Talk:Intercontinental ballistic missile

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What does "Intercontinental" mean?[edit]

I think that the term intercontinental apart from the long range denotes that these missiles have the ability to achieve a complete earth orbit. Is this correct? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:19, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

No. It is defined by range as the article opening suggests, anything over 3,500 miles. In any case, a missile that reached orbit would by definition no longer be a ballistic missile. CrispMuncher (talk) 18:09, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for the answer! As far as I know there were Soviet ICBMs that could reach and surpass the length of the earth's equator. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:53, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

ICBMs aren't defined by their orbital payload capability, however most ICBMs are capable of orbiting a payload. The same performance characteristics which enable intercontinental range also enable a meaningful orbital payload, provided the upper stage can circularize the orbit. Retired ICBM boosters are often used as orbital launchers. The very first satellite Sputnik was launched on a modified R-7 Semyorka ICBM. Joema (talk) 22:25, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

"ICBMs aren't defined by their orbital payload capability, however most ICBMs are capable of orbiting a payload"

Yeah, prettymuch all of them can. They just dont (because that falls afoul of treaties restricting orbital weapons systems, the soviets in fact did design a icbm that went up into space, and orbitted around until time to attack but it never took off (i think START restricted its use)

V-2 an ICBM?[edit]

It is accurate to call the V2 rocket the first ICBM, yes?

I'd say not, since crossing the English channel is hardly "intercontinental". I seem to recall their maximum range was about 100-200km or so? Bryan
I'm pretty sure the range was more like ~300 km - still not an ICBM though. --mav
Gotcha. It is a Ballistic missile and is crosslinked in that article. (apparently could be classified as a "theatre ballistic missile").
The V-2 would be classified as a SRBM (Short Range Ballistic Missile)

another meaning[edit]

ICBM, Inter-Continental Ballistic Messenger, a nice ICQ clone for BeOS.

Only three nations ? What about United Kingdom and France ? The M4 missile has more than 4500 km of range, and M48 and M51 more...

Pakistan have ICBMS??[edit]

I don't think Pakistan has ICBMs (dho 04:59, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC))

yeah they do they dont have many though its mainly smaller SRBMs134.36.93.46 (talk) 21:46, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

It absolutely don't even have something that can be close to ICBM. I removed it from the list.--Gilisa (talk) 18:06, 12 July 2009 (UTC)

This should be used for reference for adding Iran to the list. There is no valid source to say Iran has a ICBM yets is been added and re-added to this list. Iran, a country with no nukes and far smaller —Preceding unsigned comment added by Otthgr (talkcontribs) 01:19, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

Overloaded article[edit]

The technical term ICBM refers only to ground-based intercontinental range ballistic missiles, hence this article contains discussion of many things which don't belong to this topic. Here is a partial list:

  • Sea-based ICBM's - there is no such thing, by definition!! Those missiles are called SLBM's (submarine launched ballistic missiles)
  • Cruise missiles - also does not belong here
  • Submarines - certainly should not be listed here

I would suggest 2 possibilities:

  • 1. Keep article more or less as is, but change the title. Use for example: intercontinental range nuclear weapons systems
  • 2. Move things which don't belong to separate articles.

Balcer 09:58, 20 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Seconded. and SLBMs do have a lot in common, so i'd back the option of having a single article for both of them, with smaller articles for the specifics of each type. The Intermediate-range ballistic missile article needs corresponding cleanup, since it sort of overlaps with SLBMs (eg saying that the UK has IRBMs - which can only refer to Trident!). -- Tom Anderson 2007-04-07 21:00 +0100

ICBM at sea[edit]

Dudtz:missiles launched from subs are considered ICBMs

No, they are SLBMs. --Fastfission 01:27, 26 July 2005 (UTC)

Why are the Ohio class Trident submarines listed and the British Vanguard class Tridents not? The implication that only the US, France, Russia and China have ICBMs is kind of odd. Other than the launch system itself an SLBM is no different than any other ballistic missile and in the British case they use the same vehicle as the Americans. Does France still maintain land based ICBMs? Is this the reason for the differentiation? Gabe 04:04, 16 August 2005 (UTC)

I have added them.--Patrick 13:36, 16 August 2005 (UTC)

SLBMs can be ICBMs, the terms are NOT mutually exclusive. (talk) 21:48, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

