Longest range Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles ranked
With a focus on the longest range ICBMs, ranging from the M51 ICBM in France to the UGM-133 Trident II in the US, here are the top ten.
R-36M (SS-18 Satan), Russia – 16,000km
The R-36M (SS-18 Satan) is the world’s longest-range ICBM with a range of 16,000km. With a weight of 8.8t, the R-36M is also the heaviest ICBM in the world.
The R-36M has been built in different versions ranging from Mod 1 to Mod 6. The variants were designed for firing from silo-based launch sites. Some of the R-36M versions are capable of carrying ten Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV) warheads with 550 kilotonnes (kt) to 750kt of yield each.
The first R-36M Mod 1 variant was deployed by the Soviet Union Strategic Rocket Forces in 1975.
The two-stage rocket is powered by liquid rocket engines, providing a speed of 7.9km/s. The engines utilise storable liquid propellant with Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) fuel and Nitrogen Tetroxide acting as an oxidiser.
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Dongfeng-41 (DF-41, CSS-X-10), China – Between 12,000km and 15,000km
Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) is China’s longest-range ICBM, which can destroy targets at ranges between 12,000km and 15,000km. The three-stage, solid-propellant missile is considered to be one of the world’s deadliest ICBMs.
The missile has a maximum payload capacity of 2,500kg and can carry up to ten multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. It employs an inertial navigation system with updates from the BeiDou navigation satellite system.
The DF-41 missile is based on a 16-wheeled transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicle, which allows for launch from remote locations. The road-mobile missile offers improved survivability compared to the silo-based Chinese ICBMs.
DongFeng 5A (DF-5A), China – 13,000km
Dongfeng 5A (NATO reporting name: CSS-4) is capable of striking targets within the range of 13,000km. It is an improved version of the 12,000km-range DF-5 ICBM and is capable of reaching targets within the Continental United States (CONUS).
China inaugurated the improved DF-5A with a long-range guidance system for increased accuracy in 1983. The throw-weight of the missile was also increased from 3,000kg to 3,200kg. The missile can carry six re-entry vehicles weighing 600kg each.
The DF-5A ICBM is fired from a launch pad or land-based silo. An inertial guidance system and onboard computers provide direction to the missile. Two-stage rocket engines using a liquid bi-propellant provide the required propulsion.
Hwasong-15, North Korea – 13,000km
The Hwasong-15, also known as KN-22, is a new ICBM developed by North Korea. With a reduced payload, the missile is estimated to reach a maximum range of 13,000km, according to some scientists. Experts, however, believe that an actual nuclear warhead may reduce the overall range.
Powered by a two-stage liquid fuel propulsion system, the missile is expected to carry multiple warheads or a single warhead weighing up to 1,000kg. It employs an inertial guidance system with updates from a satellite navigation system.
The road-mobile missile is mounted on a nine-axle transport-erector launcher vehicle equipped with a removable launch table.
R-29RMU Sineva (RSM-54), Russia – 11,547km
R-29RMU Sineva, also known as RSM-54 (Nato code name: SS-N-23 Skiff), is a Russian third-generation, submarine-launched ICBM. The missile can be carried by Delta IV class submarines of the Russian Navy. Sineva reached a maximum range of 11,547km during tests.
The missile was inducted into service in 2007 and is expected to be operational until 2030. It can carry four warheads or ten 100kt warheads through independently targetable re-entry vehicles. It employs astro-inertial control and GLONASS navigation systems to engage targets with high accuracy.
The three-stage missile is powered by liquid propellant engines, which use UDMH and Nitrogen Tetroxide as fuel and oxidiser respectively.
UGM-133 Trident II (Trident D5), US – 11,300km
UGM-133 Trident II is a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) with an ICBM-class range. It is currently deployed by the US Navy’s Ohio and British Vanguard Class submarines. The Trident II D5 Life Extension (LE) version is expected to be in service aboard the Ohio-class SSBNs until 2042.
The first UGM-133 missile was launched from a pad at Cape Canaveral in January 1987. The missile entered into the US Navy’s service in 1990 and can carry up to eight multiple W88 or W76 nuclear warheads.
Propulsion is provided by three solid-propellant rocket motors providing a range of over 7,000 miles (11,300km). ATK supplied boost motor systems for the three stages for the prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The missile can travel at more than 13,000mph.
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DongFeng 31 A (DF-31A), China – 11,200km
The Dongfeng 31A or DF-31A (Nato reporting name: CSS-9 Mod-2) is a Chinese long-range ICBM with a range of 11,200km. The ICBM can carry a single thermal nuclear warhead of 1,000kt.
The extended range missile was developed based on the DF-31 ICBM. The PLA Second Artillery Corps has introduced 10 DF-31A missiles into service since 2006. A submarine-launched Julang-2 (JL-2) missile is also being developed from the land-based DF-31.
The Dongfeng 31A can be launched from silos or transported on a transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicle. With a launch weight of 42t, the three-stage missile is propelled by solid-propellant rocket motors.
RT-2UTTKh Topol-M, Russia – 11,000km
The RT-2UTTKh Topol-M with a range of about 11,000km is an advanced version of the Topol ICBM. The missile is launched either from silos or mobile launchers and can carry a single 550kt warhead.
The 47.2mt missile was developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology (MITT) and assembled at the Votkinsk Machine Building Plant. It is the first ICBM to be developed after the Soviet Union’s dissolution. The missile has been designed to withstand radiation, electromagnetic pulse and nuclear explosions at ranges exceeding 500m, as well as hits from high-energy lasers.
The Topol-M can also carry four to six MIRV warheads along with decoys. The three-stage rocket motors utilise solid propellant to propel the missile to a maximum speed of 7,320m/s.
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Minuteman-III (LGM-30G), US – 10,000km
The Minuteman-III (LGM-30G) has a range of more than 6,000nmi (10,000km), making it one of the world’s longest-range ICBMs in service. It is the only operational land-based ICBM in the US military armoury. The Minuteman range of ICBMs was manufactured by Boeing for the Air Force Combat Command.
Minuteman I was launched in February 1961, while the improved II and III versions were launched in 1964 and 1968 respectively. Minuteman III, the first operational missile of the Minuteman range, was accepted into service by Minot Air Force Base in June 1970. Minuteman III was the first missile in history to carry multiple warheads through a multiple re-entry vehicle (MRV) system.
The missile weighs 76,000lb (34,473kg) and is powered by three-stage solid fuel rocket motors. The solid-fuelled propulsion system ensures the missile to cruise at a speed of 15,000mph (24,140km/h).
M51 ICBM, France – 10,000km
The M51 is an intercontinental range submarine-launched ballistic missile produced by EADS Astrium Space Transportation, for the French Navy. Designed to replace the M45 SLBM (the MSBS or Mer-Sol-Balistique-Stratégique in French, meaning ‘Sea-ground-Strategic ballistic’), it was first deployed in 2010.
The missile was inducted into service aboard the French Navy’s Triomphant class submarines in 2010. Its operational range is between 8,000km and 10,000km. An improved version with new nuclear warheads is scheduled for commissioning in 2015.
The M51 weighs 50t and can carry six independently targetable re-entry vehicles with a yield between 100kt and 150kt each. The three-stage missile is powered by a solid rocket motor integrating a flex-bearing nozzle.
Iran has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East and is developing indigenous weapon systems such as long-range missiles. Army Technology lists the aresenal of weapons Iran military has.