From V-2 Rockets to Ballistic Missiles. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 54. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Almasy, Steve; Kwon, K. J.; Lee, Taehoon (14 May 2017). "North Korea launches missile". CNN. Retrieved 2017-10-14. 
  5. ^ a b "Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat". Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee. June 2017. 
  6. ^ (2nd LD) N.K. leader calls SLBM launch success, boasts of nuke attack capacity - Yonhap, 25 Aug 2016 08:17am
  7. ^ James John Tritten, Throw-Weight and Arms Control, Air University Review, Nov-Dec 1982.
  8. ^ New York Times, What Is Throw-Weight?, July 15, 1991.
  9. ^ Science & Global Security, 1992, Volume 3, pp.101-159 Depressed Trajectory SLBMs: A Technical Evaluation and Arms Control Possibilities [1]

Further reading

  • Futter, Andrew (2013). Ballistic Missile Defence and US National Security Policy: Normalisation and Acceptance after the Cold War. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415817325. 
  • Neufeld, Jacob (1990). The Development of Ballistic Missiles in the United States Air Force, 1945-1960. Office of Air Force History, U.S. Air Force. ISBN 0912799625. 
  • Swaine, Michael D.; Swanger, Rachel M.; Kawakami, Takashi (2001). Japan and Ballistic Missile Defense. Rand. ISBN 0833030205. 

External links

This page was last edited on 9 August 2018, at 15:17
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