If you take the terms literally, they aren't mutually exclusive, indeed, as "ballistic" only refers to trajectory. But what matters (to people on the receiving end for example) is not the really the range, which is bound to change as technology is improved. The point is, land-based ICBMs usually have more powerful warheads and a longer range, but they can be spotted (I mean the launching sites, which are on Google Earth for instance) and possibly hit before the missiles are launched; with SLBMs this is extremely difficult. Their smaller warhead also means that SLBMs are more suited to hit enemy military bases rather than to razing large cities to the ground, but above all, you can "save" your SLBMs for subsequent retaliation, while land-based ICBMs must be launched either to strike first, or immediately after detecting an enemy nuclear strike, before they are destroyed in their silos. So I think they ought to be regarded as quite different weapon systems, no matter which acronym we agree on. We might just add "land-based" to "ICBMs". Mb 3r7864 (talk) 20:19, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

The Difference between Hot Launch & Cold Launch[edit]

Hot Launch: A basic principle that just involves the Missile firing its boosters. The problem with this Type of Launch is that the Silo Interior is damaged by the tremendous heat generated by the blast.

Cold Launch: Involves the use of an ejection system to launch the Missile out of the Silo where it will fire its boosters upon reaching a small altitude of tens of meters. This Type of Launch causes no damage to the Silo Interior. --Arima 05:39, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Please add this kind of info at e.g. missile silo and SLBM, including for which missiles hot and for which cold launch is applied.--Patrick 12:27, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
Some info is already in Vertical Launching System.--Patrick 12:31, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Missile protection[edit]

The modern ICBMS use different techniques than the ones that were used to protect warheads in the past (heatsink for example). Since there is amention of heatshields, maybe a mention of ablative heatshields would be appropriate? I believe they are used in Minutemen and modern ICBMS. It could also link to the atmospheric re-entry article.

Add Link[edit]

There is an article for "inertial guidance system" in Wikipedia, but there is no link to it in the line (under the History section):
"...von Braun that used liquid propellant and an inertial guidance system."
Thought it would help to link these two up.

NASA & ICBMs[edit]

I think it should be noted in this article that the ICBM and its cousins are due to the space race. The space race existed to prove that we (or they) could send a missile across the world (with accuracy). I don't have the data to back it up (here) but this a fact that should be pointed out with Von Braun in the history section. Braun was the father of NASA. JoeHenzi 19:12, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

[1] <--- it is noted there JoeHenzi 19:13, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

Geo tags[edit]

The meta-data tag for geographical locations (latitude and longitude) is often also named "ICBM". This goes back to the early days of the Internet and the joke that if you wanted to fire an ICBM at the object, these would be the coordinates you'd need. [2] Anyone feel like adding a line about that to the article in a more Wikipedian style? — Ashmodai (talk · contribs) 02:47, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

ICBM is also a "funny" back-abbreviation (or whatever you call a backronym that isn't an acronym) for "Intel Chip Based Mac". I don't know what Wikipedia's guidelines say, but shouldn't ambiguous abbreviations be disambigs? Or doesn't this apply here because they have a common origin?-- 15:08, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

GPS Section[edit]

Is the claim that GPS, mapping, and satellite mapping as a use to increase ballistic missile accuracy verifiable? Sounds like a conspiracy theory. Youknowthatoneguy 08:16, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

No, it is not - GPS was a way to increase the accuracy of SLBM's.

one, of many. Many such things had their origin as military systems. Dobbs (talk) 00:45, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

Its true. GPS was originally designed by the US Army (in fact its still owned by them). When GPS first came out the US made it so civilian recievers couldnt be accurate to more than about 10m at best on ground - this was to stop the enemy using it for precisionb guided munitions. The US still reserve the right to (at any time) modify or turn off civilian access to GPS if there is a risk of it being used against them. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:51, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

Further, satellites are used to map the gravitational field of the Earth. Slight irregularities caused by non-uniform composition of the Earths crust and the non-uniform shape of the land can affect the accuracy significantly. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:01, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

Total twaddle about McNamara[edit]

I removed the reference to McNamara. It was nonsense. The first Polaris sub, SSBN-598 "George Washington" became operational in November 1960, while Eisenhower was still President.The first launch of a Minuteman took place 1 February 1961, less than two weeks after the Kennedy Administration took office. Rather than initiating Skybolt, McNamara cancelled it 1 December 1961.Mark Lincoln 21:42, 24 July 2007 (UTC)


I was looking for something about how accurate (or not) ICBM's are, and though the article concedes the importance of accuracy, there's no indication about how accurate they are. To what extent are MIRV's, for ex, just an effort to make sure *something* hits the target?

