General, Research, Technology

What is the difference between cruise and ballistic missiles and what are they still?

In view of the turbulent political situation in the world,news reports are increasingly full of such words as “rocket,” “missile strike,” “ballistic missile,” “cruise missile,” and many other words related to artillery and, in fact, the missiles themselves. The problem is that not everyone understands what lies behind such familiar words. We are used to the fact that there is a rocket that "takes" a person into space and there is a rocket to destroy targets. Let's understand this multifaceted world and understand how the winged differs from solid fuel, and cryogenic from hypersonic.

A missile in the air looks very beautiful. But this beauty does not bode well.

First of all, it is worth noting that a rocket is not a weapon, but only an integral part of a weapon. Most often, you can find the following definition:

Missile weapons - ranged weapons in which weapons are delivered to the target using missiles.

In turn, the definition of the rocket itself in this context is as follows:

Rocket (from Italian. rocchetta - small spindle), an aircraft moving under the influence of reactive force (thrust) that occurs when the mass of burning rocket fuel (working fluid) is discarded, which is part of its own mass

In military terminology, one can come across the following definition:

Rocket - a class, usually unmanned aerial vehicles,used to destroy distant objects (delivery to the target of a military charge, conventional or nuclear) and using the principle of jet propulsion for flight.

As they say, sorted out and remembered. Calling a missile a full range is not entirely correct. A missile is only that part of the weapon that is responsible for delivering the warhead to the target. Nevertheless, further down the text we will use the word “rocket", since we are not talking about the complex, but specifically about the delivery vehicle.


  • 1 First war rocket
  • 2 What is the difference between missiles
  • 3 Missile class difference
  • 4 missile with a nuclear warhead
  • 5 Intercontinental missiles
  • 6 What fuel is used in the rocket
  • 7 Missile guidance systems
  • 8 What is a ballistic missile
  • 9 At what speed do rockets fly?

First war rocket

If I ask when the first rocket was created,many will answer that in the second half of the 20th century. Someone will say that such weapons were widely used in the Second World War, and someone will even show off the knowledge of such a name as V-2. But only a few will remember that the first guns, which vaguely resembled rocket weapons, appeared in the 11th century in China.

That was the great-grandmother of a modern rocket.

They were an arrow to which belowa capsule filled with gunpowder was attached. Such an arrow was fired from a hand or from a bow, after which the powder ignited and provided jet propulsion.

Another example of an interesting weapon: # Video | Chinese unmanned helicopter equipped with missiles and machine gun

Later there were fireworks, various experiments with models of missiles and finally full-fledged weapons, which over time partially replaced the work of infantry with small arms and even aviation.

Katyusha is also part of the rocket weapons family.

The first military conflict in which massivelymissile weapons were used, there really was a Second World War. Most often, such weapons were used in the multiple launch rocket launchers Katyusha (USSR) and Nebelwerfer (Germany). There were more advanced models, for example, the same V-2 rocket. Its name comes from the German name Vergeltungswaffe-2, which means “weapon of retaliation”. It was developed by the German designer Werner von Braun and adopted by the Wehrmacht at the end of World War II. The missile had a range of up to 320 kilometers and was used primarily to destroy ground targets in the cities of England and Belgium.

The famous "V-2"

Truly widespread rocketreceived weapons after the Second World War. So, for example, in 1948, the flight range of Soviet R-1 missiles was 270 km, and after only 11 years, R-7A missiles with a range of up to 13,000 km were created. As the saying goes, "the difference is on the face."

What is the difference between rockets

Now we can talk about what we are talking aboutmissiles are different. As a rule, ordinary people hear references to cruise and ballistic missiles. These are indeed two main types, but there are some others. We will analyze the main ones, but first I will give a classification of the types of missiles.

Missiles are divided by type depending on:

  • Flight paths (winged, ballistic)
  • Class (ground-to-air, air-to-ground, air-to-air and so on)
  • Range (short / medium range and intercontinental)
  • Type of engine and type of fuel (solid fuel, liquid, hybrid, ramjet, cryogenic)
  • Type of warhead (conventional, nuclear)
  • Guidance systems (laser, electrical, command, geophysical, landmarks, satellite and others)

Countless types of missiles.

Now let us dwell in more detail on the main points that may seem incomprehensible.

Missile class difference

The rocket class speaks for itself. An air-to-air missile is designed to hit air targets when launched in the air. Such missiles are launched from aircraft, such as airplanes, helicopters and numerous types of drones (UAVs).

Air-to-air missiles are designed tohitting air targets from the ground. They can be based on both fixed launchers and portable launchers. The most famous man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) are the Soviet-Russian Igla and Strela, as well as the American Stinger. It is noteworthy that almost all MANPADS used in modern military conflicts were created back in the eighties of the last century. So, for example, the first modification of “Stinger” under the number FIM-92A was created in 1981. Around the same time, both Arrow, and Needle, and French Mistrale appeared.

