Ballistic Missile Characteristics
Operational ballistic missiles are deployed in silos, on
submarines, and on land-mobile launchers, including trucks and railcars. Mobile
missiles are favoured by many nations because they can be hidden, which greatly
increases their survivability.
In many short-range ballistic missiles, the entire
missile remains intact until the warhead detonates. In longer range ballistic
missiles, warheads are contained in separating re-entry vehicles. Some
long-range ballistic missiles carry multiple independently targetable re-entry
vehicles (MIRVs), with up to l0 re-entry vehicles (RVs) per missile.
RVs re-enter the Earth's atmosphere at very high
velocities, on the order of 4-5 miles per second at Intercontinental
Ballistic Missile (ICBM) ranges. Ballistic missiles can use solid- or liquid- propellant
rocket propulsion systems. The trend in modern missile systems has been toward
the use of solid propellants because of their reduced logistical requirements
and simplicity of operation.
However, some nations have greater access to liquid-
propellant technology and therefore continue to develop new liquid-propellant
Ballistic missiles are attractive to many nations
because they can be used effectively against an adversary with a formidable air
defence system, where an attack with manned aircraft would be impractical or too
costly. Missiles also have the advantage of fewer maintenance, training, and
logistic requirements than manned aircraft.
Even limited use of these
weapons could be devastating, since missiles can be armed with chemical,
biological, or nuclear warheads.
Posing a significant and
growing threat to NATO, ballistic missiles have been used on several occasions
to attack coalition forces. In response, NATO has been working hard to develop
protection against this evolving missile threat.
An effective ballistic
missile defence (BMD) requires: sophisticated sensors to spot incoming missiles;
a computerized network to command and control the defences; and interceptors to
shoot down attacking missiles.
As Nations develop
Ballistic Missile Defence weapons and sensors, NATO will work to integrate them
into one Alliance system, with a single goal: Defeating the Threat to NATO of