While outcome of earlier wars was mostly decided through face-to-face combat, things have changed dramatically in 21st century. As of now, it’s the long-range missiles, drones and unmanned combat aerial vehicles that are changing the rules of the game. Countries globally are cutting down on manpower, so that they can focus on new weapon systems that can be operated remotely and yet be just as effective against enemy targets. To understand their capabilities, here’s a look at some of the deadliest missiles in the world.
Tomahawk Cruise Missile
Jet-powered, all-weather missile travelling at subsonic speed, Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) is used by United States Navy as well as Royal Navy. Tomahawk cruise missile is primarily used for land-attack operations conducted via ships and submarines. They have been in use since 1983. The thing that makes Tomahawk lethal is its ability to fly at low altitude. It is thus difficult to detect by enemy radar. Tomahawk missiles have been used in various operations such as Gulf War, Operation Desert Fox, 2003 invasion of Iraq and most recently in 2018 missile strikes against Syria.
A fourth-generation intercontinental ballistic missile, Dongfeng-41 (DF-41, CSS-20) is in use by the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force. It is the latest-gen missile systems developed by China. It was inducted in active service in 2017. DF-41 is powered by solid-fuel and has operational range of 12,000 to 15,000 km. It is capable of carrying thermonuclear weapon and has top speed of Mach 25 (19,000 mph; 30,600 km/h). Accuracy is +- 100 meters.
RS-28 Sarmat (Satan II)
Manufactured by Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau, RS-28 Sarmat or Satan II is a super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missile. It is powered by liquid fuel and has MIRV capabilities. RS-28 Sarmat will work as a replacement for R-36M ICBM (SS-18 ‘Satan’). It was unveiled in 2018 and test fired for the first time in 2022. It is expected to be inducted into active service in 2022. RS-28 Sarmat has operational range of 11,000 miles (~18,000 km).
LGM-30 Minuteman III
Operated by the Air Force Global Strike Command, LGM-30 Minuteman III is land-based intercontinental ballistic missile. It is part of the US nuclear triad that also has long-range strategic bombers with nuclear weapons and Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). Manufactured by Boeing, LGM-30 Minuteman III costs a whopping $7,000,000 per unit. The missile utilizes a 3-stage solid fuel rocket, with operational range of 8,700 miles (14,000 km). Top speed is Mach 23.
A Russian cruise missile, 3M-54 Kalibr was developed by Novator Design Bureau (OKB-8). This is the latest-generation of cruise missile developed by Russia. It has different variants that can be launched from land, ship, submarine and aircraft. 3M-54 Kalibr utilizes a multi-stage solid fuel rocket and has operational range of 1,500-2,500 km. A newer version with 4,500 km range is under development. 3M-54 Kalibr missiles were most recently used in 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.