Difference Between Ballistic And Cruise Missile With Examples

Difference Between Ballistic And Cruise Missile

A missile is one of the most important technological advanced projectile which is used for various purpose like scientific, military and space exploration. Missiles are guided and self propelled vehicles that can carry payload such as explosive warheads. In this article we are going to study about different types of missiles and difference between ballistic and cruise missile, cruise missile vs ballistic missile.

Ballistic Missile Meaning

These are based on rocket technology, to maximize range they are fired at 45 degree, the long range ballistic missile are known as re-entry vehicles because they complete their journey in endo and exo atmosphere. They have three phases to take off midcourse, race and termination.

Classification of Ballistic missile

These are classified on various parameters i.e. Nature and Range.

  • Nature – on the basis of nature they are surface to surface, surface to air, and air to air missiles.
  • Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs) : These missiles range up to 700 km, it is a single stage solid fuel based. Examples : Iskander Missile (Russia), DF21 (China), LORA (Israel), Ghaznavi (Pakistan), Prithvi missile (India).
  • Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs) : These missiles range range between approximately 1,000 and 3,000 kilometres (620 to 1,860 miles). Example Hwasong-12 (North Korea), Agni 1 (India), Khoramshahr 4 (Iran).
  • Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) : IRBMs missiles have a range between around 3,000 and 5,500 kilometres (1,860 to 3,420 miles). Example : Agni missile 2, 3, 4.
  • Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) : ICBMs have the longest range exceeding 5,500 kilometres (3,420 miles). They are designed to travel across continents or even around the world. Example : RS 28 Sarmat (Russia), Minuteman III (United States), Dongfeng-41 (China), Hwasong-15 (North Korea) Agni 5 (India).
  • Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) : These missiles are launched from submarines.
  • Hypersonic Ballistic Missiles : missiles travel at speeds greater than Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound).
  • Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBMs) : ASBMs are designed to target ships, particularly aircraft carriers and other naval vessels.

Cruise missile

Cruise Missile is based on jet technology. Travels only in endo atmosphere, and move parallel to earth’s surface therefore airborne radars are completely effective in detecting them. These missiles are equipped with guidance systems.

Classification of Cruise missile

  • Subsonic : These are guided missile that travels at speeds slower than the speed of sound, which is approximately 343 meters per second (or 1,125 feet per second). Example Nirbhay, Tomahawk, Harpoon Missile.
  • Supersonic Missile : travels at speed which is more than speed of sound. Example Brahmos, kh 47m2 Kinzhal.
  • Hypersonic : Travels at speeds which is greater than the speed of sound. Speeds are generally considered to be Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound) or faster. Example : Brahmos 2,  Kh-47M2 Kinzhal.

Nirbhay Missile

Agni missile, difference between ballistic and cruise missile
Credit : The original uploader was Nikkul at English Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons
  • It is India’s subsonic cruise missile with speed of 0.7 mach with range of 1100- 1300 km.
  • It is nuclear capable and operated on principle of fire and forget.
  • Nirbhay missile is not a stalled missile but to avoid detection from radar if enemy, it follows tree top trajectory.
  • It is that uncomfortable fight for enemies’ radar which makes it difficult for them to detect consignment.

Tomahawk Missile

Tomahawk cruise missile
Credit : Cliff via Wikimedia Commons
  • It is a USA subsonic cruise missile with speed of 0.74 mach with range of approximately 2400 km.
  • Tomahawk is a long range, all weather missile, primarily used by the United States of America Navy.
  • It has an Inertial Navigation System, flies at very low altitude and during flight it can be reprogrammed to change target.

Brahmos Missile

brahmos missile
Credit: Anurag Singla, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Fastest cruise missile in the world in its category.
  • The Brahmos missile speed is Mach 2.8 and has a range of 290 kilometres, or approximately three times the speed of sound.
  • The Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers in Russia inspired the its name, which was jointly developed with Russia.

Difference Between Ballistic And Cruise Missile

It has thrust only for a brief duration after the launch.Self thrust till the end of its flight.
Similar to a rocket engine.Similar to a jet engine.
Long range missiles can leave the earth’s atmosphere and re enter it.The flight path remains within the atmosphere of the planet.
There is no fuel requirement after its initial trajectoryIt needs constant thrust to hit the target with high precision.
Have a very long range from 300 km to 12,000 km. .It is limited to 500 km.
They have heavy payload carrying capacity.Its Payload capacity is limited.
Developed primarily to carry nuclear warheads.Developed primarily to carry conventional warheads.
Able to carry multiple payloads (Multiple Independently targetable Reentry Vehicle)Single payload carried by cruise missiles.
Example Prithvi 1, Prithvi 2, Dhanush and Agni 1, Agni 2.E.g. Brahmos
ballistic missile vs cruise missile
difference between ballistic and cruise missile

Also Read :


Are ballistic missiles better than cruise?

Yes ballistic missiles are better than cruise, ballistic are not restricted to atmosphere they can travel both above it and into the outer space.

Is BrahMos a cruise or ballistic missile?

It is Supersonic Cruise Missile.

Is Agni a ballistic missile?

Yes, Agni is a ballistic missile.

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