Monday, October 18, 2010

The History of Ballistic Missiles

Strategic ballistic missiles can be divided into two general categories according to their basing mode: those that are launched from land and those launched at sea (from submarines beneath the surface) - Britannica

The Chinese, who invented gunpowder, were also the first to employ explosives to power missiles and the first, in the 1300s, to fire a multi-stage missile.

The precursor of modern ballistic missiles was the German V-2, a single-stage, fin-stabilized missile propelled by liquid oxygen and ethyl alcohol to a maximum range of about 200 miles.

The Soviets first became officially aware of German long range rocketry research when Churchill wrote to Stalin on 13 July 1944 and informed him of the impending use of the V-2 as a war weapon.

The origins of the U.S. missile defense program may be traced to the Nazi missile program of World War II, which included plans for the world's first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Learning of these German plans after the war, the U.S. Army Air Forces, predecessor of today's U.S. Air Force, began long range studies of interceptors that could destroy attacking ballistic missiles. The Army began similar work soon after the war. The beginning of Soviet missile defense efforts also date from the immediate post-war era.

American efforts to develop defenses against ballistic missiles continued at a relatively low priority until the fifties. During this decade, U.S. progress in developing long-range missiles combined with evidence that the Soviets were also developing these weapons, led to more intense efforts to develop missile defenses.

They are called ballistic because like a shell in a gun they receive an initial thrust from a rocket motor then follow an unpowered trajectory.

During the Cold War, the United States employed the policy of balancing the nuclear arsenal of the Soviet Union with a three force triad consisting of the long range bomber, land based intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine launched ballistic missiles. Since the first successful launch of a Polaris A-1 ballistic missile from USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (SSBN 598) on July 20, 1960, the most survivable, ready and cost effective arm of the country’s strategic triad has been and remains the Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) System.

The current submarine ballistic missile is the TRIDENT D-5. When loaded with a full compliment of twenty-four missiles, an OHIO class submarine becomes a formidable deterrent to anyone willing to risk waging war against the United States.

Any of a variety of weapons systems that deliver explosive warheads to their targets by means of rocket propulsion.

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