Ballistic Missile - Missile Types

Missile Types

Ballistic missiles can vary widely in range and use, and are often divided into categories based on range. Various schemes are used by different countries to categorize the ranges of ballistic missiles:

  • Tactical ballistic missile: Range between about 150 km and 300 km
    • Battlefield range ballistic missile (BRBM): Range less than 100 km
  • Theatre ballistic missile (TBM): Range between 300 km and 3,500 km
    • Short-range ballistic missile (SRBM): Range 1,000 km or less
    • Medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM): Range between 1,000 km and 3,500 km
  • Intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) or long-range ballistic missile (LRBM): Range between 3,500 km and 5,500 km
  • Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM): Range greater than 5500 km
  • Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM): Launched from ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), all current designs have intercontinental range.

Short- and medium-range missiles are often collectively referred to as theater or tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs). Long and medium-range ballistic missiles are generally designed to deliver nuclear weapons because their payload is too limited for conventional explosives to be cost-effective (though the U.S. is evaluating the idea of a conventionally-armed ICBM for near-instant global air strike capability despite the high costs).

The flight phases are like those for ICBMs, except with no exoatmospheric phase for missiles with ranges less than about 350 km.

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