A cruise missile is a guided missile used against terrestrial targets that remains in the atmosphere and flies the major portion of its flight path at approximately constant speed. Cruise missiles are designed to deliver a large warhead over long distances with high accuracy; that is, small circular error probability. Modern cruise missiles are capable of travelling at supersonic or high subsonic speeds, are self-navigating, and are able to fly on a non-ballistic, extremely low-altitude trajectory. They are distinct from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in several ways: the cruise missile is a single use weapon which is always sacrificed in the mission; it is not intended to provide aerial reconnaissance; and the warhead is integrated directly into the hull of the vehicle and cannot be separated. There is considerable overlap between cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles.
The first cruise missiles to be deployed were the Nazi German V-1 flying bomb of World War II. Advances in transistor and computer technology have contributed to self-correcting avionic and aeronautical designs that allow missiles to be guided in flight, as opposed to only at launch. These advances developed into guided missiles and guided bombs, and later into the modern cruise missile.
The idea of an "aerial torpedo" was shown in the British 1909 film The Airship Destroyer, where flying torpedoes controlled wirelessly are used to bring down airships bombing London.
In 1916, Lawrence Sperry built and patented an "aerial torpedo", a small biplane carrying a TNT charge, a Sperry autopilot and a barometric altitude control. Inspired by these experiments, the United States Army developed a similar flying bomb called the Kettering Bug. Germany had also flown trials with remote-controlled aerial gliders (Torpedogleiter) built by Siemens-Schuckert beginning in 1916.
In the Soviet Union, Sergei Korolev headed the GIRD-06 cruise missile project from 1932 to 1939, which used a rocket-powered boost-glide bomb design. The 06/III (RP-216) and 06/IV (RP-212) contained gyroscopic guidance systems. The vehicle was designed to boost to 28 km altitude and glide a distance of 280 km, but test flights in 1934 and 1936 only reached an altitude of 500 meters.
Germany first deployed cruise style missiles, during World War II. The V-1, often called a flying bomb, contained a gyroscope guidance system and was propelled by a simple pulsejet engine, the sound of which gave it the nickname of "buzz bomb" or "doodlebug". Accuracy was sufficient only for use against very large targets (the general area of a city), while the range of 250 km was significantly lower than that of a bomber carrying the same payload. The main advantages were speed (while not sufficient to outperform contemporary interceptors) and expendability. The production cost of a V-1 was only a small fraction of that of a V-2 supersonic ballistic missile, carrying a similar-sized warhead. Unlike the V-2, however, the initial deployments of the V-1 required stationary launch ramps which were susceptible to bombardment. Nazi Germany, in 1943, also developed the Mistel composite aircraft program, which can be seen as a rudimentary air-launched cruise missile, where a piloted fighter-type aircraft was mounted atop an unpiloted bomber-sized aircraft that was packed with explosives to be released while approaching the target. Bomber-launched variants of the V-1 saw limited operational service near the end of the war.
Immediately after the war the United States Air Force had 21 different guided missile projects, including would-be cruise missiles. All were cancelled by 1948, except four — the Air Materiel Command BANSHEE, the SM-62 Snark, the SM-64 Navaho, and the MGM-1 Matador. The BANSHEE design was similar to Operation Aphrodite; like Aphrodite, it failed, and was cancelled in April 1949.
During the Cold War period both the United States and the Soviet Union experimented further with the concept, deploying early cruise missiles from land, submarines and aircraft. The main outcome of the United States Navy submarine missile project was the SSM-N-8 Regulus missile, based upon the V-1.
The United States Air Force's first operational surface-to-surface missile was the winged, mobile, nuclear-capable MGM-1 Matador, also similar in concept to the V-1. Deployment overseas began in 1954, first to West Germany and later to the Republic of China (Taiwan) and South Korea. On November 7, 1956, U.S. Air Force Matador units in West Germany, whose missiles were capable of striking targets in the Warsaw Pact, deployed from their fixed day-to-day sites to unannounced dispersed launch locations. This alert was in response to the crisis posed by the Soviet attack on Hungary which suppressed the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
Between 1957 and 1961 the United States followed an ambitious and well-funded program to develop a nuclear-powered cruise missile, Supersonic Low Altitude Missile (SLAM). It was designed to fly below the enemy's radar at speeds above Mach 3 and carry a number of hydrogen bombs that it would drop along its path over enemy territory. Although the concept was proven sound and the 500 megawatt engine finished a successful test run in 1961, no airworthy device was ever completed. The project was finally abandoned in favor of ICBM development.
