Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) is the most potent and the
most feared weapon in the world today. In less than an hour, it can
strike almost any country on earth regardless of launch site with
stunning accuracy and virtually unstoppable speed, leaving its foes
decimated by multiple independently targeted nuclear warheads.
The idea for
the ICBM came from Nazi Germany. Their ambitious A9/10 project could
potentially hit targets in the United States, though it was never
completed. After World War II, both Russia and the United States
proceeded with concepts of their own. Russia created the first in
the R-7, a mammoth missile that successfully travelled 6 000
kilometers in 1957 and entered service in 1959. That same year, the
United States declared the SM-65 Atlas, an ICBM of their own,
technology steadily improved. The first missiles had Circular Error
Probable (CEP) of several kilometers, meaning that they could get at
least as close to their targets as a few kilometers. They carried
just one warhead and were housed in massive silos. Their maximum range was
only about 6 000 kilometers.
have a CEP of 200 meters or less and a range upwards of 10 000
kilometers. Even more notably, they are virtually unstoppable. Upon
launch, their rocket (either solid or liquid fuel) booster ignites
for 3 to 5 minutes, powering the missile to a height of several
hundred kilometers. Then the missile launches between one and ten
Multiple Independently targeted Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV). These each
have their own thermonuclear warhead. In the final stage, the MIRVs
rush down upon their targets, attaining speeds as high as Mach 25
(30 870 km/h). This speed, when combined with “penetration aids”
(including metallic balloons, full-scale decoys, and chaff), gives
the target virtually no time to respond, meaning that a successful
launch is almost certain. To put this in perspective, these missiles
can travel a distance of 4 500 km in just 20 minutes.
There is a
chance that these titan missiles can be stopped. Other missiles or
special forces soldiers can destroy launch platforms before launch,
while certain counter missiles might be able to destroy the ICBM
before it releases its MIRVs. However, it is doubtful as to how
effective and reliable these countermeasures are.
are also much smaller than their predecessors. The R-7 was a
whopping 34 meters long, but the submarine-launched
a mere 12 meters. This small size allows countries to fire ICBMs
from not only silos but also trucks and submarines. These mobile
platforms can both travel closer to targets and evade
capture/destruction, unlike their static silo counterparts.
Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) are carried by submarines.
Ballistic missile submarines are much harder to detect and intercept
than ground-based launch facilities. While positions of stationary
silo-based ballistic missiles are known and these are targeted by
hostile nuclear missiles already, the boats remain undetected on
their ocean patrols. The submarine-based missiles have more chances
of surviving the first strike, once the country has been attacked.
Due to their
nuclear warheads, massive price tags, and political indications,
intercontinental ballistic missiles have never been used in combat
and, hopefully, never will.
Only a few
countries possess ICBMs: China, France, India, Israel, North Korea,
Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States. The reason for this
small number is the tremendous cost, labor, and skill required for
the development of both the missile and its nuclear warhead. For
example, a finished
Trident II has a price tag of $37 million dollars, and this
doesn’t even count the numerous development costs, which can reach 6
billion or more.
Minuteman: a series of US ICBMs: the Minuteman I (1962), Minuteman
II (1965), and the
Minuteman III (1970). This class was the first to have MIRVs.
The Minuteman III is still in service and is actually the only US
land-based ICBM. It has 3 MIRVs (with 300-500 Kiloton warheads), a
nearly unequalled range of 13 000 kilometers, and a CEP of 120
meters, making it a still-potent deterrent.
designated the SS-18 Satan by the West, the R-36 is a Russian ICBM
that entered service in 1988. Featuring 10 MIRVs each with 1 Megaton
warheads and a range of 11 000 kilometers, it is one of the most
feared in its class.
Trident II: this US Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM)
is one of the deadliest missiles in the world, thanks to 8 MIRVs
with 475 Kiloton warheads, a 12 000 km range, its elusive launch
platform, and extreme accuracy (it has a CEP of 90 meters). It
entered service in 1990.
Article by The Tiger
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