Missile Facts



  • In AD 1232 the Chinese defended the city of K’ai-feng against the Mongols with gunpowder rockets.
  • In the early 1800s British army officer William Congreve developed metal rockets carrying explosives.
  • In World War II the Germans developed the first guided missiles — missiles steered to their target in flight.
  • The most frightening German guided missiles were the V-1 flying bombs or ‘doodlebugs’ and the V-2 supersonic rockets. The V-2s flew at 5300 km/h.
  • Ballistic missiles arch through the air like a thrown ball. Rockets propel them on the upward trajectory (path). They then coast down on their target. Cruise missiles are propelled by jet on a low flat path all the way.
  • In the 1950s the USA and Soviet Union competed to develop long-range ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) usually armed with nuclear warheads.
  • American Tomahawk cruise missiles could be aimed through goalposts at both ends of a football field 500 km away.
  • In the 1960s antiballistic missiles were developed to shoot down missiles.
  • Some ICBMs have a range of over 5000 km. Short-range missiles (SRBMs) like Pershings reach up to 500 km.
  • SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) like Redeye are fired from the ground at aircraft. Some can he fired by a soldier with a backpack. AAMs (air-to-air missiles) like Sidewinders are fired from planes for use against other planes.
  • Rocket missiles can carry nuclear warheads or other weapons halfway around the world.