Missile system Stinger.

As you can see, the missile class speaks for itself. Only the air-to-surface class stands out, which includes missiles, both for the destruction of ground and water targets.

Ground-based missiles depending on theirdestination, size, range and other parameters can be placed in silo launchers, on special ground platforms and on special tracked or wheeled vehicles. They can also be launched from ships and submarines. It is the defeat of ground targets by such missiles that is especially justified, since it is possible to launch them in the immediate vicinity of enemy territory.

Submarines capable of carrying powerful missiles,are a real headache for the military around the world. It is worth noting to notice it, and in the event of an impact, the rocket will fly not from a distance of several thousand kilometers, but from several hundred kilometers. As a result, there will be almost no time left to respond.

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Nuclear warhead missile

It’s not difficult to guess that the worst missileis the one that is capable of carrying a nuclear charge. However, many missiles are equipped with this feature as an option. In conflicts where the use of nuclear weapons is impractical, they are used to deliver non-nuclear warheads. These warheads, as a rule, are called ordinary.

They also have such an application: Donald Trump proposes to deal with hurricanes with nuclear bombs

I will not dwell on this point in more detailworth it, since all the differences are visible from the name. Nevertheless, nuclear weapons are a large and interesting topic, which we will talk about in the near future.

Intercontinental missiles

Generally for the delivery of a nuclear warheadintercontinental missiles are meant. They are the basis of that “nuclear fist” or “nuclear club,” which many speak of. Of course, it is possible to deliver a nuclear bomb to the enemy’s territory by plane, but with the current level of development of air defense, this becomes not such an easy task. That is why it is easier to use intercontinental missiles.

Despite this, a nuclear charge can be equippedeven short-range missiles. True, in practice this does not make much sense, since such missiles are used, as a rule, in regional conflicts.

Flight of an intercontinental rocket.

By flight range, the missiles are divided into ”missilesshort-range "designed to hit targets at a distance of 500-1000 km," medium-range missiles "capable of carrying their deadly cargo at a distance of 1000-5500 km and" intercontinental missiles ", which can fly across the ocean.

What fuel is used in the rocket

When choosing the type of rocket fuel the mostall attention is paid to the features of the use of the rocket and to what engine it is planned to be equipped with. Roughly we can say that all types of fuel are divided mainly by the form of release, specific combustion temperature and efficiency. Among the main types of engines, solid fuel, liquid, combined and direct-flow air-reactive engines stand out.

As the simplest solid fuel, you cangive an example of gunpowder that fireworks are refueling with. During combustion, it emits not a very large amount of energy, but it is enough to bring a colorful charge to a height of several tens of meters. At the beginning of the article I talked about the Chinese arrows of the XI century. They are another example of solid rockets.

In some ways, gunpowder can also be called solid fuel rocket fuel.

For military missiles, solid fuel is produced atdifferent technology. Usually it is aluminum powder. The main advantage of such missiles is the ease of storage and the ability to work with them when they are refueled. In addition, such fuel is relatively inexpensive.

The downside of solid fuel engines isweak thrust vector deflection potential. Therefore, for control in such missiles, additional small engines using liquid hydrocarbon fuel are often used. Such a hybrid bundle allows you to more fully use the potential of each energy source.

The use of combined systemsthe good thing is that it allows you to get away from the complex missile refueling system immediately before launch and the need to pump out a large amount of fuel in case of cancellation.

Separately, it is worth noting even not cryogenican engine (fueled with liquefied gases at a very low temperature) and not an atomic one, about which much has been said recently, but a ramjet. Such a system works by creating air pressure in the engine when the rocket moves at high speed. In the engine itself, fuel is injected into the combustion chamber and the mixture is ignited, creating more pressure than at the inlet. Such missiles are capable of flying at a speed that is several times higher than the speed of sound, but to start the engine you need pressure that is created at a speed just above one speed of sound. That is why auxiliaries should be used to launch.

Missile guidance systems

Nowadays, almost all missiles have a systemguidance. I think it’s not worth explaining that to get to a target that is at a distance of hundreds or thousands of kilometers is simply impossible without an accurate guidance system.

Guidance systems and their combinations are many. Only among the main ones can be noted the command guidance system, electrical guidance, guidance on landmarks, geophysical guidance, beam guidance, satellite guidance, as well as some other systems and their combination.

Missile with guidance system under the wing of the aircraft.

Remote guidance system hasmuch in common with a radio-controlled system, but it has a higher resistance to interference, including that deliberately created by the enemy. In the case of such control, the commands are transmitted through a wire that sends to the rocket all the data necessary to hit the target. Transmission in this way is possible only until the moment of launch.

