A cruise missile is basically a small, pilotless airplane. Cruise missiles have an 8.5-foot (2.61-meter) wingspan, are powered by turbofan engines and can fly 500 to 1,000 miles (805 to 1,610 km) depending on the configuration. A cruise missile's job in life is to deliver a 1,000-pound (450-kg) high-explosive bomb to a precise location -- the target. The missile is destroyed when the bomb explodes. Cruise missiles come in a number of variations and can be launched from submarines, destroyers or aircraft.
An unmanned self-propelled guided vehicle that sustains flight through aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path and whose primary mission is to place an ordnance or special payload on a target. This definition can include unmanned air ve-hicles (UAVs) and unmanned control-guided helicopters or aircraft.
In 1916, Lawrence Sperry patented and built an "aerial torpedo", a small biplane carrying a TNT charge, a Sperry autopilot and a barometric altitude control. Inspired by these experiments, the US Army developed a similar flying bomb called the Kettering Bug. In the period between the World Wars the United Kingdom developed the Larynx (Long Range Gun with Lynx Engine) which underwent a few flight tests in the 1920s. In the Soviet Union, Sergey Korolev headed the GIRD-06 cruise missile project from 1932–1939, which used a rocket-powered boost-glide design. The 06/III (RP-216) and 06/IV (RP-212) contained gyroscopic guidance systems.
Germany first deployed cruise style missiles, during World War II. The V-1(Ref. fig. 2) contained a gyroscopic guidance system and was propelled by a simple pulse-jet engine, the sound of which gave it the nickname of "buzz bomb". Accuracy was sufficient only for use against very large targets (the general area of a city). The V-1 and similar early weapons are often referred to as flying bombs.
Immediately after the war the United States Air Force had 21 different guided missile projects including would-be cruise missiles. All were cancelled by 1948 except four: the Air Material Command BANSHEE, the SM-62 Snark, the SM-64 Navaho, and the MGM-1 Matador. The BANSHEE design was similar to Operation Aphrodite; like Aphrodite it failed, and was canceled in April 1949.
During the Cold War period both the United States and the Soviet Union experimented further with the concept, deploying early cruise missiles from land, submarines and aircraft. The main outcome of the U.S. Navy submarine missile project was the SSM-N-8 Regulus missile(Ref. fig. 3), based upon the V-1.
The U.S. Air Force's first operational surface-to-surface missile was the winged, mobile, nuclear-capable MGM-1 Matador, also similar in concept to the V-1. Deployment overseas began in 1954, first to West Germany and later to the Republic of China (Taiwan) and South Korea. On November 7, 1956 U. S. Air Force Matador units in West Germany, whose missiles were capable of striking targets in the Warsaw Pact, deployed from their fixed day-to-day sites to unannounced dispersed launch locations. This alert was in response to the crisis posed by the Soviet attack on Hungary which suppressed the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
Between 1957 and 1961 the United States followed an ambitious and well-funded program to develop a nuclear-powered cruise missile, Project Pluto. It was designed to fly below the enemy's radar at speeds above Mach 3 and carry a number of hydrogen bombs that it would drop on its path over enemy territory. Although the concept was proven sound and the 500 megawatt engine finished a successful test run in 1961, no airworthy device was ever completed. The project was finally abandoned in favor of ICBM development.
While ballistic missiles were the preferred weapons for land targets, heavy nuclear and conventional tipped cruise missiles were seen by the USSR as a primary weapon to destroy U.S. naval carrier battle groups. Large submarines (for example, Echo and Oscar classes) were developed to carry these weapons and shadow U.S. battle groups at sea, and large bombers (for example, Backfire, Bear, and Blackjack models) were equipped with the weapons in their air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) configuration.
The big advantage of the cruise missile is its smallness and cost. The missile's small size and weight of less than 3000 pounds enables an aircraft to carry a great number of them: a projected 18 by a B-52 (in comparison with only two Hound Dogs) or as many as 50 by a Boeing 747 or similar wide-bodied transport converted into a missile carrier.
Its small size also improved the weapon’s chances of penetration, especially when combined with its ability to fly along the contour of the earth, as low as 20 meters above a level surface or within 100 meters of mountainous terrain, according to some published reports.
The map matching system (TERCOM) is combined with an inertial navigational system in a system called TAINS. This not only gets the cruise to its target but also with an accuracy heretofore unheard of for an intercontinental weapon: less than 100 meters, an accuracy that brings the cruise missile full circle by making nonnuclear warheads feasible.
- The missiles aren't always accurate, they're expensive, and they're becoming scarce.
- The lack of a human pilot means you can't re-use the thing, whereas you can get multiple missions out of a piloted aircraft.
- While they'e cheaper than ballistic missiles, they're more expensive than the gravity bombs you'd drop from a manned aircraft.
- Finally, their low and slow flight means they can be engaged by a much wider variety of systems, including MANPADS and SAMs, with consequently less chance of reaching target.
Currently cruise missiles are among the most expensive of single-use weapons, up to several million dollars apiece. However, they are cheaper than human pilots when total training and infrastructure costs are taken into account. cruise missiles are much more difficult to detect and intercept than other aerial assets, making them particularly suited to attacks against static air defense systems.
Guidance System used in cruise missile is a complex system which involves several systems working in tandem. Development of missile involve huge expenditures it is essential that guidance system is properly designed for accurate interception of targets.