While ballistic missiles were the preferred weapons for land targets, heavy nuclear and conventional weapon tipped cruise missiles were seen by the USSR as a primary weapon to destroy United States naval carrier battle groups. Large submarines (for example, Echo and Oscar classes) were developed to carry these weapons and shadow United States battle groups at sea, and large bombers (for example, Backfire, Bear, and Blackjack models) were equipped with the weapons in their air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) configuration.
Cruise missiles generally consist of a guidance system, payload, and aircraft propulsion system, housed in an airframe with small wings and empennage for flight control. Payloads usually consist of a conventional warhead or a nuclear warhead. Cruise missiles tend to be propelled by a jet engine, turbofan engines being preferred due to their greater efficiency at low altitude and subsonic speed.
Guidance systems also vary greatly. Low-cost systems use a radar altimeter, barometric altimeter and clock to navigate a digital strip map. More advanced systems use inertial guidance, satellite guidance and terrain contour matching (TERCOM). Use of an automatic target recognition (ATR) algorithm/device in the guidance system increases accuracy of the missile. The Standoff Land Attack Missile features an ATR unit from General Electric.
Cruise missiles can be categorized by size, speed (subsonic or supersonic), and range, and whether launched from land, air, surface ship, or submarine. Often versions of the same missile are produced for different launch platforms; sometimes air- and submarine-launched versions are a little lighter and smaller than land- and ship-launched versions.
Guidance systems can vary across missiles. Some missiles can be fitted with any of a variety of navigation systems (Inertial navigation, TERCOM, or satellite navigation). Larger cruise missiles can carry either a conventional or a nuclear warhead, while smaller ones carry only conventional warheads.
- Kh-90 / is a hypersonic Air-to-surface cruise missile developed in 1990 by the USSR and later by Russia. This missile was designed to cruise from Mach 4 to Mach 6, eventually being able to travel at speeds lower than Mach 10-15.
- BrahMos-II / is a hypersonic missile currently under development in India and Russia.
- Shaurya (missile) hybrid propulsion missile, with characteristics of both cruise and ballistic missile. (For this missile is not powered by an Airbreathing jet engine it may not be considered as a "real" cruise missile)
- High Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW) missile based on Boeing X-51.
- Yu-71 hypersonic glide vehicle that can be carried by RS-28 Sarmat.
- WU-14 hypersonic glide vehicle (DF-ZF) which can be used as an anti-ship ballistic missile.
These missiles travel faster than the speed of sound, usually using ramjet engines. The range is typically 100–500 km, but can be greater. Guidance systems vary.
- 3M-54 Klub Russia (the "Sizzler" variant is capable of supersonic speed)
- AGM-69 SRAM United States
- Air-Sol Moyenne Portée France — supersonic stand-off nuclear missile
- BrahMos / India / Russia - fastest supersonic cruise missile
- C-101 China
- C-301 China
- C-803 China — supersonic terminal stage only
- C-805 China
- CJ-10 China
- CVS401 Perseus / United Kingdom / France (Under development) — stealth supersonic cruise missile
- KD-88 China
- Kh-31 Russia
- P-270 Moskit / USSR / Russia
- P-500 Bazalt / USSR / Russia
- P-700 Granit / USSR / Russia
- P-800 Oniks / USSR / Russia
- YJ-12 China
- YJ-18 China
- YJ-91 China
- Yun Feng Taiwan
- Hsiung Feng III Taiwan
- SM-62 Snark United States
- SM-64 Navaho United States
- SLAM United States
- RSS-40 Buran USSR
- Burya USSR
The United States, Russia, United Kingdom, Israel, South Korea, Turkey, Greece, Iran, China, Pakistan and India have developed several long-range subsonic cruise missiles. These missiles have a range of over 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) and fly at about 800 kilometres per hour (500 mph). They typically have a launch weight of about 1,500 kilograms (3,300 lb) and can carry either a conventional or a nuclear warhead. Earlier versions of these missiles used inertial navigation; later versions use much more accurate TERCOM and DSMAC systems. Most recent versions can use satellite navigation.
