Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Difference between Ballistic Missiles and Cruise Missile

Source: U.S. Air Force

Ballistic Missiles. A ballistic missile is a rocket capable of guiding and propelling itself in a direction and to a velocity that, when the rocket engine shuts down, will follow a flight pattern to a desired target. Ballistic missiles burn most of their propellant (fuel) in the initial portion of their flight, called the boost phase. Most fly fast enough to hit targets hundreds or thousands of miles away in a few minutes. Once launched, they are fairly easy to detect with radar or other sensors, but extremely difficult (some would argue practically impossible) to intercept. This is particularly true for missiles with longer range, such asintercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
Over 20 countries possess ballistic missile systems. Nations that have WMD usually seek to buy or develop ballistic missiles to deliver such weapons to enemy targets; the nine countries with nuclear weapons (the United StatesUnited Kingdom,RussiaChinaFranceIndiaPakistanNorth Korea, and Israel) all have operational ballistic missiles. Only these nine countries and Iran have produced or tested missiles with ranges over 1,000 kilometers (km). These countries want such missiles because, at least to date, they could be certain of penetrating enemy defenses. For this reason, slowing the spread of ballistic missiles and developing defenses against them have become important elements of efforts to prevent the use of WMD. The latestU.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR), released in February 2010, highlighted the threat posed by regional ballistic missile threats, while maintaining the need to counter limited long-range nuclear strikes.
Cruise Missiles. cruise missile is an unmanned, self-propelled, guided vehicle that sustains flight through aerodynamic lift (similar to an airplane) for most of its flight path. Like a ballistic missile, its primary mission is to place ordnance or a special payload on a target. One important difference between ballistic missiles and cruise missiles is that cruise missiles remain in the atmosphere for the entire duration of flight. Also, since cruise missiles rely on the thrust of their engines and aerodynamic lift, they may be controlled or even redirected during flight. Ballistic missiles, on the other hand, follow a path that is determined almost entirely during their initial boost phase and cannot be redirected during flight.  Many cruise missiles are capable of flying close to the ground and using other means to avoid detection by radar.

       A weapon that consists of integral rocket propulsion, means of pointing or guiding the weapon's velocity vector to a prescribed orientationat the position and time of rocket engine shutoff or burnout, and a warhead. In certain applications, means of deploying multiple warheads or submunitions may be incorporated. Ballistic missiles are conceptually simple weapons whose implementation becomes more complex with increasing accuracy, range, and defense penetration requirements.

The term ballistic means that part or most of the missile's trajectory is not subject to propulsion or control. In its ballistic phase of flight, a missile's motion is affected only by gravitation and uncontrolled aerodynamic interactions with the atmosphere.

The ballistic missile follows an elliptical path due to action of the Earth's gravitational field. If both the burnout velocity and burnout altitude are large, then an upwardly slanted flight path will cause the missile's trajectory to rise high above the sensible atmosphere, thereby eliminating the retarding and disturbing influences of the Earth's atmosphere for most of the trajectory.

Intelligence Encyclopedia: Ballistic Missiles

Any missile that lofts an explosive payload which descends to its target as a ballistic projectile—that is, solely under the influence of gravity and air resistance—is a ballistic missile. Missiles that do not deliver a free-falling payload, such as engine powered cruise missiles (which fly to their targets as robotic airplanes), are not "ballistic."

A ballistic missile has two basic components: a package contains guidance systems and explosives (the payload) and the rocket that lofts the payload into the upper atmosphere or into space (the booster). Ballistic missiles traverse distance rapidly; a long-range ballistic missile can travel to the other side of the world in 30 minutes. Because they give so little advance warning and deliver small, fast-moving payloads that may contain nuclear weapons capable of destroying entire cities, ballistic weapons are highly destructive and difficult to defend against.

cruise missile

There are two main varieties of cruise missiles. The first are sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs), which are launched from submarines or surface ships. The second are air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs), which are launched from aircraft, such as heavy bombers. Most cruise missiles carry conventional warheads. The United States, Russia, and China, however, deploy cruise missiles with nuclear warheads as well.

Type of low-flying strategic guided missile developed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and '70s. The V-1 missile was a precursor. Powered by jet engines, cruise missiles may carry either a nuclear or a conventional warhead. They are designed to hug the ground, which makes them hard to detect by radar. They are launched from ships, submarines, airplanes, and the ground.

Columbia Encyclopedia: cruise missile,

low-flying, continuously powered offensive missile designed to evade defense systems. Although the German V-1 (1944) was a simple cruise missile, the cruise missile did not realize its potential until the 1970s, when the United States sought to develop a relatively inexpensive method for delivering weapons over long distances with pinpoint accuracy. The missile, which flies at altitudes of about 50 ft (15 m), has a range of up to 2,000 mi (3,200 km). It uses internally stored computerized maps of its route to follow the contour of the terrain and also makes use of information from navigation satellites to adjust its course. A cruise missile can deliver conventional or nuclear weapons. In its various modifications, it can be launched from aircraft, ships, or ground installations against land or naval targets. 
Source: U.S. Navy

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