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Cruise Missiles


Cruise missiles are jet-propelled pilot less aircraft designed to strike distant targets with great accuracy. Traveling at hundreds of miles an hour

Cruise missiles are jet-propelled pilot less aircraft designed to strike distant targets with great accuracy. Traveling at hundreds of miles an hour cruise missiles use the Global Positioning System (GPS), inertial guidance, optical scenery correlation, inertial guidance, optical scenery correlation, and terrain comparing radar to find their targets. Their accuracy makes them especially useful in attacking military targets in urban areas with limited damage to nearby civilian facilities.

A cruise missile is really a small, computer-guided, unmanned airplane which accurately and stealthily carries a payload to a target. They are jet-powered missiles with ranges measured in hundreds of miles. They are directed by intelligent, self-contained guidance systems which use terrain-following radar, visual terrain-image matching and inertial navigation to fly a programmed course from launch point to target. A cruise missile flies low-level "on the deck" to avoid detection.


A cruise missile consists of an airframe, flight surfaces (usually wings), a jet engine, jet fuel, a launch propellant to get the missile up to a speed where the wings can provide lift, a guidance system and a warhead. The airframe is the skeleton and skin of the missile. It holds everything together. It can also be armored, to provide some protection from any defensive weapons that may be used against it, and the skin is usually radar-absorptive and fireproof (i.e., flameproof stealth armor). The wings and control surfaces provide lift and flight control to the missile over its long trip. The wings are needed because the flight of a cruise missile is too long and too low to be ballistic, like a conventional vehicular rocket is. Control surfaces allow the missile to maneuver. The flight surfaces usually stow within the airframe before launch, to conserve space, and pop out of their stowage position into flight position at launch. They like the airframe, are usually radar absorptive and fireproof.

The jet is a small marvel. It is compact and fuel-efficient in the extreme. It is also cool-running (for a jet and leaves remarkably little detectable emissions, or "signature," consisting mostly of smoke, heat and noise for a jet engine. It bums jet fuel, of course, the storage of which takes up the bulk of the airframe. Jet fuel is highly flammable, so a missile destroyed in mid-air would make spectacular fireworks. For this reason, the fuel tank is self-sealing and fire retardant. Because the jet engine is designed for compactness and efficiency, the missile's acceleration is somewhat less than blazing. In fact, the missile needs assistance at launch to get to flight speed. The launch propellant is a rocket engine which bums for about 10 seconds, getting the jet to around 100 mph. At this point the wings can provide adequate lift, and the jet has decent thrust.

Making this miniature airplane go where it needs to be is the guidance system's chore. The guidance system consists of several different types of sensors, an inertial tracking system and an extremely fast and sophisticated computer. The sensors provide information on the radar and infrared visual profiles of the ground the missile is flying over and towards, the state of ground targets and threats to the missile, and flight information like altitude and airspeed. The inertial tracker allows the computer to determine its precise location relative to launch point, and by extension to the target. The computer puts it all together at phenomenal speeds, to command the controls and the engine to carry out the maneuvers needed to avoid the terrain and follow the course to target. In other words, the computer is the pilot.

The warhead, of course, is the reason for this whole system. It can be a (very) large conventional explosive, a chemical or biological weapon, a sub munition deployment system designed to scatter bomb lets or smart micro missiles, a fuel-air incendiary weapon, a nuclear warhead, or even propaganda leaflets (though the last is hardly cost-effective). The possibilities are limited only by weight, volume and the imagination.

Attacks Mode:

Cruise missiles have three basic attack modes:-

Coordinate Air burst:

The missile goes off in mid air when it reaches its target coordinates. In other words, the target isn't an object but, it's a place - a point in space over a certain spot on the ground. This mode is ideal for deploying sub-munitions, gasses and large-area air-burst nukes.

Coordinate Ground Impact:

This is similar to coordinate air-burst, except that the missile dives to hit the ground when it reaches its target coordinates. This is good for ground-impact nukes and area coverage for napalm, as well as hitting completely immobile targets at precisely known coordinates.

Target Attack:

In this mode the missile is assigned a specific target object, as well as target coordinates. When the missile arrives at the vicinity of the coordinates, it uses its sensors (imaging and radar, usually) to locate an object which matches its target profile, and then flies into the target object and sets off its warhead. If it fails to find the object within about a quarter-mile radius of the target coordinates, the missile reverts to coordinate ground impact mode.


Cruise Missile LaunchingTomahawk missiles can be launched from either a standard 21-inch (53-cm) torpedo tube or, on newer submarines, a vertical launch tube. After the missile clears the submarine, a 7-second burst from its rocket boost motor blasts it out of the water. Once airborne, its turbojet engine starts, its wings spread, and it noses over to hug the surface at about 500 miles (800 km) per hour toward its target. Over water the missile relies on inertial guidance, perhaps also the global positioning system, for navigation. Upon reaching land, the Tomahawk updates its position and corrects its course using TERCOM (terrain contour matching) or DSMAC (digital scene-matching area correlator)—the first system compares radar signals, the second optical images, with a computer-stored map—before closing on the target at an altitude of 100 feet (30 m) or less.

General Types:

There are two basic sorts of cruise missiles: standard and heavy. Each sort can be fitted with any one of a number of warheads.

Standard Cruise Missile:

Maximum Strike Range: 200 miles (70,400").

Minimum Strike Range: 3 miles (1,056").

Airspeed. 550 mph,

Spaces: 10, excluding launch systems.

Weight. 1,000 lbs., excluding launch systems.

Heavy Cruise Missile:

Maximum Strike Range: 600 miles (70,400").

Minimum Strike Range: 5 miles (1,760").

Airspeed: 470 mph.

Spaces: 15, excluding launch systems.

Weight: 1,500 lbs., excluding launch systems.

Distinguishing Cruise from Ballistic Missiles

Unlike ballistic missiles, cruise missiles fly through the air in powered flight for the duration of their trip. They fall into the category of aerodynamic missiles. Ballistic missiles, by contrast, shed their rocket motors once the missiles are propelled outside the atmosphere,

After which they pursue an un-powered ballistic course to the target. Jane's Aerospace Dictionary defines cruise missiles as aerodynamic vehicles that are "wing supported." A more restricted definition of cruise missiles would relegate them to the category of aerodynamic missiles employing air-breathing propulsion to achieve extended ranges.

General Dimensions:

Length 20 feet 6 inches.

Diameter 1 foot 8.4 inches.

Wing Span 8 feet 9 inches.

Range 1000 Miles.

Cruise Altitude 50 to 100 feet.

Speed 381-571 Mph

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