Landmark guidance system consists offrom highly sensitive altimeters that allow you to track the position of the rocket on the ground and its relief. Such a system is used exclusively in cruise missiles due to their features, which we will talk about below.

Geophysical guidance system based onConstantly comparing the angle of the rocket’s position relative to the horizon and stars with the reference values ​​embedded in it before launch. The internal control system at the slightest deviation returns the rocket to the course.

When hovering a beam, a rocket is neededauxiliary source of target designation. As a rule, it is a ship or plane. An external radar detects a target and tracks it if it moves. The missile is guided by this signal and is aimed at it.

The name of the satellite guidance system saysfor itself. Aiming at the target is made according to the coordinates of the global positioning system. Basically, such a system is widely used in heavy intercontinental missiles that are aimed at static ground targets.

In addition to the above examples, there are also systemslaser, inertial, radio frequency guidance and others. Also, command control can provide communication between the command post and the guidance system. This will change the target or completely cancel the strike after launch.

Thanks to such a wide range of guidance systems, modern missiles can not only detonate anything and anywhere, but also provide accuracy, which sometimes amounts to tens of centimeters.

Modern missiles are so accurate that they don’t even have to explode. From a distance of 500 kilometers, you can just shoot a person. - Ruslan Bely. StandUp comedian.

What is a ballistic missile

Many questions arise regarding the differences between ballistic and cruise missiles. Answering these questions, we can say that the differences are reduced to the flight path.

As often happens, features lie intitle. And the name of the cruise missile speaks for itself. Most of the way, a cruise missile is held in the air by wings, essentially representing an airplane. The presence of wings provides it with very high maneuverability, which allows not only changing the trajectory of movement, deviating from air defense systems, but even flying at a height of several meters from the ground, enveloping the terrain. So the rocket can completely go unnoticed for air defense.

This is not a plane, but a cruise missile.

This type of missile has less in comparison withballistic speed, which is due, inter alia, to higher drag. However, they are divided into subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic.

The first develop speed close to speedsound, but do not exceed it. An example of such missiles can be the famous American cruise missile Tomahawk. Supersonic rockets can reach speeds of up to 2.5-3 sound speeds, and hypersonic missiles, which are currently working on a lot of countries, should gain 5-6 sound speeds.

Another example of a cruise missile.

Ballistic missiles fly a little differently. They have a ballistic trajectory and most of their journey are in uncontrolled flight. Roughly speaking, it looks like the rocket was simply thrown at the enemy like a stone. Of course, there is an exact calculation and guidance systems, but it is such a relatively simple method that allows you to carry a very large charge, the size and weight of which significantly exceed what a cruise missile will take on board.

The first scientific works and theoretical works,associated with ballistic missiles, described back in 1896 K.E. Tsiolkovsky. He described this type of aircraft and deduced the relationship between many components of the rocket and its flight. The Tsiolkovsky formula is still an important part of the mathematical apparatus used in the design of rockets.

In many ways, we owe this person not only military, but also peaceful missiles. K.E. Tsiolkovsky.

At what speed do rockets fly?

Before answering this question, let'sunderstand what they measure it. Missiles fly damn fast and you don’t have to talk about the usual km / h or m / s. The speed of many modern aircraft is measured in Machs.

Unusual speed measurement value appearednot just like that. The name “Mach number” and the designation “M” were proposed in 1929 by Jacob Akkeret. It is expressed as the ratio of the speed of a stream or body to the speed of sound propagation in the medium in which the movement occurs. Given that the speed of propagation of a sound wave at the surface of the earth is approximately 331 m / s (about 1200 km / h), it is not difficult to guess that a unit can only be obtained by dividing 331 by 331. That is, the speed is one Mach (M) at the surface of the earth is approximately 1200 km / h. As you climb, the speed of propagation of a sound wave decreases due to a decrease in air density.

Thus, one Mach at the surface of the earth and onan altitude of 20,000 meters differs by about 10 percent. Therefore, the speed of the body, which it must develop in order to obtain the Mach number, decreases. It is simplistic among ordinary people to call the Mach number the speed of sound. If such a simplification is not used in accurate calculations, it can well be assumed and considered approximately equal to the value at the surface of the earth.

Missiles can be launched from an airplane.

This speed is not so easy to imagine, butcruise missiles can fly at speeds up to 5 Machs (approximately 7,000 km / h depending on altitude). Ballistic missiles are even capable of speeds up to 23 Machs. This is the speed at testing showed the Vanguard missile system. It turns out that at an altitude of 20,000 meters, it will be about 25,000 km / h.

Of course, such speed is achieved at the final stage of flight during descent, but it is still difficult to imagine that a man-made object can move at this speed.

As you can see, the missiles are no longer just a bomb,which is thrown far ahead. This is a real work of engineering. I just would like these developments to go on a peaceful track, and not intended for destruction.