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Ballistic Missiles


Compiled By

SSUET, Karachi-Pakistan

March 2004

Missile is a rocket-propelled weapon designed to deliver an explosive warhead with great
accuracy at high speed. Almost all missiles contain some form of guidance and control
mechanism and are therefore often referred to as guided missiles. A guided missile is broadly
any military missile that is capable of being guided or directed to a target after having been
launched. An unguided military missile, as well as any launch vehicle used to sound the upper
atmosphere or place a satellite in space, is usually referred to as a rocket.

Guided Missiles are of two types :

1- Tactical guided missiles
2- Strategic guided missiles


Tactical guided missiles are shorter-ranged weapons designed for use in the immediate combat
area. Tactical missiles usually carry high explosives.


Long-range, or strategic guided missiles are of two types, cruise and ballistic. Cruise missiles
are powered by air-breathing engines that provide almost continuous propulsion along a low,
level flight path. A ballistic missile is propelled by a rocket engine for only the first part of its
flight; for the rest of the flight the un powered missile follows an arcing trajectory, Strategic
missiles usually carry nuclear warheads.

Ballistic missiles are most often categorized as:

International Classification.
BSRBM Battle Field Short Range
Ballistic Missile
150 Km Max.
SRBM Short Range Ballistic Missile 150 to 799 Km
MRBM Medium Range Ballistic Missile 800 to 2,399 Km
IRBM Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile 2,400 to 5,499 Km
ICBM Inter Continental Ballistic Missile More then 5,500 Km

American Classification.
SRBM Short Range Ballistic Missile Less Then 1,100 Km
MRBM Medium Range Ballistic Missile 1,100 to 2,750 Km
IRBM Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile 2,750 to 5,500 Km
ICBM Inter Continental Ballistic Missile More then 5,500 Km

Ballistic Missiles can be propelled by either liquid-fueled or solid-fueled rocket engines:

Solid Fuel Rocket:

Solid fuel rockets burns a rubber or plastic like thing called Grain. In solid form grain is
Consist of fuel and oxidizer. In contrary to the liquid fuel rockets, fuel and oxidizer are not
Burn by intermixing. The fuel can be burn by two ways:

1- By burning any burn able material.
2- By spraying liquid chlorine on Grain.

Solid fuels burns very quickly as compare to any other fuel but it produce less thrust.
Solid fuel rockets can be used after storing them for a long time and they works just like
Newly prepared. Solid fuel is preferred for military uses because it is less likely to explode and
can be kept ready-loaded for quick launch. Such engines commonly propel tactical guided

2- Liquid Fuel Rocket

Liquid fuel rockets burns liquid fuel and oxidizers. In these rockets liquid fuels and
Oxidizers are kept in separate tanks. A system of pipes and valves bring them in to
The combustion chamber. There are two ways to bring the fuel in combustion chamber:

1- By Pumping 2- By High Pressure Gas.

Mostly Pumping method is used in which a gas is produced by burning small amount of fuel.
This gas activates the pump which brings the fuel and oxidizer in combustion chamber.
Some fuels called Hypergols are burn when the are combined with Oxidizer but most
Liquid fuel rockets need extra system for starting. Liquid fuels burns slowly and produce more
thrust as compare to solid fuel. But it is difficult to handle and store.


We can classify the flight of a ballistic Missile in three phases.

1- Boost Phase 2- Mid Phase 3- Terminal phase.

Boost Phase.

Boost phase is the initial stage of ballistic missile flight. In boost phase the missile starts its
flight with the help of a rocket engine. In order to keep it self on track it may get help
From internal guidance system.

Mid Phase

Missile continues its flight and keeps increasing both its altitude and velocity. But after certain
time rocket engine burns all its fuel at that time the velocity of Missile is called
Burn Out Velocity. As the rocket engines are stopped so there is no alternate way for Missile
to further increase its altitude, as a result gravitational force acts on it and it turns towards The
ground. This Stage of Ballistic Missile Flight is called Mid Phase.

Terminal Phase

Now it falls towards the surface of earth with the acceleration of 9.8m/s
. At this time it
is just like a free falling pointed heavy stone. The curve path followed by the missile is called
Ballistic Trajectory. The missile reaches its target and fall on it.
This stage is called Terminal Phase of Missiles flight.


Though Ballistic Missile is the most dangerous weapon of the modern age, yet its danger is
tested from several angles. There are three factors which are most important in the
effectiveness of any Ballistic Missile. They are:

1- Range 2- Warhead. 3- Accuracy


As it is taught in intermediate classes that any projectile will cover maximum distance
when it is projected at an angle of 45

. This simple rule is also applicable to Ballistic Missile.