- 3M14 Russia
- AGM-86B United States
- AGM-129 ACM United States
- BGM-109 Tomahawk / United States/United Kingdom
- DH-10 China
- Hyunmoo III South Korea (Hyunmoo IIIA 500 km, Hyunmoo IIIB 1000 km, Hyunmoo IIIC 1500 km)
- Kh-101 Russia
- Meshkat Iran (Range 2000 km)
- Nirbhay India (1000 + km)
- Popeye Turbo SLCM Israel
- RK-55 Soviet Union
- SOM (missile) (SOM B Block I) Turkey (350 km range under serial production, 500 km + range under development) - 500 km, 1500 km and 2500 km versions
These missiles are about the same size and weight and fly at similar speeds to the above category, but the range is (officially) less than 1,000 km. Guidance systems vary.
- AGM-158 JASSM United States
- Babur Pakistan
- KD-63 China
- Popeye turbo ALCM Israel
- Ra'ad ALCM Pakistan
- Raad Iran
- Storm Shadow/SCALP // UK / France / Italy
- Taurus KEPD 350 // Germany / Sweden / Spain
These are subsonic missiles which weigh around 500 kilograms (1,102 lb) and have a range of up to 300 km (190 mi).
- AVMT-300 Brazil
- C-801 China
- C-802 China
- C-602 China
- Delilah missile Israel
- Gabriel IV Israel
- Hae Sung Korea
- Kh-35 Russia
- P-15 KN-1 Russia
- Silkworm KN-1 China
- Nasr-1 Iran
- Naval Strike Missile Norway
- Zarb Pakistan
- Noor Iran
- Qader Iran
- RBS-15 Sweden
- RGM-84 Harpoon United States
- Silkworm China
- SOM (missile) Turkey
- Zafar Iran
(As of 2001) the BGM-109 Tomahawk missile model has become a significant part of the United States naval arsenal. It gives ships and submarines an extremely accurate, long-range, conventional land attack weapon. Each costs about US$830,000. Both the Tomahawk and the AGM-86 were used extensively during Operation Desert Storm.
The United States Air Force (USAF) deploys an air-launched cruise missile, the AGM-86 ALCM. The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is the exclusive delivery vehicle for the AGM-86 and AGM-129 ACM. Both missile types are configurable for either conventional or nuclear warheads.
The USAF adopted the AGM-86 for its bomber fleet while AGM-109 was adapted to launch from trucks and ships and adopted by the USAF and Navy. The truck-launched versions, and also the Pershing II and SS-20 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles, were later destroyed under the bilateral INF (Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces) treaty with the USSR.
The British Royal Navy (RN) also operates cruise missiles, specifically the U.S.-made Tomahawk, used by the RN's nuclear submarine fleet. UK conventional warhead versions were first fired in combat by the RN in 1999, during the Kosovo War (the United States fired cruise missiles in 1991). The Royal Air Force uses the Storm Shadow cruise missile on its Tornado GR4 aircraft. It is also used by France, where it is known as SCALP EG, and carried by the Armée de l'Air's Mirage 2000 and Rafale aircraft.
India and Russia have jointly developed the supersonic cruise missile BrahMos. There are three versions of the Brahmos: ship/land-launched, air-launched and sub-launched. The ship/land-launched version were operational as of late 2007. The Brahmos has the capability to attack targets on land. Russia also continues to operate other cruise missiles: the SS-N-12 Sandbox, SS-N-19 Shipwreck, SS-N-22 Sunburn and SS-N-25 Switchblade. Germany and Spain operate the Taurus missile while Pakistan has developed its own cruise missile somewhat similar to Tomahawk cruise missile, named the Babur missile. Both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) have designed several cruise missile variants, such as the well-known C-802, some of which are capable of carrying biological, chemical, nuclear, and conventional warheads.
Nuclear warhead versions
The French Force de Frappe nuclear forces include both land and sea based bombers with Air-Sol Moyenne Portée high speed medium range nuclear cruise missiles. Two models are in use, ASMP and a newer ASMP-A. Approximately 60 nuclear missiles are in service, 50 land based and 10 sea based.
