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The Aerospace Product Line: Missiles

Because modern warfare is so complex, a great many specialized weapons, including missiles, are needed to accomplish a broad spectrum of military objectives. Missiles in their most primitive form have been used in warfare since the 14th century. The Chinese, who invented gunpowder, were also the first to employ explosives to power missiles and the first, in the 1300s, to fire a multi-stage missile. Modern missile development, however, occurred during World War I by the Germans.

There are many types of missiles, but the common elements include a warhead, guidance system, and propulsion system. The two primary categories of missiles are strategic and tactical. Strategic missiles generally are larger, designed for mass destruction, and travel over long ranges with a powerful warhead. These missiles are generally ballistic missiles, meaning they travel outside of the atmosphere. Tactical missiles are smaller, carry a conventional high-explosive warhead, are generally used on the battlefield, and are usually rocket-propelled. Cruise missiles can either be strategic and tactical, travel in the atmosphere with air-breathing propulsion systems, and carry either a large conventional warhead or a nuclear warhead.