Of course the details I seek may be classified, but does anyone knowledgeable on the subject have anything to add to the article? --Andersonblog (talk) 21:56, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

When gauging accuracy it's the whole system that counts. Reentry vehicles leave a "bus" while still in outer space, and it's their job to get the warhead on target. Estimates of accuracy have been released routinely, though they may overstate or understate the real value. Warhead accuracy is caclulated in the CEP, circular error probable. That is the radius within which there is a 50% chance of the warhead landing. The CEP for the Trident missile system is published as being 300-400 ft (90-120 m). ·:· Will Beback ·:· 18:46, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

It depends. Soviet missiles were much higher yield than US ones because they were less accurate so you needed bigger warheads to ensure that your MIRVs had a good chance to knock out all the enemys silos in a first strike. Indias ones are very accurate and because of this need smaller warheads and are lighter and cheaper. (talk) 21:53, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

Is Agni-II an ICBM, quote from page Agni-II, "Agni-II medium range ballistic missile, 2,500 km range" (talk) 19:00, 28 November 2009 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jackfeng1988 (talkcontribs) 03:08, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

No,it's not.ICBMS have a range of approx. 5000 km. (talk) 19:00, 28 November 2009 (UTC)

where are ibcm missles launched[edit]

are there any ibcm missles launched in AZ?-- (talk) 21:47, 24 January 2010 (UTC)

Arizona? At present. 450 missiles are at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. There is a test station located in california.username 1 (talk) 21:54, 24 January 2010 (UTC)

Removing Shabab-3[edit]

Iran's Shabab-3 MRBM with an 800 mi range[3] definitely does not belong here. I'm removing it. — RVJ 22:25, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

Someone has added Iran to the list again. Apparently under development is the same as nations with ICBM? Can we get a consensus on this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:25, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

someone Adding Iran to list of countries with ICBM[edit]

this seems very suspicious. I removed it. Pls monitor unless they can cite a source do the same —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:38, 4 February 2010 (UTC) iran does in fact have operational, and under development ICBMs. seems like it should be added to the list. (talk) 15:50, 14 February 2010 (UTC)

the source for that article has interesting info -

Most important 'Available information suggests that Iran has, at most 1-2 prototype Shahab-4s (approx. 1,250 miles, not a ICBM ) and possibly a preliminary engineering mock-up of the Shahab-5.'

" As of late 2003, neither the Shahab-4 nor Shahab-5 had been flight-tested. Mock-ups of both, and at least one Shahab-4 prototype, are likely to have been constructed. The configuration (i.e., number of stages, etc.) of either system is presently unclear. Reports frequently speculate that there may be a connection between the DPRK's Taepodong-2 program and the Shahab-5. This, however, remains to be confirmed. An Israeli report in July 2002 makes mention of not only of the Shahab-4 and -5, but also a Shahab-5B; however, it provides no details and remains suspect.[13]

Finally, a few sources make mention of a Shahab-6, which is claimed to be an ICBM with a 10,000km range (e.g., the same reported range of the Shahab-5). All such reports to date have been inconsistent and highly speculative.[14]

Available information suggests that Iran has, at most 1-2 prototype Shahab-4s (one of which may be an SLV) and possibly a preliminary engineering mock-up of the Shahab-5. If development continues and these systems are deployed, they would be capable of being armed with conventional high explosive, submunition, chemical, and radiological dispersion warheads. As with the Shahab-3, given continued development and a favorable environment, a nuclear capability for these systems could be achieved by 2008." —Preceding unsigned comment added by Otthgr (talkcontribs) 00:19, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

well, mockups and prototypes are more than enough evidence for development, therefore iran should at least be in the "under development" category. (talk) 17:49, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

Any item that is under development is going to have sources which are not 100% precise, since those projects are usually classified and kept secret. If we decide that the sources deeming Iran is possibly developing ICBMs are not good enough, we would have to remove the whole under development section, and also correct some details on countries with operational ICBMs. Please stop removing Iran all the time just because it has political value nowadays. Chopduel (talk) 11:22, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

Conventional ICBM[edit]

I was just cruising through, and wondered whether anyone cared to include information on the proposed conventional warhead ICBM? This reference and this are sketchy, but this seems to suggest that a project entitled the "Conventional Prompt Global Strike" is under development. National Academies Press published a paper here ... I'm not an expert, just a ground-pounder, but the articles seem to suggest that the US, at any rate, is considering fielding a non-nuclear ICBM and has committed time and resources to the project, and may have conducted one or more test firings. This article indicates that " ... Congress rejected the Bush administration's initial two-year plan unveiled in 2006 to start substituting conventional payloads for nuclear warheads on two SLBMs on each of the 12 deployed U.S. ballistic missile submarines. Fearing that specific approach carried too much risk of Russian misinterpretation of launches, Congress called for further study of the general concept and more research into alternatives ... " I only say all this because the article expressly states that "Nuclear ICBM" is a redundant term, and I get the impression that the state of the art is developing. (update) Lockheed Martin has been awarded a contract to develop the Hypersonic Payload Delivery Vehicle. Nightmote (talk) 17:55, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