In 2014, India successfully tested nuclear-capable long-range subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay. The missile was developed by India's Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), has a range of more than 1,000 km (620 mi) and is expected to enter mass-production for the Indian Armed Forces by 2016.
The Israeli Defense Forces reportedly deploy the medium-range air-launched Popeye Turbo ALCM and the Popeye Turbo SLCM medium-long range cruise missile with nuclear warheads on Dolphin class submarines.
Pakistan currently has three cruise missile systems in service, of which, two are nuclear-capable cruise missiles: the air-launched Ra'ad and the ground-launched Babur, and the sea-launched Zarb. Both, Ra'ad and Babur, can carry nuclear warheads between 10 and 35 kt, and deliver them to targets at a range of 350 km (220 mi) and 700 km (430 mi) respectively. Ra'ad is in the use of Pakistan Air Force since 2007, while Babur is with the Pakistan Army since 2005. The Zarb, though not nuclear nor any information is officially submitted by the Pakistani military reports, joined the service with Pakistan Navy in 2016.
Russia has Kh-55SM cruise missiles, with similar to United States' AGM-129 range of 3000 km, but are able to carry more powerful warhead of 200 kt. They are equipped with a TERCOM system which allows them to cruise at an altitude lower than 110 meters at subsonic speeds while obtaining a CEP accuracy of 15 meters with an Inertial navigation system. They are air-launched from either Tupolev Tu-95s, Tupolev Tu-22Ms, or Tupolev Tu-160s, each able to carry 16 for the Tu-95, 12 for the Tu-160, and 4 for the Tu-22M. A stealth version of the missile, the Kh-101 is in development. It has similar qualities as the Kh-55, except that its range has been extended to 5,000 km, equipped with a 1,000 kg conventional warhead, and has stealth features which reduces its probability of intercept.
The United States has deployed four nuclear cruise missiles at one time or another.
- SSM-N-8 Regulus submarine-launched missile, out of service
- AGM-86 ALCM air-launched cruise missile, 350 to 550 missiles and W80 warheads still in service
- BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile in nuclear submarine-, surface ship-, and ground-launched models, nuclear models out of service but warheads kept in reserve.
- AGM-129 ACM Advanced Cruise missile, out of service
Efficiency in modern warfare
Currently cruise missiles are among the most expensive of single-use weapons, up to several million dollars apiece. One consequence of this is that its users face difficult choices in target allocation, to avoid expending the missiles on targets of low value. For instance during Operation Enduring Freedom the United States attacked targets of very low monetary value with cruise missiles, which led many to question the efficiency of the weapon. However, proponents of the cruise missile counter that the same argument applies to other types of UAVs: they are cheaper than human pilots when total training and infrastructure costs are taken into account, not to mention the risk of loss of personnel. As demonstrated in Operation Odyssey Dawn and prior conflicts, cruise missiles are much more difficult to detect and intercept than other aerial assets (reduced radar cross-section, infrared and visual signature due to smaller size), suiting them to attacks against static air defense systems.
- Affordable Weapon System
- Cruise missile submarine
- Eugene Vielle (pioneer of technology that led to the Cruise missile)
- Expendable launch system
- Intercontinental ballistic missile
- List of missiles
- List of missiles by country
- List of rocket aircraft
- Lists of weapons
- Low Cost Miniature Cruise Missile
- NATO reporting name (has lists of various Soviet missiles)
- Submarine-launched cruise missile
- Surface-to-surface missile
- Weapon of mass destruction
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cruise missile.|
- The Evolution of the Cruise Missile by Werrell, Kenneth P.
- The Cruise Missile: Precursors and Problems by Werrell, Kenneth P.
- An introduction to cruise missiles — From the website of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS)
- Feasibility of Third World Advanced Ballistic & Cruise Missile Threat NDIA 155 slide presentation from 1999
- The DIY cruise missile
- The W80 Warhead
- Cruise Missile Fundamentals
- Tomahawk Variants
- Bypassing the NMD: China and the Cruise Missile Proliferation Problem (Kh-55)
- Video of cruise missile formation over Iraq
- A commercial terrain matching image-based navigation system (with video)