Therefore the range of Ballistic Missile means the distance which it covers at an angle of 45

Beside the angle the range of any Ballistic missile is also determined by its Burnout velocity.
This Velocity is very high as compare to the velocity of a Jet plane or Cruse Missile. Due to
this fact, so far no country has 100 % effective defense against Ballistic Missiles.

The range of the missile can be increased by making stages in it.
The example of single stage missiles are Germanys V2, Pakistans Hataf and Indias Perthivi

And the examples of two stage missiles are Pakistani Shaheen II and Indian Agni Missiles.

It is found that more then one stage is necessary if we want to increase the range of any
ballistic missile from 1,500Km. And three stage missiles are usually ICBM.

The rocket boosters of multi stage Missile burns one by one. When the first stage is burnout it
is separated from the missile and the next stage start burning and so on. Thus upon the removal
of empty stage the weight of the missile reduces which ultimately increases its velocity.
The simplest way to increase the range of any ballistic missile is to decrease the weight of its
warhead (payload). In SRBM by reducing its payload to half, its range increases up to1.5 (One
and a half times). But this technique is not very much suit able because it reduces missiles
effectiveness, especially when the missile is carrying the payload of conventional explosives.

2- War Heads:

A ballistic Missile may have multiple warheads. All warheads are present in the Nose Cone
of the missile. It can be of any type, like Conventional explosives, Chemical, Biological
or Nuclear.

The majority of ICBMs and SLBMs of America, Russia and most of the common wealth
countries have MIRV type of warheads. It is the abbreviation of Multiple Independently
Targetable Reentry Vehicles. It is a bundle of nuclear weapons which are installed on a
platform in Ballistic Missiles. This platform became movable when required and came out
from the missile during the Flight. Then the nuclear weapons present in it independently
released in different directions to hit different targets. Or in other words, In MIRV every
weapon is fixed for separate & particular target.

The early ICBM and SLBM of Russia although had multiple nuclear warheads but they cannot
be dropped individually on separate targets. Such types of warhead are known as
MRV Multiple Reentry Vehicles.

America has made a warhead named MaRV for its latest & most dangerous missiles. MaRv
means Maneuverable Reentry vehicle. These warheads can not only independently target
different object but can also destroy the enemys active and defending weapons.

The missiles of other small and under developing countries can only carry single warhead
at a time. The conclusion of all this is that, the destructive ability of any missile is very much
depends upon the type of warhead it carries.

3- Accuracy (CEP)

The accuracy of the missiles is its ability to hit the target properly. It is measured in
Circular Error Probable (CEP). It is defined as:

CEP is the radius of an imaginary circle around the target in which the probability that
the missile will fall is 50%.

It is quite clearer from the definition that the determination of the CEP of any missile requires
several experiments. It should also be remembered that it is not necessary for a missile of
particular CEP to fall in the imaginary circle. It is also possible that the missile will fall a bit
away or completely away from the circle. Because any how CEP only Covers 50% of the
probability and the way of rest of the 50% probability is left open.


There are five basic guidance methods used in different types of missiles. They are:

1-Command, 2-Inertial, 3-Active, 4-Semiactive, and 5-Passive.

Ballistic missiles usually have Inertial Guidance system:
Inertial Guidance System..
Inertial guidance was initially designed for long-range ballistic missiles, but, with advances in
miniaturized circuitry, microcomputers, and inertial sensors, it became common in tactical
weapons after the 1970s. Inertial systems involved the use of small, highly accurate gyroscopic
platforms to continuously determine the position of the missile in space. These provided inputs
to guidance computers, which used the position information in addition to inputs from
accelerometers or integrating circuits to calculate velocity and direction. The guidance
computer, which was programmed with the desired flight path, then generated commands to
maintain the course. An advantage of inertial guidance was that it required no electronic
emissions from the missile or launch platform that could be picked up by the enemy.

There are many other type of missiles which do not have guidance system. Hence they can not
be used to destroy small targets. Instead they could used to destroy large areas such as cities &
Army areas which are spread in many Kilometers. These missiles are equipped with mass
destruction weapons (WMD) thus even if they falls away from the target the effect of
destruction produced by them can easily reached the target

The missiles equipped with guidance system are more accurate. However no matter how
advance the onboard guidance system is, but it cannot produce large changes in the trajectory
of the missile after it is launched. Lets suppose if it is even possible, then after achieving the
burn out velocity the impact of gravitational fore on ballistic missile is so power full that the
change in direction more then a certain limit will smash the missile in to peaces. Therefore the
guidance system of ballistic missile provides guidance only at the time of launching (boost
phase) and onboard guidance system only provides guidance up to the mid phase of the
missiles flight. And from Mid to Terminal phase it is use-less to expect any extra
ordinary performance from the on board guidance system. Because after all it is an invention
and it is not possible for any invention to go against the law of nature.