And a quick wikisearch gives me Prompt Global Strike (a wee orphan). Nightmote (talk) 18:02, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

As far as I know (correct me if I'm wrong) the idea was not to have a "non-nuclear ICBM" but rather to use some SSBNs as SSNs because of the reduced nuclear threat from Russia. The danger was, indeed, that the enemy might interpret the launch of such a "conventional" missile as the launch of a nuclear-tipped one and start retaliating. Of course, weapon technology keeps evolving, so... Generally speaking, I believe a non-nuclear ICBM would simply be too expensive, unless for VERY special targets: true, most nations just couldn't bring it down, so if you really need to destroy a target - but then why not use a less expensive cruise missile, launched from a CG or a bomber? Besides, Whenever an ICBM's launch is detected, and I'm sure it is always detected, people who may be on the missile's business end tend to get itchy... Mb 3r7864 (talk) 20:38, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

No, the idea is exactly to have a non-nuclear ICBM. The danger of misidentifying a non-nuclear ICBM as a nuclear one was called out in early policy analysis and is one of the main objections to the program, though a notifications program and keeping missile fields widely separated is a planning assumption.
See also DARPA Falcon Project
The conventional warhead ICBM costs more than a cruise missile, but has no carrier vehicle costs associated with getting it to the launch point. Bombers and ships and subs are not cheap.
Georgewilliamherbert (talk) 23:30, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

First World ICBM?[edit]

> the R-7, was successfully tested in August 1957 becoming the world's first ICBM

First Soviet true ICMB was R-7A

  • maiden flight: 24 December 1959
  • placed on combat alert: 31 December 1959
  • entered in service: 20 September 1960

First US ICMB was Atlas D

  • maiden flight: 14 April 1959
  • entered in service: ?
  • placed on combat alert: 31 October 1959

R-7 was never placed on combat alert. Although it entered in service on 20 January 1960. (talk) 04:02, 4 July 2011 (UTC)

Agreed. This claim has been made many times, but the history is clear:
The Atlas D was the first version of that series to be armed and operational, declared operational in January 1959, flying on 14 April and accepted for service on 1 September. The R-7A was the first version of that series to be armed and operational, flying in December 1959, declared operational at the end of the month, and accepted for service in September 1960.
There is no grey area here, the Atlas is the first ICBM by any definition one chooses, by about 1 year.
Maury Markowitz (talk) 13:24, 26 September 2011 (UTC)


Let us check the "definition" of an ICBM in the beginning of the article: "An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is a ballistic missile with a long range (greater than 5,500 km or 3,500 miles typically designed for nuclear weapons delivery."

I will not discuss armed versions of R7 and Atlas here, just point out that the dates given in the first post are inaccurate (e.g., they seem to refer to nuclear armed missiles only). Taking a "ballistic missile with range over 5500 km" as a practical (and mostly accepted) definition, we get

R-7: first successful test/flight (over 6000 km): 21 August 1957

Atlas B: first successful test/flight to full range: 28 November 1958 (all flights of Atlas A, including successful ones, where to sub-intercontinental range)

So which one is ahead of the other by more than 1 year?

These dates, as well as the thesis that "R-7 was the world's first ICBM" is confirmed by many sources, including those cited in the article. Tpanov (talk) 08:51, 23 July 2012 (UTC)

India ICBM[edit]

There seems to be debate whether Agni V is an Icbm. It has ben described as intermediate by scientists working on the project. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:27, 19 April 2012 (UTC)

No. On the contrary, DRDO and the govt of India, along with BBC and other prominent news organisations call it an ICBM. Anir1uph (talk) 08:42, 21 April 2012 (UTC)

Agni III, an ICBM?[edit]

Apart from the above source, it is lately being seen as India is downplaying the range of the Agni missile. For it's Agni V, India says it's range is "Over 5000km". Now how much is that "over" we dont know. Chinese officials claim that the missiles range is atleast 8000km.

Same case with Agni III. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:21, 17 April 2013 (UTC)

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Error in article?[edit]

Currently it is stated that: 'Circular error probable is crucial, because doubling the Circular error probable decreases the needed warhead energy by a factor of four. Accuracy is limited by the accuracy of the navigation system and the available geophysical information.'

I assume it is meant that a doubling of CEP INcreases the needed warhead energy by a factor of four (assuming pressure levels required for guaranteed target destruction and perfect applicability of the inverse square law)? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:33, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

See inverse-square law.--Arado (talk) 15:03, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

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