Ballistic Missiles

"Ballistic” describes the curved flight path of any object that is not self-propelled. A rock thrown into the air takes a ballistic trajectory after it leaves your hand. When applied to missiles, “ballistic” refers to the trajectory the missile takes after its rocket engines finish “boosting it,” or firing – analogous to a rock, after your hand stops “boosting it” into the air.

Thus, the first stage of a ballistic missile’s trajectory is the “boost” phase, when the missile’s rocket engines accelerate it up into the air. After the rocket engines stop firing its trajectory becomes “unboosted” or ballistic, starting the “mid-flight” phase as its momentum continues to carry it up in a curved trajectory, heading toward the target. The final part of the trajectory is usually referred to as the “terminal” phase, as it falls toward its final ground impact.


• The course taken by ballistic missiles has two significant desirable properties. First, ballistic missiles that fly above the atmosphere have a much longer range than would be possible for cruise missiles of the same size.
• Powered rocket flight through thousands of kilometers of air would require vastly greater amounts of fuel, making the launch vehicles larger and easier to detect and intercept.
• Ballistic missiles can travel extremely quickly along their flight path. An ICBM can strike a target within a 10,000 km range in about 30 to 35 minutes.
• With terminal speeds of over 5,000 m/s, ballistic missiles are much harder to intercept than cruise missiles, due to the much shorter time available.
• Therefore ballistic missiles are some of the most feared weapons available, despite the fact that cruise missiles are cheaper, more mobile, and more versatile.

Ballistic missiles of India:

• Agni (missile) – Agni I, II, III, IV, V
• K-4 (SLBM)
• Prahaar (missile)
• Dhanush (missile)
• Prithvi (missile)
• Sagarika (missile)
• Trishul (missile)

Practice question:

1. Why missiles are launched from the east coast?
1. To take the initial boost of earth’s surface velocity at equator.
2. The Coriolis force is zero at that place.
3. To take precaution as just in case of failure of launch the satellite does not fall on built up hinterland.


a) Only 1

b) 2 and 3

c) Only 2

d) All