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Missiles System and Technologies

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    23rd May, 2022


  • About missile technology
  • Different types of missiles
  • Their classification and uses
  • Scope and future advancements


The Indian Air Force successfully fires extended range version of Brahmos missile from Su-30 MKI aircraft. It is the first launch of extended range version of BrahMos missile.


  • The first missiles to be used operationally were a series of missilesdeveloped by Nazi Germany in World War II
  • The Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) was launched in 1983 by India.
  • This program was launched with an agenda to develop five missile systems in the country – Trishul, Akash, Nag, Prithvi, and Agni.
  • Tessy Thomas who is an Indian scientist and Director General of Aeronautical Systems and the former Project Director for Agni-IV missile in Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is known as the ‘Missile Woman of India’.
  • Prithvi was the first Indian single staged liquid-fuelled surface-to-surface Missile.


What is a missile?

  • missileis a guided airborne ranged weapon capable of self-propelled flight usually by a jet engine or rocket motor.
  • The word missilereferred to any projectile that is thrown, shot or propelled towards a target; this usage is still recognized today.
  • Missiles are thus also called guided missilesor guided rockets (when in rocket form).

What are their types?

  • Missiles are generally classified on the basis of their Type, Launch Mode, Range, Propulsion and Warhead.
  • Based on launch mode:
    • Surface -to -Surface Missile
    • Surface-to-Air Missile
    • Surface (Coast)-to-Sea Missile
    • Air-to-Air Missile
    • Air-to-Surface Missile
    • Sea-to-Sea Missile
    • Sea-to-Surface (Coast) Missile
    • Anti-Tank Missile
  • Depending upon the speed such missiles are classified as:
    • Subsonic cruise missile
    • Supersonic cruise missile
    • Hypersonic cruise missile
    • Subsonic cruise missile flies at a speed lesser than that of sound. It travels at a speed of around 0.8 Mach.
    • The well-known subsonic missile is the American Tomahawk cruise missile. Some other examples are Harpoon of USA and Exocet of France.
    • Supersonic cruise missile travels at a speed of around 2-3 Mach i.e.; it travels a kilometre approximately in a second.
    • The modular design of the missile and its capability of being launched at different orientations enable it to be integrated with a wide spectrum of platforms like warships, submarines, different types of aircraft, mobile autonomous launchers and silos.
    • The combination of supersonic speed and warhead mass provides high kinetic energy ensuring tremendous lethal effect.
  • BRAHMOS is the only known versatile supersonic cruise missile system which is in service.
    • Hypersonic cruise missile travels at a speed of more than 5 Mach.
    • Many countries are working to develop hypersonic cruise missiles.
    • BrahMos Aerospace is also in the process of developing a hypersonic cruise missile, BRAHMOS-II, which would fly at a speed great0er than 5 Mach.

BrahMos missile system

  • The BrahMos is a ramjet supersonic cruise missile of a short-range developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya.
  • BrahMos was named after two major rivers of India and Russia: Brahmaputra and Moskva.
  • The technology used in this joint venture is based on the Russian P-800 Oniks cruise missile and similar sea-skimming cruise missiles from Russia.
  • Features:
    • Stealth Technology
    • Advanced guidance system
    • High Target Accuracy (irrespective of weather conditions)
    • Constant supersonic speed
    • Operates on ‘Fire and Forget’ Principle
    • BrahMos can be launched from land, aircraft, ships, and even submarines.
    • One of the heaviest missiles, weighing up to 2.5 tonnes.

