Difference between Ballistic and cruise Missiles


Ballistic missiles are the one following a ballistic trajectory or parabolic path. It reaches the target in the consideration of launching angle, launching speed (like javelin throw) and earth rotation. The ballistic missile needs engine power only for the half of the flight after that it was accelerated by earth’s gravity. Inter continental missiles are ballistic missiles. According to the range of the missile the ballistic missiles are classified as follows,

  • Tactical Ballistic missiles 150-300 Km
  • Theatre Ballistic missiles (TBM)300-3500 Km
  • Intermediate range Ballistic missiles (IRBM) 3500-5500 Km
  • inter-continental Ballistic missiles (ICBM) >5500 Km

According to the target location and the earth rotation the launching angle and speed will be set. After the launch the missile will reach certain altitude using number of stages of rocket motors (This altitude depends upon range the highest altitude for ICBM is 1200 Km), After reaching the certain altitude the engine will be cut off and the warhead or warheads will start to fall due to the earth’s atmosphere, Because of the gravitational force and aerodynamic drag the warhead will reach high speed (Hypersonic speed) and high temperature and strike the target with lot of energy. The warhead may be nuclear or something else.

Example for cruise missile : AGNI, Dhanush missiles etc.


Cruise missile is a guided missile, it follows a pre determined path to the target, it can change it’s direction in mid flight, It needs engine power throughout the flight. Comparing to the ballistic missile, cruise missile have less range.but have high precision.Cruise missiles using various kind of guidance system to reach the target some of the guidance systems are listed below

  • Inertial guidance
  • Satellite guidance
  • Terrain contour matching

Example for Cruise Missile : BrahMos , Nirbhay etc.


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