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Useful Notes / Superior Firepower: Other Ballistic and Cruise Missiles

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The 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty led to the destruction of all ground launched missiles with a range of 300-3400 miles (500-5500 km), for both the US and USSR.

Short Range (under 1000 km (DOD definition))

TM-61/MGM-1 Matador

Originally designated B-61, the US decided not to call missiles aircraft any more. First operational US cruise missile, the first batch were radio controlled (which limited range and was prone to jamming). Later ones used ground-based microwave emitters. All withdrawn in 1962.

PGM-11 Redstone

A short range (201 miles/303 km maximum) missile, direct descendant of the V2. Could carry a conventional warhead or 3.75 Mt nuclear one. Used for the first US live nuclear missile tests (with atomic detonation) and then used as a suborbital launch vehicle- it put the first US astronaut into space for all of five minutes. Considering that Vostok 1 had just done a full-earth orbit, this was a positively poor response.


MGM-31 Pershing I

An Army missile rather than an Air Force one, this was a road-mobile missile with a range of 460 miles (740 km). Most of these were deployed to West Germany, where they were kept ready to launch within minutes of an order. Deployed from 1960-1970, when the missiles were upgraded to...

MGM-31A Pershing IA

An electronics upgrade, mostly, allowing for faster launch and easier maintenance.

Medium Range (1000-3000 km)

PGM-17 Thor'''

The first operational MRBM (many sources designate this an IRBM, but its range was only 2,400 km) in US service, 60 these missiles were deployed to the UK under Project Emily, where they were placed under dual USAF-RAF control. As part of the deal that ended the Cuban Missile Crisis, they were withdrawn from the UK, but continued in an anti-satellite scheme based in the Pacific until the early 1970s.

Thor is remembered mostly though for being the ancestor of a large family of space launchers, the Delta series.


Pershing II

A response to the RT-21M/SS-20, the missile had a CEP of 30m (which is good by missile standards) a range of over 1,000 miles and a variable yield of 5 to 80 kilotons. Scared the Soviets more than the US realised at the time, making them concerned about a decapitation strike. A theatre-level nuke, it got its curtain call with INF.

  • Appears in a film called Weird Science. Which looks, judging by The Other Wiki, Weird and inspired a TV series.


BGM-109G Gryphon

AKA GLCM (Ground Launched Cruise Missile) or Cruise, this was the ground-launched version of the Tomahawk and was solely designed for nukeage. Being a subsonic cruise missile, it would have been very hard to a) detect and b) intercept. It was also capable for hitting half a football field after a 1,200 mile trip and was road-mobile. After scaring the pants off much of Europe and the Soviet leadership, the thing was scrapped under INF.


A cruise missile strapped to the wings of a B-52 with a dial-a-yield warhead. It was designed to increase the effectiveness of the B-52 from just dropping bombs to dropping bombs and launching 20 cruise missile, forcing the enemy to deal with a lot more incoming threats. Bonus for the difficulty of detecting a low altitude, subsonic, semi-stealthy missile. The US air force has been slowly replacing the nuclear warheads with conventional war since the end of the cold war.

TM-76A/MGM-13 Mace

A development of the Matador, replacing the radio-controlled guidance with an automated one, called ATRAN (Automatic Terrain Recognition And Navigation). Precursor to the modern contour-guiding system of US cruise missiles (i.e. the Tomahawk), this had one drawback, namely the need to conduct radar mapping of the target area first. Not very easy at this time when you were dealing with the Soviet Union.

TM-76B/MGM-13B Mace B

New guidance system that allowed it to fly higher and almost double the distance, using intertial navigation (plug in the co-ordinates of the start and finish points, it will do the rest). This, however, prevented its mobile use, as launch sites had to be pre-surveyed, so it had semi-hardened shelters as basing. In 1965, McNamara announced it would be replaced with the Pershing and it left active service in 1971. The left over missiles were used as target drones.

Intermediate Range (3,000-5,500 km)

PGM-19 Jupiter

A IRBM. Used for a launch vehicle as the Juno II, but not very successful. Range of about 1,800 miles. Somewhat mobile, in that it could be moved around easily. Deployment to Turkey and Italy led to the Cuban Missiles Crisis- they were withdrawn as part of the settlement and retired.