 Based on Technology used

  • Guidance system: The most common method of guidance is to use some form of radiation, such as infrared, lasers, or radio waves, to guide the missile onto its target. This radiation may emanate from the target or it may be provided by the missile itself (such as radar), or it may be provided by a friendly third party. This also includes two procedures;
    • Fire and forget: they need no further support or control from the launch vehicle/platform in order to function.
    • TV guidance:  with visible light or infrared pictures produced in order to see the target. The pictures may be used either by a human operator who steers the missile onto its target or by a computer doing much the same job.
  • Targeting system: Another method is to target the missile by knowing the location of the target and using a guidance system such as INS, TERCOM or satellite guidance.
    • This guidance system guides the missile by knowing the missile's current position and the position of the target, and then calculating a course between them.
  • Flight system: The flight system uses the data from the targeting or guidance system to maneuver the missile in flight, allowing it to counter inaccuracies in the missile or to follow a moving target. 
    • There are two main systems: vectored thrust (for missiles that are powered throughout the guidance phase of their flight) and aerodynamic maneuvering.
  • Engine: Missiles are powered by an engine, generally either a type of rocket engine or jet engine. Rockets are generally of the solid-propellant type for ease of maintenance and fast deployment, although some larger ballistic missiles use liquid-propellant rockets. Jet engines are generally used in cruise missiles, most commonly of the turbojet type, due to its relative simplicity and low frontal area.
    • Turbofans and ramjets are the only other common forms of jet engine propulsion, although any type of engine could theoretically be used.
    • Long-range missiles may have multiple engine stages, particularly in those launched from the surface.
  • Warhead: The warheads of a missile provide its primary destructive power. Warheads are most commonly of the high explosive type, often employing shaped charges to exploit the accuracy of a guided weapon to destroy hardened targets.
  • Based on intended target, they are classified as;
  • Ballistic missiles:
    • After the boost stage, ballistic missiles follow a trajectory mainly determined by ballistics. The guidance is for relatively small deviations from that.
  • Ballistic missiles are largely used for land attack missions. Although normally associated with nuclear weapons, some conventionally armed ballistic missiles are in service, such as MGM-140 ATACMS. 
  • Cruise missile:
    • Cruise missiles are generally associated with land-attack operations, but also have an important role as anti-shipping weapons.
    • They are primarily launched from air, sea or submarine platforms in both roles, although land-based launchers also exist.
  • Anti-ship and Anti-submarine:
    • These missile are generally use the missile in order to deliver another weapon system such as a torpedo or depth charge to the location of the submarine, at which point the other weapon will conduct the underwater phase of the mission.
  • Anti-tank: it is man-portable missile proved and may be launched from aircraft, vehicles or by ground troops in the case of smaller weapons.
  • Classification based on launching base
  • Surface-to-Surface Missile: A surface-to-surface missile is a guided projectile launched from a hand-held, vehicle mounted, trailer mounted or fixed installation. It is often powered by a rocket motor or sometimes fired by an explosive charge since the launch platform is stationary.
  • Surface-to-Air Missile: A surface-to-air missile is designed for launch from the ground to destroy aerial targets like aircrafts, helicopters and even ballistic missile. These missiles are generally called air defence systems as they defend any aerial attacks by the enemy.
  • Surface (Coast)-to-Sea Missile: A Surface (Coast)-to-Sea Missile is designed to be launched from land to ship in the sea as targets.
  • Air-to-Air Missile: An Air-to-Air Missile is launched from an aircraft to destroy the enemy aircraft. The missile flies at a speed of 4 Mach.
  • Air-to-Surface Missile: An Air-to-Surface Missile is designed for launch from military aircraft and strikes ground targets on land, at sea or both. The missiles are basically guided via laser guidance infrared guidance and optical guidance or via GPS signals. The type of guidance depends on the type of target.
  • Sea-to-Sea Missile: Sea-to-Sea Missile is designed for launch from one ship to another ship.
  • Sea-to-Surface (Coast) Missile: A Sea-to-Surface (Coast) Missile is designed for launch from ship to land based targets.
  • Anti-Tank Missile: An Anti-Tank Missile is a guided missile primarily designed to hit and destroy heavily-armoured tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles. Anti-tank missiles could be launched from aircraft, helicopters, tanks and also from shoulder mounted launcher.


Q1. What are the features of Brahmos missile system? Discuss its strategic significance for the defence of India.

Q2. Technological advancements and operational approaches have given rise to an unconventional warfare. In light of this statement, examine the need for overhauling India’s defence strategy.

Verifying, please be patient.

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