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The term missile has trough recent history been applied to ha very broad set of weapons, and so does not actually have one fix meaning.


On this wiki, the term is most likely to be short for "missile system" in the spirit of Wilson and Dunham 2020[1]:

  • A missile system consists of a rocket and (at least) a weaponized payload that flies trough the air

The rocket is commonly called a "booster", while the weaponised payload is sometimes said to carry "munitions".

Note that the "(at least)" bit implies there can be more parts to a missile than just the rocket motor and the warhead, this is primarily intended to capture the important class of "cruise missiles" that fly a long part of their trajectory powered by a "sustainer" part and not by the rocket part.

Within this definition you can find a wide variety of what is to be considered a missile, and also a large variety of missile classifications. Here we will mostly discuss larger and longer range missiles.

There is however a risk that "missile" refers to "Air launched cruise missile", weapons which by virtue of being launched from the air commonly do not need the booster.


The history of the missile relevant in the arms control sense starts with the German V2 missile, which was ballistic missile and as such not very accurate. However, being inaccurate is ok if you can make a really big boom at the end, and thus after World war 2 ballistic missiles were at first mostly used to deliver nuclear weapons.


Markus Schiller provides a short introduction to (large) ballistic missiles, covering basics on rocketry and propulsions, as well as a section on how to estimate missile properties from open sources.

The fabled 2003 APS ballistic missile defence report, to this day (mid 2022) the most comprehensive public report on all things missile defence (most newer stuff simply references this for any quantitative results, and then waves their hands about and declare this a "novel contribution")

The Wilson and Dunham paper suggesting a new way to classify missiles. Also provides some discussion on why we have the range classes we have.

A collection of books, some about missile design can be found on this public site.


this page should be a short summary of missiles as it relates to arms control, with a short history (not a full history, that will be on the history page) of Von Braun and the V2, arms control treaties concerning missiles, then what systems are actively deployed/by whom, finally the future of missiles and how they relate to arms control