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Intermediate-range ballistic missile

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IRBM and MRBM missiles.

An intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) is a ballistic missile with a range of 3,000–5,500 km (1,864–3,418 miles), between a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).[1] Classifying ballistic missiles by range is done mostly for convenience. In principle there is very little difference between a low-performance ICBM and a high-performance IRBM, because decreasing payload mass can increase the range over the ICBM threshold. The range definition used here is used within the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

Some other sources include an additional category, the long-range ballistic missile (LRBM), to describe missiles with a range between IRBMs and true ICBMs. The more modern term theatre ballistic missile encompasses MRBMs and SRBMs, including any ballistic missile with a range under 3,500 km (2,175 mi).

The progenitor for the IRBM was the A4b winged rocket, based on the V-2, officially called A4, rocket used by Nazi Germany at the end of World War II.


The progenitor for the IRBM was the A4b rocket, winged for increased range and based on the famous V-2, Vergeltung, or "Reprisal", officially called A4, rocket designed by Wernher von Braun. The V-2 was widely used by Nazi Germany at the end of World War II to bomb English and Belgian cities. The A4b was the prototype for the upper stage of the A9/A10 rocket. The goal of the program was to build a missile capable of hitting New York, when launched from France or Spain (see Amerika Bomber).[2]

A4b rockets were tested a few times in December 1944 and January and February 1945.[2] All of these rockets used liquid propellant. The A4b used an inertial guidance system, while the A9 would have been controlled by a pilot. They started from a non-mobile launch pad.

Following World War II, von Braun and other lead Nazi scientists were secretly transferred to the United States, to work directly for the U.S. Army through Operation Paperclip, developing the V-2 into the weapon for the United States.[citation needed]

IRBMs are currently[when?] operated by the People's Republic of China, India,[3][4] Israel, and North Korea.[5] The United States, USSR, Pakistan, United Kingdom, and France were former operators.[citation needed]


There is no clearly agreed-upon distinction between an intermediate-range and a medium range (MRBM) missile, and the categories overlap. Different sources classify missiles in different ways. They are both distinct from ICBMs, in that they have a range that is less than intercontinental, and hence must be based relatively close to the target. An IRBM, in general, is intended as a strategic weapon, while a MRBM, in general, is intended as a theatre ballistic missile.[citation needed]

Specific IRBMs[edit]

Date *D Model Range km Maximum km Country
1959 PGM-17 Thor 2,400 3,000  United States,  United Kingdom
Cancelled Blue Streak 3,700  United Kingdom
1962 R-14 Chusovaya (SS-5) 3,700  Soviet Union
1970 DF-3A 4,000 5,000  China,  Saudi Arabia
1976 RSD-10 Pioneer (SS-20) 5,500  Soviet Union
1980 S3 (missile) 3,500  France
2004 DF-25 3,200 4,000  China
2006 Agni-III 3,500 5,000  India
2007 DF-26 3,500 5,000  China
2007 Shahab-5 4,000 4,300  Iran
2010 Hwasong-10/RD-B Musudan 2,500 4,000 (not proven)  North Korea[6]
2010 K-4[7] 3,500  India
2011 Agni-IV 4,000  India
2017 Hwasong-12/KN-17 3,700 6,000  North Korea
2023 Hyunmoo-5 3,000 5,500  South Korea
2024 Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon over 2875  United States
2024 Hwasong-16b 600-650 (U.S./ROK telemetry)

1000 (DPRK claimed)

unknown  North Korea

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wragg, David W. (1974). A Dictionary of Aviation (1st American ed.). New York: Frederick Fell, Inc. p. 166. ISBN 0-85045-163-9.
  2. ^ a b "Die geflügelte Rakete ( A7, A9, A4b ) (in German)". V2werk-oberraderach.de. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
  3. ^ "Indian Army Successfully Test Fires Nuke-Capable Agni-IV Missile". The New Indian Express. Archived from the original on 2016-04-05. Retrieved 2016-03-25.
  4. ^ "Ballistic missile Agni-IV test-fired as part of user trial - Times of India". The Times of India. 9 November 2015. Archived from the original on 2016-01-21. Retrieved 2016-03-25.
  5. ^ "North Korea's Ballistic Missile Program" (PDF). National Committee on North Korea. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-02-22. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  6. ^ "Ballistic Missiles of the World". MissileThreat. Archived from the original on April 22, 2014. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
  7. ^ "India Inches Closer to Credible Nuclear Triad with K-4 SLBM Test".